Political Animal


July 25, 2011 11:25 AM Boehner’s plan to ‘stop’ Obama

By Steve Benen

What a terrific quote from House Speaker John Boehner. (via Jed Lewison)

Boehner — now liberated from the need to be sit politely across from Obama in the Cabinet Room — is framing the debt battle in the starkest anti-Obama terms to rally his troops.

“Here’s the challenge,” he told his rank-and-file on a Sunday afternoon conference call, “To stop [Obama], we need a vehicle that can pass in both houses.”

I’ve read it a few times, and I can’t stop marveling at it.

As the House Speaker sees it, the principal goal here isn’t just to prevent a crisis of his caucus’ own making; it’s also to “stop” the president. Stop the president from doing what? It’s not entirely clear, but it probably has something to do with claiming any kind of political victory.

And for Boehner, the way to prevent the White House from getting the upper hand is to have a Republican House and a Democratic Senate approve a debt-ceiling increase that enjoys some semblance of bipartisan support.

Yeah, that’ll show that rascally president.

This entire process would be significantly less ridiculous if Boehner (a) were a powerful Speaker with the respect of his caucus; and (b) weren’t panicking a little about whether this fiasco will cost him his job.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • slappy magoo on July 25, 2011 11:30 AM:

    Go to sleep with an alcoholic dog in denial, wake up with drunk bipolar dysfunctional fleas.

  • kevo on July 25, 2011 11:31 AM:

    Oh, so Mr. Boehner, the gloves are off? Show us middle class Americans your bared-knuckled Sunday punch! -Kevo

  • T2 on July 25, 2011 11:35 AM:

    "This entire process would be significantly less ridiculous"
    ......if we had a Republican President....we'd have had a clean bill and passed it on a unanimous voice vote.

  • Danp on July 25, 2011 11:36 AM:

    You show 'em, John. Raise the debt limit in exchange for budget cuts that haven't been budgeted anyway, and which you control in either case - well unless your sorry ass gets tossed out next year, in which case it's no longer binding.

  • c u n d gulag on July 25, 2011 11:37 AM:

    "Stop Obama before he KILLS again!!!"

    I'm just at a loss for words at this kind of childish gibberish by the House majority party.

    I don't know what the f*ck to say, except
    "F*CK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    And what' sad is that I can pretty much guarantee everyone that Obama and the Democrats will be help responsible in '12.

    Wanna bet?

  • nenabeans on July 25, 2011 11:38 AM:

    'tonight the bottle let me down" one of my favorite country songs. this sputtering drunk has paul ryan and cantor on his neck and the koch bros on his wallet and the tea baggers up his arse. he is living the american nightmare and sharing it with the rest of us.

  • Glidwrith on July 25, 2011 11:41 AM:

    The really fun part is if he's playing a head game on them. If there is one thing the Teahadists hate is Obama winning on anything. So, if he frames it that they have to stop Obama from lifting the debt ceiling, the best thing to do is they have to create a bipartisan plan that allows them to lift the debt ceiling. Whoa, I'm dizzy now from turning in circles then standing on my head to try to describe this.

  • Brutalfacts on July 25, 2011 11:44 AM:

    I am not convinced he will have the votes to pass the house. Many GOP “dead enders” will have to be willing to co-operate and they don’t trust the Speaker. I also doubt he really wants to replay this in 6 months after what will be a very messy budget fight. At some point the “unwashed masses” will come to the conclusion the GOP is the party of drama and tire of it. They will have football, and new season of Dancing with the Stars or American Idol to focus on and resent that the GOP is doing stuff that gets in the way of those things.

  • square1 on July 25, 2011 11:44 AM:

    Okay, I'm on the record as saying that the entire premise of "deficit-reduction" deal is nothing but shock doctrine bullshit.

    But Steve Benen apparently thinks that President Obama is heading in the right direction with all this, so here is my question: Why does Steve Benen have a problem with Boehner's statement?

    We all know that Republicans will oppose any package if President Obama supports it. How many times have we seen that? How many times has Steve Benen commented on it?

    So, it should be fairly obvious that for Boehner to cut a deal with the White House, it is a requirement that Boehner portray the deal as a "defeat" for Obama.

    Again, I'm not praying for a multi-trillion dollar, job-killing deal to get passed. But if I was, I would ironically see Boehner's statement as a good sign.

