Boehner bites back

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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John Boehner decided to get his shit together for the holidays.

After literally years of obeisance, he finally stood up to conservative outside groups the other day. He’s mad as hell and he’s not gonna take it anymore!

But it’s not just rhetoric. Like the Baptism scene in the Godfather, Boehner apparently wanted to clear the air in one fell swoop. He recently hired Sen. John McCain’s former chief of staff, signaling to many that he’s about to pursue immigration reform.

And while Boehner was gunning for Heritage Action and pushing the Ryan-Murray budget deal, a “hit” was also being executed on the RSC’s executive director, Paul Teller. (This comes on the heels of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s decision to attack the Senate Conservatives Fund by blacklisting one of their vendors.)

(These things gotta happen every five years or so, ten years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood.)

You can’t blame Boehner for wanting to reassert his authority. As recently as October, many of these outside groups had pursued a quixotic and politically toxic defund strategy. And nobody had the guts to stand up to them. Boehner looked more like Freddo than Michael.

In fairness, Boehner probably couldn’t have confronted his conservative opponents head-on. At least, not if he expected to win. So he employed a bit of jujitsu. By allowing the defund strategy to play out — and eventually lead to a shutdown — his caucus was chastened.

It is ironic that the legacy of the defund strategy may end up being increased spending and a stronger GOP establishment (and Speaker). Sometimes it’s better to let sleeping dogs lie. In this case, but by going too far, the tea party finally radicalized the Speaker. Boehner bit back.

But there’s another irony: Boehner went along with their absurd defund strategy — and now he’s going to stand up to conservatives who merely want to maintain status quo sequester-level spending levels?

Look, I get that this was a shrewd political strategy for him. But it’s also true that he went along with the conservative outside groups when they were wrong, and now he’s standing up to them when they’re right.

In terms of substance, he’s 0-for-2.