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The Sad Pointlessness Of John Boehner

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Were I John Boehner, I’d be deeply envious of Nancy Pelosi right about now. As House speaker, Pelosi clearly was in charge. And whether you agreed with her results or not, she got things done. She clearly enjoyed being speaker, but the office in and of itself was not what mattered most. What Pelosi wanted, and what she delivered, were accomplishments. She helped preside over the 111th Congress, which became the most productive lawmaking session in decades.

The 112th Congress that Boehner is ostensibly leading? The charitable way to put it is, well, much less so in terms of accomplishment. The current session is on track to be one of the least productive in decades. 

What’s the point of being speaker if you’re not truly in charge of the House? Not only could he not sell his fellow Republicans on the grand budget bargain he had been trying to work out with President Obama, Boehner reportedly has been reduced to allowing his deputy, Eric Cantor, do most of the talking during negotiations. President Obama even has apparently become unclear of whether Boehner really is leading the House of Representatives. Obama reportedly was forced to ask Cantor, “Am I dealing with him, or am I dealing with you?”

In Nancy Pelosi’s day, there was no such confusion. She made the deals, and she delivered. She got major, controversial legislation through the House. Not only health care reform, but a contentious cap-and-trade bill to deal with climate change, too. (In that latter case, it was the Senate which couldn’t follow through.) Pelosi may not have won every fight she took on, but she never just gave up and shut up the way Boehner seems to be doing now.

Boehner appears paralyzed, too terrified of crossing the more conservative, tea party-backed members of his caucus, to pursue the big grand budget bargain he and the president were trying to hammer out. Just what is he afraid of? He could lose his speakership. That’s the absolute worst that could happen. Cantor, who more clearly than ever has emerged as more rival than friend these recent weeks, could depose him in a conservative coup. So what? After all the dust settles on this budget/debt crisis, Boehner might find himself ousted, anyway. And, he might lose his speakership, regardless, if Democrats retake the House next year. 

Such crass, self-serving calculations were not what Nancy Pelosi was about when she held the gavel. She bet big. Yes, she ultimately lost her speakership, but she’s okay with that. It was everything she had accomplished that mattered.

Cantor reportedly says that “nothing” could pass the House right now. Malarkey. If Boehner truly believes, as he says, that the debt ceiling must rise for the sake of the overall economy, he could take that “mother of all no-brainer” deals, as conservative David Brooks termed it. The speaker could pull together whatever Republicans he could and then, gasp, work with Democrats to pass it. That’s just the sort of thing Nancy Pelosi might do is similar situation.

But, I guess John Boehner isn’t half the speaker she was.

I hope he enjoys the plush speaker’s office, while he still can.

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About Scott Nance

  • Clavos

    Fascinating psychoanalysis, Tim.

    I bet you have a thriving practice…

  • No, Pelosi will NOT go down as any kind of destroyer. She pissed people off because she DID get things done. Most of her detractors couldn’t stand it because of her gender and the fact that she is a Democrate who actually has a spine. Many of her accomplishments in the House were stopped in the “do nothing” Senate.

    If anyone thinks Boehner looks presidential, they must be looking at the wrong guy. Cantor is just an obnoxious liar. The Reps and their asinine pledges have had the effect of painting them into a corner. The idiot tea baggers are totally incapable of governance owing to their recalcitrance and supposed ideological purity. Their refusal to even consider compromise is jaw droppingly stupid and counter to the very definition of democratic government.

    If you Righys want an autocracy, you’re welcome to it. Perhaps you could all move to Texas, which I would gladly let secede, and set up a one party super conservative quasi-fascist regime wherein your “small government” can spend its time and energy intruding on the citizenry in their bedrooms and doctors offices making sure that there be no hanky-panky under the sheets – no he’n & he’n or she’n & she’n – as well as seeing to it that women tow the god fearing christian line with their pregnancies regardless of rape or any danger to their health.


  • Tim

    Most conservative men are ‘beta males’. This is because a political idealogy that wraps itself around limited government can’t attract ‘alpha male’ personalities. Fascism was always for the ‘alfa male’ since power attracted those who wanted to use it. On the other hand, conservative women tend to be alpha females. They spend their lives around alfa men so naturally they are use to being in control. It is truly a situation where nature gave men a ‘set’ but politics switched it.

  • Clavos

    We need to place stiff excess consumption taxes on junk food to reduce overall medical queues and costs.

    Why don’t you just pass laws prohibiting it? We could have a prohibition of hamburgers and french fries.

    Probably work as well as the first prohibition or the drug laws too…

  • The debt ceiling was raised under both Presidents Reagan and George Bush II.

    We need a flat tax. We need to get out of foreign entanglements of every kind sooner rather than later. We need to place stiff excess consumption taxes on junk food to reduce overall medical queues and costs.

  • Jim

    Is this the “We have to pass the bill so that you can know what is in the bill (Obamacare) Pelosi you are gushing about?

  • Arch Conservative

    If there is a hell I’m sure Nancy Pelosi is bound for it.

  • CruzerDog

    Nancy enjoys having the worst poll numbers of anybody in the House of Representatives.

    What was the mid terms of 2010 telling you? She will go down in history as destroying the country and the Democratic party more so then anybody in our lifetime. I’m talking down to my great great grand-kids.

    The fact that the President is calling out Cantor is not smart. Boehner is looking Presidential as the president goes for a subordinate. The president looks near hysteria while John Beohner stirs his coffee keeping quiet in the White House talks.

    This is a debacle for the Democrats and they need to get the President from out front of this and insert VP Biden to take the fall when this debt crisis goes South. It appears it already has.

    The biggest winner so far here is John Boehner.


  • The idea of the slimy, utterly insincere Cantor gaining the speaker’s gavel is pretty repellent. Rachel Maddow seemed to be staking out a lonely outlying position back in February when she said Boehner just didn’t seem to be very good at his job. She is looking prescient now.

    And Scott is right about Pelosi — dumb caricatures of her aside, she was often brilliantly effective at her job. In fact, her effectiveness probably led to the nasty, counterfactual character attacks launched at her.