Friday, September 25, 2015

John Boehner, Don't Look Back in Anger or Tears

There are metaphors that can be used for Speaker of the House John Boehner ("The Only Adult in the House" and the "Designated Driver" come to mind for me) but I think my impression of Boehner's tenure as Speaker of the House is summed up by the three-part series of blog posts I did called "Speaker of Nothing" regarding the summer of 2011 debt ceiling fight. Here he is, Speaker of the House, a powerful position--provided you have a caucus behind you interested in governing. But his Speakership was dependent upon a Tea Party wave in 2010, resulting in many people new to politics who 1) weren't necessarily "House-trained" and 2) were instinctively anti-government.

It's damn hard to come to a consensus with people who actually think "lowering the debt ceiling" is a thing, or who believe that a government shut-down is a perfectly cromulent stunt to put on one's political resume. This is a person who has had to sit across from Michele Bachmann, Steve King, and Louie Gohmert, and accept these were the people on his own team--and no damn help. He's had to deal with occasional votes that weren't against him per se--but are hard not to take a little personally. And sometimes he was put in places he probably had no "win".

I can't blame the man for wanting out, because getting pressure over trying to keep the government running over defunding Planned Parenthood has got to be a vicious kick in the gut for a devout pro-life Catholic. But the problem is, he's standing in the gap between a functional government and the crazies in his own party, for who nothing will ever be enough. He could probably promise them ponies upon ponies--but they would still want flying unicorns, even if those things don't exist. If he came to this decision in the wake of the Pope's visit, with an understanding that he could no longer reconcile his job with his heart--it makes sense.

The problem for the aftermath though is--does this change anything? Will there still be a gap to stand in, or will the Tea Party nihilists just go all smash-happy? Rep. Pete King said, ruefully, this is a "victory for the crazies."  I don't think he's wrong. There are folks who denied Superstorm Sandy emergency funding and don't understand that your national defense and infrastructure are only as good as you actually pay for.

Rep. Boehner might have taken more of an aggressive role in trying to educate and convince his team in how not to be awful, and it does him no credit to have been the Speaker of such dysfunctional Congressional terms. But I think he tried--oh, he tried. And we did survive, after all. We might have busted his balls a  lot. But we could have had worse.

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