Obama pays a lot for poker lessons
I had not heard him in 35 years but I instantly recognized Bob Wicker's voice when out of the blue he called me a few months back.
He was my first city editor, giving an inexperienced soldier an unearned shot to work at the Stars and Stripes daily, which was mainly staffed by civilians.
Man, was I in way over my head. But he stuck by me and I learned to swim or at least tread water.
I publicly thank him for taking that chance on me.
Privately, I wish his memory were poorer. He remembered details of my Stars and Stripes years that are pretty embarrassing today.
One thing he forgot that I remembered well was the night I played poker with him and his buddies at the press club. I went where my fellow soldiers dared to tread.
With good reason.
I lasted three hands.
But for a mere $60 I learned a life lesson that may have saved me millions of dollars, and that lesson is that I am not a good poker player.
Which places me one step above the president, who keeps playing poker with Speaker of the House John Boehner and keeps being taken to the cleaners.
Obama should have learned in August 2011, when they played their cards in the debt ceiling showdown.
He did so poorly that President Clinton had to finish his press conference after the defeat.
The next Obama-Boehner confrontation was December's fiscal cliff showdown.
Boehner should have lost. Republicans were spanked in the election and only through the grace of redistricting did Boehner hang on to his job.
Obama wanted to raise taxes on the rich, which happened, but at a very steep price - and he got only half of the increase he wanted.
Boehner got just about everything he wanted.
"Who would have ever guessed that we could make 99 percent of the Bush tax cuts permanent?" Boehner told Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal.
"When we had a Republican House and Senate and a Republican in the White House, we couldn't get that. And so, not bad."
The worst may be yet to come for Obama when sequestration kicks in.
Sequestration is Washington-speak for the debt rising so high that the government must make automatic cuts in discretionary spending, which includes defense spending and some entitlements, although not Social Security.
Obama agreed to sequestration in that August 2011 confrontation.
The president thinks he has Republicans over the barrel, but Boehner sees it otherwise.
"Mr. Boehner says he has significant Republican support, including GOP defense hawks, on his side for letting the sequester do its work. 'I got that in my back pocket,' the speaker says," Moore of the Journal wrote.
"He is counting on the president's liberal base putting pressure on him when cherished domestic programs face the sequester's sharp knife. Republican willingness to support the sequester, Mr. Boehner says, is 'as much leverage as we're going to get.' "
We shall see if Boehner is bluffing, but he has been playing the game a long time and he has an excellent track record.
As a freshman congressman, Boehner was part of the Gang of Seven that blew the whistle on the House bank scandal in 1991.
Boehner also helped write the Contract With America in 1994, the springboard that led to the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years.
As a conservative, I hope Boehner is right about sequestration.
I do know one thing: Obama spent a lot more than $60 on his poker lessons.
Surber may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.