Let me set this up, for this coming budget showdown is all about John Boehner, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Not the budget. Not the Democrats. Not the Tea Parties, nor the House Freshmen.
Going into the last CR vote, about two weeks ago, which Boehner won, but with several freshman defecting, there was a lot of noise coming out of the hustings about Boehner’s lack of steadfastness to “the People.”Â Many urged the GOP House leadership to shut the government down then. Coward! some yelled. Turncoat! still others screamed.
I demurred, but not because I thought Boehner’s plan was the better plan, but because he is the elected Leader and he had done nothing (yet) to deserve that sort of preemptive condemnation. You see, John Boehner had convinced most of the members of his party that he indeed did have an End Game in this budget battle, and the freshmen, like me, knew that eventually he’d have to put all his cards on the table. So they let him play his cards. If he is a coward, it will come out soon enough.
The time for the End Game has come. The time for brinkmanship is here.
It’s near time for the House leadership to put up or shut up.
And yes, Boehner is afraid, as I would be, and so would every last one of you unless your name is Cromwell. Boehner truly is between a rock and a hard place. In truth, the Dems in Congress understand his dilemma better than most of you out there, which explains why they’ve been targeting those soft spots in Boehner’s armor, trying to get him to make the wrong choices in this showdown-smackdown negotiation.
Boehner’s worries are not the 80+ freshmen, or the angry, irate citizens who sent them to Congress. He knows there will be more, not less, in 2012. But he looks behind him, literally, at all the colleagues he’s served in the House with for years, many good friends, and he can see his dilemma clearly. He has to choose his friends or choose the right. But then, if he chooses the right, he must then lead his friends in the same direction. That takes some doing, I’ll tell you now.
For you see, John Boehner can also look inside himself at the bedrock rightness of what he’s facing. This I also know. He knows what’s right here, and that yielding to Democrat blackmail will achieve none of the right objectives. He knows he can’t blink.
In other words, Boehner knows what it’s all about, but I can’t say this for all the House leadership and some of the old hands Boehner calls friends. Boehner knows many of his old friends are scared out of their pants (I won’t call them cowards…not just yet) and it is having to stare them down that has him most afraid. They are the ones who see little they like in this End Game of his. He must first tell them “No” then get them to follow in a direction they don’t want to go. That’s leadership, only unlike Saddam or Pelosi, he won’t put a gun to their head to get it done. He’ll have to actually lead.
So his concerns are only human. This is a fear we all know. Having to risk old friendships is never an easy task. Democrats like Schumer, Reid and Howard Dean almost have it right here, only they are speaking about the wrong faction. They are squawking about dissension in GOP ranks, but when they blame “Tea Parties,” they are really saying “newbie Members who are not your friends, Mr Boehner.” That’s the wedge they want to drive.
Democrats most want to project to the voters back home that the GOP is really Caspar Milquetoast, sweaty, frightened Caspar.
Budget negotiations are going on between Boehner and House and Senate Democrats right now. Typically, what is and is not on the table is rarely disclosed to the public. But maybe Boehner should lay his cards out before the American people now, for it will serve as a way to convey to the Democrats there’s no going back. He will have to be able to rake in a good portion of that pot or indeed there will be a government shut-down. Nothing in-between. The Dem’s are not accustomed to the GOP going all-in.
Only with that sort of jutted jaw, it will not be the kind of shutdown the Dem’s imagine and pretend to want now, for they picture a few days of this fellow, Caspar, (above) sweating, and then we will cave. They don’t want to picture a defiant House GOP in a government shut-down.
Life After Shut-Down
There’s an old rule: When in doubt, always take the high road. Boehner’s leadership will be tested here, for winning will not mean taking the high road then tip-toeing in squeaky tennis shoes as if over egg shells. To win they must take the high road in cleated boots, stomping with defiant talk and muchÂ beating of the chests.
This is what the Dem’s fear most, and explains why they have spent so much time warning Boehner that his worst enemies are the Tea Parties and this dangerous new sentiment the freshmen brought to Congress. Deny them this one thing and Dem arrogance and boasting will turn to abject fear, for then Boehner will have unmasked their leaders for the spindly pugilists they really are.
A government shut-down is about none of those things. It is about winning and rubbing the losers’ noses in it. It will set the tone for 2012.
About a Shutdown
Mike DeVine, who writes here often, wrote last year about selective shutdowns. I’m for that. Herman Cain and I discussed a “Dirty Dozen” in December, and I plan to do a post later in the year…but let’s name a few:Â Dept of Education, Dept of Energy, the regulatory and legal arm of EPA, Dept of Agriculture, parts of the Interior, FCC, Corp for Public Broadcasting, and The National Endowment for the Arts. Send them home. Remind them of the wonderful kindness of the people who pay their salaries, and who can remind them, from time to time, to show a little gratitude. Who will miss any of these, anyway?
Once you have set you jaw, Mr Boehner, do not waver. Go into a shut-down planning to keep it shut down for weeks, not days. Gird yourselves for the media onslaught, for with the right attitude, you will prevail.
Remember most what Newt Gingrich didn’t know in ’94, and that was the knowledge that the American people are behind you, and no, you cannot rely on the media to tell you, or us, that simple fact. You shut it down, we have your back.
Accept this as an article of faith, Mr Boehner, for if you do, as Jehovah told Abraham, your numbers will multiply. Those who abandon you in this fight we will replace. From where the sun now stands, we will not cease supporting you, and the men and women who carry this fight to victory.
That’s why we’re here. We don’t cheer. We move things.