Boehner Says G'bye — Now What
The Poster Child for Failed GOP Leadership
From successful grassroots conservative to futile GOP establishment hack.
“A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired.” —Alexander Hamilton (1775)
House Speaker John Boehner announced his upcoming resignation — after having served five years as one of the most ineffective speakers in history.
Boehner was elected to the House in 1990 from Ohio’s 8th congressional district, a GOP stronghold that includes suburban and rural areas between Cincinnati and Dayton. I first met him in 1993 when he was campaigning for other GOP candidates, and found him devoutly faithful and a very astute, articulate conservative.
How did Boehner devolve from a successful grassroots conservative into a futile GOP establishment hack?
There are several reasons, including a primary contributing factor to his demise that has been a “secret” in plain sight for years.
But to better understand his failure, here is a brief look at Boehner’s rise through the Republican ranks.
In 1993, he became a key promoter of the Contract with America, authored by then-House Republican Conference Chairman Dick Armey (R-TX) and then-House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-GA). The CWA was based on Ronald Reagan’s legacy platform. George H.W. Bush had wasted that hard-won legacy during his one term as president before losing the White House to a younger and more charismatic candidate, Bill Clinton and his “co-president,” Hillary.
The Contract with America was key to the GOP’s historic midterm election victory in 1994, restoring GOP leadership in the House and Senate for the first time since 1952 — and Boehner was one of its most effective advocates.
While the GOP-controlled House kept many of the Contract’s promises, advancing the Republican agenda was difficult with Clinton in the White House. Unfortunately, in 1996 the GOP establishment ran another aging candidate, Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS), against Clinton and, like Bush, he lost.
From 1995 to 1999, Boehner served as House Republican Conference chairman under Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay. But after House losses in 2000, Boehner lost his post. (Recall that was the year George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote with a razor-thin victory in Florida that was ultimately decided by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision.)
Boehner would not return to power until February of 2006, when he was elected House majority leader, but that stint was short-lived.
Republicans lost the House and Senate in November of 2006, and when the 110th Congress was seated in 2007, Boehner was demoted to minority leader. George W. Bush’s second term was disastrous for Republicans.
In 2008, the GOP again ran yet another aging establishment type, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), against a younger and more charismatic junior senator from Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama and, like Bush (41) in ‘92 and Dole in '96, McCain lost.
But the election of Obama, an ideological socialist, gave rise to a historic reaction — that of the grassroots Tea Party movement, which culminated in the extraordinary 2010 midterm GOP victory and the largest shift of power in the House of Representatives in more than 70 years.
Not only did the GOP retake the House, they did so with almost 80 conservative Republicans.
One of the galvanizing factors unifying those conservatives was Boehner’s replay of Gingrich’s Contract with America, the 2010 “Pledge to America.” It read like a punch list of the things establishment Republicans failed to do when they controlled the House, Senate and White House from 2003 to 2007. But it was the grassroots-drafted “Contract from America” that better reflected the conservative resurgence.
Not only was Obama a catalyst for the seismic shift to the right, but there also was a groundswell of disgust over the harsh reality that Bush failed to secure virtually any conservative domestic policy victories though he had four years with Republican House and Senate majorities. Thus, in 2006, the GOP lost both the House and Senate, giving Democrats control of both chambers for the first time in 12 years.
At the time, Boehner observed, “Our team failed to live up to our own principles.” That was an epic understatement.
For the record, the last Republican president to have the benefit of Republican-controlled House and Senate chambers was Dwight D. Eisenhower, and only from 1953-55. Prior to Ike, it had been Herbert Hoover, who took office in 1929, eight months before the Wall Street Crash and the onset of the Great Depression.
So, after the 2010 midterm Republican victory in the House, what happened to Boehner?
There are several factors — and the GOP had best take note.
First and foremost, the grassroots groundswell of 2010 bypassed Boehner — it was in reaction to the election of Obama, and Boehner was merely along for the ride. He was totally out of touch with the Republican base that handed him the speakership.
