Monday, October 07, 2013

His Name Ought To Rhyme With Mum, Drum, And Ho Hum

Judging by a Politico report, President Obama is getting closer to acknowledging that the Speaker of the House is recklessly toying with the nation's economy or, as the latter would put it, "playing games" with the full faith and credit of the American economy.   We read

“The truth of the matter is there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives right now to end the shutdown immediately with no partisan strings attached. The House should hold that vote today,” Obama said, daring Boehner to take action.

But, he said, Boehner hasn’t brought the clean continuing resolution to the House floor because “the doesn’t apparently want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he’s able to extract concessions.”

That's rather obvious, but it's the closest the President has come to calling out the leading Repub in the country.  Salon's Mugambi Jouet has gone much further, explaining

How much blame does John Boehner deserve for the shutdown of the federal government? A common narrative in recent months has been that he is a weak Speaker who has failed to rein in hard-line Republican House members, especially in the Tea Party’s ranks. Radical Congressmen make uncompromising ideological demands, the narrative goes, thereby forcing Boehner to take inflexible stances he does not really believe in, including the government shutdown. What most commentators tend to overlook is that Boehner himself has helped foment the radicalism of the modern Republican Party.

For years, he has made fiery declarations promoting the visceral animosity of numerous Republicans to the Obama administration. “Your government is disrespecting you, your family, your job, your children,” Boehner illustratively said in a 2010 speech, a year before he became Speaker of the House. “Your government is out of control. Do you have to accept it? Do you have to take it?” Boehner answered his own question: “Hell no, you don’t!”

Before the passage of the Obama administration’s health care reform in 2010, Boehner likened the law to “Armageddon,” the Biblical apocalypse, and said it was a “monstrosity” that would “ruin” America. Interviewed on 60 Minutes, he was literally moved to tears when explaining his desire that children continue to “have a shot at the American Dream” despite the menace posed by Obama’s policies (see the 6 min. mark of this video). Still in 2010, the year the GOP took back the House, Boehner warned that “we will not compromise on our principles.”  He evenexplicitly noted that he rejects the word “compromise.”

Some commentators argue that Boehner has just been pandering to the Tea Party, yet this point overlooks how he already took hard-line stances well before the Tea Party movement came into existence. Back in the 1990s, he led a drive to abolish the Department of Education and helped Newt Gingrich craft the “Contract With America.”

Boehner is among the affluent persons who have favored “winner-take-all” economic policieswhile pretending to defend working-class and middle-class Americans. He assures that he headed a “small business” prior to becoming a Congressman in 1991. His wife also stresses that the Boehners are “just normal, average people.” In reality, he made millions while running a marketing firm. As a Congressman, he distributed checks from tobacco lobbyists to fellow legislators on the floor of the House itself. Close ties to lobbyists later helped him become Speaker of the House.

While he has had a tense relationship with Tea Party-aligned Congressmen, who have accused him of being overly compromising, he largely shares their worldview, long backing the kind of radical laissez faire policies embraced by the Tea Party.

On global warming, he has echoed the scornful skepticism of scientific research that is relatively ordinary among contemporary Republicans—unlike among conservatives elsewhere in the industrialized world, many of whom identify climate change as a man-made problem. For example, he described the notion that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to the environment as “almost comical” and emphasized that cows emit carbon dioxide too.

In other words, there are reasons to doubt the common notion that a clear dichotomy exists between Boehner and the most radical members of the House, who are mainly faulted for spurring the government shutdown. By both American historical standards and international standards, it is the modern GOP that is hard-line, not just its Tea Party faction. This peculiarity is epitomized by the adamant opposition of virtually all Republicans to universal health care, which is widely accepted by all leading right-wing parties in Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. 

It is widely understood that Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who dreams of the White House, is a dangerous radical. But with the opposing party in charge of the Senate, he was unable to get his own chamber to block a clean continuing resolution.  But John Boehner is not merely a tear-jerking, chain-smoking, human tanning bed. He has real power and is in control of one of the two chambers of Congress which, given the filibuster elsewhere, makes him the most powerful member of the United States Congress.  Whether himself an extremist or a coward unwilling to say "no" to the children in his caucus, he is the one keeping the federal government closed and jeopardizing the country's credit rating

For months, after the GOP House and the Democratic Senate each passed a budget, Democrats pleaded with House Republicans to appoint Representatives to a joint committee to reconcile the two resolutions.  The Republicans refused and now, under threat of a debt default, are demanding the Democratic Party meet their terms.  And John Boehner, interviewed Sunday by ABC's George Stephanopoulos, claims

My goal here is not to have the United States default on their debt. My goal here is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and driving the debt up. And the president's refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation at risk of default.

There is a word for this sort of effort to manipulate facts and the American people. And there is a word for people like John Boehner, one which brings to mind a classic episode of WKRP in Cincinnati.

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