    It would be bad if Boehner said that they needed to not raise the debt ceiling. It would be bad if Boehner said that they needed to hold tight on principle. But Boehner said that they needed to pass both houses, a criteria that implies concessions on the part of Republicans. Boehner is clearly priming the rank-and-file for a compromised vote.

    Does Benen wish instead that Boehner had said that a deal that passes both houses would be a "win-win" for everybody involved? A statement that would likely destroy any chance for a deal?

  • Kane on July 25, 2011 11:45 AM:

    "Stop the president from doing what?"

    It's not about the debt ceiling, it's about stopping the president from winning in 2012. Thus, the current GOP strategy is to demand a series of votes where the debt ceiling continues to consume all the oxygen from the room and prevents anything from being accomplished about any other issue. Don't allow Obama to have a victory on anything.

  • Mr. Serf Man on July 25, 2011 11:46 AM:

    Unfortunately a good portion of his base agrees with just that.
    They want nothing more than Obama out of the WhiteHouse.
    Party uber alles

  • Chris on July 25, 2011 11:51 AM:

    Obama should never have demanded anything other than a clean debt-ceiling. Anything he capitulated to would have been owned by the GOP and the public would have been clear about the fact that they were holding America hostage and willing to destroy our savings, our jobs, our lives...out of spite.

    Instead, Obama went for a so-called Grand Bargain that would have cut Medicaid and moved 65 and 66 year-old Medicare beneficiaries into the private health insurance market. Not to mention all the other sweeteners that he was willing to throw in.

    I contributed time, money, and heart into Obama's 2008 primary and general campaigns. So, I'm very sorry to say that if there's a strong (non-Kucinich/non-Feingold) progressive out there who wants to primary President Obama, then I'll contribute.

  • walt on July 25, 2011 11:52 AM:

    You've got a president so eager to placate that he met 85% of Republican demands at the outset. Indeed, this president has made it clear how far he's willing to go to alienate his own base in order to satisfy the GOP's. And what does it get him? NOTHING.

    This shows a couple of things. One is that Obama's passivity and weakness won't earn him any good vibes on the other side. Indeed, Republicans have to puff him up as some huge monster not because it even remotely approximates reality but because it's their movie and they need a monster. Secondly, Republicans have absolutely no interest in reducing the deficit or spending. Their real interest is "winning". And if that means hypocritically magnifying the importance of something they didn't take seriously when their party was in charge, so be it.

    Republicans have spent two and a half years blowing up Obama into Evil Incarnate. You don't compromise with this kind of monster because if you do, you're ultimately evil yourselves. This is the curse of fundamentalism. It's the curse of a nation that mainstreamed zealots as "patriots concerned about the welfare of their nation". Republicans are patriots the same way Nazis were (sorry, Godwin). If it means destroying the nation, that's the price they'll pay.

  • GUmmo on July 25, 2011 12:05 PM:

    Careful, walt, it doesn't matter that everything you say is spot on -- for telling the truth you'll get our resident Obamabots accusing you of dickwaving.

  • Kane on July 25, 2011 12:07 PM:


    Republicans attempted to grab the mantel of being fiscally responsible. In response, President Obama proposed a grand deal that went further than what Republicans were asking for. He out maneuvered them by proposing a grand deal that he knew they wouldn't accept because it would have been portrayed that he was more serious about cuts than they are.

  • Kathryn on July 25, 2011 12:08 PM:

    I know timing is everything, but is it not time for Pres. Obama to take over the airwaves and expose these traitors. I'd start with the statement Boehner used with his caucus and hit it hard. Maybe after these latest deals fall through. Back to my fetal position, no joke.

  • Mimikatz on July 25, 2011 12:13 PM:

    What now seems most likely is that Boehner gets some wildly nutsy plan through the House with only GOP votes, but it is going to be DOA in the Senate. Meanwhile the Senate passes some Reid-McConnell vehicle that enough not-insane GOPers can pass with centrist Dems and they do it on August 1.

    According to Wall Streeters today, they mostly think that something will pass, but they are thinking that there will be a downgrade of our debt to AA and that will require repricing of loads of contracts, possibly more collateral having to be put up because the quality is down. This sill be a mess, but no default.

  • NonyNony on July 25, 2011 12:26 PM:

    Stop the president from doing what? It’s not entirely clear, but it probably has something to do with claiming any kind of political victory.

    Of course it is - come on Steve you know that.

