Boehner's Self-Defeating Outburst
Only in Washington, DC, could the cognoscenti call it wrong about Speaker John Boehner. Boehner publicly snarking at conservative groups because of their opposition to the Ryan-Murray budget deal is a sign of his strength in the House GOP caucus, claim the insiders. That's like saying the Apache had Geronimo's back. Where did that get Geronimo?
Whinin' Johnny's presser last week, in which he "took the gloves off" to lambast conservative groups for opposing the Ryan-Murray budget deal before "knowing what was in the bill," showed that politically the Speaker is all left feet. Or he's let his frustration spillover, leading him to foolhardiness. Perhaps both. Revealingly, the Speaker's words won the praise of conservative nemesis Harry Reid.
While there's no love lost between the Speaker and conservative groups, most notably The Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, and Club for Growth, publicly attacking them is stirring up a hornet's nest. Said groups command the allegiance of grassroots conservatives and Tea Party patriots nationwide.
Those conservatives and patriots were crucial to the GOP's success in the 2010 midterm elections. Boehner owes his speakership to the grassroots, in case the cognoscenti have lost sight of how the electoral process works. Dissing the grassroots is about as smart as a car salesman dissing his customers. Maybe Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA) -- a Boehner ally and auto dealer -- could give the Speaker lessons on how to win, not alienate, customers.
But that's Washington for you, insular and inbred. The Land of the Great Echo Chamber, as the star-crossed Geronimo might have said. If the Speaker believes that having consolidated support among his caucus is sufficient to go off half-cocked ridiculing two-thirds of his party's base and the organizations that they support, then a rude awakening lies just around the corner for him.
Let's cut to the nut. Conservative groups that criticized the Ryan-Murray budget deal on the heels of its announcement darn well knew what the bill contained. Anyone in Washington ever hear the terms "sources" and "leak?" The Heritage Foundation, et al, weren't blindly striking out at Paul Ryan's and Patty Murray's handiwork. They had enough of a whiff of the budget skunk before it came into the room.
As to the Speaker's supposed muscle among his caucus mates, well, building your house on the shifting sands that constitute politicians' self-interests and calculations is about as dopey as betting your retirement on the Social Security ponzi scheme. Beyond the Speaker's core group of loyalists, many House Republicans are gutless, welcoming Ryan's marriage with Murray because they want no part of another budget fight and shutdown, i.e., a golden chance to stand for something and educate Americans as to the Democrats' profligacy. Rubbery-legged House Republicans' mission has nothing to do with reforming and downsizing government; it has everything to do with hoping to win elections. These Republicans like Uncle Sam's paychecks and bennies. Preening at ribbon cuttings back home matters more than principle and correcting the nation's course.
Plenty of House Republicans are also arm-twisted into backing the Speaker and his accommodationist schemes. Want to sit on a plum committee, Mr. GOP Congressman, then don't gainsay Whinin' Johnny. You, Congressman Blowhard, you want the backing of the NRCC and DC-based PACs in your reelection bid, then don't cross the Speaker.
One may fairly ask, "Why did House Democrats overwhelmingly support the Ryan-Murray budget deal?"
Writes Noam Scheiber at the New Republic:
So the question becomes: who got the better side of this bet? And that answer to that, I think, is Democrats. For one thing, Republicans are way over-estimating the extent to which Obamacare will be a liability for Democrats. They assume the problems of the first two months will extend indefinitely into the future-that they're structural (flawed conceit) rather than mechanical (flawed website)-when the evidence suggests implementation is improving by the day. By contrast, the state of the economy is typically the biggest driver of the public mood. If the economy is humming along next fall, the Democrats' prospects (and those of incumbents generally) could look pretty damn good.
Scheiber underestimates the problems of ObamaCare, in that beyond the mechanical troubles the program has, it contains structural and philosophical flaws; it crimps Americans' choices and forces younger people, in particular, to carry insurance at significant cost they neither want nor need. With an unknown number of employer-provided insurance policies heading for chopping blocks next year, Democrats' political woes should mount. Then there's a matter of the president's veracity about keeping insurances. Voters tend not to like being lied to, especially by a politician, Mr. Obama, who's long been hyped as above ordinary politics.
Be that as it may, if the economy does continue to pick up steam, it could well blunt Democrats' 2014 election losses. Could it be, though, that Democrats understand that confrontations over the budget and debt, while hurting the Republican brand, aren't exactly a winner for them, either? That with the public mood souring further over ObamaCare and the president's numbers dropping, voters might be more receptive to tougher budget and debt measures?
The budget deal -- minor in impact -- allows Democrats to go to voters next year claiming that they aren't recalcitrant; they're working to tame the budget and shave the debt. Democrats may think that the budget deal helps inoculate them somewhat from Republican attacks on their fiscal recklessness (provided that Republicans have the cojones to take the offensive).
There's this analysis from Slate's David Weigel:
But now, look at the Budget Conference Committee's two-year plan-or "the Murray-Ryan plan," as the gods of brief headlines have dubbed it. It restores some of the money cut by sequestration, and it makes federal employees put up more of their own money for their pensions. It doesn't even scratch entitlements. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has made a chipper (and seemingly successful) pitch to conservatives about how the deal tackles "automatic spending," but that's rhetorical taekwondo, an attempt to put $12 billion of pension savings on the level of trillion-dollar entitlements.
The gist of Weigel's insight is that the budget agreement takes the focus off entitlement reform, benefitting Democrats. Entitlement spending and growth (add ObamaCare to the mess) are the looming threats to the economy and national solvency. We've all heard the "ticking time bombs" analogy when it comes to entitlements. The Ryan-Murray budget deal doesn't do anything to defuse the bombs -- and they will explode, perhaps sooner than anyone knows.
A change in House and Senate leadership needs to be a theme of conservatives' congressional primary campaigns next year. Boehner needs to go -- and so does the tapioca Eric Cantor and Boehner water boy, Kevin McCarthy. McConnell needs to be tendered pink a slip, too, right along with Harry Reid and the Senate Democratic majority. It's high time for conservatives to take charge.
Whinin' Johnny's peevishness and tirade toward conservatives shows not strength but shortsightedness. A breakdown in the Speaker's self-restraint might have been cathartic, but hardly good politics. Boehner's defiance may be his Geronimo moment: noble to his loyalists but doing little to advance his cause. And give Geronimo credit: unlike Whinin' Johnny, he was fighting domination by his enemies.