Obama's strategic genius: Boehner caught between Barack and a hard place

I have been telling the political pundits for months that President Obama's strategy has been, since the Republican takeover of the House (thank you, Professional Left) to expose the Right wing insanity, back the Republicans into a corner and make them cry uncle. For this, the president first needed to be seen as - and actually be - the adult in the room who is willing to compromise for the good of the country and expose the Republicans as the burn-down-the-village-to-save-it party. During the budget negotiations and the debt limit negotiations, just as expected, Republicans acted like petulant children.

Substantively, the president had to take away the Republicans' hostages. He needed to take the threat of default off the table, and he needed to protect Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare benefits, programs for the poor and investments in students. That's what the compromises in the budget deal and the debt limit deal were about. The president went about very systematically to protect those things. And then, bam! He brought the hammer down and turned on the jobs message. Guess what is happening right now? The Republican leadership is now powerless to pass Republican bills without Democratic cooperation in their own house!

When Republican Leader Eric Cantor insisted that federal disaster aid must be paid for by cutting spending elsewhere (but of course, tax giveaways for multinationals should bear no similar burden), he probably was counting on cheering Tea Party caucus support. Little did he or Speaker Boehner know though, that what the Teabaggers suffer from is not just corporatism but also true believerism. They are true believers in the myth of the 'cut spending' mantra, and not just as a way to win elections.

And so it began. The Republican leadership bill in the House to fund disaster relief as well as keep the government running until November would offset disaster aid (after funding it with an insulting $3.65 billion) by taking money away from a loan program that has created 40,000 jobs to produce fuel efficient cars. House Democrats had little patience for this "pay for disaster aid but forget about paying for corporate jet tax breaks" approach and voted against it. But of course, in the House, the leadership doesn't really need votes from the minority.

That is, unless your own caucus is polluted with a bunch of nutbags for whom no amount of cuts and no amount of fiscally hurting the American people is ever enough. And so of course, cutting funding for 40,000 jobs to pay for relief for people who are victims of a disaster was not enough of for the House conservatives and Teabaggers. No, really; it wasn't enough. They wanted more cuts. And 48 of them voted against it to bring the whole thing down.

Not that I am sorry this bill went down. It was a bad idea to pay for disaster aid by cutting other federal spending, especially by cutting 40,000 jobs. But it shows the Republican chickens are coming home to roost, and Speaker Orange and Eric Cantor are now whining that - I kid you not - that the bill was designed to pass with Democratic support, after they did everything to appease their nutjob base.

As it turns out, however, here is the real beauty of the thing: Republicans can probably count that sort of a block out for any buget/fiscal bill from now on out. Huh? Why? Because you see, the leadership bill that went down in flames yesterday was the House Republican leadership's twisted attempt to meet  the spending levels set in... the debt limit compromise!
The vote represents the debt ceiling agreement coming back to haunt Republican leaders, who were only able to lift the borrowing cap last month with the help of Democrats.

That's because the legislation defeated yesterday includes provisions setting spending levels for the ''discretionary'' budget for the upcoming fiscal year agreed to as part of the debt limit agreement. Democrats say they have no intention of reopening that debate.

''I want to send this message to them -- they should not renege on the agreement,'' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today. ''We've agreed on that.'' He suggested Republicans break their bill into separate legislation for the disaster aid and the stopgap measure.

Yet many House Republicans who opposed the debt agreement said they see no reason to support legislation needed to implement the plan.

''I didn't vote for the debt deal and most Americans didn't like the debt deal either so it would consistent with voting against the debt deal to be voting against the implementation of a number that's too big," said Representative Tim Huelskamp, a freshman Republican from Kansas.
The Republican leadership voted for the debt limit bill, agreeing to its spending levels, and now their own party crashers won't vote for bills going along with those spending levels, while Democrats hold back support because of the idiotic nature of the bills themselves.

John Boehner, of course, is out putting out the fires and telling everyone how he won't let Congress cause a gap in disaster relief or shut down the government by not providing funding. But the crazy wing of his party just made it clear that he isn't going to keep the government running or keep federal disaster aid going with their support. So his choice? Work with the Democrats and the President. In other words, govern. In other words, compromise. Which, of course, the Republican base will eat him and the rest of the GOP leadership alive for. If he tries to reneg on the debt limit spending levels, he'd be seen as a weak leader who cannot be trusted. If he tries to hold the spending level at the amount, he won't be able to get Teabagger votes, which means he will have to get Democratic votes, which means he will have to compromise, which means his base will demand his orange head on a platter.

Basically, by taking the important stuff off the table, President Obama has ended the Republican leverage, rescued their hostage, and as I said back in August, left John Boehner holding the teabag. Again, I told you so! John Boehner was stupid enough (or maybe liar enough) to claim that the debt limit deal was a "98%" victory for him, which the Professional Left went on to parrot without any hint of question or irony. But the truth is that the president masterfully put a strategy together to expose the GOP and make the Republican leadership choke on their own petard. And it's working.

You do not win strategic battles by getting into a screaming match with your opponent. Nor do you win it by any of the various favored red-meat tactics. You win a strategic battle by deliberate planning and methodical execution.

So, umm, just to rub it in the faces of the Professional Left diehards: