Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Boehner saves himself

One of the odder consequences of the shutdown is that I'm visiting National Review Online many times per day, because it's basically the only outlet with any access to the House GOP.  Here's an interesting passage from Jonathan Strong's reporting today:
While some on the right have been sniping about peripheral issues, Boehner largely embraced the playbook put together by conservatives like Senators Ted Cruz, who wanted to use the continuing-resolution bill to wage a fight over Obamacare. 
So now that the fight has been lost, it’s not Boehner whom they blame, but the GOP’s moderates, who pushed to end the government shutdown earlier. 
“Actually I think the speaker stood up and said ‘this is what we’re going to do.’ I remember at conference on Thursday he said ‘there’s only one way out of this, and that’s to win.’ Well, that’s not the way it ended up,” says Representative Tim Huelskamp. 
“But it’s pretty hard when he has a circle of 20 people that step up every day and say, ‘can we surrender today, Mr. Speaker? Can we just go away? Can we make it easy?’ I mean, whining and whining. I would say surrender caucus, but it’s a whiner caucus. And all they do is whine about the battle, as if they thought being elected to Washington was going to be an easy job,” he says.
There are two interesting things to take away from this article.

The first is that Boehner has successfully threaded the needle.  By shutting down the government until the last possible second, he's convinced his caucus that he'll go to bat for them and the only thing holding him back is the weenies in the center.  That's an amazing bit of political judo.  Virtually everyone sees Boehner's inability to unite his party around a single set of demands as being tremendously damaging for Republicans, but by holding fast and letting the damage occur, Boehner has deflected the blame (at least within his own party) on to moderates.  Conversely, if he'd folded early and saved the party the embarrassment, there'd be people calling for his head.

The other takeaway?  It sure seems a lot like Boehner shut down the country for two weeks, skirted with the threat of default, raised US borrowing costs, slowed job growth, and undermined Americans' confidence in their government and economy, all for the sake of saving his job.

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