Here’s some advice for President Obama. Next time you play golf with House Speaker John Boehner, sneak up behind him on the tee box, and just as he starts his downswing, whisper: “Tea Party!” Boehner’ll be lucky to get the ball off the tee.
That’s because Boehner (a 7.9 handicapper) knows that tempo means everything in golf. Without tempo, you fall prey to The Dreaded Triple L: Laird Lurch & Lunge. And nothing will destroy Boehner’s tempo quicker than a whispered reminder about the delinquents in his Republican Party.
What happened to Boehner last week would be comical if it hadn’t contributed to harming the American economy for purely political reasons. He was, essentially, pleading to the Tea Party: “C’mon, people, throw me a bone here. How can the Senate overwhelmingly oppose my bill if you don’t help me get it passed in the House?”
Thursday night he seemed shocked — shocked! — when the “Hell, No!” caucus responded negatively. Finally, on Friday, Boehner got his bill passed, but already Jay Newton-Small had written for Time.com that “any credibility (Boehner) had in claiming that his restive members could get behind a consensus debt deal has vanished. The Speaker has gone lame.”
Restive? The Tea Party? Uh, yeah, like Bluto was restive when he impersonated a zit in “Animal House.”
Newton-Small described the dilemma that’s looming for Boehner and the GOP: “A final debt ceiling compromise will likely require a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass the House, and the outspoken conservative wing of the party will not be on board. That could embolden Democrats to seek a more favorable deal, and it leaves Senate Republicans like Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with a weaker hand to negotiate.”
All of which might have been rendered outdated by breaking news after this column’s deadline, but regardless, Boehner will be picking Tea Party lint off the GOP tuxedo for years to come.
Local voice more like a peep
Here in Clark County, about 40 Tea Party types on Thursday “rallied” at the office of U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler. According to my calculations, one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the local population showed up to proclaim “what the American people want.” This was after a “rally” by the liberal group MoveOn.org at JHB’s office on Tuesday, when a different one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the local population proclaimed “what the American people want.”
While we wait for the other 99.9998 percent of the local population to weigh in, let’s review what the Tea Party has become since its birth in 2009. It is, in fact, no party at all. Remember recently when those Rainbow Family hippies swarmed into an area mountain meadow? I kept wondering why they reminded me of the Tea Party, which seems to be their philosophical opposite. I found the answer on the Rainbow Family website: “Some say we’re the largest non-organization of non-members in the world. We have no leaders, and no organization.”
Bingo! That’s the Tea Party! No organization and no members, just flag-draped cultists who believe overly obnoxious oratory trumps statesmanship. Compromise? Never! And everyone else — Republicans and Democrats — are all a bunch of prissy fraternity boys from “Animal House” who deserve a big, fat zit impersonation.
Perhaps sooner, probably later, the Tea Party types will succumb to fatigue and realize nothing gets accomplished in politics outside the two-party system. Complaining about the system is futile. The alternative is a third party, which only helps the party you hate the most. Just ask Boehner.
Last year I tried to help the Tea Party, advising that “without electable candidates (a few of which they delivered) and meaningful solutions, no political movement can succeed. The tsunami siren becomes a dry whistle.”
Surely Boehner doesn’t define success as cutting the legs out from under America’s economic recovery. And just as surely, he’s learning that involving the Tea Party in a complicated compromise is like taking a hog caller to the opera: The hollerin’ is more sophisticated on the stage than in the seats.
John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.