    Republicans don't care about policy - they care about politics. For the last 2 decades it has been the case that they have consistently valued the politics (and "optics") of a situation more than the actual underlying policy. And the more years go by the more lopsided they get.

    If this president wants it they don't. It's as simple-minded as that. It doesn't even matter if his most recent offer is basically where they started the negotiations at last fall - if the President is at all happy then they have lost. Period the end.

    So Boehner is trying some double-reverse psychology on them. "Obama will really hate it if you EAT ALL YOUR LIMA BEANS!!! Let's show that socialist-communist-secret-muslim President that he can't trick US into not eating our lima beans! Who's with me fellas?"

    Sadly, Boehner is not bright enough to be able to pull off this kind of double-reverse psychology. But I guess all he has left is to down a fifth of bourbon and give it the old college try....

  • Shade Tail on July 25, 2011 12:28 PM:

    This is *so* going to bite the GOP in the ass. They're already getting slammed in the polls for their refusal to actually govern in good faith. Stuff like this just gives their opponents more fodder.

    The problem is, that's long-term. It won't help much in the short term.

  • Anonymous on July 25, 2011 12:35 PM:

    I keep wondering why so many anti-Obama sentiments get aired whenever a sober discussion of this situation is undertaken.

    One wonders. I thought that his effort to 'meet the GOP screamers' more than halfway, which they rejected and would always have rejected, was a good strategy, given that now all of the onus for not raising the limit rests on the shoulders of the GOP. Even Brit Hume this morning noticed.

    So, what has this president, for whom sitting representatives in the Congress that he has to work with, are his sworn enemies and even enemies of the state? Was he supposed to come out with a horse and lance and joust with them?

    I don't get political commenters on blogs who don't understand even one bit about actual politics.

  • hoipolloi on July 25, 2011 12:58 PM:

    I think it a mistake to take these Boehner gambits as directed anywhere but his own caucus. The two votes plan (raise the debt ceiling today and fight it all again tomorrow) and the one-true-way-to-stick-it-to-the- President plan are Boehner's last ditch effort to essentially trick the dead-enders in his caucus to the do the right thing. The gambits indicate Boehner's weakness in his own caucus as well as the crazy motives of the caucus; that said, I question the value of a refutation.

  • Chris on July 25, 2011 12:58 PM:

    "[President Obama] out maneuvered [Republicans] by proposing a grand deal that he knew they wouldn't accept..."

    "I thought that [President Obama's] effort to 'meet the GOP screamers' more than halfway, which they rejected and would always have rejected, was a good strategy,..."

    Whether President Obama was negotiating in good faith or performing jujitsu on the GOP by proposing a compromise that he knew they wouldn't accept is something that we'll never know. But to insist that Obama never intended to have a "Grand Bargain", and that it was all for show, strikes me as wishful thinking.

    Again, people are confused about what's going on here. Independents and Republican voters don't know that a clean debt-ceiling increase has passed 89 times since 1939. They think these negotiations are normal. They don't know that the Republican house is holding our economy hostage. They think that, if the debt-ceiling is not raised, then both parties are at fault.

    No, there's nothing ingenious about these endless negotiations...even if Obama knew they would fail. The best strategy would have been to beat the lectern while demanding a clean debt-ceiling increase, as has been done 89 previous times over the course of 70-plus years.

    I'm not saying that Dems shouldn't eventually capitulate (which might not have been necessary), but the American people should know that they paid a hefty ransom. They don't know that, and they never will.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 25, 2011 1:06 PM:

    Good lord, can't we at least wait until we've actually lost to start up the circular firing squad? I'm not thrilled with some of the things Obama has been offering, but it's worth keeping in mind that nothing has been agreed to. You won't even know whether Obama has sold you out here until he actually signs something.

    The anyone-who-doesn't-hate-Obama-is-Britney-Spears crowd seem to see themselves as hard-headed realists, but in fact there's something almost touchingly ingenuous about their repeated insistence that Obama should just demand a clean bill. He has demanded a clean bill! Repeatedly! The House Republicans aren't going to give him one!

    I'm not saying Obama has done everything right, but I just keep trying to think what other options are available. And I haven't seen anything from the Britney Spearsists other than repeated complaints that Obama just refuses to use his magical powers to turn the House Republicans into sane and reasonable people.

  • Chris on July 25, 2011 1:54 PM:

    "He has demanded a clean bill! Repeatedly!"

    Completely false.

    President Obama initially requested a clean bill, several weeks ago. Then he stopped making such requests. I don't recall any "demands".

