Posted: Feb 03, 2006 11:02 AM

  • Fewer things are more fun in Washington than when conventional wisdom is proven to be conventional folly, and the predicted result misses the actual result by more-or-less 180 degrees.

  • So it was with the election for Majority Leader in the US House yesterday in which Ohio’s John Boehner (BAY-ner), of Ohio, defeated acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt, of Missouri, by a second-round vote of 122-109.

  • Democrats couldn’t get to their mass e-mail lists quickly enough to say this was a horrible thing for the Republicans, but it is not. Not at all.

  • Let’s review recent history …

  • This vote for Leader became necessary because the previous Majority Leader, Tom DeLay, was indicted by a goofball of a county prosecutor in Austin, Texas and House Republican Conference rules require members of the leadership to step aside in such an event.


      In the US House and Senate, the massed Democrats call themselves a “caucus.” The Republicans call themselves a “conference.” I am not certain why this is, but I am certain that it is.


  • Beginning in 1995, after the Gingrich Republicans overcame 40 years of Democratic inertia to take control of the US House, John Boehner was elected chairman of the Republican Conference. In US House parlance that is the fourth highest post on the majority side, third on the minority side.

  • The Rankings go: Majority (minority) leader; Majority (minority) Whip, Conference (caucus) Chairman.

  • Because the majority has the Speaker in the number one spot, Conference or Caucus chair is fourth on the majority side.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    WE GET IT! Enough, already.

  • Just trying to help out.

  • Back in the day, Newt was Speaker, Dick Armey was Majority Leader, Tom DeLay was Whip and Boehner was Conference Chairman. In that role, Boehner was responsible for creating almost all of the “messages” coming out of the GOP side of the House.

  • DeLay was elected Whip over Pennsylvania Congressman Bob Walker, who had been Newt’s sidekick for years, largely on a platform of “We Can’t Give Newt ALL the Power.” Thus, not much love has been lost between Newt and DeLay over the past 10 years.

  • And because Boehner had a good relationship with Gingrich, DeLay was not without interest in getting him defrocked if the opportunity presented itself.

  • Comes the election of 1998 – the midterm election in the second administration of Bill Clinton – and the GOP was planning to pick up between eight and 12 seats.

  • On that Tuesday the GOP lost five. By Friday Newt had resigned as Speaker.

  • After some fits and starts, Dennis Hastert (who had been DeLay’s deputy Whip) was elected Speaker. DeLay mounted another anti-Newt effort to begin consolidating power and engineered an election for Conference Chair dethroning Boehner.

  • Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, the only Black Republican in the Conference, was elected. Mr. Watts was not the strongest member of the Leadership and DeLay immediately removed almost all of the messaging assets from the Conference and brought them into the Whip’s office.

  • After the election of 2004, when Dick Armey retired, DeLay was unanimously elected to the position of Majority Leader. Roy Blunt was elected to the now-vacant position of Whip.

  • When DeLay was forced to step down, Blunt (again after some fits and starts) kept his Whip post, but became Acting Majority Leader. It quickly became clear that two jobs were too much for one person and the Conference demanded that a vote for a permanent replacement for DeLay be held.

  • Yesterday it was.

  • John Boehner’s personality is the polar opposite of DeLay’s. Where DeLay is pugnacious, Boehner is conciliatory. Where DeLay is aggressive, Boehner is understanding. Where DeLay is easy to dislike, Boehner is very easy to … like.

  • Once again the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for; you may get it” has come to pass. The Democrats in the House wanted to get rid of Tom DeLay. They did.

  • They got, in his place, John Boehner, a talented leader who will be very difficult to make into the pro-lobbyist, anti-reform monster the House Democrats are looking for.

  • Republicans will retain the House in the elections of 2006.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to a bio of Dick Armey, the Washington Post’s early coverage of the Leadership race, a sociologically important Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day which is fairly dreadful.