Did General Boehner just save the GOP?

Paul Goldman Former Chairman, Democratic Party of Virginia
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The developing Washington guru consensus – that Speaker John Boehner is working at the behest of the Cruz-Palin-Limbaugh wing of the Grand Old Party – is absolutely wrong. This trio of rebels may have the DC pundits awed, or fooled, take your pick. Two of them have actually called me out over previous columns for other national web sites, and they are known to hold feet to the fire. But the idea this trio could make Boehner walk, much less crawl, on hot coals is simply fantasy.

The right analysis: Speaker aka General John Boehner pulled off the toughest maneuver in warfare, the orderly retreat from the battlefield. General Washington’s orderly retreat to Valley Forge saved America in her infancy.

General Boehner faced a similar, albeit political not military, situation. Led by Texan Ted Cruz playing the chicken hawk, the Trio demanded Boehner die under the “Defund or Die” flag for their greater glory.

Boehner rejected Cruz-control: think actor Russell Crowe, who played a Roman General in the hit movie “Gladiator.” “Stay with me, hold the line,” shouts Crowe’s character leading troops into battle. He knew that once the line breaks, you can’t get it back. In the end, the general loses his life and his army, not mention his family.

General Boehner is not interested in such a fate, despite the honor bestowed upon Crowe’s body at the end of the movie. Indeed, Boehner may have saved the Republican Party yesterday. DC’s gurus laugh at this idea, but the Speaker’s strategy seems plain enough: Do whatever it takes to avoid a GOP meltdown over the debt ceiling fight. He knows if House GOP majority blows-up again over raising the debt ceiling, it could be the end of his Grand Old Party. He knows the Cruz-Palin-Limbaugh trio is like the Vietnam War general who said “we had to destroy the village in order to save it.”

Boehner knows that all generals, at some point in their career, must choose an orderly retreat in order to regroup, to save reputation, for the more important battle ahead. The myth is generals like George Patton plunged ahead regardless. Not true.

General Boehner is trying to save the Republican Party from destroying itself over a lost cause. And that cause is refusing to raise the debt ceiling.

The Trio call him a RINO. But the truth is this: Boehner is a retro, a Republican who believes in the two- party system. Mr. Boehner knows his GOP caucus is of two, not one mind. There are those who believe in the two-party system, and those who would be comfortable with two Republican-type parties going to battle with one Democratic Party.

Boehner wants a unified GOP solution to the debt ceiling. Is he delusional? Perhaps, the Senate Democrats have their views. But to give himself a chance, Boehner always had to be open to leading a government shutdown over Obamacare. Why? The Speaker had to do whatever it took to maximize his credibility with his caucus for the coming fight.

Thus, on the CR/Obamacare battle, he always knew the shutdown was his “least worst option.” Giving into Democratic demands for a “clean CR” of any length meant his quick demise.

So here, the day after, look at the situation: General Boehner has basically maintained unity, still draped in the “Defund or Die” flag, but marching his troops off the field while carefully ratcheting down demands, now calling only for the traditional House-Senate Conference. Procedurally, the GOP can now handle any political fallout from the shutdown with a smart CR/Obamacare Conference strategy. What should it be?

We’ll see. The DC gurus think Cruz-Palin-Limbaugh are happy with Boehner escaping to lead the Debt Ceiling fight. They are wrong. Boehner did prefer a compromise CR, not a shutdown. He can read a poll.

But job number one was getting past September 30 with his troops in rough unity. I didn’t think he could do it. But so far, he is defying political gravity.