Is John Boehner a Genius for Preventing a Debt Default?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 16 2013 12:52 PM

Is John Boehner a Genius for Preventing a Debt Default?

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Maybe we aren't giving John Boehner enough credit.

Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

A reader asks me for a special-order #slatepitch: Was John Boehner actually a brilliant leader, the savior of the government, the ender of hostage-taking politics? The argument:

1. Funded the government.
2. Raised the Debt Ceiling.
3. Kept the Republican House Caucus relatively united.
4. Kept his job as speaker.
Completing all four of these things with a rabid right flank was no easy task.  I think he is being criticized too much and I'm a liberal Democrat.
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This might ... not be wrong. At a panel of House conservatives sponsored by the Heritage Foundation today, a reporter asked a sure-thing awkward question. If a deal passed in the House with more Democratic support than Republican support, would the conservatives want a new speaker?

"No," said Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador—who actually voted against Boehner for speaker this January. "I've been really proud of Speaker Boehner. I'm more upset with my Republican conference. It's Republicans here who don't want to fight, but always want to fight the next fight. If anybody should be kicked out, it's those Republicans and not Speaker Boehner."

I see the argument, definitely, if you assume that Republicans could only have been brought to heel if it were proved that their speaker fought for them until the last dog died. But I'm not sure how that's an endorsement of Boehner's leadership in Congress. If it turns out that the final deal funds the government and raises the debt limit with few other conditions, that's what Democrats claimed to be ready to support before the shutdown started. We're just acknowledging that Boehner had to waste two weeks and billions of dollars in lost wealth to break the "majority of the majority" Hastert rule.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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