Wednesday, October 16, 2013


This is not the reaction I expected from the teabaggers in the House after John Boehner caved:
House Conservatives Blame Moderates, Not Boehner

... At a longstanding lunch of House conservatives sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, hard-line Republican lawmakers largely rallied around Speaker John A. Boehner, blaming their more moderate colleagues who they said had not had the backbone to stand strong in the fight to defund or delay President Obama’s signature health care law.

"I've actually been really proud of Speaker Boehner the last two and half weeks," said Representative Raul Labrador, Republican of Idaho, one of a small group of members who earlier this year did not vote to re-elect Mr. Boehner as speaker. "I'm more upset with my Republican conference, to be honest with you. It's been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight -- but they want to fight the next fight -- that have given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight."

... Representative Tim Huelskamp, Republican of Kansas, called his colleagues who were eager to accept a Senate compromise the "surrender caucus" who just "whine and whine."

"It's pretty hard when he has a circle of 20 people that step up every day and say, 'Can we surrender today, Mr. Speaker? Can we just go away? Can we make it easy?'" said Mr. Huelskamp, who also did not support Mr. Boehner for speaker earlier this year. "I would say the surrender caucus is the whiner caucus, and all they do is whine about the battle, as if they thought being elected to Washington was going to be an easy job." ...
We think Boehner is pathetic. We think he allowed himself to be maneuvered into a hopeless situation, forced either to crash the economy or lose his job at the hands of enraged teabaggers. But apparently he's a genius. He seems as if he knew this was a hopeless cause -- but he also seems to have an exquisitely subtle understanding of just how to mollify the lunatics in the asylum he runs. Tell them you're behind them all the way. Let them run into the streets and destroy all the property they like. Then, when the authorities (i.e., the financial markets) declare that their bourgeois riot has to be shut down, he tells them he was on their side all along.

And they believe him.

Boehner has issued a statement on the end of the crisis. Ed Kilgore mocks it as a "timid sheep" moment, an expression of false bluster almost as embarrassing as a notorious press release issued by Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign during one of its flameouts. But maybe that's unfair. Maybe the futile bravura of Boehner's statement is actually brilliantly calculated:
"The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country's debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare. That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us. In addition to the risk of default, doing so would open the door for the Democratic majority in Washington to raise taxes again on the American people and undo the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act without replacing them with better spending cuts. With our nation's economy still struggling under years of the president's policies, raising taxes is not a viable option. Our drive to stop the train wreck that is the president's health care law will continue. We will rely on aggressive oversight that highlights the law's massive flaws and smart, targeted strikes that split the legislative coalition the president has relied upon to force his health care law on the American people."
Maybe this sort of chest-thumping is all the crazy caucus wants. Well, maybe not all -- they wanted to wreak havoc in America, and they did. They wanted us to take them -- or at least their ability to destroy -- seriously, and we did. And now, apparently all they want in order to think it's all been worthwhile is for their boss to lead a rousing chorus of "Wolverines!"

So they're actually fine right now. They're not going to call for Boehner's head. They think he's a Wolverine, too. They've got a long list of people who've stabbed them in the back -- they're always being stabbed in the back, you see -- but he's not on the list.


MORE: At a meeting of the GOP conference Boehner gets a standing ovation:
... after Speaker John Boehner told Republicans they had "fought the good fight," they all rose up to offer a standing ovation. "It was one of the easiest meetings we’ve ever had," says Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.

"I think he has strengthened his position in leadership," Representative John Fleming says about Boehner. "He hung in there with us. He’s been reluctant to go to these fights and now that we have stood up and fought for our values and he’s been there with us, leading, I think his stock has risen tremendously. He has great security as our leader and our speaker."


Never Ben Better said...

Conservatism cannot fail, it can only be failed.

I.e., you just can't penetrate the Forcefield of Derpitude.

Knight of Nothing said...

"But apparently he's a genius. He seems as if he knew this was a hopeless cause -- but he also seems to have an exquisitely subtle understanding of just how to mollify the lunatics in the asylum he runs."

"White Hat" has been arguing that Boehner is a genius for a few weeks now, and that he orchestrated the shutdown to marginalize the Tea Party/fringe elements in the GOP. But I just don't buy it. For me, here is the tell: " They've got a long list of people who've stabbed them in the back..." In other words, the Tea Party anti-RINO purification of the GOP will continue (not a purge of extremists by "moderates"). Boehner's done enough and said enough to make himself a part of the in-crowd. At least for now. So I grant that he's a lot better at schmoozing with his colleagues than is apparent from out here. But at any rate, now he can go back to golfing and hitting that 19th hole.

