Political Animal


August 08, 2011 9:00 AM Boehner pretends he isn’t Speaker of the House

By Steve Benen

Perhaps my favorite GOP response to the downgrade announcement came from the Speaker of the House.

Said House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio): “Democrats who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.” He quoted the S&P report as saying that reforming entitlement programs is necessary, but he did not mention its discussion of the potential need for new tax revenue.

This is almost beautiful, in a comedic sort of way.

First, S&P blamed Boehner’s hostage strategy for the downgrade, so Boehner trying to shift the blame elsewhere is cheap and cowardly. Second, Dems were willing to make all kinds of “tough choices,” but found Boehner was too weak to persuade his own caucus to compromise.

But that’s just routine nonsense. What I especially enjoyed is the notion that, from Boehner’s perspective, Democrats “run Washington.”

I’ve noticed the Speaker has referenced that wording a few times recently, so I checked Boehner’s own website to see how many times the Speaker’s office has used the phrase. I found over 3,000 results. For a guy who’s only been Speaker for seven months, it suggests this is a phrase Boehner absolutely loves.

There is, however, one small problem, which Boehner may have lost sight of: he’s the elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. He was able to become Speaker because Republicans enjoy a House majority.

And if Republicans enjoy a House majority, it necessarily means Democrats don’t “run Washington.”

This need not be complicated. When Boehner goes to work, does he see the Secret Service agents around him? Does he notice where it says “Speaker of the House” above the door he walks through? Does he realize when President Obama negotiates with him, it’s not because the president enjoys Boehner’s company?

Obviously, I get the point of the little rhetorical exercise. Washington is unpopular, so Boehner wants voters to blame the party that “runs” things in DC. But as rhetorical games go, this one is just pathetic, even by GOP standards.

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 08, 2011 9:06 AM:

    Republican administrations have been seeding Washington and the government with Conservatives for 20 of the last 30 years, and it's the DEMOCRATS who "run" DC?

    Wow, we Liberals must be much more effective than I ever suspected!!!

  • T2 on August 08, 2011 9:12 AM:

    pathetic= John Boner

    by my count, Democrats, since 2000, have held all three branches for a total of 2 years out of 11.5. An they are the problem? And those 2 years is when we found out that a majority of 100 is 60.

  • Brenna on August 08, 2011 9:15 AM:

    I have three words to describe John Boehner:

    Worst Speaker Ever

  • steve duncan on August 08, 2011 9:18 AM:

    Look for the new notion of appeasing S & P with further House action on the deficit, entitlements, etc to gain steam. A new round of Dem-Rep warfare looms, with Republicans sure to gain the upper hand as Democrats fold like a cheap suit. Another trillion will get thrown on the pile and we'll all retire at 70, get Medicaid thereabouts, whilst the poor are issued extra cardboard and smallpox infested blankets. Oh, did you hear the newest? The Tea Party is demanding the word "tax" be removed from Webster's next edition. Failing that Grover Norquist will order the invasion of China. Or something.

  • Ron Byers on August 08, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Don't worry, nobody outside Washington is buying Boehner's frame. They are blaming politicians of both parties. I had dinner Saturday night with a bunch of older Republican friends who are disgusted with Washington to a depth I have never seen. Of course they reflexively hate Obama and the Democrats, but they dispise Congressional Republicans with a passion I have never seen.

    Boehner can run but he can't hide from his role as speaker of the house.

  • rikyrah on August 08, 2011 9:23 AM:

    Orange Glo was in the media bragging about how he got 98% of what he wanted.

    well, that 98% got us a credit downgrade.

    not only does he OWN this downgrade, the Democrats need to keep on saying it.


    EVERYTIME they are on tv


  • Rip on August 08, 2011 9:24 AM:

    Republicans operate on the idea that with great power comes great irresponsibility.

  • walt on August 08, 2011 9:26 AM:

    Boehner's rhetoric is Frank Luntz-approved. It's not meant to be factual. It's meant to be effective. Democrats = Government! Republicans = Freedom!

    Anything that diminishes the effectiveness of government is a win for the GOP. And even if they completely control all levers of power, Democrats will still = Government. Totalitarian rule doesn't start with a gun but with an attack on the meanings of words. That's why this civil war has been mostly cold. So far.

  • SW on August 08, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Agreed. But it is also pathetic for the administration to blame 'Washington games' for the downgrade rather than specifically call out the Republicans. It works both ways. This pretending to be above the fray for the benefit of the retarded simply doesn't cut it anymore. It is time, way past time to stay on message and continually drive home the point that only one side is intransigent regarding the sort of balanced approach on both revenue and spending restraint that will be necessary get our fiscal house in order. It is also time to begin to highlight the fact that growth including jobs is also a method of attacking the deficit. That only one party is serious about jobs. That government jobs are every bit as productive as private sector jobs when those jobs are defensible investments. It is time to quit playing defense and start playing offense. Stop playing on their end of the field. Or you are going to lose.

  • berttheclock on August 08, 2011 9:29 AM:

    Moaning Joe was giving him plenty of cover, this AM by pounding his fist and yelling that "Leadership comes from the Top", completely bypassing any loss of revenue. Of course, the same Joe was proclaiming, not that long ago, about the Speaker being an excellent Speaker.

    So, in MJ's view, it is, once again, all the fault of Obama. Halperin nodded "sagely".

  • Josef K on August 08, 2011 9:30 AM:

    Forget the tea party and deficit lunacy for a moment. Am I the only one terrified at the fact this idiot is third in the line of succession for the Presidency?

    Granted, both President Obama and Vice-President Biden would have to be eliminated, but we know from modern experience how frightenly plausible that is.

