Like Newt Gingrich in the 1990s, Boehner is ready, willing but fortunately unable to bring America to a standstill again this year to prevent reelection of a Democratic president, but he is eager to make the threat an issue in November.
What Boehner has in common with his predecessor, absent the glibness, is no guilt about gridlocking Congress for partisan purposes. With a Tea Party class of 2010 breathing down his neck, the Speaker wants to play a shell game for voters now by getting them to follow the debt-ceiling pea rather than concentrating their attention on the urgent need to push the economy into higher gear and create jobs faster.
In the long run, the massive debt accumulated by two expensive wars and a bipartisan failure to slow it will have to be faced and resolved. But around the proverbial coffee table, it is not what Americans are worrying over this year.
Republicans, the prevailing wisdom says, “believe they win when talking about debt and borrowing, reinforcing their narrative that Democrats have irresponsibly maxed out the nation’s credit card...Boehner’s biggest asset in the upcoming negotiations is the need to raise the debt limit. And he must get it on the table because the game has changed since 2011.”
In the rush to do so, he may want to remember how Gingrich’s “Contract with (on?) America” ended. Bill Clinton was reelected; Newt was censured and fined by House colleagues and lost his job.
A one-trick pony can’t keep crowds enthralled forever.