Greg Sargent makes an interesting argument that this last minute cave-in by the House Tea Party cavemen may actually make it possible for John Boehner to marginalize the crazies enough that they won’t be able to use the debt ceiling as an extortion tool any more: Did Barack Obama Do John Boehner a Big Favor?
It’s worth asking whether, by holding the line until Republicans had no choice but to capitulate on the debt limit, Barack Obama actually did John Boehner a long term favor of sorts.
Most observers think John Boehner genuinely wants to get to some kind of long term budget deal. If true, he plainly has been hampered by pressure from the right not to even enter into negotiations that risk resulting in a compromise Tea Partyers would find unacceptable. Before yesterday’s outcome, conservatives explicitly were insisting that GOP leaders must not enter into any talks unless they could wield the threat of harm to the country to get something for nothing. Remember, Ted Cruz angered fellow Republicans when he refused to enter into normal budget talks unless Dems agreed in advance not to make raising the debt ceiling even tangentially related to the talks, effectively reserving it as an extortion tool later.
Cruz, of course, went on to demand that the GOP use extortion tactics to force Dems to agree to unwind Obamacare. GOP leaders tried that with a government shutdown, and then with the debt ceiling, and the rest is history.
Now that Dems have confirmed they will not give up anything to Republicans under such conditions, it’s conceivable this could end up giving Boehner a way to stave off the inevitable demands that he drag the country through the same again. He can rightly point to precedent. That won’t make conservatives any happier. But it could help mobilize GOP elites and moderates who balked at the party’s embrace of extortion tactics — and will probably be even more wary of them during the 2014 elections - to give even less ground to them next time.
My more cynical take: if GOP moderates were really going to pull the Republican Party back from the brink of total weirdness, they would have done it a long time ago. All this insanity didn’t just start last month, after all.
I’m not convinced there’s enough rationality left in the right wing hive mind to guarantee there won’t be any more episodes like this (no matter how self-destructive), or that John Boehner won’t continue to pander to the Tea Creatures, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if either turns out to be the case.