Monty said...

Ashley Parker's reporting looks good, but the article's title is missing an obvious qualifier.

WASHINGTON — Moments before the Senate deal was finalized on Wednesday, some House conservatives were alternately defiant and defeated, acknowledging they may have lost the current battle but vowing to fight on.

Danp said...

With Boehner, you always have to ask who's buying his scotch today.

White Hat said...

Danp, I'm with you. Follow the money. You'll find the GOP there.

KON, I never said Boehner was a genius. All I've been saying is that after effectively fighting Obama to a standstill for 6 years he's proven he's nobody's fool.

If your assessment of the shutdown hinged on "Boehner's a stupid wimp," well, that seems highly unlikely. If it seems "there's no exit strategy," it just means we didn't know what that exit strategy was.

What? The Speaker of the House suddenly lost his spine AND drew a blank on public opinion? Harhar. Wanna buy some magic beans?

aimai said...

I'm not really all that surprised. These guys don't go by anyone's estimation but their own. Boehner did stick with them and hold their hands until the very end. Some people have argued that Boehner is such a corporate tool that he essentially bluffed the TP itself by letting it go its length, letting it shit all over the party as a whole, and then quietly breaking the news to them that they were going to get shafted. This reading of his behavior is that it was so skillful that they don't even realize that of course he stabbed them in the back and gave in to Reid and Obama and McConnell because he always intended to. I mean--maybe Boehner thought it would be nice if they could force Obama to compromise and maybe he would have taken the various compromises he was offered but he seems to have acted without any passion in the matter, completely indifferent to strategy. So he never pissed the TP guys off by second guessing them or criticizing them. They seem to have regarded him more as a good errand boy. And they are still willing to tip him, as such, even though the chef didn't send over the right sandwiches and messed up the lunch order.

Victor said...

The Teabaggers will believe anything, if it fits their narrative:
-The Bible is literally true (to the extent that ALL of them believe that, or merely espouse that, to fool the rubes, I can't say).
-The world is 6,000 to 10,000 years old.
-There's no such thing as evolution.
-People rode dinosaurs, when the co-existed.
-Global warming is a hoax.
-Peak oil is a hoax.

So, why shouldn't these people convince themselves that it wasn't Boehner who stabbed them in the back, but someone else?
Like the (nonexistent) "moderate" House Republicans.

Besides, to say you believe otherwise, would necessitate making a change.

And who else would want to job of Director of a Mental Asylum, where a small minority of the inmates run it?

And, better the weak Authoritarian leader you know, and who at least gave you lip-service, than one you don't.

And besides, Boehner will remain in a booze haze, and stay weak.

He's proven that over the years.

Someone else might grow a pair, and who the fuck knows what happens then?

S/he may tell you go in the corner, sit down, and STFU!

So no, in retrospect, I'm not surprised at this turn of events.

I've said all along, no one else wants that job.

Knight of Nothing said...

@White Hat: When you take a knee on fourth down as the clock runs out, that's not an exit strategy. That's called giving up.

"All I've been saying is that after effectively fighting Obama to a standstill for 6 years he's proven he's nobody's fool."

Um, what? Obama's been in office for five years; Boehner has been speaker for coming up on three. Boehner hasn't been "fighting effectively;" he's been taking roll on the Republican id. His single greatest "accomplishment" as speaker (if it can be called that) is that he's called 40 useless votes to repeal Obamacare. Other than that, what has he done?

Before he rose to the position of speaker, Boehner played a lot of golf. He spent a lot of time with lobbyists. He missed more votes than almost any of his house colleagues. That's who he is: a golfer and a schmoozer. I'm not saying it to disparage the man, it's just the truth. A lot of executive types are like that. And I don't think I've ever called him a "wimp" or "stupid." What I've said is that he's "weak" and "ineffective."

On the other hand, you've used the words "ruthless," "brilliant", and "one of the most effective speakers" to describe him. You've asserted all of these things but you've produced no evidence to support them. I'm not sure why you are so attached to your wild theory that Boehner is some kind of Machiavellian puppetmaster. He's not; he's just occupying the space atop the dung hill known as the House Republicans.

