Thursday, April 28, 2016

House Freedom Caucus Setting Up Paul Ryan As It Did John Boehner Before Him

by JASmius

My one and only problem that I have ever had with the Tea Party is one of temperament and strategy.  Their one emotional mode only ever seems to be anger, and their lone tactic only ever seems to be frontal attack.  Or "FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHT!"  It's evocative of Barack Obama's foreign policy, really, in that it obsesses over one tool in the strategy toolbox to the exclusion of all others.  Just as the Obama Doctrine focuses exclusively on diplomacy, simultaneously gutting any possible credibility and effectiveness it could have by preemptively ruling out any level or mode of pressure or coercion, so Tea Partiers only ever demand domestic policy confrontation, even when it makes little or no strategic sense to do so, when "total victory" is unattainable, and when "half-loaves" can still be had.  They refuse to accept that in a time of divided government, "half-loaves" are the coin of the realm, and if you want more than that, you have to win elections in order to gain the power that brings "total victory" closer to realization.  They reject that pushing through an Agenda of sweeping ideological change is difficult and time-consuming and ignore that fact that the Founding Fathers designed the Constitution to make it that way.  And they adamantly deny that politics is a profession and always has been, and the the GOP leadership knows more about it than they do.

And when confronted with that wisdom, Tea Partiers childishly get even angrier and attack their party's leaders as "enemies" instead of the natural, persuadable allies they really are, further burying themselves and the cause they claim to stand for in the process.  Being the Occam's Razor guy that I am, and seeing little macrocosmic evidence of the Director's oft-claim that TPers are trying to "save" the GOP from a mythical past "progressive infiltration" and all kinds of evidence that a great many of them are aiding and abetting the real-as-a-heart-attack Trump-led "progressive" infiltration that is taking it over as we speak, it's difficult for me to draw any other logical conclusion than that the Tea Party has become an instrument not of constitutional conservative salvation but of "populist" "burn it down!" sabotage.

And the inexorable companion year-end fiscal train wreck to last year's Omnibus is awfully persuasive proof.

As I have written and said on many previous occasions, I was no particular fan of former House Speaker John Boehner.  I was "meh" on the man, could take him or leave him.  He was definitely not without his flaws and imperfections.  But he was a conservative and understood the political and legislative process.  He simply had the misfortune of attaining the Big Gavel in a time of polarization and political upheaval where the House Republican caucus became fundamentally ungovernable and unleadable and incapable of even compromising with itself to attain internal consensus before even beginning to able to confront Barack Obama and the Democrats.  It's part of why the latter have always won the "all or nothing!" confrontations Tea Partiers insist on (the other part being that they were never winnable by that definition, whereas "half-loaf" compromises might have been), and why I long ago called the House Speakership one of, if not the, most thankless jobs in Washington, D.C., akin to herding feral cats.

In 2013 Boehner gave what became the House Freedom Caucus (and, yes, Ted Cruz) what they wanted: a government shutdown showdown to "force" Harry (G)Reid to pass an ObamaCare defunding bill and then "force" Barack Obama to sign it into law....somehow.  And it went on for a few weeks until the inevitable GOP cave, because the White House and Senate Dems were holding all the cards, bearing no blame and no media-fueled public pressure to give in, and wouldn't have even if they had.  It was a fool's errand, in other words, as anybody who knew the first thing about politics and the legislative process - and the Constitution - could have deduced long beforehand.  Many, including yours truly on this very site, did make that deduction and loudly warned against it, but Tea Partiers got their way, Boehner did their bidding, and it ended how and where it was always going to and couldn't have any other way.  After which TPers, naturally, didn't do any strategic reassessment of their "Pickett's Charge" approach, didn't adapt, and certainly didn't own any of the culpability themselves, but just blamed it all on the "establishment" for not "FIGHT!  FIGHT!  FIGHTing!" hard enough, as though the underlying power dynamics would ever have changed apart from winning the next two election cycles (as the Democrats did in '06 and '08), which intra-party fratricide makes immensely more difficult (as we're going to learn afresh this fall).

Not surprisingly, as Boehner's tenure unfolded and Tea Party intransigence grew, the Speaker became more and more "authoritarian" and prone to negotiate with the Democrats in lieu of the rebels in his own caucus, who refused to budge even though the "distance" was much less.  You know why that is, ladies and gentlemen?  Because the Dems, evidently, were more reasonable and open to compromise than the HFC.  Or, at the very least, the Dems shrewdly pretended to be in order to exploit that Tea Party intransigence and consequent GOP division and disarray and lure Boehner in their direction.

