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John Boehner: After the dead man walks

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Smart v. Stupid

John Boehner: After the dead man walks

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There is finally a tax-cut deal. But not before Republicans started bleeding from the eyeballs. House Speaker John Boehner is in for a good cry. Or six.

Half a year ago, no one could have imagined this newly competitive political landscape. Sure, Teabag-terrorist governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker (another dead man walking) have also damaged the brand. And there is no underestimating the damage done by the Republican primary. But arguably, no one is more responsible for making Republicans look like nattering nabobs than “Weepy-John” Boehner.

Boehner has personally improved the odds for both President Obama and for every Democrat on a ballot. He has presided over the least popular congress in history, and the first one to accomplish less than the infamous Do-Nothing Congress of 1947.

This Republican-controlled House of Representatives will be remembered for made-up crises, short-term budgeting and inability to create or save a single job. It is oddly ironic that the House now hangs its hat on the idea that they won’t accept a short-term solution. It is a negotiating tactic they practically invented.

Meanwhile, the Senate leaves town after that body managed to come to a bipartisan agreement, by a vote of 89-10. Who could have imagined that?

Of course, the extension was inevitable. The only remaining question is how much Republicans have damaged their brand. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell even told Boehner to quit it. That’s unprecedented.

John Boehner’s flaw is being a coward while occupying a seat that requires huge cojones. Apparently, his pseudo-plebian background didn’t prepare him for arrows in the back. Pundit Bob Burns notes that many “believe Boehner has run his political gas tank down to empty in his inability to herd the cats in his party.” Of course, in a world not upside down, freshman members of Congress earn political capital by playing for the team led by the Speaker.

Boehner has also been betrayed by his own Judas, Virginia Congressman and Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Wrangling a big legislative body like the House of Representatives requires a leadership who operate in lock step. So it doesn’t help that a simpering weasel like Cantor is always trying to slither into the Speaker’s chair.

Cantor’s backstabbing and pandering to freshman Teabag-terrorists is, in large measure, why Boehner now faces an untenable future. From Day One, Cantor has positioned to replace Boehner. In this broken Congress, Cantor refuses to work on behalf of the speaker, delivering his refusals under the cover of his party’s recalcitrant freshman. Through disloyalty and back-room backstabbing, Cantor is the man who orchestrated Boehner’s series of embarrassing public walk backs.

So Cantor is the man to watch in the ramp up to the next session. He is likely to replace Boehner – maybe not before the 113th Congress, but certainly by then. Or maybe he will ascend as soon as next January, if Boehner is forced into “retirement.” Right now, that seems likely.

If President Obama wins re-election, Democrats rout Republicans in the House, and Cantor is kneecapped by Nancy Pelosi. Or maybe it will be the effective minority whip, Steny Hoyer.

This scenario is not so unlikely, much more likely than before Boehner’s tenure. The president has outperformed his predecessor on defense, a traditional Republican advantage. And the minority in Congress has out-maneuvered Republicans on taxes, another issue they’ve owned for decades. This Republican-controlled House is the body that tried to roadblock middle-class tax relief. At Christmas. You only need to watch an increasingly shrill Grover Norquist squirming on cable TV to know important these last few weeks have been.

Cantor believes he is using teabag-terrorists to depose Boehner. But they are using him. When you caucus with bomb-throwers, you’re likely to lose a few fingers. Or maybe a leg. Even if the Teabag-terrorists regain lost momentum and a new Republican president drags the down-ballot along, expect Cantor to go down in short order. He will be painted as a member of the old order and deposed by a member of the 2010 freshman class.

Unbridled ambition is a cruel mistress.

Jimmy Zuma splits his time between Washington, D.C. and Tucson. He writes the online opinion journal, Smart v. Stupid. He spent 5 years in Tucson in the early ‘80s, when life was a little slower, swamp coolers were a little more plentiful, Tucson’s legendary music scene was in full bloom, and the prevailing work ethic was “don’t - unless you have to.”

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