Quotes of the day

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) says Americans will miss outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“I admire John Boehner greatly, he’s a great public servant,” the GOP presidential candidate said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“He left at the apex of his time in service to the country with the pope speaking in Congress. I think people are going to miss him in the long run because he’s a person that is focused on solving problems.”


In his first extensive interview since announcing he plans to step down from the speakership and from Congress at the end of October, the Ohio Republican was philosophical about his near quarter-century in Congress.

He told host John Dickerson he’d like to be remembered as “a good man,” and his advice to the next speaker was to “just do the right things for the right reasons” and “have the courage to do what you can do.”

“It’s easy to have the courage to do what you can’t do,” Boehner said.


During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Boehner was asked about whether Cruz was one of the “false prophets” within the GOP that Boehner had talked about. He demurred, with a demonstrative gulp from his mug. “Listen, you can pick a lot of names out. I’ll let you choose them.”

But then, he couldn’t help himself. Asked again about Cruz, he had a sly reply.

“I refer you to my remark at a fundraiser I made in August in Steamboat Springs, Colorado,” Boehner said.

To the casual viewer, that wouldn’t register. But the remark Boehner references, first reported by the Daily Caller, was that Cruz was a “jackass.”


On the same day that House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation, a whopping 72 percent of Republican primary voters said they were dissatisfied with his and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ability to achieve GOP goals, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

That includes 44 percent of GOP primary voters who said they were “very” dissatisfied with Boehner and McConnell, and 36 percent who want them immediately removed from their leadership positions.


Mulvaney made clear House conservatives want the next speaker to be more aggressive in countering the Obama administration, which he described as “overreaching” on policy matters and going around Congress to enact its agenda.

“We stopped being a coequal branch of government,” Mulvaney said when asked by host Chris Wallace “what went wrong,” in his view, under Boehner, R-Ohio.

“Congress used to use the power of the purse  . . .  against an overreaching administration. We stopped,” he said. “It had to change.”


Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.
But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.

“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said…

“This should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who has been pushing confrontational strategies in tandem with Cruz. The focus of conservatives “now will invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”


Mr. Boehner’s sudden announcement on Friday that he will step down from the speakership and leave the House on Oct. 30 has thrown Washington into deep uncertainty. His resignation is likely to herald an even more combative stretch in the nation’s capital, emboldening conservatives to defy Mr. Obama on looming decisions regarding spending, debt and taxes…

The new speaker, elevated to the country’s third-highest constitutional post by a conservative rebellion, will face demands from those same rebels to extract concessions from a president who has little to lose by standing firm. At stake for conservatives will be the one clear victory they have scored since the Tea Party revolution of 2010: firm statutory limits on spending signed into law in 2011, which Mr. Obama has said he can no longer abide.

In turn, the Republican Party, already wrestling with the effect of Mr. Trump’s populist insurgency on its chances at the White House, could find itself with the political challenge of justifying to moderate voters yet another Washington crisis, prompted by an even more obstreperous, confrontational House majority.


Republicans … have become the party of brinkmanship, the party of imminent credit defaults, the party of threatened shutdowns, the party that won’t pass a proper transportation bill, the party that is suddenly demonizing the Export-Import Bank, the party of “no,” the party of ire, the party that casts even someone as unquestionably conservative as John Boehner in the role of apostate, simply because he knows the difference between fights that can be won and those that can’t, between standing on principle and shooting yourself in the foot.

“He’s somebody who understands that in government — in governance — you don’t get 100 percent of what you want,” President Obama said on Friday at the White House, reflecting on the fresh news that Boehner was leaving. “But you have to work with people who you disagree with, sometimes strongly, in order to do the people’s business.” Obama and Boehner were hardly a study in “Kumbaya” cooperation, but Obama seemed to sense that the song sung by whoever follows Boehner will be sourer and more strident.

Brace for it.


“It’s a great day,” said Levin, speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., on Saturday morning. “But here’s the problem: They’re like zombies. There’s one after the other, after the other, after the other, and they just sort of replace each other with the next one in line. So it’s good news, but I, and I think you, are concerned about the next step. So who replaces John Boehner?”

“I don’t mean to be offensive, but Kevin McCarthy? Really?”

“I’m concerned that the Republicans don’t learn their lessons on Capitol Hill,” Levin continued.


Under no circumstances should the Freedom Caucus permit McCarthy, Scalise, or Cathy McMorris Rogers — all the Boehner Warriors who have brought GOP morale to all-time lows — to serve in any leadership position. A purge is a purge. To permit any of this crew to profit from their disasters would show the GOP to be what many of us strongly suspect it is — basically, the Teachers Union for RINOs, an organization devoted to protecting its members jobs and not to serving its alleged constituents.

And on that point, note that if McCarthy, Scalise, and McMorris Rogers merely advance one step each in the leadership, then the only person to have paid any price here is Boehner; the rest of them will actually benefit from the Freedom Caucus forcing them out.

They should not benefit. We keep saying, of Obama, that failure ought to have consequences; how can this team be characterized as anything other than complete failures?…

If there is to be any hope permitted to the rank and file of the Republican Party, then we need big changes that permit us the illusion and fantasy of hope, without which we are nothing at all, just dejected former Republican voters.


