Monday, April 11, 2011

Shows You What I Know

I often put up old posts ("Weekend Reruns") to commemorate the rare occasions on which I think, in hindsight, that I got something right.  So it's only fair that I occasionally repost some of the many things that I've gotten wrong. 

Here's the first in what, regrettably, will probably be a continuing series.  On 8/24/10, contemplating the likely prospect of Republicans taking control of the House in the November election, I wrote this:
“So, after a seemingly endless series of political indignities, Democrats can take some small consolation in the fact that John Boehner, a man whose claim to national leadership consists principally in his suntan, is now speaking for the Republican Party about the state of the economy . . . ”
I was thinking that, when a mid-term election suddenly elevates congressional leaders of a minority party onto a national stage where they have to go toe-to-toe with even an unpopular president, the congressional leaders usually get their heads handed to them. That, at any rate, is what happened to Newt Gingrich when he tried to take on Bill Clinton over the budget in 1995-6, and to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid when they tried to take George Bush on over the Iraq war in 2007-8. Last August, John Boehner looked to me like a candidate for a thrashing at the hands of a still-popular president.

That shows you how much I know. Now Boehner’s coming off negotiating a continuing resolution looking strangely like a national leader. Take a look at him running a victory lap on Fox News:

Notice that the interviewer didn't bother mentioning Reid, Pelosi or any other congressional Democrat and Joe Biden's name comes up as comic relief.  Like everyone else, the interviewer's interested in how Boehner relates to, and matches up with, the president.  Maybe the battles over the debt ceiling and the 2012 budget will knock the confident smirk off Boehner's face.  But right now it's looking like, for the first time in his presidency, Obama is going to have to go toe-to-toe with a formidable opponent.

1 comment:

Dave said...

I think Boehner's position is greatly aided by the Tea Party freshmen. Their defiant rightward pull gives Boehner the leverage to negotiate effectively with Democrats, while coming off as the moderate voice of reason.

In addition, in contrast to Gingrich and Pelosi, Boehner has managed not to be cast as the personal embodiment of the House majority -- and thus slips the noose of a typical ad hominem narrative. (It also helps that he doesn't have the loud, aggressive, abrasive personality of a Gingrich or Pelosi.) He comes off as low-key, grounded, and just doing his job. It's a good template. The question is how long he can keep it up.