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The Boehner Paradox

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.

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If Obama would take pen in hand and then put pen to paper we might be able to not only crunch his numbers but, even more importantly, also discuss the philosophical implications of his hope and change plans. Apparently thats not going to happen and the best we can do is either 1) argue over whether Boehner is up or down or 2) assess the maxims of game theory and how they apply in the game of chicken which our exasperated leader seems helpless to prevent.As for the prospects of Obama I agree with Krugman when he writes: It turns out, Im sorry to say, that he wasnt the one we were waiting for.

As in the variouds postings at America on the debt limit crisis, number one here, from Mr. Molloy, is partisan.The issue for I now rgink mosr is can congress come tohether in some sort of compromise, when one side, yes one side, doesn't beleive in compromiose?I think the finger pointing at the POTUS is driven by unfortunately less tha noble motives, though we are supposed to asume everyone her eacts in god faith - I think that assumption is crumbling when GOP reps can publicly cry out about "lying" by the pres.What's sad is we're drifting more and more into toxicity and it's running into polotics, religion, culture.

The problem isn't Boehner. The problem is the GOP. It no longer has any overwhelming political principles that unify a real party. It used to be fiscally conservative, something that is often appealing to most voters. But under the Bushes especially it has spent like a drunken sailor, so the skinflints have left it for Grover Nordquist. So what is left? Protectionism for big business, not a theme actually approved by most of us, and a romantic ideal of a country with a glorious destiny -- a destiny autotmatically engineered by God regardless of our sins.What Gertrude Stein once said of Los Angeles is true of the GOP: "There's no there there". There's no GOP, only the ghost of the party of Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover, and George W. Bush, pretending it still has political heft. No wonder poor Boehner is always crying.

The reason there is no default agreement is that there is no leader in the GOP/TP to bargin with.. Boehner's Speakership is hanging by a thread. McCain is retired? No GOP candidate is at 30% in a primary vote. "Pundits' like Rush, O"Reilly, Hannity are obsequiously bowed to. Canter is a sad imitation of a hanger-on. The present GOP leaders will almost certainly be primaried out in 2012. They are reduced to throwing themselves into the Government gears in hopes the resulting gore will save them. .

Ann, Stein said that about Oakland. LA has too much there ...there. (-:

"What Gertrude Stein once said of Los Angeles is true of the GOP: Theres no there there. Theres no GOP, only the ghost of the party of Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover, and George W. Bush, pretending it still has political heft. No wonder poor Boehner is always crying."Funny seeing as they were returned with the largest majority in the House in 60-something years and with a 20 point vote advantage among Independent voters.

Bob Nunz,You have the endearing habit of labeling people who hold views that dont fit within your mindset as barbarians. Speaking only for myself, theres no need to be overly polite. Dont restrain yourself - - in the future just call me a barbarian. I wont take your comments any less seriously than I do now.

"Funny seeing as they were returned with the largest majority in the House in 60-something years and with a 20 point vote advantage among Independent voters."Consider the opposition.Consider two possible options:- give voters a third party with a coherent - give voters a "none-of-the-above" option at the polls.And we'll see how long business remains "as usual."I don't think Mr Boehner would be alone in his tears.

... with a coherent mission

Bob Nunz - - Sorry my comment should read:You have the endearing habit of labeling people who hold views that dont fit within your mindset as partisans. Speaking only for myself, theres no need to be overly polite. Dont restrain yourself - - in the future just call me a barbarian. I wont take your comments any less seriously than I do now.

Ed --Sorry about the LA mistake. I guess I associate that saying with this one: Los Angeles is seventy-two suburbs in search of a city :-)

I think the problem is that the two parties are at apoint where they hate and mistrust each other. On msnbc 'closing bell' today, the Washington correspondent was asked "don't they know the american people are watching this?" He responded that nobody in congress cares about the american people. All they care about is the constitluents that they need to get elected. I think that is a true statement. It might be the most accurate statement made yet. The Republicans don't want to anything reasonable to solve the debt crisis because it come during a democratic administration. What we should really should do is organize a million person march on Washington and demand that everyone in this congress sign a letter declaring himself ineligible for re-election, or resign immediately. They truely no longer care about the american people. This will never happen, but I still think it's a good idea. We need a Martin Luthur King to lead this.

If Speaker Boehner gets something passed and signed into law, and retains his speakership, then he isn't weak, any more than Speaker Pelosi was weak during the health care debate. She got it passed. By a whisker, but it was passed. And she didn't have a deadline.Congressional majorities are ephemeral. It seems that it's difficult for leaders in both parties to keep their members united. It's as if each additional member added to the caucus increases its total weight and makes it more likely that it will splinter into factions.

Bob N., of course Patrick Molloy is a partisan. So am I. Isn't that why we're here? It'd be boring to preach to the choir all the time.David G., Rolling Stone did a bitterly hilarious hatchet job on Boehner with the requisite number of f-words, unnamed sources, and disaffected former aides. (Stone's political reporters are all vying to be the next H.S. Thompson, but they just end up making me sad he's gone.) ANYway, the piece was cathartic, and I felt I could look at Boehner in a less jaundiced way after being purged of my own bile.In my view, Boehner's problem is that he has to deal with a bunch of idealistic rookies who think they were elected to "stand firm" and who feel they have the the moral high ground.The rookies and a few of the veterans who have aligned themselves with the rookies are for substantive changes in the way our government works (less of it!) and the way we live our lives (pull yourself up and quit asking for handouts; it makes you weak). They're not in politix for the money or personal power. They're on a mission from God (or Ayn Rand, depending on their religious affiliation or lack thereof). That makes them very difficult to persuade.

If the situation wasn't so dire, it would be funny,The most recent GOP Presidential candidate, John McCain (even though he mispoke -I l;eave the wpord "lie" tp thr right wing extremists) is telling the Tp "hobbits" they're bizarreo" I was hoping he would say "wackadoodle."But of course. the situation is dire and patyisanship is helping sink the ship, including Mr. Malloy....

It's very interesting. Everyone talks about partisanship, or whether Boehner is a successful speaker. Does anybody have any opinion on which plan is best for the American people, and why,or Is that just an academic question that has fallen to the wayside? This is so political its terrible.

Andrew P - I understand that, in the wake of CBO scoring that indicated that both the Boehner and Reid plans don't deliver the savings they promised, both bills are being hurriedly rewritten. This is probably going to be another case of, "We just passed something. Now let's all read it to learn what we passed."

At 1PM Friday with yet no House vote here is my advise to Boehner. The TP freshman want red meat. Give them an amendment lopping 1 million off White House housekeeping budget. Turnstiles to get into Oval Office and Lincoln bed room. Have Michelle do all WH laundry.The TP would love to take those kind of amendments back to their base.

FWIW, here is Kimberley Strassel on Speaker Boehner. Looks like the Tea Party freshmen are under the conservative guns. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405311190488830457647456365720249...

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About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.