I greet you on this The Ides of March – the political holiday commemorating that day, 2,056 years ago when the aristocrats in the Roman Senate imposed terminal term limits on Julius Caesar. On this ominous day each year some deserving political hack has earned the “Knife-in-the-Back” plaque for his or her outstanding professional ineptitude and moral arrogance over the preceding 12 months. The dishonor descends upon the chosen not because of mere stupidity, nor even for horribly misjudging the public will. Those are common failings for those who dare to strut their egos upon the public stage. The level of political putz required to earn this mantel of disgrace, must show a consistent inconsistency, and venal dependability to repeat the same mistake so often as to indicate a total lack of self awareness, a disregard for their fellow human beings and a bent toward political suicide And this as an added treat, year's winner is a legacy from a previous winner
The winner in 2008 was New York Democratic Governor Elliot (Ho-No!) Spritzer, who lost his moral war against corruption on Wall Street when he left his morals at the Emperor's Club Escort Service web site. In 2009 Illinois Democratic Governor Rod (The Sleaze) Blagoevich secured the dishonor by being convicted of plotting crimes on telephone lines he himself had alleged were wire tapped. They actually were, and last Ides of March he reported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado to begin serving his 14 year sentence. In 2010 Kentucky Republican Senator Jim (Bean-Ball) Bunning was a stand out winner for his petty, mean-spirited filibuster holding up unemployment benefits for tens of thousands of his own constituents, just so he could thumb his nose at his own party. In 2011 Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott (Union Killer) Walker earned the “Laurel and Dagger” award after his artificial budget crises drove his state into civil war and himself into a recall election battle, without creating any of the promised benefits. And last year, 2012, the winner was the morally mailable munchkin mutineer, the militant nihilist, the Big Giant Head from Dunwoody, Georgia, Newton Leroy “Newt” Gingrich.
This year the tortured Republican nominating process thrust forward in their turn several undistinguished demagogues who appalled the voters, from the predictably bizarre Michelle Bachmann to the numbingly idiotic Governor Rick Perry and the adolescent racist Donald Trump, to the blatantly hypocritical pseudo-Christian Rick Santorum. The “winner” of this funeral procession was, of course , the candidate who could not seem to pick a personality, Mitt “47%” Romney. All things considered Mitt was the early leader in this year's Ides sweepstakes.
I also gave serious consideration to Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove, whose reality melt down on election night was a joy to watch, whatever your party affiliation. Never have the American people been treated to such a display of honesty from a Bush era official. It wasn't much of a pay back for the Iraq War debacle, but it was the closest to just deserts the American people are ever going to get from the entitled class of neoconservative idiots. But even George Bush's “Boy Genius” was superseded in his lunacy by the post election antics of our winner, that egregious ego maniac of the end game, the architect of Republican anarchy, the only conservative politician who could make you forget for a few days about “Legitimate” and “God inspired” rape, the rich man's sycophantic parasite, the bumbling buffoon of ineptitude, our winner for this year Ides of March for 2013, John Andrew Boehner.
According to his congressional web site, this “regular guy with a regular job” has represented the 8th district of Ohio since 1991 - a mixed rural and suburban district tucked up against the Indiana border so safe that since its creation in 1823, it has been represented only 14 times by men who were not Republicans, a party which did not even exists for the first 30 years the district did.
Boehner built his reputation on other people's scandals. In his first election, he defeated the incumbent Republican Buz Lukens, who admitted having sex with a sixteen year old. During his first term, Boehner was a member of the “Gang of Seven” who “uncovered” the House Banking Scandal. During his second term he helped Newt Gingrich write the famous “Contract With America” which propelled the party to control of the House in 1994. His reward in January of '95 was to be named Chairman of the Republican Conference, low man in the gang of four, behind Speaker Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Whip Tom DeLay. In 1995 Boehner was assigned to hand out campaign contributions for the Tobacco Lobby. He later admitted to PBS, “They asked me to give out a half dozen checks quickly....and I complied. And I did it on the House floor, which I regret..”
In the summer of 1997 John Boehner played a supporting role in a coup to oust his mentor Gingrich. But when Dick Armey switched sides, Gingrich stayed. Then, after Republicans lost five seats in the 1998 election, Boehner lost his chairmanship, and Gingrich resigned as speaker. After a bruising game of musical chairs, Dennis Hassert was elected speaker, as front man for the uncompromising “too nuclear” Majority Leader Tom Delay. Evidently, after the coup attempt, Delay did not trust Boehner, who is famous for crying in public, in that public role.
However, scandal once again came to Boehner's rescue. Late in 2005 Speaker Delay was indicted for money laundering. Hassert' stepped down the following January, and propelled by his close ties with lobbyists, Boehner was the surprise upset victor as the now minority leadership, winning by just 13 votes. His pledge was, predictably, scandal oriented, in this case the elimination of “earmarks”, funding for specific projects, usually slipped into unrelated bills. In attempting to explain Boehner's unexpected election, the San Francisco Chronicle noted, “Boehner is famous for the lavish parties he throws, including an annual ‘Boehner Beach Party’ fundraiser. At the GOP’s 2004 convention in New York, Boehner hosted a party that raged all four nights of the convention at Tunnel, a West Side nightclub.” He was another genial “hail fellow, well met” like Hassert.