  • jpeckjr on August 08, 2011 9:34 AM:

    @Ron Byers: I'm having the same experience here in my community. Friends who consider themselves apolitical, or at least don't express their opinion very loudly, are thoroughly disgusted with Congress. And they are afraid for their own well-being. There is a sense that our national legislature is unable or unwilling to solve any of our national problems.

  • kevo on August 08, 2011 9:41 AM:

    Boehner has proven, in a mere seven month period, he isn't up for the role he was elected to perform!

    His rhetoric is unbecoming! His political acumen is ineffectual! And, he lies worse than a used car salesman who needs to off-load 10 lemons a day!

    He carries a blind spot, out of ignorance or buffoonery, that allows him to condemn what he is a very integral part of - being Speaker of the House of Representatives is what it is, Johnny Boy, so how come you can't wear it? -Kevo

  • Crackman on August 08, 2011 9:51 AM:

    All Obama and Biden have to do is pull a Palin and give the mess to John Boy - Probably be a lot worst than the default.

  • alirod on August 08, 2011 9:58 AM:

    I've heard variations on this GOP talking point several times: "Republicans only control one-half of one-third of the government, so you can't blame us.". Baloney, of course, since even a one vote majority in the House gives a party virtually complete control over the proceedings...something no one in the press ever seems to point out.

  • Bo on August 08, 2011 10:02 AM:

    In BoneHead's defense, I think he has been in a drunken stupor ever since his election as Speaker. He possibly has not yet awakened to the fact.

    On a more serious note, however, BoneHead is looking more and more like a certain moron who was selected for a high-ranking government job . . . GDumbya. That is truly frightening.

  • steve duncan on August 08, 2011 10:14 AM:

    Josef K on August 08, 2011 9:30 AM:

    ".....this idiot is third in the line of succession for the Presidency?

    ...both President Obama and Vice-President Biden would have to be eliminated, but we know from modern experience how frightenly plausible that is."
    Relax Joe, there is scant precedent for the Prez and Vice to have simultaneous attempts on their lives, let alone success at doing it. And last I checked the most recent KIA Prez happened in 1963 (albeit a few subsequent bungled attempts did occur) so "modern experience" is already pushing 50 years in the rear view mirror.
    If Obama and Biden get dropped on the same day we have more problems than Boehner in the Oval Office. Odds are it would be a domestic, inside job to get them both and the finger pointing would progress to a massive circular firing squad in short order.

  • Daryl Pauley on August 08, 2011 10:25 AM:

    If Democrats run Washington, perhaps Boner wouldn't mind stepping to the side so we can get about our business. Because surely, the "not running Wash." party is doing nothing more than obstructing the people's business.

  • bob h on August 08, 2011 10:59 AM:

    As a market watcher and investor, I am all but sure that had Boehner's Republicans gone along with a clean, no-hostages raising of the debt limit, the Dow would be punching thru 13,000, there would be no talk of a double dip, no talk of credit downgrades, and many analysts would be assuring us that the GDP softness in the last two quarters would pass. Treasury bill prices actually would be lower, with fewer people scared out of their minds.
    Warren Buffett evidently put $3.6 billion to work in the market before all this came down.

    Boehner and his shithead friends in the Republican caucus are exclusivelyresponsible for this catastrophic, multi-trillion $ loss of wealth and loss of confidence.

  • Kathryn on August 08, 2011 11:05 AM:

    @ Ron Byers and jpeckjr how do you perceive this aversion to congress playing out in 2012? Do you see the tea baggers going down except in the deep south? What about the Presidential implications? My sense is these folks would vote for Romney but not Perry or, and just saying her name gives me heart palpitations, Bachmann. Of course we know Romney will be just as bad but I doubt these business types do.

  • Doug on August 08, 2011 10:38 PM:

    Boehner's a politician who knows when he's in trouble. Actually, ALL Republican/Teabagger Representatives are in trouble, some of them just may not have realized it yet. When economic bad times last for more than a year or it takes longer than a year for improvement to show, people DO blame the "government".
    They MAY blame the President, but they definitely WILL blame members of the House. Especially when said members refuse to so anything to help those suffering. Just ask the Republican House members of 1928 or the Republican members from 1946.
    Because Republican members refused to act between in 1929 and 1930, Democrats won the House in the latter year. Even though Democrats were prevented from doing anything by a Republican majority in the Senate and Hoover's veto threat, carried out several times, it didn't hurt their electoral chances in 1932. They went on to win the Senate and Presidency in 1932. Times aren't quite the same, but if the economy worsens and House Republican/Teabaggers, standing on their "principles", refuse to do anything they can expect the same results as the Republicans of 1930.
    In 1946, Truman literally offered the Republicans the House, Senate and Presidency on a tray with his "Turnip Day" Special Session of Congress. All the Republicans had to do was pass a few bits of what they had ALREADY PROMISED TO ENACT in their Convention platform and they'd have swept the board, electorally. Nor could they offer a convincing reason for NOT passing any legislation. Truman was pulling a "stunt". So what, take him at his word, pass some legislation and then campaign on how Republicans keep their promises.
    They refused and they lost. Why? Because the thought, undoubtedly encouraged by Democrats, grew in voters' minds that, while the Republicans may have PROMISED to do something, when given the chance, they refused to act on that promise. So how much faith could be put in the Republican platform promises? Apparently, not enough.
    That's what's worrying Boehner and why he's desperately trying to blame Democrats for the damage caused by the actions of Republican/Teabaggers. If he can't spread the blame around, he and the Republican/Teabaggers are toast.
    MMMM, I love toast...

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