All of which to say that the Speaker John Boehner became was, significantly (but not, of course, entirely - Boehner could have mustered the patience of Job, and his actions were his own), a product and creation of the Tea Party itself.  A faction that "fights" but eschews persuasion, sees enemies where they needn't exist and goes out of their way to make them, demands its ends but denies the means of attaining them, owns nothing blames the "establishment" for all its failures, and caricatures itself without the other side having to lift a framing finger.

And now they're doing the exact same damn thing to Paul Ryan.

I think it's fair to say that a pattern is being (heh) "established":

House conservatives are complaining that House Speaker Paul Ryan is following his predecessor John Boehner's method of relying on Democrats to help pass bills, and are pushing for stronger use of the "majority of majority" rule to cover all Republican-backed legislation.

"The majority should mean something," Arizona-5 GOP Representative Matt Salmon, a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus that [motivated] Boehner to resign last year, told the Hill.

In practical terms, Representative Salmon, you don't have a majority.  You have a forty-one member minority (the House Freedom Caucus) that has functionally seceded from what would otherwise be a 247-188 GOP majority.  That de facto departure has reduced that majority to a 206-188-41 plurality that the HFC persists in believing will give Tea Partiers leverage but in practice keeps pushing GOP leaders to the last resort of seeking Democrat votes to keep the government operating, which in turn shunts that leverage to the minority party.  What the HFC needs to do is make it more attractive for the GOP leadership to deal with them instead of the Dems - something one would think would be a much easier and simpler and, yes, natural process - which they could do by reaching out to and working with Ryan, et al and persuading them rightward - don't treat them like the enemy, in other words.  Politics is by its very nature about persuasion, not "fighting".

But the Tea Party's fratricidal reputation precedes it, and the HFC appears to be doing nothing to soften that perception.  Concluded Salmon:

"If the speaker pursues the John Boehner way of passing bills, he may follow Boehner in other ways as well." [emphasis added]

Then might I suggest, Matt, that the HFC stop pushing him in that direction?  Or do y'all, as I'm strongly beginning to suspect, want another Omnibus fiasco so that you can crucify Paul Ryan as well?  And in favor of....what?

The answer is implicit in Donk Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's recent observation:

"The fact of the matter is, again, they cannot get consensus in their party," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD5), told reporters recently. "And notwithstanding the fact that Paul Ryan has said they were going to get [a budget] done by March 31st, now May 1st, they seem to be at risk of not doing it at all." [emphasis added]

Because the House Freedom Caucus won't let them.

Exit question: Which is "doing the right thing" in legislative terms: Recognizing where the Overton Window is (i.e. understanding and accepting what is and isn't possible), doing (through "fighting" and persuading and, when necessary, compromise) the best you can, getting as much of your objective as possible, and keep pushing for the remainder the next time?  Or rigidly insist on breaking the Overton Window and demanding all of it now, wind up with little or nothing, and cutting yourself off at the knees by demonizing allies who point out the impracticability of that "Pickett's Charge" approach?

Yes, the GOP needs the Tea Party.   But the Tea Party needs the GOP as well, and cannot convince the GOP of its need of them any other way.

Unless "burn it down!" is, after all, its true objective.  In which case, they are on the right track.

UPDATE: I guess I can finally put Boehner on my "shit list":

Segueing into the topic, Kennedy asked Boehner to be frank given that the event was not being broadcasted, and the former Speaker responded in kind. When specifically asked his opinions on Ted Cruz, Boehner made a face, drawing laughter from the crowd.

“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Boehner described other Republican candidates as friends. In particular, the former speaker said he has played golf with Donald Trump for years and that they were “texting buddies.”

My, my, but how ever-stranger Trumplicans' bedfellows are becoming by the day....

Tell me again who will stand up to Washington? Trump, who's Boehner's "texting and golfing buddy," or Carly & me? 

UPDATE II: Is Limbaugh getting his mojo back?:

Rush Limbaugh says John Boehner's slap at Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh" is the "best endorsement" the Texas senator could hope for as he attempts to kick-start his stalled campaign for the GOP presidential nomination.

"Ted Cruz just got the best endorsement he could ever get. He could not have gotten a better endorsement than he got out of John Boehner," the conservative talk-show host said on his syndicated radio show on Thursday....

"Here's John Boehner, the former speaker of the House, who had to work with Nancy Pelosi and Harry [G]Reid and Barack Obama, and he says that Ted Cruz was the worst he ever had to work with?

"Cruz can run around and say, 'If anybody doubts that I am anti-establishment now, if anybody has any question over who the real outsider in this campaign is, just take a look at what Boehner said.'"

Quite so.

But I'm guessing you Trumpkins think "THAT's BS!!!" and that Boehner and Cruz are in cahoots and Cruz put him up to blasting him like that in order to "steal the nomination from Trump", right?

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