Skip to main content

Boehner leading GOP to the apocalypse

By Timothy Stanley, Special to CNN
updated 9:57 AM EST, Sat December 22, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Timothy Stanley: It looks like the U.S. could be headed over the fiscal cliff
  • He says people will blame John Boehner and GOP for economic consequences
  • Stanley: Boehner couldn't clinch a deal with Obama or rally his own troops around Plan B
  • GOP needs to rethink strategy; it can't afford this kind of ineffective leadership, he says

Editor's note: Timothy Stanley is a historian at Oxford University and blogs for Britain's The Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "The Crusader: The Life and Times of Pat Buchanan."

(CNN) -- Now that the Mayan apocalypse has proven to be a fantasy, we can turn our attention to the real thing. Step forward John Boehner and the House Republicans, who could not agree on a tax rise on the rich and so have permitted taxes to jump on everyone. Over the fiscal cliff we go. And should the markets tremble and the economy rupture in the new year, we'll know who is the real author of our Armageddon. Not some Mayan priest but the GOP.

Here's the sad story of the fiscal cliff in a couple of tweets. On December 14, Eric Cantor tweeted, "We will not adjourn Congress until a credible solution to the fiscal cliff has been announced."

Indeed, it seemed like President Barack Obama and Boehner were determined to find a compromise, with the speaker edging toward "new revenues" and the president lowering the amount that he wanted. But on Thursday, Boehner tallied up the votes for his Plan B on taxes, calculated that he didn't have the number necessary for an increase on those earning more than $1 million and then withdrew the measure.

Politics: What failure on fiscal deal means for troubled Boehner

A few minutes later, Cantor tweeted, "The House of Representatives has concluded legislative business for the week. The House will return after the Christmas holiday when needed." Some might say that the business hasn't been concluded and that the House is needed right now. Either way, the "credible solution" feels as far away as it did when Cantor promised it last week.

Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley

The Republicans will pay for this. It's true that Plan B probably wouldn't have passed the Senate, and it's also true that because they don't control the presidency the Republicans were always negotiating from a position of weakness. But the popular perception will be that they preferred to allow a fiscal crisis to happen rather than raise taxes on what is calculated to be just 2% of the population (a position that polls suggest the voters favor). It smacks not only of ideology but also of greed -- a horrible combination. The result is that in the new year all those Bush tax cuts will disappear.

As the Democrats make a case for tax relief for the middle class, the GOP will be left making a case for giving a break to the rich. That puts the president's party in a good position to retake the House in 2014.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Should we blame the tea party right? Given that these lawmakers were probably the ones who denied Boehner his margin of passage, yes. But it's their job to stand up for what they believe in and hold the line against what they think are job-killing taxes. Never forget that the tea party revolt was aimed as much at the GOP establishment as it was Obama. It was Boehner's job to win these radicals over -- and his failure is what the media will now focus on.

Boehner's Plan B thrown out
House GOP implodes over Plan B
Boehner's Plan B pulled

Boehner got it wrong from the start. He worried conservatives by making an initial budget offer that seemed to give too much ground to the president. Then he tried to instill a little discipline in his ranks by denying tea party representatives posts they felt they deserved. Then he made a huge philosophical leap by endorsing the tax rise on the wealthy.

All this compromise would have been justified if it had delivered a bargain. But it didn't. Boehner made the classic political mistake of thinking that a display of reasonableness would charm the opposition and becalm the base with its rewards. Instead he has infuriated his friends and made champions of his enemies. Time magazine's decision to make Obama Person of the Year seems more appropriate than ever. Love or loath his class-war rhetoric, it's certainly working.

Politics: Before leaving town, Boehner puts fiscal cliff onus on Obama

In 2013, the GOP has to have a major rethink about its political strategy. There is one wing that feels that the Republican Party was put on the Earth to reduce the state, and perhaps it was. But while the theory might have intellectual appeal (it's always nice to encounter a politician who stands for something), it's hard to hold that position and govern responsibly in concert with a Democratic president and Senate.

Like it or not, those are the conditions that the GOP has to work in for the next two years. If he's to keep his job, Boehner needs to convince his base that it's a) risking defeat and b) hurting the small government cause to keep being so obstructionist. If he can do neither, he should go. The GOP must either have a leader who will fight back hard with the president or a leader who will be able to persuade the base to bend a little. What it can't afford is what Boehner has given it: political failure.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Stanley.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 4:08 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
updated 1:28 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
updated 6:10 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
updated 5:33 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
updated 12:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
updated 7:40 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
updated 7:46 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
updated 1:33 PM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT