"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“When The Pot Calls The Kettle Lazy”: Thanks To Boehner’s ‘Leadership’, Capitol Hill Has Set New Benchmarks For Ineptitude

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) hosted a lively press conference with Capitol Hill reporters yesterday – the “boner” joke won’t be forgotten anytime soon – but there was something in his opening statement that was so audacious, I’m surprised it was largely ignored.

“You know, back in 2012 the president chose politics over governing. He took the year off, got little done, and this year I’m beginning to see the same pattern of behavior. We’ve seen more and more that the president has no interest in doing the big things that he got elected to do.”

Boehner added that President Obama intends to “pack it in for the year” and “just wait for the election.”

There’s hypocritical rhetoric. There’s breathtaking hypocritical rhetoric. Then there’s rhetoric so hypocritical that it ruptures the space-time continuum.

Reasonable people can debate the merits of competing proposals or policy strategies, but for Speaker Boehner to suggest President Obama is uninterested in governing, lacks ambition, and intends to do nothing for the rest of the 2014 is so head-spinning that it’s genuinely alarming Boehner was able to say the words out loud without laughing hysterically.

Let’s briefly review reality in case it still matters. John Boehner claimed the Speaker’s gavel three years ago, and since that time, he’s racked up zero major legislative accomplishments. While Obama has at times been desperate to get something, anything, done with this Congress, Boehner has tried and failed to lead House Republicans towards anything resembling governing.

The result has been the least productive Congress since clerks started keeping track several generations ago. Thanks to Boehner’s “leadership,” Capitol Hill is establishing new benchmarks for ineptitude, giving the “do-nothing Congress” phrase an updated definition to reflect levels of ineffectiveness few thought possible before 2011.

And yet the Speaker wants to complain that Obama “got little done” after Republicans took control of the House majority.

As for the president having “no interest” in doing “big things,” this is the exact opposite of our version of reality. Obama it appears is preoccupied with doing big things – the Speaker should have listened a little closer to the State of the Union address being delivered a few feet in front of him – while Boehner has said it’s time for Americans to start expecting less. Indeed, House Republicans leaders have been quite explicit on this point, saying the GOP does not like and does not want big policy breakthroughs.

Finally, the very idea that the president intends to coast through the rest of 2014 without doing any actual work buries the needle on the Irony-o-meter because it’s House Republicans who’ve already announced, more than once, that they intend to coast through the rest of 2014 without doing any actual work.

We’ve become all too familiar with the GOP’s reliance on the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” game, but this is ridiculous.

I have no idea whether Boehner actually believes what he said yesterday. But whether the rest of us should believe his comments is clear.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 28, 2014

March 1, 2014 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Rebranding Failure”: John Boehner Tries To Defend Congress’ Ineptitude, Because Getting Nothing Done Is Exhausting

This Congress is generally perceived as failing miserably when it comes to governing, and a few weeks ago, we learned this perception is quantifiably true: the 113th Congress is on track to pass fewer bills than any since the clerk’s office started keeping track in the mid-1940s.

When a reporter asked House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) late last week about the institution’s “historically unproductive” nature, the Republican balked. “That’s just total nonsense,” he snapped, before the question was even finished.

Over the weekend, however, Boehner reversed course, deciding that his unproductive tenure isn’t something to be denied; it’s something to be celebrated.

House Speaker John Boehner says Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

The Ohio Republican makes the comments on an interview aired Sunday on CBS “Face the Nation.” He was responding to a question about how little Congress is doing these days.

Boehner says Congress “should not be judged by how many new laws we create.”

Let’s appreciate exactly what Boehner is trying to do here. When he and his Republican colleagues sought power, they told the electorate that they would work to find solutions to national problems. After having been unsuccessful, the Speaker of the House has decided to rebrand failure — he wants credit for his record of futility and expects praise for the fact that he and his caucus have made no legislative progress since he took power three years ago.

Instead of finding solutions to ongoing challenges, Boehner believes Congress should be focusing on undoing solutions to previous challenges. By the Speaker’s reasoning, we should probably change the language we use when it comes to Capitol Hill — Boehner and his colleagues aren’t lawmakers, they’re lawenders.

The House Speaker is on his way to establishing an accomplishment-free legacy, and at this point, he’d like you to think that’s great.

Indeed, the closer one looks at Boehner’s argument, the more bizarre it appears.

On the surface, his rhetoric is the epitome of the kind of post-policy nihilism that dominates Republican thought in 2013 — Boehner doesn’t want to build up, he’d rather tear down. Given an opportunity to look forward and make national progress, the Speaker sees value in looking backward and undoing what’s already been done.

And just below the surface, the argument reinforces what has long been suspected: House Republicans not only don’t have a positive policy agenda, they don’t even see the point in pretending to want one.

But then there’s the most problematic angle of all. Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal”? I’m afraid I have bad news for the Speaker: Congress isn’t repealing laws, either. Indeed, in order for lawmakers to repeal laws, Congress has to — wait for it — pass legislation addressing those laws.

In other words, by Boehner’s own standards for evaluating Congress on the merits, he’s failing.

Don’t expect a sudden burst of productivity, either — after taking four weeks off for the August recess, Boehner announced late last week that the Republican-led House only intends to work nine days in the month of September.

Keep in mind, in an election year, we might expect congressional leaders to schedule fewer work days in September because members want to be on the campaign trail, but odd-numbered years are generally supposed to be focused on governing.

It seems getting nothing done is exhausting.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 22, 2013

July 23, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Extortion Politics: A New Form Of Governing

Josh Marshall made an interesting point in passing yesterday, asking whether conservative Republicans could achieve massive spending cuts through “old-fashioned majority votes.” Josh answered his own question: “Of course not.” The cuts on the table were only made possible by Republicans “threatening the health” of the United States.

I think this arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics.

Consider, for example, the Republican decision to reject any and all nominees to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, regardless of merit, unless and until Democrats accepted changes to the agency’s structure. Traditionally, if the GOP wanted to alter the powers of the CFPB, it would write legislation, send it to committee, bring it to the floor, send it to the other chamber, etc. But that takes time and effort, and in a divided government, this “old fashioned” approach to policymaking probably wouldn’t produce the desired result.

Instead, we see the latest in a series of extortion strategies: Republicans will force Democrats to accept changes to the agency, or Republicans won’t allow the agency to function. Jonathan Cohn wrote a good piece on this a couple of weeks ago, noting the frequency with which this strategy is utilized.

Republican threats to block nominees to the consumer board are at peace with their opposition to Don Berwick, Obama’s first choice to run the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services; to Peter Diamond, whom Obama tapped to sit on the Federal Reserve Board; and most recently to John Bryson, Obama’s nominee to take over the Commerce Department. It’s nothing short of a power grab by the Republican Party — an effort to achieve, through the confirmation process, what they could not achieve through legislation. And it seems unprecedented, at least in modern times.

Republicans effectively tell the administration, over and over again, that the normal system of American governance can continue … just as soon as Democrats agree to policy changes the GOP can’t otherwise pass.

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.

Indeed, it’s a reminder that of all the qualities Republicans lack — wisdom, humility, shame, integrity — it’s their nonexistent appreciation for limits that’s arguably the scariest.

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly-Political Animal, July 31, 2011

August 1, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Industry Writes State Law: How Business Lobbies Bought All The Laboratories Of Democracy

It sure is funny that, at basically the same time, state legislatures across the country began passing a slew of similar measures attacking collective bargaining, undocumented immigration and abortion, right? Just a weird coincidence, I’m sure, this sudden nationwide war on public employee unions and immigrants and women.

Hah, I am just kidding. We all know it’s because of lobbyists and the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is sort of a for state lawmakers and the nation’s worst industry lobbies. The Center for Media and Democracy’s ALEC Exposed project has a handy list of the hundreds of bills ALEC pushes in every state in the union, on subjects ranging from school vouchers to gutting environmental regulations to opposition to the National Popular Vote Compact. (Yeah, that one I don’t even get.)

Here’s how the ALEC process works: GOP state legislators go to fancy conferences where they sit down with lobbyists and right-wing activists and draft right-wing legislation together. They return home and introduce it without mentioning the source. The lobbies then throw some cash at the legislators working to advance their agenda. Then, these days, the bill passes, and everyone else gets around to getting outraged about it, long after their outrage would do much good. Repeat.

This is how incredibly similar anti-immigration bills end up passing, independently, in Arizona and Tennessee. This is how bills against public employee collective bargaining end up passing in Wisconsin and Indiana. This is the process behind state resolutions banning the establishment of “Obamacare.” Our biggest national wars are being fought, and largely won, in the statehouses, with liberal activists not even joining the fight until after they’ve lost it.

Liberals aren’t this good at local politics. Unions and low-income organizations like ACORN used to take care of lobbying and politicking at the state and community level, but, oh, look what’s happened to them. Defunded!

It took a while for Democrats to figure out that they should have their own Heritage Foundation, and so far, they seem to be taking just as long to decide to create their own ALEC. (Of course the Democratic ALEC will probably also push “school reform” and pro-telecom bills and whatever else rich Democratic donors want.)

As a result of that late adoption, the famous laboratories of democracy are now often the places where massive, monied interests — along with their odd allies in the religious right — can implement their political agendas piece by piece, instead of trying to get their dream bills through the U.S. Congress, where all the cameras and journalists are. The sudden death of the small- and midmarket newspaper certainly helps. Your average local TV news doesn’t really do sophisticated policy analysis.

