National Review’s Robert Costa has become the go-to reporter for anyone looking for the inside dirt on the internal workings of the Republican caucus. Within this world, he is probably the best-sourced reporter. And so, his comments to the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein about what motivates them should carry some weight.
Here’s an excerpt from their recent conversation:
EK: How much of this is a Boehner problem and how much of this is a House Republicans problem? Which is to say, if Boehner decided to retire tomorrow, is there another House Republican who has enough trust and allegiance in the conference that he or she could manage the institution more effectively?
RC: What we’re seeing is the collapse of institutional Republican power. It’s not so much about Boehner. It’s things like the end of earmarks. They move away from Tom DeLay and they think they’re improving the House, but now they have nothing to offer their members. The outside groups don’t always move votes directly but they create an atmosphere of fear among the members. And so many of these members now live in the conservative world of talk radio and tea party conventions and Fox News invitations. And so the conservative strategy of the moment, no matter how unrealistic it might be, catches fire. The members begin to believe they can achieve things in divided government that most objective observers would believe is impossible. Leaders are dealing with these expectations that wouldn’t exist in a normal environment.