“This isn’t a budget. This a cause.” That’s what Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, told the breathless media as he stood before a group of tea party freshmen. He’s right. Because what Republicans are presenting as “do or die and shutdown” in Washington is clearly not a serious attempt at balancing the budget.
Instead, what Republicans are demanding in exchange for a deal: defunding “Obamacare,” ending federal subsidies for NPR and Planned Parenthood, slashing subsidies to the poor and disabled, are long-held conservative ideological tropes, dressed up and trotted out in the arms of tea party freshmen who seem either willfully or incidentally ignorant to the basic workings of government.
The tea party members, who make real the campaign-era description of them as “Joe the Butcher goes to Washington” — cannot abide the idea of their putative leader, John Boehner, cutting a deal with hated Democrats. One can only imagine poor Speaker Boehner, heavy with cigarette smoke and probably Scotch, trying to explain to the luddites how things are supposed to work; that deals ultimately have to be done, only to be told to shut down the government or face a primary in his Ohio district (or his giant gavel in the hands of Michele Bachmann…)
Meanwhile, Boehner has to keep a constant eye on his deputy, Eric Cantor, who is equal parts House whip, and heir apparent — the kind of heir apparent you don’t allow you to serve you your meals without a food taster.
And so, Boehner has to pretend that he really isn’t doing what he’s actually doing (cutting a deal with President Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi behind the scenes.) He has to pretend that there never will be a deal unless abortion is abolished from the land, Sesame Street is stricken from the air, and Medicare and Social Security are safely in the hands of big insurance companies and Wall Street — preferably tomorrow. He has to take it to the brink (to the delight of the drama-hungry media) or risk a palace revolt.
In the end, though, you’ve got to believe Boehner, who is nothing if not an opportunist, is also not politically suicidal (though the teabaggies may be making him actually suicidal. He will cut a deal, after making a great show of trying to fight the evil Democrats. And then he’ll go play golf.
Great reading on this topic today:
Steve Benen has a great piece on the danger Paul Ryan’s disaster budget is putting his fellow Republicans in. In fact, as Greg Sargent notes, Democrats are already preparing to use Ryan’s budget in upcoming Senate campaigns. Also from Sargent: why Dems shouldn’t take the GOP bait on Medicare.
Meanwhile, per Ezra Klein, Alice Rivlin backs far, far away from Ryan.
UPDATE: From the Washington Post, signs the righties realize they’re screwed.