On the one hand, you have the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party, a faction whose influence is so strong over the GOP, that a person such as John Boehner, Speaker of the House, comes across as a moderate, whose perceived weakness rivals that of President Obama.
After all, Boehner shows up at White House meetings with the President without a Ted Nugent-led assassination team. What kind of true conservative would miss such a juicy chance to get rid of that dirty little Kenyan negro in the White(man’s) House?
And, Boehner yesterday actually allowed that the Republicans—meaning maybe even some of the Tea Party crew, would be willing to pass a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. At the same time, the Speaker said no dice yet on agreeing to reopen the partially-closed US government.
For the latter to happen, Boehner said, or implied really, Obamacare is going to have to be on the table for defanging in some fashion. Of course, the President has repeatedly said that will not be happening.
That is likely one main reason—the still implied connection to negotiating about Obamacare—that neither the President nor the Democratic Senate showed any public interest in Boehner’s proposal.
But, it’s his bizarre way of speaking, and viewing the world, that John Boehner necessarily has to manifest, that I want to examine here for a moment. In his statement yesterday, announcing the Republican plan to overcome the most worrying portion (the debt ceiling issue) of the current crisis, the Speaker sounded as if he were in the legislature of Alice’s King and Queen of Hearts, for whom the meaning of words and the relevance of facts are constantly in flux.
As the King of Hearts says:
“If there’s no meaning in it, that saves a world of trouble, you know, as we needn’t try to find any.”That could be the Republican guide to making policy statements. For to wrest a meaning from their gibberish is truly an alchemical exercise.
Example, John Boehner yesterday explained:
“Over the course of the last 10 days we’ve been trying to have conversations with our Democrat colleagues. They don’t want to talk. The president doesn’t want to talk.”This is what the Speaker said just prior to going over, at the President’s invitation—TO TALK! The President had actually invited over the entire House Republican caucus, but Boehner refused to let the crazy Tea Party goons go to the meeting. Some of them would no doubt have remembered to employ Nugent and some Uncle Jack contingent.
Boehner then explained the essence of the deal the Republicans were offering:
“So what we want to do is to offer the president today the ability to move a temporary increase in the debt ceiling, an agreement to go to conference on the budget, for his willingness to sit down and discuss with us a way forward to re-open the government, and to start to deal with America’s pressing problems.”What is “a way forward”?—the key point in that Red gift?
It is the very thing that began this mess—the Republican demand that Obama negotiate away Obamacare. And that is the very thing Obama and the Democrats have said will not be negotiated during this debate.
So, while Boehner’s offer appears to be a partial capitulation to the President, in fact it is a way of avoiding a political disaster (or more of one) for the GOP, which a debt default would certainly be, while appeasing the increasingly deranged and delusional Tea Party commandos.
The latter are willing to accept a “nuanced” approach to the situation, focusing their efforts on extorting concessions on Obamacare as the price for reopening the government. Of course, a six-week agreement on raising the debt ceiling, promises a return to that debate right around Thanksgiving.
And won’t the GOP win even more approval from the American people for that little holiday gift?
On that count, the current crisis is bleeding the GOP into its own existential crisis, as approval numbers for the Republican Party are rapidly sinking into record low territory. While Congress in general is hated, the Republicans especially are despised throughout the USA—EXCEPT FOR the 24% or so of Americans, i.e., the Tea Party loons, who now make up the dominant portion of the GOP’s support.
Whether John Boehner, and his tactics, are properly viewed as those of a master negotiator and skilled handler of a divided crew, or the hopeless antics of Homer Simpson, will largely depend on how the end-game plays out.
At this point, the real problem for all sides is that the terms of engagement will dictate the final terms of endearment and disaffection. It is not possible for John Boehner to avoid a revolt of his Tea Party-dominated caucus if he is perceived to be a surrender monkey, who got nothing for all the political costs to the GOP of going through this crisis.
Alternatively, Barack Obama, and the Senate Democrats, will look utterly impotent, if they cave to the Republican demand that Obamacare becomes a negotiating point in order to achieve a CR. That will be true, even if an agreement technically allows Obama to declare the CR is "clean".
If the subtext of the clean CR is a concession to begin negotiating the dismantling Obamacare, or worse, an agreement to negotiate away even more social spending or "entitlements", the Democrats themselves will have irredeemably damned themselves as the biggest surrender monkeys since—oh, about 2011, the last time Obama and the Dems caved.
Of course, Barack Obama could agree to negotiate the dismantling of Obamacare and the other concessions Republicans are demanding, in return for a brief reset to government as ab-usual, and then simply refuse to negotiate.
But all that will do is put off the inevitable disaster a little longer.
The truth is, until the Tea Party cancer can be cut out of the American political process, the nation is doomed to watch its government do the Fukushima Meltdown, a dance from which our politics may not recover.
For the Tea Party, that is the objective. For most Americans, that is the continuing tragedy of the great, gravely stupid, 2010 electoral blunder.