Some years ago someone said that he couldn’t understand actors whose entire self-worth was based on the approval of strangers.
Most of you will agree that to need the approval of your enemies would be a much stronger incongruity. By a factor of at least a thousand.
Still, we see this every day, and I can’t help but wonder why political leaders in the GOP insist on defining success in their professional worlds by having the Harry Reids’ pretense at approval. There is a scent of Stockholm in this I really don’t understand.
By the Throat
Just last Friday, John Boehner told the President of the United States to take a hike. This was a long-awaited, and much needed first reprimand to a petulant child by a member of the GOP congressional establishment, for reasons that transcend politics; a much needed step toward restoring national mental equilibrium that transcends any debt ceiling issue.
Adding whipped cream to this dessert, the president reacted in the expected, yet always surprising tantrum-sort of way, whining and catharting his way into and out of the White House briefing room.
From Friday night, through Sunday morning, every red-blooded American settled back in an afterglow of victory; a virtual snifter of fine Napoleon in our hands, the secure feeling of Harry Reid’s neck firmly in John Boehner’s clutch, a sensation Mitch McConnell would never enjoy, and would probably even recoil from ever contemplating.
That’s right, Reid’s neck. Oh, Obama’s neck is there too, but in truth, Reid’s neck may be more important in this confrontation. While not an original player in this debt ceiling face-off (between Boehner and Obama), Boehner reinserted Reid after he expelled Obama on Friday, on a bunco rap, for welshing on a promise.
It has always been Reid and Pelosi who have been the apparition in the GOP’s drawing room for over fifty years. That’s half a century, people, longer than most of you have been alive. And as jackals go, Reid is far more “jackaly” than even Obama. His is the chest the GOP Congress needs (and I assumed wants most) to place its boot upon.
Bring it on, we said, wafting that fine cognac under our noses.
But then, after a weekend of taking bows for this long-awaited comeuppance, John Boehner, the would-be giant slayer retired to his dressing room to re-emerge as Scaramouche, the Monty Hall of comedians, running back and forth trying to get Reid…of all things…to approve of new plans he might serve up, when the last one was just fine.
Here’s an idea, oh, don’t like it? Then how about this? No? Then try this, or this…
Boehner reminded me of a rug seller in Marrakech, and Reid a casual buyer on a lark, having fun making his salesman duck back and forth to bring out more goods, never intending to buy a thing.
I have never been so embarrassed. It’s like watching your best friend make a fool of himself on a public stage and there’s nothing you can do to save him.
But there are always lessons learned.
The Lesson Learned, the Opportunity Lost
To all you hair-splitting Tea Party types and inside-the-beltway, art-of-the-deal pundits like Krauthammer, National Review, American Spectator, this was never about the debt ceiling crisis, or the best tax deal. Spending will not be cut. And in truth, until we do a top-to-bottom vivisection of the entire Congress, and expel the entire ruling class subculture there, real tax cutting will never take place. I won’t hang that around John Boehner’s neck.
We always knew we didn’t have the guns to get any of the important issues taken care of with this debt ceiling “crisis.” But we did have the guns to bring both Reid and Obama to their knees by signalling that the GOP says what it means, and means what it says.
So it isn’t really who will be sitting and who will be left standing when the music stops, i.e., who will get the blame. Since Friday the “who” of that equation rested entirely in John Boehner’s clutch.
I just don’t think he knew it, and the reason I think lies in our understanding of that word “enemy.” The GOP doesn’t have any, except maybe the Tea Parties.
What we did stand to accomplish, in fact, stood at the brink of putting an exclamation mark to on Friday, was establishing the reemergence of the Republican Party as a race of men…
…and put to bed fifty years of subservience to the Democrat Party.
After fifty years of bullying, badgering and downright nose-tweaking, you would have thought the GOP would have jumped at the opportunity to get back this important piece of real estate. But what we saw instead, by Sunday, were pups-grown-full strut up, proud as all get-out, take a sniff, bark out a gesture, then roll-over and bare their bellies without the first hint of wanting to contest the he-male for any real control of the herd.
This is how the beta male behaves when he is content to fall back into the herd, and eat the gravy and grab the leavings of the alphas. Democrats as alpha? Yeah, go figure. But, there you have it. This is the worldview of the current GOP in the Ruling Class. They are content for table scraps than to have to go out and forage, and rebuild and repopulate the herd as conservatives want to do.
The lesson here is that you can see why these people, GOP leaders in Congress, do not, cannot, see the Reids and Obamas of the world (who will try to devour each other once we are gone) as enemies. In the end Democrats are still their “protectors” and they cannot bring themselves to risk losing that protection.
A Peace Descends
John Boehner may yet win this face-off with Barack Obama and regain some sort of win over Reid. But I doubt it. It was lost after Friday, when he didn’t send the GOP home, subject to recall, demanding either the Democrats in the Senate or the President send him a bill the House could vote on. I think this bill tonight will be his fourth.
He can still do that today. But he won’t. By Tuesday either he will concede to some plan that will look and sound like it came from the Democrats, or the government will cross that dreaded debt ceiling line, and as the Democrats and Press will play it, he and the GOP will have lost the very unimportant August, 2011 blame-game. Why August 2011 matters is beyond me, but the Democrats could never carry that blame-stigma into the fall of 2011, let alone 2012, when it will matter.
In exchange for this, though, forever and a day, from now til the ending of the world, the Democrats will know the limits of Republican courage under this current leadership. That’s the real loss here.
All John Boehner needed to understand is the real game here always was about restoring…repeat… restoring self-respect in the GOP. Everything else would just naturally fall into place.
But to do that, the GOP must first be consumed by a faith they seem most wanting not to test here, and that is the faith the American people placed in them in November, 2010. It has neither waxed not waned, remaining as steady as a rock.
Realizing this faith, then there would be no fear as to who will take the blame. They will know. There will be no fear of “life after the crisis,” for as Nessa described in his almost religious essay on personal courage, “Standing in the Door”, you can worry and fret, but once you make the decision to enter the maelstrom, a kind of peace descends. Maybe even a smile.
This is what men often tell me; when you know you can’t turn back, and you know you can’t lose.
The men who stood by Travis at the Alamo, when he drew that line in the sand:
As Travis spoke these words, “Our fate is sealed; We must die;” the very air in the Alamo was heavy with the presence of mind and heroic heart that choosing to stay and fight meant death for them, but hope of life and liberty for their fellow Texans and countrymen.
Or, the Marines who manned the machine guns as the first wave of Japanese made the beachhead at Wake Island knew and felt the same. They held out 15 days.
At that moment of decision, of no turning back, a peace descends.
As Nessa said, everyone who has ever stood in the doorway knows this, and most actually do live to tell about it. We see them everyday.
A peace does descend. And a smile often ensues. It is all based on faith and courage.
The people will not let the House GOP down if it will only grab Harry Reid by the throat and throttle the living hell out of him. Everything else will simply take care of itself. That’s the victory we most want, for it signals oh, so many more.