No, not the latest thriller from the pen of (the late) Robert Ludlum. The intrigue to me is how House Speaker John Boehner is far and away the most prominent Republican in the country and at a time when Republican candidates for 2012 are scrambling for any bit of air time they can in order to convince GOP voters and the wider public that they are presidential material.At the same time, however, the default showdown that has vaulted Boehner to such prominence -- going head-to-head with President Obama at the White House and on the airwaves -- is also demonstrating how weak he is. The underlying dynamic of the default mess is that Boehner can't corral votes from his own members for anything he is proposing. There is even open speculation that his Speaker's job could be in peril from the rank and file if he doesn't do as they like.On the other hand (there's always another hand), if Boehner can secure a deal that looks like a victory for the GOP and can lay any negative fallout (credit rating downgrades etc) at the feet of Obama, then he may be the most successful Republican leader, as well as prominent.But he's not running for president, and this whole episode seems to have diminished the stature of a Republican field that wasn't exactly standing tall to begin with. It has echoes of 1995, when Newt Gingrich led the GOP House to a government shutdown fight with Bill Clinton. The party nominated Bob Dole to run against Clinton the next year, and we know where that went. Boehner is following in this showdown, not leading his troops, and he could have more success than Gingrich did.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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