A funny thing happened on the way to passing H.R.1: Speaker of the House John Boehner proved to anyone with a functioning brain that he can handle whatever is thrown him. The man with the orange tan and teary eyes finally got something that Rodney Dangerfield would have coveted: respect.
If you read my blog, you know that I was betting on Mr. Boehner. Underneath the cheesiness, the almost-embarrassing urge to outfit him in a white knit liesure suit, lies a genuine article. That's what I saw...a small-town Catholic boy who was taught right from wrong, humility from hubris, and spine from spin.
Most of all (and great for us), I think he was taught to see the forest above the trees, find your real versus imagined adversaries, keep your eyes on realistic versus ideologic, figure out the best thing to fight for and then give it all you got. And, think outside the box if you have to, but get her done.
And git her done was what Boehner did. We just saw a President who began the year hawking a spending freeze in his state of the union address, and ended last week trying to take credit for the historic spending cuts that Boehner negotiated. As Michelle Obama liked to say during the campaign, the playing field kept moving on Barack. Well, Boehner moved that playing field on him again and pretty much made him cry uncle.
How? Why, just a week ago the talking heads were aching for Boehner to fall apart under the weight of his challenges. It seemed impossible for him to handle the different factions of the House GOP membership, as well as the Dem opposition. Add to that: Obama's silence. It was as if the president was literally standing on the sidelines waiting to see who to support, who to oppose. Or perhaps he too was waiting for Boehner to fail.
In the end, Boehner ended up brilliantly playing those supposed challenges into IOU markers against the Dems. He took partisan GOP threats and offered to stifle them for Dem concessions in spending cuts, and the Dems had no chance but to agree. NO ONE saw that coming until it had come and gone. NO ONE, and I read the opinions every day.
Now, this week, I've read several Dems asking what are Boehner's weaknesses, what can Obama use in the next standoff to best Boehner. And my first response to this is to remind those Dems that Obama is in re-election mode now and not even caring about acting as if he gave a wit what you want. His only Master right now is the independent voter because he needs them to be re-elected. He already has you, Dem. I mean, where ya gonna go? And independents like and support Boehner, so the best Obama can do in that relationship is to negotiate, and negotiate from a standpoint of weakness, and that means concessions. After all, spending cuts are no longer optional, they are reality and neccesity.
The next fight, for trillions of cuts instead of billions, should be fun to watch. Of course, Boehner's only human, and the stakes are higher than ever, so the possibility for blow-up is still there. Yesterday on his show, John Stewart admiringly described Boehner's success as "mundane, pragmatic compromise", something we need more of. So, I'm betting on Mr. Mundane...or as Dennis Miller teases, Tammy Faye Boehner...or as MSNBC talking head Ed Shultz calls him, "The Tan Man".
A rose by any other name still smells as sweet. :-)))