As if we lacked for affirmation of what has already been so crystal clear, announcement of the upcoming resignation of House Speaker John Boehner gave us a jumbo-screen projection of the extent of extremist, recklessness-driven control that embodies the Republican Party. Cynics would wonder (as we do here) why Boehner chose to drop his thunderbolt news nugget while Pope Francis, bearer of a whole different message than has come from Boehner and his allies, was still in our midst. But, so it goes on that side.
Folks close to the situation say the Boehner departure is no surprise, that the speaker’s obvious inability to rein in renegades in his conference made stepping down a “when” not “if” matter for him. For his part, Boehner says quitting was necessitated by constant turbulence in the ranks. The inference is that with his departure that turmoil will dissipate. But we’ll see about that.
Truth be told, it’s not that the speaker was by any means a standout moderating presence in his caucus. As lead orchestrator of more than 50 time-wasting votes in the House to derail the Affordable Care Act, for one thing, he didn’t exactly distinguish himself as a leader given to constructive utilization of the legislative function the House performs. Indeed, the congressional terms over which Boehner has presided since attaining the speakership in 2011 are generally adjudged to be the least productive of all time. Certainly, his lambasting of President Obama, for everything under the sun, doesn’t take much of a back seat to what has emanated from the rabid right flank that supposedly has made his tenure anything but a cakewalk.
What might reasonably be said of Boehner is that he has on occasion shown a willingness to draw a line at the devil-may-care, irresponsible tactics of right-fringe lunatics dead-set on pursuing actions even when critically jeopardizing the flow of state business is at stake. Some observers have described Boehner — and he has labeled himself — as committed to the institution that is Congress, where he has served since 1991. And although we’re no way inclined to confer on him anything remotely close to a positive rating for the job he has done as speaker, there have been those very few instances of even he finding the conduct of tyrannical misfits in his camp too much to abide.
Frankly, a pattern of continued hardened resistance will likely persist on the GOP side to practically anything surfacing among Democrats, be they in the White House, the Senate or the House. And Boehner’s being or not being in the mix doesn’t figure to make a difference in how that plays out. We have seen perhaps coming to full bloom in the age of Obama, this complete overturn of the premise of Congress being, by its very nature, defined by collegiality and compromise… which again challenges the proposition that America truly turned a page in its 2008 presidential vote.
Prospects look pretty dim for any dramatic change in the near future from the bilious relationship Capitol Hill Republicans have had with the Obama administration. It seems the odds-on favorite to succeed Boehner as speaker is the current majority leader, Kevin McCarthy. And unless he has some kind of epiphany, things will proceed pretty much as they did with Boehner, if not worse. As one of the persons front and center in the great anti-Obama electoral push of 2010, resulting in that infusion of Tea Party hysteria that would be the new face of the House GOP, McCarthy clearly is no one from whom you would expect a more sober navigation of House business than under his predecessor.
Who knows whether, had Boehner come into his speaker’s role at another point in time, his arc, as big noise on Capitol Hill, would have been different? As it was, he became perhaps the ultimate personification of an unprecedented and shameless attempt to delegitimize a presidency. It essentially was rooted in what we knew it to be – naked racism. The deliberate belittling of the office of the president under Boehner probably reached its nadir when the speaker ignored President Obama and issued an invitation to Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress. Even if one were inclined to be sympathetic to Boehner’s ongoing challenges posed by a clearly out-of-control GOP rump, there was just too much from him, as the guy calling the shots, to dissuade us from the view that he fully bought into what, despicably, was the main thrust of GOP policy.
Boehner’s quitting means merely making way for someone else continuing to pilot a GOP-controlled Congress through this period of abysmal existence.