September 25, 2015


Conservatives Hated Boehner Because He Couldn't Get Rid of Obama (Jonathan Chait, 9/25/15, New York)

To understand the pressures that brought about Boehner's demise as an ideological split badly misconstrues the situation. The small band of right-wing noisemakers in the House who made Boehner's existence a living hell could not identify any important substantive disagreements with the object of their wrath. (The one exception to this is Boehner's brief, aborted 2011 attempt to craft a long-term debt deal with the Obama administration, which he abandoned under pressure from Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor.) The source of the disagreement was tactical, not philosophical. Boehner's tormentors refused to accept the limits of his political power.

This was the proximate source of the struggle that appears to have finally sapped Boehner's will (or ability) to cling to his title. The usual band of irreconcilables in the House have recently demanded that Republicans shut down the federal government to force President Obama to agree to zero out funding for Planned Parenthood. Boehner and the party leadership have resisted not because they agree with funding Planned Parenthood, but because this tactic has no chance of success. The irreconcilables have tried to pressure him into yet another futile gesture by openly threatening, once again, to depose him.

Boehner has never supported any important aspect of the Obama agenda. Even at the outset of the Obama administration, with the president soaring in the polls and the economy plunging into the abyss, he rallied his entire party to withhold support from the stimulus and never seriously considered negotiating. He not only voted against Obamacare, but he repeatedly punctuated his speech denouncing it with shouts of "hell no!" The positive "accomplishments" of the Boehner Era were limited to avoiding a series of brinksmanship-induced catastrophes. The limits of conservative power extended to the ability to block all legislative progress or compromise. Boehner successfully delivered that. He even joined in several creative efforts to expand his institution's power by using threats of shutdowns or debt-ceiling crises to coerce Obama into enacting portions of the Republican agenda, giving up only when Obama had beaten him back repeatedly.

It was not enough. Three quarters of Republicans believe, incredibly, that their party leadership has not done enough to oppose Obama. Three fifths feel "betrayed" by their party. "In the last seven years Barack Obama has successfully recruited, or corrupted, or hijacked -- however you want to describe it -- John Roberts of the Supreme Court; John Boehner, speaker of the House; Mitch McConnell, Republican leader in the Senate; and, some might even say, the pope," ranted Rush Limbaugh the other day.

In one of his last gifts to a party he'd already done so much for, W gift-wrapped a bail-out plan that even had the Democratic nominee on board, and set it up so that John McCain could walk out into the Rose Garden as if he'd delivered it.  But the House Republicans deep-sixed it--and the stock market--and with that the presidential election, handing the Oval to a man whose victory they can't reconcile themselves to, even though they caused it.

Posted by at September 25, 2015 7:45 PM

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