Doing What He Does Best

This is a crying shame, and conservatives ought to be weeping, while Tea Party patriots ought to be throwing a fit.  John Boehner has managed to lead the House Republicans directly into the jaws of yet another defeat, and in the end, when he surrendered, he did so because losing is all Boehner really knows how to do.  The Republicans in Congress capitulated to Barack Obama and Harry Reid again on the matter of the payroll tax cut extension.  House Republicans didn’t learn the lesson of 2006, so a mere five years later, they still think they can conduct themselves as candidates throughout their terms, considering only short-run political expedience. The problem with GOP leaders in the House is that each time they go to the mat, but then subsequently cry uncle, they’re harming themselves and the country.  This so-called compromise was nothing but a surrender that merely weakens the Republicans, but more importantly, the country.

John Boehner suffers from an inability to lead.  He simply doesn’t understand leadership, or he’s not intellectually vigorous enough to exercise it.  Either way, he’s a perpetual loser, and we shouldn’t dare hope he will accomplish anything useful during the term of this Congress.  Consider him either intellectually or morally incapacitated, and save yourself some trouble fretting over the endless string of defeats House Republicans will suffer because John Boehner doesn’t know how or isn’t willing to lead.

In this context, leadership would have meant sending his members out to have town hall meetings, and to send them forward to every media outlet on which they could find time, and make the case first to their own core of support, and get their buy-in followed by a more active support.  Instead, Boehner sat back and waited for it to happen, and he knew it would, but it’s fair to say he helped engineer this defeat.  He’s bent upon the notion of trying to restore order within his caucus, and he’s willing to become minority leader to do so.

This latest flap was more than political circus, but that’s how it has been portrayed, and given the surrender of the Republicans, that’s how history will now record it.   The truth is that big issues had been at stake, but due to a little bad press, the Republicans wet their collective diaper and ran home.  Boehner will offer that this happened because they’re only “one-half of one-third of the government.”  The facts suggest otherwise.  Did he try to rally the conservative base?  Did he seek out support in such ‘friendly media’ where his own declarations haven’t already poisoned those wells?  No.  He stayed in the back rooms, smoke-filled no longer, and had his head handed to him on a silver platter.  He knew it was coming, and indeed, he invited it.

The first thing he did to invite this had been every previous surrender going at least as far back as the debt ceiling vote, when he actually worked on a backroom deal with Reid to undercut the House bill known as “Cut, Cap, & Balance.”  From that moment on, Democrats knew they had a patsy who would do anything to avoid a little negative press.  In the end, he and his Republican members must now share in the blame for the credit rating downgrade we suffered as a result.  Had he instead remained willing to let everything shut down, he might have forestalled the downgrade, because the rating agency might have concluded at least one party had gotten serious about budget control.  Politically, he would have taken a hit in the short run, but the truth of the matter is that Democrats would have relented once their base started screaming loudly, or rioting, because they had not gotten their hand-outs on time.  There’s no sense making a stand if you’re going to fold at the first sign that somebody’s calling your bluff.

Democrats read Boehner’s moves as clear telegraphing of a bluff, and they called without blinking.  Ever since then, the Obama looks at Boehner and thinks: “There’s my b*t*h.”  The tears certainly don’t help with that impression.  Since that first monumental cave-in, each subsequent instance has been repeated, only more quickly, each time with with less pressure than the last, as conservative and Tea Party members of the caucus are now demoralized.  They see things slipping away, much as they did in 2005-2006, and it’s all for lack of effective, committed leadership.

On this basis, I have written a letter I am sending to my own member, and I want from him a pledge to support somebody other than Boehner and his crew for leadership, whether they maintain the majority in 2012 or not.  The way things are going with Boehner, you’d better plan on “not.” As it is, due to his vote on the Debt Ceiling matter, I am already eying potential primary challengers for my own Representative.  If he’s going to continue to support the sorry leadership of John Boehner, it’s best to get rid of him, too.

Now, for those of you who weren’t paying attention, let me explain what has happened:  The House approved a version of the extension much to the liking of the Senate, and it does not include the Keystone XL pipeline provision, meaning tens of thousands of jobs and a fresh conduit for oil will not be had by Americans any time soon.  While you must certainly lay the greater portion of blame on the actions of Obama and Reid, the truth is that Boehner shares in this too.

I realize some will say “but, but, he’s right: Without the Senate, what could he do?”  The answer is always the same: Stand on principle.  Be willing to take the bad press. Be willing. The problem is that this sort of thing makes its own bad press that goes on long after the terms of surrender were signed.  You see, when Boehner plays brinksmanship, but then walks away with nothing, it gives ammo to the opposition that this had only been a political game.  This is why the Republicans took a beating from Bill Clinton in 1995:  They ultimately flinched first in this game of chicken, making it look for all the world as though they had been merely posturing right along.

Instead, had Boehner rallied every member of the House Republican caucus to stand firm, and held out indefinitely, shutting down government, they could have gone to voters saying: We had to be the responsible party, and we had to put our foot down against irresponsible and reckless spending proclivities of the President and the Senate.  The people who would have been angry at them would likely have been people other than who had elected them.  If they can’t withstand some bad press now, when will it be better?  If they will not stand on principle now, when the country is on the verge of a greater depression, if not in it, when will they find the guts to do it?

The answer: Never.  John Boehner and his kind are so consumed by holding onto power, and holding onto office, that they cannot dare to risk it all in order to stand for the principles on which they were elected.  One begins to wonder if this is because they’re not hip-deep in all of the crony capitalism and insider trading about which we’ve been hearing, because it’s not as though House members have it so good solely on the basis of their salaries and benefits.  One quickly begins to wonder if the monetary inducements to hold office aren’t greater in fact than appears on the surface, because I do not think I could trade my principles for the salary they’re paid.  No, there must be something more to it, or these are the most morally corruptible people on the planet.

It’s time we hold them to their promises, and the principles they declare while campaigning.  For me, that’s going to entail spelling it out for my own representative. I’d suggest you do the same, but what we had better do is say it, and mean it, lest they get the same idea about us as Democrats now have about them and their lack of spine.

 

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