After the 2010 election, Boehner gave GOP freshmen two leadership positions and three steering-committee seats. But he couldn’t control them during the debt-limit crisis in the late summer of 2011, and it certainly didn’t get easier thereafter. During the repeated showdowns over the debt limit or the fiscal cliff or the cromnibus or threats of government shutdown, Boehner found he could negotiate deals with Obama, but he couldn’t deliver his caucus. In 2013, Obama publicly acknowledged that it “weakened” Boehner with his caucus to be seen working with the president the Tea Party loathes. “So there have been repeated situations where we have agreements, then he goes back and it turns out that he can’t control his caucus,” Obama said. “So the challenge here is can you deliver on agreements that are made.”…

Now that Boehner has given up his post, we can appreciate his struggle. Some of his failures can be viewed as successes in that, while they didn’t result in a grand bargain, they at least avoided global calamity. In January 2013, after Tea Partiers ruined Boehner’s fiscal cliff deal, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat called Boehner an “American hero.” Boehner’s achievement, Douthat argued, was that rather than a grand bargain or a major conservative victory, Boehner had succeeded in “a kind of disaster management—a sequence of bomb-defusal operations that have prevented our dysfunctional government from tipping into outright crisis.” 

There is some truth to that. Boehner did God’s work sheparding Congress through this tumultuous time. Over the last five years, he got nothing but punishment for it. What should be Boehner’s reward for these good works? A chance to finally spend his days having adult conversations with his kind of adults. He should become a lobbyist, of course. Let him live and dine amongst his people.


But Boehner, Cantor, and McConnell are hardly innocent of creating expectations among Congressional Republicans, or among the Republican base generally, that threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling or to shut down the government can sometimes work. And if they sometimes work, they are worth gambling on if the cause is important enough…

So, the members of the Freedom Caucus might reason, this is the best time to try the strategy that worked in 2011 again– with Democrats once again worried about the effects of a faltering economy on the next presidential election.  Of course, Democrats, as noted above, now understand that they can never again afford to compromise; they must take a hard line and refuse to capitulate to any threats of future shutdowns or debt ceiling crises. But members of the Freedom Caucus might wish to test Democrats’ resolve.

In the summer of 2011, commentators warned that if Obama compromised, he would encourage a regular strategy of threats concerning the debt ceiling and government shutdowns by Congressional Republicans. Those predictions have been borne out. Even if the strategy succeeds only some of the time, it operates as intermittent reinforcement, and intermittent reinforcement of a behavior can sometimes be the most powerful. Eric Cantor has finally seen the light, and recognized the damage he and his allies wrought in 2011. Good for him. But it comes far too late to do much good for the country.


As Gohmert notes without quite saying so, these United States are in the process of transforming the form of their union government from that of a democratic republic to that of a unitary autocratic administrative state. Barack Obama and other progressives have hastened that transformation in no small part because they consider the American constitutional order in purely instrumental terms rather than as a good in and of itself. Sometimes the constitutional order serves progressive ends and sometimes it constrains them, which is why President Wilson despised the Constitution and President Obama simply ignores it when he believes it necessary, adopting as he has — with rather less fuss than one might have expected — a Gaullist rule-by-decree model. The familiar ratchet effect is in operation: The Left in power expands the state, particularly the executive, and the Right in power does not reverse the turn, in part because conservative politicians like power, too, in part because reversing those expansions is difficult, and in part because even if conservatives win the fight there’s not much juice in it…

The waxing of the president and the consequent waning of Congress is a result of the deep psychological structure of mass democracy on the American scale, probably an inevitable one. American democracy was born in the New England town-hall meeting and in state assemblies, relatively intimate venues where following the operations of government was non-cumbrous. A population of more than 300 million and worldwide interests is a very different sort of thing. From the very beginning, the mere scale of the American project ensured that most Americans would find it incomprehensible: How many Americans at the time really understood that James Madison and Alexander Hamilton went into the Philadelphia Convention plotting to abolish their government and set up a new one? How many can identify the main points of contention between Senator Cruz and Senator McConnell?…

Speaker Boehner’s successor inherits a diminished role in a diminished institution, and it isn’t clear that there is much of anything he will be able to do to help the national legislature recover its self-respect, which lags so far behind its self-importance. Congress no longer has the power to return the president — and the presidency — to its proper role. That power, too, is now in the hands of the president, which is why it is unlikely that our national slide into autocracy will not be reversed until the current political equilibrium is disturbed, which is to say until certain danger encounters uncertain danger.


Far be it from me to interrupt the Trumpian chest-beating on the right at Boehner’s announced resignation, but I still can’t help having some sympathy for the guy. It’s possible we on the right wanted something from him no mere speaker of the House could have delivered. We’re all heroes at our keyboards and our microphones, after all. We all know what’s what, what should be done and how. Anyone who can’t live up to the courage we have in our imaginations or can’t achieve the results we achieve in our fantasies must be either a wimp or a traitor. But how much wisdom and self-awareness does it take to remember: that’s not the real world? Hell, it’s not even Washington, D.C…

The disagreement between Boehner and us on the right boils down to this. We think he should shut down the government over the question of government funding for the truly satanic Planned Parenthood. He thinks that will backfire and hurt GOP chances of winning the presidency. That’s it. No one can accuse the deeply Catholic Boehner of being pro-abortion. He hates it as much as any one of us. But his strategy is patience. Ours is go-get-em. He looks at polls that blamed Republicans for the 2013 anti-Obamacare government shutdown and says: Why? We look at the half term victory that followed and say: Why not?

It’s a genuine disagreement, but hardly a matter for hate or vitriol or harsh words. We should save that for a president who wants to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to help fund the killing of children in their mother’s wombs, a man who thinks a baby who survives an abortion should be left to die. That man deserves our anger, not Boehner. Boehner, as he himself liked to say, is just “a little man with a big job.”

Maybe too little; maybe too big. What happens next will tell the tale.


“Beware of false prophets.”