Speaker of the House John Boehner is apparently a clever fellow. I don't like him personally. But we all owe him big-time for his part in just killing off the Tea Party.
If you doubt the Tea Party is dead, take a look at today's Wall Street Journal/NBC poll numbers. These results are all over the media so I won't repeat them here. Just let's say the GOP is in the tank. Terribly in the tank. Its favorable rating is the lowest ever in the entire history of the universe. Only 24%. The rest of the numbers are equally dire for the Grand Old Party, which now looks to be more of a morning-after hangover than a party. The GOP could even lose the House next year! Almost 3/4 of Americans HATE the shutdown and default threat and blame the GOP for them. In fact they blame the GOP by 20% more than they blame the president.
Well, so much for the media's bland stupidity that "both sides are at fault" for everything. Oh, no, my friends, the American people aren't buying into that any more. Like another president used to say, "You can fool some of the people...." But you know how the rest goes. We've now reached the point that the Republicans can no longer fool any people any of the time.
The Tea Party inflicted this woeful wounding on the GOP. They insisted on the shutdown and debt default as threats to win an ending of Obamacare. Faced with this extortion, President Obama said, "Fuhgeddaboudit". (That's an East Coast accent coupled with a Chicago politician's killer resolve.) He dug his heels in. No extortion. No bargaining. And not a smidge off the Affordable Health Care Act. He thus set up the cliff for Boehner to lure the Tea Party over.
Which Boehner promptly did. He seemingly stopped being the reasonable, moderate, old Missourian, the orange-faced and dull Boehner, and seemed to become as daft as the Tea Partyers. He encouraged them to be bad! He claimed that he'd more or less thought it over with the gang and decided that, yeah, they were going to strangle the Affordable Health Care Act in its cradle after all. And, yeah, he could see them shutting the government down and putting the nation into default. He'd previously disavowed such naughties with vehemence and conviction. Previously he'd even promised the Wall Street Republicans that he wouldn't let the default happen.
And when he had previously said that he hadn't come to D.C. to do the bad things the Tea Party wanted, I believed him. So did Wall Street. Therefore the markets held steady (except for one brief moment) because the markets knew Boehner didn't mean what he was now saying about "let's do what the Tea Party wants".
But the Tea Party believed him. Oh, boy, did they ever! "Golly, whiz, guys! Boehner's going to let us have the death of Obamacare, an economic armageddon and a government shutdown! What happy days! Let's dance in the aisles!"
They hadn't noticed Boehner's face and body language and that he was stammering around on TV worse than usual. When he told the lies the Tea Party wanted to hear, even his orange color faded. I'm not kidding you. The man went white. But the Tea Partyers never noticed anything. They believed what they wanted to hear. And they babbled their nonsense ever louder and crazier. "Hey," one Tea Party House guy said, "a default would be good for the economy. It would help stabilize it!"
Stabilize it?! Hearing that, all the rest of us blanched white.
Boehner had invited them to strut their ignorance and flaunt their scary power, and they sure as hell were doing it!
Jump ahead a tad. Today a commentator or two is saying that Boehner embraced the Tea Party hard-lining because he wanted to get in good with them. No! It's not that at all. He didn't accept their hard-line, and he doesn't need them closer. He needs them out of his hair, off his back, and gone from the House. He needs them politically dead. Short of being out of the House, he wants them docile. To get them there he had to lure them to such extremely stupid and frightening antics - like embracing a default - that the powerful money forces that have fed them and put them in office will now cut off their sustenance.
And it worked. On Tuesday the Koch brothers, who had financed the six-month organizing of the Tea Party extortion effort, wrote a letter made public, stating they hadn't wanted to shut down anything or threaten a default on the debt. Oh, no! Not them! It was some other brother, Ma!
Next the major business groups - I mean the really big ones - told the Tea Partyers that they'd better stop being a_ _ _ _ s or the money guys would not only cease funding their elections but would finance moderate candidates against them in Republican primaries next year. That's wonderful!
And they will get rid of them. They have to. More than any one else, the people with a lot of money - like the Koch brothers and the really big big business groups - stood to lose a lot of money if this nation had defaulted on its debts. As for their losses in the shutdown? Not so much. Not unless it goes on long enough that the weapons-makers and other government contractors began to lose some real money.
Because, my chums, there's one thing the ideologically drunk Tea Partyers forgot. The guys with lots of money who buy and sell Republican Congress members don't care s_ _t about political ideas and Ayn Rand theories when these threaten their money.
I love it. For once, the ugly, selfish moneybags got to do a patriotic service for their country. They are reining in the monsters they dumped on us. It's beautiful. It's Greek drama. It's enough to make one believe that, yes,Virginia, there is a Tooth Fairy.
Mostly I love what has unfolded because it shows that politics can still work toward a positive outcome and that party leaders can still cooperate in defanging the worst elements despite the acrimony in the ranks and in the electorate. Which is what President Obama and John Boehner did. Quietly. Beyond the ability of news people to fathom. They worked together to disempower the Tea Party. I'm not saying they met in a dank cellar room of the White House and plotted the demise of the Tea Partyers. They didn't have to. Skilled politicians - and politics done right is a highly skilled craft - don't have to spell things out for each other. They can read each other, and they know the rules of politics and follow them. Those who don't understand politics or don't respect it are the likes of Ted Cruz and the Tea Party. Or Sarah Palin. They flame up through demagoguery, trip on the door sill, and soon become irrelevant.
Because there is no real room for them in the serious business of politics and governing. It's not a funny business for clowns. Nor is it a revival tent for yelling one's creed. It's the marble buildings where we the people meet to work out what needs to be done. It's serious business requiring enormous attention, skill, and thought. Most of us haven't the time for it so we choose others to do it for us. Most of these are serious and intelligent people. They are mostly grown-ups.
Thank heavens the grown-ups have sent the raucous kids to bed. The kids will still yell and scream and occasionally bounce out of their rooms for a drink of water or because they "gotta go potty". But they are no longer in a position to burn the house down. Or the House either.
I just wish Boehner was as good an actor as Obama. Obama did his part with so much more aplomb. And I'll bet Obama's good again with the comedy at the next White House Press dinner. Maybe the day's not far off when everybody can lighten up a bit and Obama can even sing to us again.
That would be mighty nice.
(What is an "aplomb" anyway?)