The closest thing liberals even have to a state to experiment with is … California, with its property-tax cap and public rejections of gay marriage and marijuana legalization. (Right-wingers know better than to trust legislating to the popular ballot, even though they’re quite good at organizing and spending huge sums of money to win ballot measures.)

Oh, the record number of bills restricting access to abortion services nationwide? That one might just be the natural Republican enthusiasm for controlling women’s bodies. I mean, the right-to-life groups obviously jumped into action when the GOP came into power and lobbied for all of the 162 new restrictions on reproductive rights enacted since the start of the year, but I’m not sure any specific business lobby benefits from it.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, July 14, 2011

July 15, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, Anti-Choice, Businesses, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Democrats, Equal Rights, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigration, Lawmakers, Media, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Women, Women's Health, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leader Of A Cadre Of Children: It Sucks To Be John Boehner

Mea culpa.

I confess that I have often picked on, made fun of, and generally disparaged Speaker of the House John Boehner only to now find myself feeling a measure of remorse for having done so.

It turns out that Speaker Boehner may be the only semi-reasonable man left in the Republican Party.

Yes, I know that Boehner has himself to blame for the role he played in opening the doors of Congress to the unyielding and unreasonable Members swept into office by the Tea Party rebellion in 2010. Yes, Boehner has spent far too many years cozying up to Wall Street and protecting the interests of big business at the expense of the middle class.

And just in case you’re wondering, I have not forgotten that John Boehner has long been quick to condemn the White House for the jobs crisis while doing absolutely nothing to assist in creating policy that would help solve the problem. Boehner has been a continuing impediment to growing American jobs by working with Obama on infrastructure legislation or any other valuable stimulus that could make a big difference for the many who are suffering from extended unemployment.

Still, you have to admit that it sucks to be John Boehner.

Imagine if you had to make decisions regarding the successful operation of your own home and your three year old, five year old and two year old each had a full vote in the decisions that are ultimately taken.

Say it’s time to buy the new family car. The two eldest of the three kids decide that the only sensible vehicle to purchase would be an ice cream truck filled to the top with Good Humor ice cream bars and, as an added option, comes with the happy song that streams from the scratchy PA system perched on the roof.

From the point of view of children of such an age, this choice makes total sense.

Yet, when the grown-ups must point out that such a purchase would neither be practical nor in the best interest of the family and cast their votes for a new, American made family minivan, it is left to the two year old to break the tie.

That can’t be good.

Welcome to John Boehner’s world – a world where he is the leader of a cadre of children who have yet to mature to the point where they warrant election to the post of school hall monitor let alone the halls of Congress.

As David Brooks wrote in his New York Times column earlier this week complaining about the GOP’s inability to just say yes to a good deal on the deficit-

That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.” Via New York Times

I don’t know about your experience, but what Brooks describes sounds an awful lot like my own kids before they were old enough to reason and make adult decisions.

If these immature Members of Congress were not enough of a problem for an old school deal maker like Boehner, the Speaker has to contend with a scheming GOP Majority Leader in Eric Cantor who waits behind every door with a dagger aimed squarely at his boss’s heart.

I wouldn’t bet against Cantor’s ultimate success in playing Brutus to Boehner’s Caesar as the Speaker remains caught between a Ba-rack and a Tea Party with nowhere to turn to get out of the mess.

Speaker Boehner knows the debt ceiling must be raised and has been willing to publicly say so as recently as this morning. He also knows that Congress must take great care to do nothing to further stifle the struggling economy just as he realizes all too well that he will need Democratic votes to get whatever deal he cuts with the President through the House as he won’t be able to count on his own Members.

This leaves Boehner to walk an impossible line between doing what he believes is necessary for the nation he is charged with governing and those who would ride the country into the ground in order to protect wealthy industries from losing a few unnecessary tax subsidies or, even worse, support keeping the economy mired in quicksand in order to better evict Barack Obama from the White House.

E.J. Dionne summed it up this way –

I’d actually feel bad for Boehner — an old-fashioned sort who’d normally reach for a deal — if he and his party had not shamelessly stoked the Tea Party to win power. The GOP is now reaping the whirlwind, and Boehner may be forced to choose between his country and his job. Via Washington Post

Unlike Dionne, I actually do feel badly for Boehner as he tries to make a deal and still hold onto his job. And I will feel more than badly for the entire nation should we find ourselves with Eric Cantor sitting in the seat of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Whether you sympathize with the man or, like Dionne, believes he is just getting what’s coming to him, you have to to agree on one thing –

It truly does suck to be John Boehner.


By: Rick Ungar, The Policy Page, Forbes, July 8, 2011

July 8, 2011 Posted by | Big Business, Budget, Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Corporations, Debt Ceiling, Debt Crisis, Deficits, Democracy, Democrats, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Public, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Tea Party, Voters, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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