Thursday, December 22, 2011

Uncomfortably Numb

Forget all the “fighting the good fight” bravado from the Speaker of the House.  Forget all the denials from congressional Republicans that they caved on their principles to “do the right thing.”  Forget all of it.  This was the political equivalent of the Alamo.  In the end this was as humiliating a defeat as this group of miscreants has had since they stormed into the Capital building this past January.

House Republicans not only needlessly strung out a process that should’ve been a slam dunk politically, they handed President Obama the best Christmas gift he has gotten since he took office.  John Boehner sheepishly admitted engaging in a payroll tax fight “may not have been probably the smartest thing in the world to do.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Facing overwhelming criticism – most of it coming from his own Senate colleagues and even some conservative newspapers like The Wall Street Journal – Boehner finally cried “uncle” and will call for a unanimous consent on the Senate bill Friday.  If all goes well, it will be signed by Obama; however, if someone objects – always a possibility with this crowd – then Boehner will have no choice but to call back the House next week for a formal up and down vote; the same up and down vote he could’ve had on Tuesday had he stood up to his caucus and been a real leader instead of a spineless sheep being led around by his wayward flock.

Since he took the gavel of leadership from Nancy Pelosi last January, Boehner has behaved much like the captain of a rudderless ship, unable or unwilling to take charge.  True, the Tea Party freshmen class would test the patience of a saint, but his failure to set a tone early and establish himself as the head of his caucus has been the single greatest issue plaguing and now threatening his reign.  Far from commanding with authority, his hands off approach has only encouraged the more intransigent among his members to become more emboldened and steadfast, much to the detriment of his own party’s standing.  The debt ceiling standoff was a fiasco and severely damaged the Republican brand.  The only thing that saved the day was that there was plenty of blame to go around.

This time, however, there was no one else to blame; no one else to point the finger at.  The culprit was as plain as the nose on his face.  Mitch McConnell won the battle for him.  He got the President to cave on the Keystone pipeline; he thwarted Senate Democrats’ attempt to attach a millionaire’s tax to the bill; and he made sure the bill was fully paid for.  All the Speaker of the House had to do was lead his caucus to the finish line.  But instead he opted to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Whether John Boehner can survive this remains to be seen.  He looked tired and beaten as he stepped up to the podium to deliver his capitulation address.  He should be exhausted, especially dealing with the likes of those characters.  Kindergarten teachers expend less energy tending to children than the Speaker does attempting to run this insane asylum.  But, difficult or not, that’s his job, and right now, John Boehner is failing at it badly.       

Of course the main problem is that as lousy as Boehner has been, the fact is there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the House who would be able to step up and be an effective replacement should it come to that.  Eric Cantor – old Benedict Arnold – is even more to the right than Boehner, and in all likelihood would’ve held out longer in the Tax Cut deal.  Truth be told the House Majority Leader is far more liked and respected among the Tea Party faction, who never quite warmed to the current Speaker’s propensity for “reasonableness.” 

Should Cantor take over as Speaker, we can expect more and not less gridlock in Washington which, given how embarrassing this year was, should prove to make 2012 a year for the ages!

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