Second, when announcing his departure, Boehner said, “The first job of any speaker is to protect this institution.” No, it is to honor the oath “to Support and Defend” our Constitution and lead accordingly.
By 2010, grassroots Patriots across the nation had renewed their commitment to our Constitution and the Rule of Law it enshrines. Boehner missed that cue.
Third, in 2012, Republicans lost the presidency and suffered lackluster legislative branch performance when the national focal point was, again, a moderate Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who failed to energize a grassroots ground campaign — as with Bush (41), Dole and McCain. Thus, Obama duped voters into electing him for a second term.
(Memo to the GOP: Running establishment Republicans against young, charismatic Democrats is a losing proposition. Of course, we grassroots conservatives were screaming that from the mountaintops in 1992, 1996, 2008 and 2012, but the GOP machinery drowned out our voices. Can you discern the pattern here? The last time the GOP fielded a real conservative for president, Ronald Reagan won 49 states and 525 electoral votes!)
However, in 2012 Obama’s re-election fueled a continued resurgence of grassroots conservatives and, in the 2014 midterm election, conservative Republicans again decimated Democrats in not only House and Senate races but notably in gubernatorial and statehouse elections across the nation. This was a deep win for Republicans and particularly conservatives.
Not only did Republicans win back the Senate after eight years in exile, the newly sworn House began 2015 with the largest Republican majority since the 71st Congress in 1929. But this victory was grassroots, and again, as was the case in 2010, Boehner was just along for the ride and dissociated from the Republican base.
So what have the House and Senate accomplished since 2014?
On the prospect of the 2014 gains, Charles Krauthammer noted, “[R]egaining the Senate would finally give the GOP the opportunity, going into 2016, to demonstrate its capacity to govern. … Winning control of the Senate would allow Republicans to pass a whole range of measures now being held up by [Harry] Reid, often at the behest of the White House. Make it a major reform agenda. The centerpiece might be tax reform, both corporate and individual. It is needed, popular and doable. Then go for the low-hanging fruit enjoying wide bipartisan support, such as the Keystone XL pipeline and natural gas exports, most especially to Eastern Europe. One could then add border security, energy deregulation and health care reform that repeals the more onerous Obamacare mandates. … [C]ontrolling both houses would allow the GOP to produce a compelling legislative agenda. … If the president signs any of it, good. If he vetoes, it will be clarifying. Who then will be the party of no? The vetoed legislation would become the framework for a 2016 GOP platform.”
Krauthammer added, “Memo to the GOP: Win the Senate, then enact an agenda and dare the president to veto it. Show the country what you stand for. Then take it to the nation in 2016.”
That is the way it should have played out.
Like the good Dr. K, a month ahead of the 2014 election, amid all the advance fanfare of the upcoming Republican rout, I posited this question: “GOP Senate Majority, then what?” In January of 2015, as the substantial Senate and historic House majorities elected in November stood to take their solemn oaths, I asked this question: “GOP Majorities — Now What?”
While the 2014 midterm election proved an overwhelming referendum on Obama’s failed domestic and foreign policies, it was also a referendum on Republican leadership. Now, almost a year since that historic “Republican Wave,” not only has the dearth of House leadership under Boehner persisted, but the Senate under Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been more abysmal, actually blocking many House conservative initiatives. Fact is the House and Senate could not even conjure up a speed bump on Obama’s road to domestic and foreign policy ruin.
Even though Boehner retained speakership after the 2012 and 2014 elections with the help of GOP moderates, opposition began growing in 2010, primarily from the 172-member conservative Republican Study Committee. After 2014, the House Freedom Caucus broke out of the RSC in order to directly challenge Boehner.
Though I give Boehner credit for stepping down in an effort to avoid a fratricidal fight in the House, the fact is, he was not going to survive North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows’ “motion to vacate the chair” in order to remove Boehner.
