House Speaker John Boehner steps down from his powerful post with a dreadful record in passing legislation other than regular votes to block Obamacare. It could all have been so different.
Boehner has earned some sympathy for his difficulty in dealing with the 40 or so hard right Tea Party types in the House who seek to block legislation they don’t like at every turn, but the truth is he does not deserve any.
Boehner was in the perfect place to deliver a massive legislative accomplishment on immigration reform which had already passed the Senate, but his reaction was to duck and run in fear of his right wing. He had enough votes with an overwhelming majority of Democrats and 40 or so Republicans ready to pass the bill but Boehner was no profile in courage, refusing to bring a bill to the floor unless a majority of his own caucus would vote for it.
Thus Boehner failed the leadership test abjectly and left an even bigger immigration mess behind him, exploited by racists like Donald Trump and others.
The opportunity has likely passed now for immigration reform given the harsh climate that prevails. No man contributed more to this fact than John Boehner.
The fact is that the influence of the speaker, the third most powerful job in American politics, is immense. At any time Boehner could have called the bill up and removed the poisonous atmosphere surrounding the issue with one vote.
Alas it was not to be, and Boehner will go down in history as a failure and deservedly so.
The inability to wiled power, to refuse to take political opportunity, will haunt him.
It was interesting that right after meeting Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. last week, Boehner decided to resign. Maybe he saw how power can be exercised in a moral and admirable way.
No doubt Boehner will be back lobbying in Washington soon, lining his pockets working on K Street. Yet there will surely be moments he will reflect how wrong he called it when in power with the biggest GOP majority in decades.
Boehner could have been a hero, the man who led the drive to settle the hugely divisive immigration debate for once and for all. He’s been criticizing the hard right GOP members in the House since his resignation, but that doesn’t really count anymore.
“We have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know, they know are never going to happen,” he said on Face the Nation last Sunday, referring to the Tea Party members who are anti-everything it seems.
But why didn’t Boehner use those words when they could have really mattered during the immigration debate?
Boehner was a man easily moved to tears, but let's not cry for him. Given the opportunity he had we should shed tears for a missed glorious opportunity.