"Why do I want to make my members, Republican members, walk the plank?" Boehner explained on "Face the Nation" Sunday. The son of a barkeep wants to avoid a government shutdown -- also known as (SET ITAL) another (END ITAL) government shutdown. He knew his effort to thwart a kamikaze mission could invite his party's "knuckle draggers," as he calls them, to challenge his leadership. Republicans who stood by Boehner then might face a primary challenge.
Boehner knew his perch was precarious; he likened being speaker to trying to keep 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow. So rather than fight, Boehner, 65, shrugged. His is not so much an Ayn Randian Atlas shrug as it is what Politico's Glenn Thrush called an "'I'm just playing the cards I've been dealt,' nicotine-induced zen" shrug.
I am going to miss the era of smoke-filled rooms and chain-smoking power brokers. Boehner's likely replacement -- Kevin McCarthy, 50, of Bakersfield, California -- has a West Coast sensibility. McCarthy leads his fellow R's on early-morning mountain bike rides when the House is in session. (I learned on "Face the Nation" that Boehner does yoga, but not, I presume, while caucusing.)
I am going to miss those basset hound eyes that shed endless sentimental tears. I am going to miss that orangy mug. It takes a tough man to tinge his skin the same tint as Arnold Schwarzenegger's hair. I am going to miss references to Boehner's patronage at Trattoria Alberto and Pete's Diner. There's something endearingly old-school about a pol who frequents businesses known by an owner's first name.
I think President Barack Obama will miss Boehner more than I. The softy speaker, after all, fell for Obama's ruse about wanting to reach across the aisle to cut a grand bargain.
I am going to miss the speaker who got rid of earmarks -- pet pork-barrel spending -- out of conviction, even though it made it harder for him to impose discipline among his ranks. I am going to miss the barkeep's son who didn't believe in fighting for the sake of fighting. He didn't go for destructive stunts like the 2013 government shutdown championed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. After that house of cards collapsed, he hoped tea party members would see that shuttering the government is a losing tactic. As he said Sunday, "have the courage to do what you can do. It's easy to have the courage to do what you can't do."