Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 4, 2010

OVERESTIMATING BOEHNER'S CAPACITY FOR SERIOUSNESS.... House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) delivered a largely-overlooked speech last week on the ways in which he'd like to improve the way the House operates. It didn't break a lot of new ground, and the remarks came and went without making much of a splash.

David Broder, however, was more impressed than most, and touted Boehner's prescription as a reasonable starting point.

What Boehner called "a cycle of gridlock" afflicts both sides of the Capitol, and has been enabled by both parties, depending on who had the majority. As he was honest enough to admit, the abuses did not start when Pelosi took the gavel, and both sides have been guilty of twisting the rules.

If the margins of control shrink in January, as I think they will, it might well be time to negotiate a truce.

I'd like to see Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leaders take Boehner up on the challenge he has raised, not try to demean it. He said, for example, that rather than stifling debate through the manipulation of rules, "we should open things up and let the battle of ideas help break down the scar tissue between the parties.... Let's let legislators legislate again."

It would be great if the leaders could engage each other seriously at the start of the next Congress on rules and procedures for doing the nation's business.... His diagnosis of the problems in Congress offers a starting point for a cure.

On the surface, I'm comfortable with all of this. Reforming the way Congress does business strikes me as an eminently sensible thing to do, and some of the specifics Boehner brought up are at least worthy of discussion.

My concern is not with the message, but with the messenger. Broder characterizes Boehner as a sincere congressional leader with credibility on these issues, who deserves some benefit of the doubt. I don't see it this way at all.

For one thing, Boehner has consistently shown a lack of seriousness when it comes to his duties. This has been evident in his refusal to compromise, his petty partisan tactics, and his willingness to play procedural games for the sake of obstructionism. Just a few months ago, the American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein, not exactly a raging leftist, said Boehner and his leadership team "are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious."

For another, when it comes to institutional reform, it's hard to think of a worse spokesperson than John Boehner. He is, as we talked about last week, almost a caricature of what's wrong with Washington insiders. Boehner first gained national notoriety in 1996, when the chain-smoking conservative congressman, shortly before a key vote, walked the House floor distributing checks from tobacco industry lobbyists.

More recently, Boehner has developed an unrivaled love of corporate lobbyists, with whom the GOP leader coordinates to try to kill jobs bills, Wall Street reform,health care reform, and energy legislation.

We're talking about a long-time Capitol Hill veteran who literally meets in smoke-filled rooms to scheme behind closed doors with powerful interests, most of which have hired his former aides for maximum influence and impact.

David Broder sees all of this, and nevertheless insists John Boehner should be taken seriously when it comes to reforming how Congress does business. Maybe Broder's thinking of a different John Boehner?

Steve Benen 10:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (15)

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As he was honest enough to admit, the abuses did not start when Pelosi took the gavel, and both sides have been guilty of twisting the rules.

Oh, very big of Boner to "admit" "both sisdes have been guilty of twisting the rules," and how kind of David Broder to acknowledge his "honesty" in so doing.

Fucking Villagers -- how do they work?

Posted by: karen marie on October 4, 2010 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Doctors, whatever the dosage of anti-senility pills you're prescribing to Broder, please up it. It's not working, and hasn't for years.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 4, 2010 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Well ya know, he was only being such a jerk because everyone else was doing it, right? He can quit any time. Oh yeah.

Posted by: GP on October 4, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

On one side there are politicians trying to enact legislation that will benefit working class Americans, filled with policies that enjoy wide support from Americans of all voting stripes.

On the other hand is a minority party insistent on filibustering ALL that legislation, regardless of merit, blocking all appointees to important positions in government regardless of merit and then blaming the majority party for this gridlock, much like the movie The Warriors when Luther shot Cyrus then claimed "It was Da WORRRYEERRS! We SAW 'em!"

So...CLEARLY it's time to find some common ground, some compromise. Oh, if only the Democrats would merely adopt the entire awful job-killing-terrorist-enabling agenda of the Republicans, MAYBE THEN we'd stop having so much interparty strife.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 4, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Of course Broder thinks Boehner should be taken seriously, because Broder thinks he himself should be taken seriously, an equally absurd prospect.

Posted by: Rip on October 4, 2010 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

No number of jokes about senility and High Broderism can overshadow what the GOP has actually done in the last two years, and how Broder has managed to overlook it entirely so he can swoon over this speech. Regarding Republicans, Broder is as objective as any squealing Justin Bieber fan.

Posted by: Rathskeller on October 4, 2010 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Broder is CLUELESS. The cancer isn't in the House but it is in the Senate.

The Senate is the problem.

Posted by: Maritza on October 4, 2010 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

Just go back to Obama's live questioning sessions with Republicans all seated at a table and listen to Boehners completely ridiculous rant to Obama, filled to the brim with talking points and no serious points of discussion to deem how much of a serious person he is.

The guy can try and talk in a deep voice all he wants but he's a joke of an individual that may very well possibly be third in line to the President shortly. Next will come the concerted effort of Republicans to begin impeachment trials on Obama and Biden to regain the WH.

Posted by: mikefromArlington on October 4, 2010 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

The most outrageous part is Broder's obliviousness to the rather convenient timing of Boehner's pronouncements. Now that the Republicans are poised to retake power, suddenly he's overcome with a desire for the House to stop its obstructionist ways and start legislating again. My, how noble and statemanlike.

It's (sadly) unreasonable to expect Boehner to be anything less than utterly cynical, but it's more than a little disappointing for Broder to treat such a transparently opportunistic pivot as some kind of country-first epiphany.

Posted by: The_Dan on October 4, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"The Republicans believe that the power of government should be used first of all to help the rich and privileged in the country. With them, property and wealth comes first. The Democrats believe that the power of government should be used to give the common man more protection and a chance to make a living. With us, the people come first." Harry S. Truman

Until the Republicant's come to the defense of 'we the people' instead of 'we the business interests' there will be unending gridlock in the Senate. Follow the money.

Posted by: Pat on October 4, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I can't bear to read it and don;t have time anyway -- I'm sure Broder goes deep with his analysis of the Pledge to America ... [sarcasm]?

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on October 4, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Can you smell a trap??? "Opening up for debate" meaning endless prattle and non-sense amendments--just another stalling tactic...

Posted by: golack on October 4, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

What is this the Comedy Channel?

Does anybody (David Broder???) remember the Tarp fiasco? When Hank Paulson was on his knees begging Pelosi to bail him and the country out in the fall of '08?? Where was Boehner?

I suppose that journalists who work in DC are in such denial about the Republican party (endless investigations, taking a surplus and running a deficit, lying about going to war, compromising the judicial independence...etc.) that they keep falling back into the comfortable mantra that BOTH parties are to blame.

No wonder the country has amnesia about who caused the economy to go into the ditch.

Posted by: mike reilly on October 4, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Another Lucy and Charlie Brown moment. We've never been here before.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on October 4, 2010 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget Boehner appeared to be stinking drunk when he showed up to give his Hell No, You Can't! rant on the House floor right before the final HCR vote; if Nancy Pelosi had shown up like that, she would have been hounded out of office by the end of that week.

Posted by: June on October 4, 2010 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK
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