But just for a moment, let's pretend that you're right: Boehner is trying to marginalize the Tea Party within the GOP House. What exactly has been accomplished in the last few weeks?

1) Boehner has shored up his tenuous grip on the speakership by courting and winning the favor of House TP members.

2) As Steve M demonstrated, the base is divided between thinking Ted Cruz is a patriot and statesman, and a coward who didn't go far enough. Hardly a shift to the center!

3) Cruz himself raised $800k this quarter.

4) The entire GOP brand is in the toilet.

5) Finally, house TP members are identifying who the sellouts are.

How does any of these things lead to a marginalization of the Tea Party? Answer: they don't! He's not going to slit anyone's throat next year, no one in the TP caucus is going to be primaried from the center, and finally, big money is going to continue to roll in for right and far-right candidates. In short, the TP isn't going anywhere, and the GOP has not been shifted to the center.

Recall that the TP was declared dead after last year's election, too. One of the main reasons I read this blog is that Steve M does a good job of drawing parallels and seeing patterns that I don't always catch. I think he's pretty spot on when he argues that Republicans pay no penalty for extremism. So, ok: maybe John Boehner did move to curb TP extremism. But such a claim would require a lot more evidence that 1) he actually attempted such a thing, and 2) that it actually worked. And I just don't see any to support either of those points.

White Hat said...


"When you take a knee, it's giving up."

That would depend entirely on the game you're playing.

Hey, I know Boehner's GOP policies are shortsighted and unproductive. I agree he looks and sounds stupid too.

I just think it unlikely that someone with the political savvy to get to the Speakership - a Tip O'Neil or Nancy Pelosi level of career achievement - is a moron or a wimp, or can't predict public opinion. That just doesn't add up.

Things change, people change. But generally, if someone demonstrably not stupid does something that seems dumb, most often that means I don't know what they're up to.

Calling someone/something stupid is an excuse we use to quit trying to figure out what they're up to.

Rather than quitting that way, ask yourself in what way those apparently stupid actions could make sense to a rational person with entirely different values than yours.

Maybe I'm just not imaginative enough, but I can't imagine Pelosi or O'Neil doing something so wrongheaded and ruinous as a shutdown/world threat, and frankly, Boehner has been a more effective minority speaker than either of those two. Besides, he had Gingrich's shutdown as evidence of what would happen.

This shutdown was a polarization event, just like Gingrich's was. There's no dispute about that. The only question is whether it was intentional. Since Boehner was in control throughout (he PROVED that by ending it within minutes), I strongly suspect he staged the whole event for public consumption, either in pursuit of a single specific goal or, more likely, to advance multiple possible GOP agendae, any one of which would have made his party's PR damage worthwhile.

Obama might have opened negotiations immediately - the minority party has a big stick - that's a win. Obama might have caved - a win. Obama might speak against the Insanity caucus - a win for the traditional GOP. And all discussion of the sequester, tax policy, consumer safety - the entire Democratic agenda - won't even be discussed for some time to come. That's a GOP win too.

In the end, Boehner's little drama did work. It cost the entire GOP major PR points, but not so much they can't recover. TPers are defensive, McCain-types ascendant. Cruz reviled, Bachmann out, media support for the TP is diminished, current congressional TP members will follow Boehner more reliably. Big Money regains a measure of trust in their party. Obama and the Dems DID negotiate. We're still under sequester, indefinitely. And on, and on.

We're not going to get any mea culpas from the villains here. Righties aren't going to shift left en masse. We're just not going to get a smoking gun. But Boehner got wins here. A lucky accident for an orange drunken wimp moron? Smarter to assume not.

White Hat said...

One last note about the shutdown, then I'm outta here:

How the shutdown came about doesn't even matter now. The important question is, "what's next?"

Boehner has his crazies in his pocket. Public opinion of TPers is now even more overwhelmingly unfavorable - a lesser threat for reliably mainstream candidates. The GOP is more unified.

And the entire Democratic agenda is effectively on hold pending resolution of the next scheduled crisis. Which will not be resolved, but only deferred again and again, maintaining a GOP hold on new legislation indefinitely.

Doesn't that all leave the GOP even stronger? They're still the party of No, but now they won't even have to say it. How could Democrats pursue new legislation when they have regularly scheduled "destroy the world" crises to work through?

