"Goodbye and don't come back!" yelled Speaker of the House John Boehner as he kicked the Tea Party down the steps of the Capitol and slammed the door of the House behind them. That marriage of convenience is definitely over. On Thursday and again on Friday, Boehner made clear that he is done with the Tea Party.
We know he really means this because he attacked their fund-raising organizations, as reported in the NY Times, claiming they were opposing the bipartisan budget bill primarily to raise funds for themselves and increase membership in their groups. "They are using you for their own purposes," he told the members of his caucus in private. He also said this publicly. That's a serious accusation. It's not the kind of thing that can be unsaid. It's also as close as you can get to attempted murder in politics because attacking the Tea Party money groups is like cutting off the air and water of the Tea Party.
This drastic move by Boehner is, at least in part, because he is still terrified that the Tea Party's shenanigans last fall - threatening to put the nation into default and actually shutting down the government - will cost the GOP the loss of the House in 2014.
There's more going on though. Back in early October, I claimed that Boehner was slyly encouraging the Tea Party to undertake extreme action such as the government shutdown so that he could subsequently push the TP over a cliff (or the Capitol stairs) and be rid of them and their extortionist ways. That analysis was exactly right. He let them have their way on the shutdown, the public was angry about it, and the GOP approval rating dropped to the lowest point it's ever been since such things have been measured. And everybody was blaming the Tea Party.
Then Boehner waited. He had let the Tea Party walk the road to its own destruction. Now all he had to do was find the right moment to declare it dead. Meantime he allowed Rep. Paul Ryan to reach a bipartisan budget agreement with Democratic Senator Patty Murray. Before the resulting measure came to the floor, the right-wing Tea Party funding groups were screaming about the "establishment GOP selling out".
It was a declaration of war.
Now Boehner's attack on the funding groups has raised this intra-party war to nuclear war. Well, a pox on both sides.
Well, maybe not on Boehner. He's been plotting and scheming against the Tea Party, not just to maintain his control of the GOP and keep it in the majority in Congress but possibly because he really cares about our country and about preserving the kind of party system and the rules of party politics that have served us well for a long, long time. Forgive me, but I think John Boehner is a patriot.
And what about the next debt ceiling confrontation due this spring? Not to worry. Boehner The Patriot will do as he did last time and send the legislation to the floor for passage by Democrats and the less insane among the GOP.
The day of Tea Party extortion is done. The Tea Party is toast at its own tea party!
And please keep in mind that Boehner could not have killed the Tea Party last fall without the cooperation of President Obama. Boehner KNEW he could count on Obama not to budge in the face of the right-wingers' demands. Therefore Boehner could goad the Tea Party to it destruction, knowing Obama would allow them their self-destructive closing of the government rather than give an inch on the health care act. Obama and Boehner each played their part in defanging a major threat to our country. That was the sine qua non of Boehner's plan, his unspoken partnership with Obama. Very stealthily they waltzed the Tea Party to its death.
Dance on, boys! It delights this old woman pol to watch you in your mastery. Dance on, President Obama and Speaker Boehner, dance on! And thank you both for saving us from the ignorance and viciousness of the Tea Party.
It looks like happy holidays after all!