I had a drink with John Boehner once. We were both at a small, private party and found ourselves together at the bar. I’m afraid my reaction to him was on the haughty side.
“He’s an institutional man,” I wrote with disdain to an old friend.
To which my friend, an old political hand, replied: “Yes, but let me remind you: Congress is an institution.”
Far be it from me to interrupt the Trumpian chest-beating on the right at Boehner’s announced resignation, but I still can’t help having some sympathy for the guy. It’s possible we on the right wanted something from him no mere speaker of the House could have delivered. We’re all heroes at our keyboards and our microphones, after all. We all know what’s what, what should be done and how. Anyone who can’t live up to the courage we have in our imaginations or can’t achieve the results we achieve in our fantasies must be either a wimp or a traitor. But how much wisdom and self-awareness does it take to remember: that’s not the real world? Hell, it’s not even Washington, D.C.
Which is not to let Boehner off the hook for his failings. He did not recognize that Barack Obama was not the usual politician, but rather a narcissistic ideologue, not to be trusted. He kept making deals with the guy only to find himself double-crossed. And when he went to publicize the president’s lies, he found a news media so corrupted by racism and ideology that they had become little more than a gang of professional liars, dedicated to protecting the White House.
All the same, as I wrote at the very beginning of this year:
I can’t help but notice that under Boehner — and largely because of Boehner, because Boehner outsmarted President Obama in the 2013 budget negotiations — federal spending has declined over a five year period for the first time since the post World War II cutbacks. And because of this, as the economy has struggled to a sputtering recovery despite Democrat mismanagement, the deficit has been sharply reduced…
Also under Boehner — and also largely because of then-minority leader Boehner (and the likewise much-maligned-by-conservatives Mitch McConnell in the Senate) — the disaster of Obamacare is 100% attributable to the Democrats. It hasn’t got a single Republican fingerprint on it.
The disagreement between Boehner and us on the right boils down to this. We think he should shut down the government over the question of government funding for the truly satanic Planned Parenthood. He thinks that will backfire and hurt GOP chances of winning the presidency. That’s it. No one can accuse the deeply Catholic Boehner of being pro-abortion. He hates it as much as any one of us. But his strategy is patience. Ours is go-get-em. He looks at polls that blamed Republicans for the 2013 anti-Obamacare government shutdown and says: Why? We look at the half term victory that followed and say: Why not?
It’s a genuine disagreement, but hardly a matter for hate or vitriol or harsh words. We should save that for a president who wants to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to help fund the killing of children in their mother’s wombs, a man who thinks a baby who survives an abortion should be left to die. That man deserves our anger, not Boehner. Boehner, as he himself liked to say, is just “a little man with a big job.”
Maybe too little; maybe too big. What happens next will tell the tale.
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