Steve M. said...

I agree that Boehner is smart -- smart enough to protect his own ass (Job #1) and actually make the people who could have taken him down like him, while still not (quite) destroying the economy. I don't believe he was giving the 'baggers enough rope to hang themselves -- first of all, they haven't hanged themselves (they're heroes in their uber-wingnutty districts), and I don't think that was ever his goal in any case. He's focused on personal survival first, last, and always (legislating? what's that?) and on not being blamed for a global depression in the first line of his obituary. Nothing else seems to matter to him.

Knight of Nothing said...

@White Hat: You keep putting words in my mouth (e.g., your insistence that I'm calling Boehner stupid and a moron and a wimp). I wish you'd stop doing that.

Though the differences between old-guard Republicans and the Tea Party are at times bitter, they mostly lie in tactics, not policy. Through this lens, the best that can be said about Boehner is that he protected himself and his speakership by placing Republican Party unity (opposing democrats) above the interests of the country. I don't think there's any logical reason whatsoever to say that Boehner accomplished anything more than this, or that there was some baroque master plan to discredit the Tea Party behind his actions.

Since you obviously disagree, all I'm saying is this: show me something, anything, that points to Boehner running the incredibly complicated and risky scheme that you describe. Did Boehner call the late night huddle with House members on Monday evening (that was led by Ted Cruz)? Did he tell Cruz & Mike Lee to rally the House in August and September? Did he have Cruz and Ed Meese put together the Heritage Action meeting last January? The answers are no, no, and no - he didn't do any of it. So, what exactly did he *do* that leads you to think that he was playing some kind of sinister long game? The only thing you've pointed to as a possible explanation is your own interpretation of the outcome. That's circular and solipsistic.

By all accounts, the House was in total disarray this week. Boehner couldn't even bring a last minute bill to the floor to head off the Senate plan. His own reputation is tarnished badly, and his approval rating is in the toilet. These are also huge holes in your interpretation of events. The one piece of evidence that might support your account - that he has improved his standing with his TP colleagues - means less than you think it does; again, their differences are in tactics, not policy. Since the House GOP is dominated by the TP right now, he had to either mollify them or smack them down. Above all he is a survivor, not a puppeteer or an enforcer, and he acted accordingly.

I'll add that I dispute the notion that the TP is "in his pocket;" I'd say that the TP has moved him to the right of his natural habitat. That's nothing special either: it's merely the effect that the TP has had on the GOP generally (for example, witness Dewhurst, Cruz's "moderate" Republican opponent for the senate, call for Obama's impeachment).

Knight of Nothing said...

Still more...

"TPers are defensive, McCain-types ascendant. Cruz reviled, Bachmann out, media support for the TP is diminished, current congressional TP members will follow Boehner more reliably. Big Money regains a measure of trust in their party. Obama and the Dems DID negotiate. We're still under sequester, indefinitely. And on, and on."

I basically don't agree with anything here:
- McCain is not ascendant within the GOP, he's occupying the same space he has since the 2008 election: noisy, attention-grabbing crank.
- Cruz raised almost a million dollars in the last couple of months through this stunt. He's not hurting among his supporters.
- Bachmann was retiring anyway (and she's probably going to face legal troubles). Bachmann's likely replacement, Tom Emmer, is just as big a wingnut.
- I predict that not one of the 144 House GOP members who voted no will face a primary challenge from the "moderate" wing of the GOP; the TP will be a force in the House GOP until at least 2016, if not beyond.
- One could say that it's just as likely that Boehner is following the TP as they are following him.
- Big money still loves the GOP/TP program of eviscerating social welfare programs; no change here.
- The starting point of this was the sequester; the initial senate CR didn't touch that issue. It was going to be with us no matter what.
- DeMint, Douthat, and Noonan are already working to rehabilitate the TP image. The NY Times published a swooning piece about Paul Ryan in the middle of this mess. Do you seriously think that David Gregory and Chuck Todd are going to chasten the TP? Fox News? Who?

No, the TP/GOP romance is alive and well; it may be fiery and tumultuous, but it is perfectly intact.

Well, that's all I've got. Bottom line: I think it's important that our observations and analysis be as accurate as possible. I imagine that we're on the same side of many issues, but your reading of what transpired just kind of baffles me.

Cheers, Sam