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March 17, 2015

John Boehner, The Dishonorable Gentleman From Ohio

If you’ve ever watched a House debate or committee meeting you’ll notice that when members of Congress take a rare break from congratulating each other on their leadership and thanking one another for their service, they love to call each other “honorable.” “The Honorable member from East Nowhere” or “The Honorable Gentleman/Gentlelady From West Wherever.” Etiquette requires that when sending a letter to an elected official it be addressed to “The Honorable…..”

Yet unlike say the military where honor is a virtue that is actually something people strive to live by, politicians simply cloak themselves in the trappings of “honor.” Actually living by an honor code isn’t something they are really interested in.

Take for example, Speaker of the House John Boehner. He spent much of last year traveling the country on behalf of Republican candidates. His pitch was invariably something along the lines of, we need more Republicans to change the direction of the country has been going under Obama. He promised that if more Republicans were elected things would be very different in Washington.

Well, they certainly are but not in the way he promised they would be.

Boehner said Obama’s executive amnesty was unconstitutional and that the GOP would fight it. He promptly caved and allowed the Democrats to partner with a handful of Republicans to pass the DHS funding bill.

But now we learn his dishonesty is taking on entirely new path. Instead of his normal path of failure, propose something, complain that there aren’t enough votes, rely on Democrats to pass it he is not proactively negotiating with Democrats and cutting large swaths (the conservative part) of the House GOP out of the process.

Boehner and his top chairmen will pitch a permanent "doc-fix" deal to Republicans Tuesday morning that would have been unheard of in the GOP-led House of the last few years: an entitlement change that adds tens of billions of dollars to the 10-year deficit and that they know fiscal hawks will vote against. What's more, Boehner and his team negotiated the deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats first.

That is a noted strategy shift for Boehner, who on several recent occasions—including last month's Homeland Security Department funding standoff—has only gone to Pelosi as a last resort and, instead, relied on 218 Republicans to pass right-leaning bills. Now he is not bothering to try to appease the most vocal hard-liners in his party, members who—Boehner's allies have argued—were never going to come around to his side anyway.

...

Meanwhile, House Democrats have agreed to the policy without insisting on tax increases in return. What they get instead is a two-year reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program at levels agreed to in the Affordable Care Act. And even that is a relief for GOP leaders; CHIP not only splits the Republican Party, but it expires in September, just as government spending is set to run out. Amid another potential shutdown jam, GOP leaders would also likely have to deal with Democrats to get it passed then or concoct their own policy and suffer attacks from Democrats accusing them of endangering or making draconian cuts to children's health care programs.

Hundreds of billions of dollars in deficit spending? I don’t recall that being part of Boehner’s pitch last fall.

Working with Nancy Pelosi to provide the votes for this spending? Again, I don’t remember that being a big GOP selling point prior to last November.

Reauthorizing SCHIP at inflated Obama levels as a “sweetener” to get Democrat votes? That’s the bold change in direction we heard so much about? Remember, George W. Bush vetoed those spending levels when Democrats took over the Congress in 2007. Twice. The largest House majority in history is now to the left of W. on discretionary spending. Again, I follow the news pretty closely. I’m almost positive that wasn’t the plan Republicans were selling four and a half months ago.

What is so honorable about bait and switch tactics like this?


Of course telling the truth is pretty low bar to measure honor. Honor usually involves something greater like selflessness, a willingness to put others ahead of your own self-interest, or admitting one has flaws that is holding the group back.

By and metric, other that electing Republicans and ensuring their own professional well being, Beohner’s leadership has been a disaster. Time and time again he has failed to accurately gauge the mood of his caucus and lead them accordingly. The Sandy relief bill, the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, ObamaCare repeal efforts, passage of the CrOmnibus, the 20 week abortion ban, DHS funding fight and now the “doc-fix”, are just a few of his failures.

I know Republican and Boehner fans will blame idiot conservatives who won’t give in. Well, at some point the list of failures becomes so long you have to think maybe it’s not the followers who are wrong here.


How can anyone have such a record of failure and still think they should hold a position of leadership and public trust?

I’m not letting conservatives off the hook either. They should have been organized to challenge him but they never put anyone up. Boehner knows it’s almost impossible to topple a Speaker but if the position were vacant there would be several candidates vying for the position.

Maybe no one can do better than Boehner but a man of honor would realize that his leadership isn’t working. An honorable man would understand if he can’t manage to run the House with the largest GOP majority in history without cutting deals with the Democrats he isn’t the right man at this time and let someone else at least try.

Boehner surely thinks he’s an honorable man and that the GOP is better off giving in to the Democrats than giving conservatives a chance to do what they were elected to do. Villains never see themselves as the bad guy. That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to sit quietly and pretend his desperate need to cling to power via lies and sellouts is anything other than dishonorable.

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posted by DrewM. at 10:58 AM

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