When asked about Meadows’ call for his ouster, Boehner responded tersely, “Listen, this is one member. Alright. I got broad support among my colleagues, and frankly it isn’t even deserving of a vote.” But he knew his time was up.
So, now for the most significant reason for Boehner’s slide from a once-articulate-and-effective grassroots conservative into a pathetically ineffective GOP establishment hack. It’s the secret in plain view: He has not been sober for more than a decade. It gives me no pleasure to say this, but John Boehner is an alcoholic.
In his remarks about resigning last week, Boehner described himself as the “son of a bar owner from Cincinnati.” The thing I recall most about Boehner after our first meeting back in 1993 is that by the end of the evening I was the designated driver and he was very intoxicated.
I should note that I do not stand in judgment of Boehner. I have compassion for him, as I would with anyone subject to life-controlling issues, but I have nothing but contempt for his handlers who have propped him up.
There is a long congressional record of power-drunk political handlers propping up alcoholic leaders in order to sustain the authority and influential infrastructure of their concentric power circles. Of course that power is fueled primarily by lobbyists and lucrative government contract wink-and-nod deals, which have infested the political process and undermined constitutional constraints on the role and size of government.
Unfortunately, given that the speaker’s post is the second largest Beltway soapbox, the national message has been as impaired as the person delivering it.
His opposition certainly understood his circumstances.
A few weeks ago, I was struck by one of Hillary’s recently revealed emails from Clinton hatchet man Sidney Blumenthal, this one written five years ago regarding the 2010 midterm election. Blumenthal notes, “Boehner is despised by the younger, more conservative members of the House. … He is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle. … He is not [Newt] Gingrich, the natural leader of a ‘revolution,’ riding the crest into power. He is careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow…”
The unfortunate truth is that many conservatives agreed with Blumenthal in 2010 and most would agree with him today, which is why Boehner never should have ascended to the office of speaker — or any other leadership position. But the GOP establishment prevailed.
To understand the extent of Boehner’s delusion, consider what he claimed last week: “Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished.”
In reality, Boehner has thwarted or undermined conservative efforts to stop ObamaCare and other unconstitutional legislation and regulations, and has refused to use the House’s “power of the purse” to defund the Democrat boondoggles. He has thwarted or undermined conservative efforts on immigration reform, the Export-Import Bank, and most recently Planned Parenthood. Most distressingly “for our children and their children”: Our national debt has increased almost $4 trillion on Boehner’s watch.
And as a parting shot, now Boehner says he is prepared to raise the national debt ceiling before leaving office. That sums up his tenure.
Fact is, both Boehner and Senate Majority Leader McConnell have disgraced our Constitution under the umbrella of “Republican leadership,” and they have paved the way for the Socialist Democrat Party to retake the Senate and keep the White House in 2016. As noted by George Will, “In 2016, [Republicans] will be defending 24 of the 34 seats at issue. These will include three in states that are among the 18 that have voted Democratic in at least six consecutive presidential elections.”
In regard to the 2016 presidential campaign, I noted in “The Trump Card — Ace of Anger” that “Trump’s support reflects very little about his qualifications, but a lot about how dissatisfied millions of disenfranchised grassroots conservatives are with Republican ‘leadership.’ The status quo represented by Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has, in effect, underwritten Trump’s rising stardom. … GOP leaders continue to marginalize or ignore the concerns of the conservative/Republican base — grassroots conservatives — and we are rightly outraged.”
To that end, Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana GOP and influential member of the Republican National Committee, insists, McConnell “needs to resign.” According to Villere, “Mitch is a good and honorable guy, but the base is leaving our party. I’ve worked for 12 years as chairman to build this party, and I just don’t want to see it all go down the drain because the [leaders] aren’t willing to fight for what we believe. … The GOP brand is being damaged — everybody is so furious at the leadership.”
Finally, John Boehner offered some parting advice in regard to selection of the next speaker: “Beware of false prophets.” Indeed, that advice should have been heeded when he and McConnell were chosen to lead.
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis