December 14, 2013

COMMENTARY: House Speaker Boehner boils over

Greg Sargent

During a press conference on Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner finally went “Bulworth” on the conservative groups that have been making his life miserable for so long. Among his remarks: “Frankly I think they’re misleading their followers. ... And frankly, I just think they’ve lost all credibility. ... When you criticize something and you have no idea what you’re criticizing, it undermines your credibility.

“You know, they pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and shut down the government. ... That wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind. But if you recall, the day before the government reopened, one of the people at one of these groups stood up and said, ‘Well, we never really thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?”

There’s some hilarity here. Boehner says conservative groups “pushed” Republicans into the destructive government shutdown fight; you’d almost think he was some kind of passive onlooker instead of the leader of House Republicans. As you may recall, Boehner actively wanted Republicans to make a stand on the debt ceiling, which, if anything, was crazier than the shutdown standoff. Remember the “Boehner Rule”?

That aside, Boehner has often trod too carefully around the sensibilities of his right flank and, as a result, has been frustratingly opaque about his views about the government shutdown and immigration reform. Saying what he thinks of these groups is a positive first step. The question now is whether Boehner will pay a price for this within his caucus.

If there are no serious repercussions, that would suggest that the party’s right flank has been weakened badly in ways that should have real ramifications going forward. After all, if Boehner is serious that their destructive and failed tactics have proven them to have no credibility, we won’t be seeing another debt-ceiling hostage crisis later this year, right?

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant for The Washington Post. Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line

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