Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is John Boehner a "traitor"?

Sandy Levinson

I had a very interesting conversation today with a friend who is a genuinely conservative Republican; he pronounced himself disgusted with the House and in fact denounced them collectively as "traitors" for their insouciant willingness to risk the full faith and credit of the United States in a petulant gesture of defiance.  I remonstrated that surely some members of the House actually believe their own arguments and believe that they are acting to save the country.  I think they are utterly wrong, but that is different from denouncing them as traitors.  My own preference, of course, is to denounce a constitutional system that gives this minority such an excess of power in our government. 

However, no such kindness is due Speaker of the House John Boehner, who cannot possibly believe that a government default is a remotely good idea.  He is a complete and utter coward (and liar) who refuses to bring to the floor legislation that could easily pass (with 200 Democratic and 18 Republican votes) and avert what increasingly appears to be a likely catastrophe (that will begin with yet another drop in the US credit rating because of the banana-republic-like instability of our political order).  He is more truly contemptible even than the junior Senator from Texas, who is, as Jack Balkin has argued, a combination of Lenin, Joe McCarthy, and Huey Long, without the slightest trace of loyalty to the institutional Republican Party.  Indeed, from his perspective, they're almost all Mensheviks, and he is leading the Bolshevik wing that will take over apres le deluge.  Boehner has no excuses at all; he is neither a principled politician nor building a new political career that depends on the destruction of the Republican Party.  He is simply a weak, cowardly, pathetic man.  Perhaps we should compare him to James Buchanan, but I suspect that Buchanan genuinely believed, perhaps even for good reason, that he was without power to prevent secession.  There should be special circle in political hell reserved for Boehner.

Frankly, I see no point in opening this for comment.  I'm not interested in a debate about whether default would/will "really" be catastrophic or even whether it would be less catastrophic than raising the debt ceiling.  My argument is totally different, that John Boehner is perhaps the "ideal-type" anti-Madisonian political figure, wholly and completely without any demonstrated interest in the "public good" and seemingly interested exclusively in hanging on to the prerogatives of being Speaker of the House. 

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