The problem is, earmarks were the way committee chairs maintained party discipline. And once Republicans gained power without it, under Speaker Boehner, the 112th Congress achieved a stunning level of non-achievement. Even the ultra-conservative Washington Times noticed, pointing out that under Boehner's watch the House “enacted the fewest laws, considered the fewest bills”, passing just 162 - 20 % of which were meaningless, such as renaming Federal buildings. “But” the Times added, “it held the third most floor votes, at 1,602”, such as the 33 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. None of these repeals ever stood a chance of passing the Senate and were worse than meaningless because, as Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out, “they have voted to replace the Affordable Care Act exactly … never.”
It was Boehner's House which in 2011 refused to approve an appropriations bill to pay the Federal debt. As Marie Burns wrote on RealityChex.com, “Boehner walked away from a “Grand Bargain” he had been negotiating with President Obama.” This debacle caused Standard and Poor to downgraded the nation's credit rating for the first time in our history, because “the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policy making and political institutions have weakened..Wrote Ms Burns, “..the cost to taxpayers...was about $1.3 billion” in higher interest rates.
Two of the most respected and independent scholars of the process were forced to concede, “We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional.” Former conservative Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough, noted on his morning cable show that “...so many Republicans tell me this is a guy that is not the hardest worker in the world. After 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock at night, he is disengaged at best. You can see him around town…you can see him at bars.” And Politico reported, “One of (Boehner's) GOP colleagues noted that Boehner cries more often later in the day.”
It was this dysfunctional leader John Boehner, who faced the dawn on Wednesday, November 7, 2012, after Barack Obama had been re-elected to a second term by 51% of the vote, running on the core issue of increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans. That night Boehner insisted the “higher taxes are not the answer”, to a skeptical ABC anchor, Diane Sawyer. Later that month in a “op-ed” in the “Cincinnati Enquirer”, Boehner now insisted the Affordable Care Act must remain “on the table” for cuts. Jim Kessler, senior VP for what Reuters described as a centrist think-tank said the statement was “...a complete non-starter and a clumsy starting point for negotiations.”
What followed should have been predictable. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold and Feliciz Sonmez encapsulated the dreary details. “In April 2011, Boehner struck a deal to avert a government shutdown. He lost 59 Republican votes. In August 2011, he cut a deal to avert the debt-ceiling crisis. That time he lost 66 Republicans. In February, he agreed to a compromise that kept payroll taxes from rising. That time there were 91 defections. This month, (December 2012) Boehner sought to engineer a show of force....a vote on ‘Plan B,’...But conservatives revolted...‘Plan B; became an unintended show of weakness instead.”
Explained Marie Burns, “When the going got rough in December 2012 – arguably, before the going got rough – John Boehner walked away again. After throwing his hands up and leaving Mitch McConnell to work out a compromise with Democrats, Boehner decided to make compromise harder by sending the House home and threatening not to call them back...unless (a Senate compromise) was one that a majority of Republicans would support...It was not until the last hours of January 1 – the last full day the 112th Congress was in session – that Boehner finally relented and allowed (Democratic minority leader Nancy) Pelosi to push through the tax-and-spending bill. Although Democrats did not like the bill, either, Pelosi got a 172-16 vote from her caucus. On the Republican side, the vote was 151-85 against the bill. Boehner’s own lieutenants, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy – the guys who were supposed to whip the bill – voted against it..”
Somehow, Boehner found a way to make it worse. Continued Burns, “Although both Boehner and Cantor had repeatedly promised a long-delayed vote on relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy, Boehner decided at the last minute on January 1 to cancel the vote on the storm relief bill and adjourn the 112th Congress forever, according to Republican Peter King of New York, who was furious.” Boehner's House would not approve hurricane relief for another two weeks, and then 180 Republicans still voted against helping their fellow American in a crisis.
Speaker John Boehner is living proof that the ability to see the fault in leaders, is not always accompanied by the ability to do better. Speaker Boehner's leadership played a major role in driving Congress's approval ratings to a record low, and reducing America's credit rating, which increased the national debt. As Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper from Tennessee has observed, “America’s problems have rarely looked so large, and Congress has rarely looked so small.” And since that debacle, Boehner continues to be invisible in searching for a way to deal with America's economic problems. And yet, he continues to collect a Federal salary.
As Mark Twin observed, “All congresses and parliaments have a kindly feeling for idiots, and a compassion for them, on account of personal experience and heredity,” Twain could have been writing about this year's winner of the un-coveted “Ides of March Knife in the Back”, plaque, The Boner, Old Blue Eyes, the Crier of the House, the Tan Man, the putter putz in chief, The babble Speaker of the House John Andrew Boehner. And here's good news - he probably has at least two more years in job.
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