Monday, December 13, 2010

Obama (1), Biden (2), Boehner (3)

Presidential succession changes next month and Washington, obsessed as always with power, is trying to get a handle on who's waiting in the wings, ready to do what to whom.

The New York Times does a takeout on "Biden's Bigger Role," noting that the Vice-President's "role in the back-channel compromise with Republicans on tax cuts has engendered some resentment, along with questions about whether he will encourage further accommodation with Republicans or serve as a liberal counterweight to those in the White House who are advocating a move to the center."

At the same time, 60 Minutes spotlights House Speaker-to-be John Boehner, who will replace Nancy Pelosi as third in line, and will be nobody's liberal counterweight to anything.

Questioned by Leslie Stahl, Boehner treats "compromise" as a dirty word and refuses to say it, preferring "working together" and "finding common ground."

Even with the election over, Boehner is looking over his shoulder, as if the Tea Party had a gun to his head. "When you say the word 'compromise'" he says, "a lot of Americans look up and go, 'Uh-oh, they're gonna sell me out.'"

Asked if the tax deal was "worth the $900 billion added to the deficit," Boehner's answer is to parrot the campaign talking point that "it will create jobs and help our economy," advocating with no explanation a tax cut for the richest Americans over Obama's stimulus bill, which he violently opposed, and which, GOP attacks to the contrary, actually pumped money into the economy.

His only emotional moment in the interview is to complain that the President showed him "disrespect" by calling him a hostage-taker on the tax bill.

With Boehner in the Congressional saddle, the Vice President's enhanced role in working across the aisle will be the neatest trick of the year, even though as one legislator notes, “Biden brings everything that Rahm Emanuel brings, but the major difference is everyone likes Joe Biden.”

But likeability is a light counterweight to intransigence and, judging from Boehner's stance, less likely to lead to common ground than super-stalement in the Congressional sausage factory.

Yet Biden is sure to bring one trait to the table--loyalty to the President. At a Democrats' raucous gripe session last week, Biden reportedly erupted, “There’s no goddamned way I’m going to stand here and talk about the president like that.”

As long as he is around, nobody will.

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