Boehner presser: A man with no leverage, a nation still happy to dither

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Published by: Dan Calabrese on Friday December 21st, 2012

By DAN CALABRESE - No one is serious.

Watching as I write:

There's not much light being shed here, not that we should expect it. Boehner keeps insisting that spending, and not taxes, is the problem - and he's right of course. But what of it? He can say that all he wants. There's basically no way he can prevent at least some taxes from going up, because ultimately Obama can refuse to sign anything and let us go over the cliff. And that's what Obama will do if he doesn't get something pretty attractive from Boehner.

The questions from the media are typical idiocy:

- What went wrong (with getting the bill passed):

- Why won't you talk to the president?

- What about the effect on your speakership?

And that's pretty much it. Boehner tells everyone Merry Christmas and walks out.

He emphasized that the GOP House has passed bills that would avert the cliffdive, as early as August 2011, and that's true. But everyone has always known Obama wouldn't sign those bills and Harry Reid would never bring them up for a vote in the Senate, so it might provide Boehner with a small rhetorical point to bring it up, but it never meant anything and he knows it.

Look, no one in Washington is serious about solving this problem. They all realize what we're in for if we stay on our current path, but no one is willing to face the senior lobby and whoever else will have to bite the big one, and tell them what really needs to happen.

I sympathize with Boehner to a degree, because however much some rose-colored-glasses conservatives want to think otherwise, he really has no leverage. At least not when it comes to the outcome of this particular standoff. The best Boehner can do is really start laying it out to the nation, so they understand the stakes and understand that at least someone in Washington is done pussyfooting around it. But if Boehner does that, he's going to catch all kinds of heat from the media, and from a fairly large segment of his caucus, which doesn't want to come under pressure from their own leader to take unpopular actions that might actually go some distance toward solving the problem, but would risk their careers.

Thus, Boehner will not be the guy who exercises such leadership.

The bottom line is this: Unless the public starts to really understand how serious this situation is, and starts demanding that it really be fixed - any particular constituency's goodies be damned - you're not going to get serious leadership out of a guy like John Boehner. And don't be so sure a "true conservative" Speaker would do that much better. You might find someone who can talk a better game, and might believe it, but who is expert enough at getting around the MSM filter that any significant portion of the population will ever hear it?

You can talk all you want about how politicians should lead and now follow polls, and I agree, but you know this as well as I do: Until the public demands serious solutions, Washington is not going to give them to us. As long as they think it's more politically dangerous to get serious than to dither, they're going to dither.