    After his initial requests/demands, Obama then turned to framing hostage negotiations as an "opportunity" that he seemed to relish. An opportunity to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security benefits while forcing the American people to accept such cuts under duress...the very definition of Shock Doctrine.

    Whatever happens, Obama blew it. Even if the fiscal outcome is no different that what we would have conceded after ONLY insisting on a clean debt-ceiling increase, he left many Americans confused about the fact that we're paying a ransom to hostage takers.

    I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect that he also left many Americans confused about which party is determined to protect Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and which party is determined to undermine these programs.

  • bardgal on July 25, 2011 2:21 PM:

    "The anyone-who-doesn't-hate-Obama-is-Britney-Spears crowd seem to see themselves as hard-headed realists, but in fact there's something almost touchingly ingenuous about their repeated insistence that Obama should just demand a clean bill. He has demanded a clean bill! Repeatedly! The House Republicans aren't going to give him one!"

    Thank you Stephen!!

  • Anonymous on July 25, 2011 2:25 PM:

    Chris - You need to get the wax out of your ears, go back and listen to what the President said last FRIDAY.

    "The least I will accept is a clean debt ceiling raise that goes into 2013."


  • bardgal on July 25, 2011 2:29 PM:


    FRIDAY, JULY 23rd.


    "The only bottom line that I have is that we have to extend this debt ceiling through the next election, into 2013."

    Here is VIDEO:

  • Diane Rodriguez on July 25, 2011 2:36 PM:

    I wonder how any of us would resolve trying to successfully negotiate with this group of zealot idiots in Congress. The unrelenting anger, bias and fear among Americans is whipped up daily on all fronts: gender, race, socio-economic status. As an average Jane I find it hard to keep sane, calm and navigate the crazy when I see the folks who are suffering turn against each other instead of those responsible. I can't imagine trying to manage the crazy on behalf of the nation. I am amazed at the President's ability to focus and his persistance in trying to move forward. You can label me an Obamabot -it's not especially offensive to me. I find tea baggery and the exercise of single minded self interest much more offensive.

    Do I want Obama to always take the most progressive path - mostly - yup. I also realize that my fervent wishing does not reality make.

  • Typical Liberal Purist Asshole on July 25, 2011 3:00 PM:

    Boy I am so glad all the liberal purist assholes stayed home last November to teach Obama and the Democrats a lesson. It's working out so well isn't it?

  • Chris on July 25, 2011 3:22 PM:

    Mea culpa.

    Obama tried and failed to achieve a so-called Grand Bargain in which he offered to cut Medicare benefits, Medicaid Benefits, and Social Security benefits. Ingenious.

    Evidently, one has to be naive to believe that the man actually told the truth and sincerely intended to succeed.

  • kevo on July 25, 2011 9:29 PM:

    Hey Chris, think a grand bargain would be good for Americans?

    Not necessarily that one taken hostage by the Republicans, but one that would indeed reform revenue streams (tax rates and the like), reform entitlement programs (increasing efficiency and cutting waste), and balance the role of government in the lives of Americans (as in promoting economic welfare by infrastructure investment, public/private ventures [see Detroit] and single-payer health care).

    The debate for such reform is definitely needed, but not in these terms where every American will feel the woeful wrath of uncertainty, default, and then higher-much higher-costs of living because of interest rate inflation!

    No, Chris, I just don't get where you're coming from. I've been paying attention, and the Congressional Republicans have come storming into town with a wreck-it attitude. Now, were at the point where these yahoos are indeed gonna wreck my nation! -Kevo

  • Doug on July 25, 2011 11:49 PM:

    "Mea culpa." Chris @ 3:22 PM.

    Tell us something we DIDN'T know.
    The "Grand Bargain" consisted of 57% cuts and 43% revenue increases. ANYTHING touching SS or Medicare was to go before an as-yet-to-be-established commission to be CONSIDERED. After consideration, any changes would STILL have to get through both the Senate AND the House. I'm uncertain about Medicaid but, depending on WHEN cuts if any, were to take place, it just might not matter - in 2014 the ACA mandates kick in and many currently on Medicaid possibly could receive HCI via that. I believe it was that which explains Boehner's insane request for the repeal of the ACA; he understood he'd been out-manouvred - again. Further increases in revenue were ALSO to be under the commission's purview.
    You were quite correct in your USE of the word "ingenious", just not in the TONE you used...