Political Animal


August 02, 2011 8:00 AM A Speaker’s Spin

By Steve Benen

A few hours before the House approved the debt-ceiling agreement with relative ease, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sat down with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley to talk about the deal. There was one exchange that stood out.

Pelley: You were unable to get your own caucus behind your bill a few days ago. Do you intend to remain Speaker of the House?

Boehner: I do. When you look at this final agreement that we came to with the White House, I got 98 percent of what I wanted. I’m pretty happy.

Boehner’s comment was, of course, seized on by many progressive critics of the plan as proof of just how one-sided the deal really is. After all, the goal was to reach some kind of compromise. How good a deal could it possibly be if the smug House Speaker is bragging about getting 98% of what he wanted?

I share much of the frustration about the agreement and won’t even try to deny the fact it leans heavily to the right. But I’d also caution against taking Boehner’s comments at face value.

For one thing, they’re wrong. It’s a conservative agreement, but the Speaker wanted “Cut, Cap, and Balance,” and then the slightly watered down “Son of Cut, Cap, and Balance,” over the course of the last two weeks. The deal approved by the House yesterday stinks, but it’s not CC&B, and it’s not 98% of CC&B, either.

For another, Boehner is just spinning furiously. Note the context: Pelley was asking whether the Speaker actually expects to keep his gavel given his recent setbacks. Boehner wants to make it seem as if he got 98% of what he wanted so he doesn’t look like a weak and hapless Speaker following a process in which he did far more following than leading.

Boehner needs to look strong now, so he can start to wash off his recent embarrassments. His half-hearted boasts should be taken with a grain of salt.

As for the bill his chamber approved last yesterday afternoon, the measure is headed for a Senate floor vote around noon. Passage does not appear to be in doubt.

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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  • c u n d gulag on August 02, 2011 8:07 AM:

    Methinks the Speaker confused 95 percent with 98 proof.

  • c u n d gulag on August 02, 2011 8:10 AM:

    That should read:

    Methinks the Speaker confused 98 percent with 98 proof.

  • bignose on August 02, 2011 8:12 AM:

    File this under, "If you have to say it..."

  • Anonymous on August 02, 2011 8:13 AM:

    I got 98 percent of what I wanted.

    Usually the meme is "the American people want" and here's Boner saying he got what he wanted. What a narcissist.

  • DAY on August 02, 2011 8:15 AM:

    Did ya ever watch cricket? That game with "sticky wickets"?

    It's baseball, with the rules written by congress.

  • Danp on August 02, 2011 8:15 AM:

    itís not 98% of CC&B, either.

    It's actually more like 98% of Reid's bill, only without his name. The question I would have for Boehner is what did you get out of all this that you didn't already have - namely the power to cut funds and prevent any legislation?

  • louis Nelms on August 02, 2011 8:18 AM:

    If a CCB bill actually made it thru the entire process and was signed into law, what purpose would remain in Washington for Republicans other than erecting defensive pallisades around their's and their master's gated communities and golf courses?

  • SteveT on August 02, 2011 8:20 AM:

    Q: How can you tell a Republican is lying?
    A: Their lips are moving.

    Q: How can the White House tell a Republican is lying?
    A: "Look, here’s my expectation — and I’ll take John Boehner at his word — that nobody, Democrat or Republican, is willing to see the full faith and credit of the United States government collapse, that that would not be a good thing to happen. And so I think that there will be significant discussions about the debt limit vote. That’s something that nobody ever likes to vote on. But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower."

    In other words, the White House is completely unable to tell when a Republican is lying.

  • pol on August 02, 2011 8:26 AM:

    What did you expect, Steve? These people lie about everything. They just brush off their defeats, turn to the TV cameras, and lie some more.

  • Mr. Serf Man on August 02, 2011 8:34 AM:

    It was a shit sandwich... We got sold down the river. Nothing more nothing less.
    If I hear the word compromise in reference to this deal one more time I am going to put a brick through my TEEVEE

  • j on August 02, 2011 8:40 AM:

    If you did not see Olbermann last night you should watch the reruns. His advice in his special comment was - this will change when people get mad and take to the streets, otherwise we are doomed.

  • steve duncan on August 02, 2011 8:41 AM:

    All this talk of who won and lost misses the point, badly. Post-agreement a litany of articles were published by a wide swath of economists and econ journalists noting this bill, and our entire approach to job creation, is a disaster. It's cold comfort to the unemployed that a default was avoided. It's also of no use the debt ceiling is raised if monies are pulled from the system in a recession. What if Democrats could legitimately claim a "victory" in the showdown yet the end result was the same stripping of government funds, just different formulations and timetables? So what? How does spending LESS on a crumbling infrastructure help anyone? How does denying unemployment extensions to the chronically jobless help? Doesn't a federal unemploymnet dollar get spent several times, creating and sustaining some sort of enhanced level of demand in the economy? Yet we're terminating extensions? This approach to the budget, at this time, is a disaster waiting to happen. Yet we want to go to the tote board (cue Wolf Blitzer) and determine a winner. A winner? It's pathetic.

  • delNorte on August 02, 2011 8:41 AM:

    At least now we can get this behind us - if the President would have invoked the 14th Amendment we'd be stuck in this quagmire for months.

    Maybe the President can make one more appeal to the American people: call your representatives and demand they start working on some kind of jobs bill. All this deficit nonsense has been a big distraction from more pressing issues.

  • SadOldVet on August 02, 2011 8:53 AM:

    One of the definitions of insanity is to continue to repeat doing something that never works and expect it to work the next time.

    We have close to a century of evidence of the general validity of Keynesian economics. We have 40 years of proof (see Chile, U.S.) that Milton Friedman Chicago School of Economics (supply side) is an abject failure.

    What we are getting out of this manufactured debt crisis is more supply side economics. That The Obomination declares victory because the economy is not going to get trashed as bad as the repukes wanted is repulsive.

    As Obama's victory adds to the loss of jobs, revenue is lost to state and federal treasuries. As Obama's victory add to the increasing unemployment, expenditures for unemployment insurance increase. Obama's victory adds to the cycle of more unemployed, less revenue, more costs, and less spending that feeds on itself.

    That the repukes and their corporate media enablers would determine what the discussions would be was expected. That The Obomination would accept the repukes determination of what should be discussed was avoidable. That Obama and the dumbocraps would capitulate to the repukes was not surprising.

    Too damn bad the poor, elderly, and working classes of this country do not have anyone (other than Bernie Sanders) who will wholeheartedly stand up for them.

  • david1234 on August 02, 2011 9:01 AM:

    It is true Boehner did not get 98% of what he asked for, but that does not necessarily mean that he did not get 98% of what he wanted.

  • Celui on August 02, 2011 9:20 AM:

    @steveduncan 8:41--"All this talk of who won and lost misses the point, badly. Post-agreement a litany of articles were published by a wide swath of economists and econ journalists noting this bill, and our entire approach to job creation, is a disaster." As Boehner's remark indicates, his is a statement that attempts to shore up his own position in the face of this run-off-the-tracks GOP demonization of anything the Administration has proposed. That we've now got to return to the jobs creation debate is essential. liciene simple, says Captcha. I agree: simple!

  • Mike on August 02, 2011 9:33 AM:

    Steve - You're assuming the Boehner ever thought he could get Cut Cap and Balance. Unlike Obama, Boehner actually understands negotiating. He definitely got most of what he hoped to get. Progressives, as usual, got zero.

  • markg8 on August 02, 2011 9:35 AM:

    Boehner may have gotten most of what he wanted but as the economy continues to tank he's going to realize most of the American people didn't want what he wanted and we don't want him.

  • Ted on August 02, 2011 9:42 AM:

    Who CARES about Boner? The President RENIGGED on EVERYTHING he wanted! ONE TERM IT IS!

    He NEVER put on his "comfortable shoes" to help the people of Wisconsin either! He is gonna need more than money to get re-elected again!

  • c u n d gulag on August 02, 2011 11:24 AM:

    Uhm, mods, possible troll at 9:42.

  • Alli on August 02, 2011 11:50 AM:

    Right, because Boehner would never lie to save his behind. He would never spin an issue into his favor. The left claims to despise the MSM and Republicans for their continuous lies but if what they say confirms your beliefs (no matter how ridiculous) you quickly take them at their word.

  • Tom Dibble on August 02, 2011 3:16 PM:

    Mike said Steve - You're assuming the Boehner ever thought he could get Cut Cap and Balance. Unlike Obama, Boehner actually understands negotiating. He definitely got most of what he hoped to get. Progressives, as usual, got zero.


    Negotiating, Republican Style.

    First offer: I want the head of your firstborn child on a stick, and your genitals flayed! You must bow down in obsequious honor to me for the rest of your days! And you must agree to supply-side economics!

    Second offer: Okay, I will instead just take your firstborn child and sell him or her to slavery. The rest stands!

    Third offer: You can keep your genitals intact, and only honor me on days of the week ending in 'Y'.

    Counter offer: Maybe just the supply-side economics?

    Fourth offer: Much hagling, and it kills me to agree to your terms, but in exchange for giving you what you want (an agreement) we will only require supply-side economics of you. But do keep in mind that next time we will not be so generous, and that firstborn child's head would look awfully nice on a stick!

    They get everything they want, by demanding everything they can dream up. And, by demanding everything they can dream up, suddenly all those crazy loon ideas will start getting talked about as "legitimate" ideas. Maybe our firstborn child doesn't really need his head after all?