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?

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.

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. 



Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.