I have said for years now that John Boehner, at least up until the present Congress, has had one of if not the most thankless jobs in the country, having to do outnumbered battle with Barack Obama and Harry (G)Reid in front of him while trying to keep Tea Party long knives out of his ribs from behind him as the latter ragingly demand that he do the impossible. For all the hoopla about Tea Party discontent with Boehner's leadership and "coups" that never ceased to be pathetic jokes, stepping down of his own accord and on his own terms was always the way the representative of Ohio's Eight Congressional District was going to bow out, and the wonder to me is that he managed to hold out from doing so as long as he did.
Well, he got his exit interview yesterday on Deface The Nation, and mein Gott, it must have felt good to get these comments off of his chest, especially because they constituted both taking the Tea Party to school and giving them a much-needed reality check that they will, of course, completely ignore:
Days after abruptly announcing that he would resign from the House at the end of October, Speaker John Boehner reflected on some of the "unrealistic" promises made by his colleagues.
"Absolutely they're unrealistic," he said in response to a question from Face the Nation moderator John Dickerson.
"The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done," Boehner said.
He specifically referenced promises by his GOP colleagues in 2013 that they would be able to get rid of ObamaCare through the process of funding the government - a tactic which ultimately led to the sixteen-day government shutdown that fall.
"This plan never had a chance. But over the course of the August recess in 2013 and the course of September, a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool's errand, they were getting a lot of pressure at home to do this. And so we got groups here in town, members, the House and Senate here in town who whipped people into a frenzy believing they could accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen," he said.
Indeed. Boehner demurred on the chance to blast Ted Cruz for leading that doomed crusade, and that was his prerogative, but the Texas senator certainly symbolized it. Somehow ObamaCare would be "defunded"; somehow Cruz would shove a defunding bill through the Democrat-controlled Senate; somehow he would force Barack Obama to sign it. How all these magic bean miracles would actually be carried out, Cruz and the Kamikaze Caucus never bothered to explain. But if you so much as questioned them, you were a "RINO" and a "squish" and a "sellout" and a "traitor" and part of the "surrender caucus". Like winning political battles is a matter of having, figuratively speaking, the longest penis and a scrotum the size of a honeydew melon - i.e. one of sheer will alone. If you "FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!" hard enough, you can win!
If only it were that simple. But it's not, and it never was. And even if O-Care could have been "defunded," only about a sixth of its revenue would have been affected, as the other five-sixths is statutory spending since - remember? - ObamaCare is an entitlement program. There were even some congressional Tea Partiers themselves who were alienated and off-put by Ted Cruz's over-the-top obnoxiousness in service to such windmill-tilting futility.
But the House majority caucus wanted a shutdown showdown, so that's what Speaker Boehner gave them, knowing full well how it was going to end. And rather than learning their lesson from that debacle, House TPers just blamed Boehner for "chickening out" and "quitting too soon," as though Dirty Harry and the White House didn't have the upper hand from Day One.
I seem to remember an expression about not throwing rocks at guys holding machine guns.
The items Boehner ticked off as evidence of his being "plenty conservative enough" don't sound all that exciting, but they have to be understood in the context of being the best House 'Pubbies could do given the power constraints and numerical disadvantage under which they were working:
He pushed back against some of the critiques he has faced from his colleagues that he wasn't conservative enough. Boehner ticked off what he sees as accomplishments: A major deficit-reduction deal, averting a tax increase on the American people and making the biggest major entitlement reforms in twenty years.
The "major deficit-reduction deal" was sequestration back in 2011, a rare instance of Boehner actually getting the better of Barack Obama by calling his bluff on it. It got tossed under the proverbial bus a year and a half later in the Murray-Ryan budget "deal," and it, of course, devastated military spending, but like the old saying goes, "The miracle isn't how well the bear dances, but that the bear dances at all".
"All done over the last four and a half years with a Democrat president and all voted against by my most conservative members because it wasn't good enough," Boehner said.
Here comes the shot right between Tea Partier eyes.
"Really? You know this is the part that I really don't understand...Our founders didn't want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted to do. They wanted this long, slow process. So change comes slowly, and obviously too slowly for some." [emphasis added]
Exactamundo. Here, amusingly, is the "RINO/squish/sellout/traitor/quisling" outgoing House Speaker delivering a lesson to people who are supposed to venerate the Constitution on how the document was originally designed to function. Change is, indeed, supposed to be difficult; and the bigger, more dramatic and radical the change, the harder it's supposed to be. Checks and balances and supermajorities and inter-branch cooperation and public support from the States and We the People - it's all supposed to be part of the equation. We didn't vote ourselves into this "progressive" snakepit overnight; it took well over a century for the federal government to cancerously grow this far outside constitutional boundaries. And the long, horrific road back will be immensely longer than that, if it's retrenchable at all, because the Left will be contesting every single last inch every step of the way.
My biggest criticism of the Tea Party is, ironically enough, their own version of an entitlement mentality, their delusional belief that "right makes might," that the justice and morality of the cause entitles them to win. And it simply is not so.
But when savvy, veteran leaders like John Boehner try to educate them on the realities of modern politics, their reward is hissing torches, pitchforks, and vilification.
Never mind herding cats, John Boehner's job the past nearly five years has been herding rabid wildcats and cougars and even bengal tigers. And now it will be somebody else's turn.
And you know what? I don't think TPers would want it any other way. Otherwise, they might just find and have to admit that maybe, just maybe.....John Boehner was right all along.