The Sage Grouse

Boehner let the Tea Party bare its rear

On December 22 I drafted a column about John Boehner, based upon the premise that he was trying to be a statesman but was so badly undermined by Eric Cantor and Tea Party factionalists that he was in danger of suffering a Julius Ceasar fate the next time he walked into the chambers. “Et Tu, Cantor?”

On December 23, having let the fractious youngsters get the opportunity to realize that it IS embarrassing to wave your bare ass in the breeze while mooning the Senate, Boehner got to prevail.

Dang, I worked hard on a column about Cantor and his ilk setting Boehner up for a massacre; I thought that was the way it would go down, and then Boehner triumphs. Is there a value for scrapped writing? Anyone want my yesterday’s news?

The popular rhetoric is that Obama and the Senate Democrats held resolutely, forcing those neophyte rebellious House members to yield. That’s probably about right. But to me the bigger story is this: Boehner survived the Attack of the Clones.

On December 22 I put a column to bed. On December 23 at 9 am my editor called me; the story is changing by the minute. In this era of instant information exchanges, I can become irrelevant in 30 minutes. On December 22 I was worried that Speaker Boehner, unlike Tip O’Neill and Sam Rayburn, would become an irrelevant historical cipher. An irrelevant cipher is not a fate I would wish upon John Boehner, a principled conservative with a tendency to openly display heartfelt emotions.

Newt Gingrich, formerly a pompom-flourishing flamboyant Speaker of the House, a spectacular flash in the pan, stirred lots of controversy derailing rational analysis before he flamed out. Until this year.  Apparently Viagra will reinvigorate more faculties than medicine suspected. But, maybe we need to alert the authorities if the invigoration lasts more than four hours.

(Oh no, it’s the phone. It’s my mom: “Never mix politics and Viagra!” OK, Mom, I promise I won’t do it again.)

I respect John Boehner. He, an earnest, sincere person, worked hard to raise himself up from a working child toilet-cleaner to a successful middle-class businessman to a respected, if lately disrespected, member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He tries to be a statesman. He looks for opportunities to outmaneuver Democrats in the Senate and the White House, with give and take as needed. Like giving, though, no good deed goes unpunished, especially by Tea Party folks.

This poor fellow is recently, perennially, suffering from schizophrenia. He gets some guidance from his fractious rebellious House caucus and goes off to make policy deals with the Senate and the White House, only to be consistently undermined, if not betrayed, by the Tea Party.

This is enough to drive a bartender to drink. Recall that Boehner’s family owned a bar, where he learned to clean up after people who broke bottles (Tea Party analogy), spilled blood (Tea Party analogy) and peed all over the place (Tea Party analogy).

It’s amateur hour in D.C. Obama, smart but a neophyte, gets reamed (privately mostly) by Democrats for constantly caving in to the Tea Party and not calling their bluff. Boehner, sincere but appearing a neophyte, gets reamed (mostly publicly) for not caving in to the Tea Party, while others wish he would call their bluff.

Gridlock and deadlock prevail. Instead of making policy the politicians cynically create disaster in a manner designed to pin the blame on the ass of the bearer of the other party’s banner. (Ratings warning to children: an ass is a donkey, not a butt, unless it is an elephant.)

I watch Morning Joe on MSNBC while working out. MSNBC is a liberal network. Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, flirts daily with liberal and conservative mantras, as does The Sage Grouse. Most of the other regulars on the show are left of the Fox ideological network (“we guess at the news and you sort it out at home”) but the guests run the spectrum. Michele Bachmann put on a brilliant display in early December; underneath the Bad Hair is a person who believes in her convictions. I am pretty sure I disagree with her on 9 of 10 social issues, but she takes in foster children and walks the walk.  She, like Rick Santorum, cannot be either a President or a Supreme Court Justice, and I cannot agree with their position denying the rights of women to choose their reproductive fates, but once those children are born, let’s try to agree on their best outcomes. Santorum and Bachmann do work in the trenches for disadvantaged children.

Monday morning (December 19) the commentators were all over Boehner; he had given his proxy to Senator McConnell, only next to scuttle away like a hermit crab when his caucus denied him license to pass the Senate payroll tax cut. I pitied Boehner; he tried to be a statesmanlike leader but it’s hard in this era of caustic politics. Tea Party Congressmen behave like Occupy Wall Street protesters. Anarchy prevails. The ghosts of Robespierre and Rasputin haunt the tunnels below the Capitol. Thunder and lightning obscure reason. Cantor chants incantations. The sky darkens.

I visited some friends at their rural cabin; they had taken in a pit bull. I usually relate well to dogs but this was a tense relationship. I, a master of diplomacy, was nonetheless uptight and watchful. Useful analogy: I don’t think that Boehner wants to turn his back on Cantor for more than 15 seconds. Cantor craves the Speaker’s influence like a vampire craves blood. Clotted blood, he cares not whether it was drawn by Democrats or Tea Party attackers.

On December 22 I worried that Cantor, his visage blasted across every network’s screen, ranting about everyone, would eviscerate Boehner. Guess what, children, it is Cantor who will be the historical cipher; Boehner, patient, accommodating, letting the neophytes blister their bare asses in the bright sunlight, prevails.

Did the anti-tax protesters who threw the tea into Boston Harbor pull down their britches and moon the British? More important, would it have mattered?

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  1. Oops! I think you have sadly a mistake. Unequivocally has been the OWS folks who have become renown for baring their rears, urinating in public, defecating on police cars and in public, rapes, and the such like. No such spectacle has been truthfully ascribed to the fine Tea Party folks, albeit the media tried their best to discredit them…or in your case…still is feebly attempting to.

    tsk, tsk, and best wishes,

  2. Chicken feed, droppings, feathers? You talkin’ about ME?

    The payroll tax holiday plays well as a political tactic: “who can use it best to club the other party into submission?” But it’s bad policy. Once started, who can find the will to stop it? The Democrats look for ways to cut taxes for people who pay no taxes. This ain’t gonna work. The folks who are fighting to BE the engineers and brakemen of the runaway national train are too busy poking each other to figure out a way to stop the train.

  3. Dear Sage Grouse,
    I don’t mean to be dense here (heaven knows that my wife suggests the same often), but methinks you just winged it on this one, so, please bear with me while I ask a few questions for clarification. I will acknowledge that a “payroll tax holiday” makes a wonderful soundbite. It rolls off the tongue so nicely that you don’t have to think about it–even a bird brain could parrot the phrase. That said, let’s get to the core of the issue. It is my understanding that the payroll tax mostly goes to social security. If we go on a prolonged payroll tax holiday, say a year, how much money are we (the people) going to have to borrow to make up the lost revenue to the social security fund? It’s not chicken feed–probably up in the billions? How do we make up the lost revenue? Tax? Print? Or borrow and leave the droppings for the next generation? The fact is that forty cents of every dollar we spend is borrowed. Our national debt has ticked up over $15 trillion. Consensus opinion on the left and right says that our national spending habit is unsustainable–it’s a train wreck. So, answer me this, Sage Grouse. If you’re operating the train engine and hurtling toward a cliff at 100 mph, do you throw the brakeman under the bus (train) and shovel more coals into the firebox? Do we just steam uncontrolled toward our ultimate national fiscal disaster. Or is there really a Santa Clause? Please enlighten me o’ feathered one. Strut your stuff.