BOEHNER DIDN'T REALLY BLINK
John Boehner said today thay he'd accept a repeal of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy if he has no other choice -- but I don't think he would have said this if really believed believed he might have no other choice. I guess I'm surprised that he thinks the issue is hurting Republicans (nothing really ever seems to hurt Republicans these days, no matter what the polls say), but he may be feeling that between Koran-burning wannabes last week and victories by teabag nutjobs Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino possibly coming up this week, it might be a good time for a (brief) show of right-wing reasonableness. The New York Times article about Boehner's ties to lobbyists also clearly figured in.
But it's a feint. I think the Times is right about the rhetorical usefulness of Boehner's statement, but wrong about the inference that Republicans would regard a White House victory as a partial win for themselves:
Mr. Boehner's move seemed to deprive Democrats of the argument that Republicans would hurt the middle class to help the rich. And he positioned his party to share credit for continuing the lower rates for most Americans, and still blame Democrats for raising taxes in a weak economy.
There's no way in hell that Republicans can let Obama win on this -- certainly not before November. The GOP's enthusiasm gap would disappear overnight. The base absolutely will not accept a compromise. And if Obama wins and the Republicans still somehow manage to take back the House, Boehner will be seen as such a traitor that the grassroots will howl for his head and insist that he not become Speaker.
He has too much low cunning not to know this. He also knows that three Democrats plus Lieberman in the Senate want to extend all the tax cuts, as does Mitch McConnell. So he's responding to a hypothetical he thinks won't come to pass -- he thinks Republicans and Judas Democrats can stop the White House plan. It's still odd that he feels he has to play good cop, but it's only because he think bad cops are going to take it from here.
UPDATE: Yup, he knows he'll never have to make good on that promise, and he knows it. Politco:
Red-district Democrats are pressuring Speaker Nancy Pelosi to extend Bush-era income tax rates for all brackets....
POLITICO has obtained a draft of a letter from rank-and-file lawmakers to Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urging them not to let tax rates rise for Americans at the highest income levels....
Reps. Jim Matheson (Utah), Glenn Nye (Virginia), Melissa Bean (Ill.) and Gary Peters (Mich.) drafted the letter and are working to gather support, mostly from the moderate Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions, for at least a temporary extension of the rates for top income earners as well as those in the lower brackets....
So the White House's preference sure as hell won't be "the only option" Boehner has to vote on. It may not even be an option to vote on.