Saturday, February 04, 2012

GOP House Leadership Finally Gets The Joke, But Will The Faithful Go Along?

The damage that House Republicans have done to their party brand and their chances to take back the White House and Senate is incalculable, but like the last person in the room to get a joke, they finally appear to be wising up.

I have spent a good deal of time -- usually while sitting on the porcelain throne or chasing the lawn mower around the back yard -- trying to fathom why the likes of House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor believed that success laid on the other side of a rainbow of blacks and grays built on opposing President Obama on everything as he struggled to revive a moribund economy and through rewarding the rich while screwing the middle class, poor, elderly and infirm. I finally gave up.

This strategy has worked resoundingly well -- for Obama and the Democrats.

A mere 18 percent of voters approve of the job the House is doing while Obama's numbers have ticked slowly but steadily upward, joblessness has now fallen to a three-year low, and Boehner's leadership is being questioned by more moderate congressfolk on the one hand and by renegade freshmen on the other who want to continue the Give 'Em Hell brand of politics that thrice brought the federal government thisclose to shutdowns.

A result of the leadership finally getting the joke is that there is no talk, as there was this time last year, of repealing health-care reform and overhauling the tax code or any other kind of heavy lifting. Eric Cantor's agenda is embarrassingly painfully modest by comparison with stuff like modest tax cuts for small businesses.

Insiders tell The New York Times that . . . are you ready for this? House leaders want to reestablish the GOP as the party of jobs creation. This of course will mean doing a One Eighty that would snap weaker necks because . . . are you ready for this, as well? it will require bi-forking-partisan compromise.

The strained relationship between Boehner and Cantor is an open secret and harkens back to the days when Newt Gingrich ran the House Republican caucus like a dungeon master. Their tensions are so well known that the president riffed on them at a black-tie banquet Saturday night, joking that “Speaker Boehner, it is good to see you at the head table. I know how badly Eric Cantor wanted your seat.”

Photograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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