Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's not 1994 again

Doyle McManus

Democrats are apt to prettify recollections of the aftermath of the Republican takeover of the House in 1994. But Obama isn't showing signs of being Clinton, and Boehner's no self-destructing Gingrich.

Obama will also have to find a way to work with Boehner, who is no Gingrich. He's not as brilliant, but he's not nearly as accident-prone either. Gingrich was a messianic insurgent who believed his ideas would conquer the nation; Boehner is a Chamber of Commerce conservative who believes in raising money, counting votes and staying doggedly on message.

That makes him more dangerous to Obama than Gingrich was to Clinton, because he's less likely to self-destruct. Boehner has already said that he's studied the lessons of the Gingrich era; he says he won't even threaten to shut down the federal government in next year's budget battle, let alone actually do it. His message on Wednesday was bland and, except for a promise to try to repeal the healthcare law, almost content-free. "The new majority here in Congress will be the voice of the American people," he said. "This is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people's priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business."

The biggest problem facing Boehner and his Senate colleague, Mitch McConnell, is a potential civil war in their caucuses once newly empowered tea party candidates arrive to begin purifying Gomorrah-on-the-Potomac. The insurgents' floor leader, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, issued their first orders Wednesday in a fiery column in the Wall Street Journal. "Tea party Republicans were elected to go to Washington and save the country, not be co-opted by the club," DeMint wrote. "So put on your boxing gloves."

The only real fun Democrats can look forward to in the next few months is the battle between DeMint and his followers and the old-line GOP leadership. But don't bet against Boehner. He may not have charisma, but he knows how to manage a caucus.

Might as well have some fun while we're goin' down the shitter. Spark up a fattie and pass the popcorn.

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