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Posted by on Jul 13, 2011 in Politics | 3 comments

Should we feel sorry for John Boehner?

There are plenty of people out there who believe Majority Leader Eric Cantor wants Boehner’s job and is trying to undermine the Speaker’s leadership at every opportunity. Others believe the two House Republicans are allies, working as “good cop, bad cop.”

Dana Milbank thinks Republican House Speaker Boehner is under fire from his own party, including the ambitious Mr. Cantor.

The House speaker’s Republican caucus doesn’t entirely trust him. His understudy, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has set him up for a fall with the Tea Party set. Worst of all, his political arch rival is now praising him.

“Speaker Boehner and myself had been in a series of conversations about doing the biggest possible deal,” President Obama announced at a news conference Monday morning, confirming reports of their clandestine meetings. “I want to say I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s good-faith efforts.” …WaPo

It’s interesting also to speculate whether President Obama is being a good guy here or whether, pissed at being called at Camp David with the unexpected news that the deal had collapsed, he’s using a political embrace to help destroy Boehner.

It was possibly the biggest interparty kiss since Joe Lieberman planted one on President George W. Bush — and an hour later the speaker called his own news conference in the Capitol so he could wipe the presidential lipstick from his cheek. “I appreciate what the president said today,” a somber Boehner replied. “But the gulf between the two parties now is about policy.”

Boehner is right. The gulf is about policy: the policy of his Tea Party backbenchers not to compromise on anything. This has put Boehner, a dealmaker, in the impossible position of leading a House Republican caucus that is inherently ungovernable.

Some of us resort weakly to saying something like “I told you so…” or “neener neener!” Dana Milbank opts for the knife.

Normally, a speaker would twist arms until he won support for the grand bargain he had negotiated. But in this House Republican caucus, leaders are followers.

The more this continues, the more the word “republican” looks like “repulsive.”


The LA Times’ Washington bureau reports it’s all about the Boehner-Cantor rivalry and who wins the day.

…Friction between the two has grown obvious, reinforcing months-old questions over who controls House Republicans.

“I don’t think Boehner would want to serve in a foxhole anytime with Eric Cantor,” said a Republican strategist and former leadership aide who asked not to be identified while commenting on an intraparty rivalry.

Obama praised Boehner in a nationally televised news conference Monday as he warned that a budget accord would only grow more difficult with time. “Do it now,” Obama said. “Pull off the Band-Aid. Eat our peas.”

But Cantor and the political right seem to be dictating the course of talks.


The impression Cantor leaves is that he’s an ambitious weirdo, a little paranoid, sometimes a little reminiscent of Glenn Beck. During the 2010 campaign, he insisted that the bullet from a randomly fired gun in a Richmond neighborhood that hit his campaign HQ was meant for him.

Richmond police announced the bullet that hit Cantor’s office had “been randomly fired skyward,” and the GOP Congressman — unlike Democrats in the wake of the health care vote — was not the target of the attack. (First clue: the bullet struck an office window on the way down.)

So now it appears that a Republican leader in Congress was guilty of trying to fudge the facts in order to use an act of violence for purely partisan reasons; to portray himself as the victim. …Media Matters


As Amanda Terkel points out, Cantor also may have — in addition to his access to insider information — a good reason for wanting to avoid a debt ceiling vote. The more chaos in the bond markets, it seems, the better for the Majority Leader.

House Democrats are circulating a resolution accusing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) of having a conflict of interest in the debt ceiling debate, a move that could provide an awkward C-SPAN moment for one of the lead Republicans in the budget negotiations.

The resolution goes after Cantor’s investment in ProShares Trust Ultrashort 20+ Year Treasury ETF, a fund that “takes a short position in long-dated government bonds.”

The fund is essentially a bet against U.S. government bonds. If the debt ceiling is not raised and the United States defaults on its debts, the value of Cantor’s fund would likely increase.

The Democratic resolution, obtained by The Huffington Post from a Democratic source on the Hill, argues that Cantor “stands to profit from U.S. treasury default, which thereby raises the appearance of a conflict of interest,” and that he “may be sabotaging [debt ceiling] negotiations for his own personal gain.” …HuffPo


Ever the level-headed Ezra Klein says he sees things quite differently from those who blame Cantor.

…The Obama administration, much to the disappointment of liberals, doesn’t value the option to fight over taxes in 2012. They’d prefer to finish the debt debates now and move onto other issues after the election. They have no intention of letting the Bush tax cuts lapse in full, and since they’re privately unsure that congressional Democrats will stand with them to let the cuts expire for incomes beneath $1,000,000, they don’t see much upside in beginning their hoped-for second term with a bruising battle over taxes.

But they also know that if they get to 2012 without a deal, they’re going to have to engage that fight whether they want to or not. And Republicans made that a lot more likely this week. The reality is that liberals should be sending Eric Cantor a fruit basket. It’s increasingly clear that he has not only saved them from a deal they’d hate, but also stopped Obama from giving up a fight they want to have later. ...WaPo

Please, Ezra. I’d like to have final say on what goes into that fruit basket, okay?

Cross posted from the blog Prairie Weather.

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