I am struck by the fact that at one of the most important moments in American history, the leader of the country is not at the White House.
Instead, he’s in an office in the Longworth Building in Washington, D.C.
And, his name isn’t Barack Obama, but John Boehner.
He’s not the President of the United States, but the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Over the course of the past several weeks, while President Obama has thrown temper tantrums at press conferences, and issue edicts and ultimatums, John Boehner has been a steady, consistent presence in the most critical fiscal debate of modern times.
Regardless of where you come down on all of the various proposals that have been floated on how to cut the debt and to raise the debt ceiling, it’s hard not to admire – and appreciate – the calm, cool presence of John Boehner.
A friend of mine, John Feehery, recently wrote of “Drama Obama”, which I think accurately reflects the true picture of our President. An individual who was elected to office, backed by a remarkable cadre of publicists who wooed the media into perceiving, and promoting, an image of a President who was unaffected by the drama around him.
As millions of Americans now see, it may well be the lack of the drama within Obama that keeps him from appreciating or feeling the economic pain that they, and Americans across the nation continue to feel each and everyday.
Unfortunately, for all Americans, the President has created an awful lot of drama around him, and the end result has been confusion, anger, frustration and sheer anxiety.
The 79 year old Mother of a friend of mine in Saint Paul, Minnesota confronted him and asked why the President was going to stop paying her Social Security check if Congress didn’t raise the debt ceiling.
As was the case in 2002 when my own Mom and Dad expressed outrage when politicians threatened their social security, it remains the truth today. Nobody’s touching any current recipient’s social security check – debt ceiling being raised or not.
The President may not have internal drama, but for millions of Americans on Social Security he created a lot of drama and fear about her future.
Which is why having John Boehner at the center of the discussion and debate, and frankly, being the leader of the efforts to find a way to achieve a budget agreement that will result in significant cuts in our national debt, while still raising the debt ceiling in a responsible way, is both comforting and beneficial.
Like his GOP colleague in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, Boehner understands that America voted for divided government for the very purpose of the situation we find ourselves in today.
He also knows that his job isn’t to bring forward the best proposal for Republicans, but for all Americans.
There are 240 GOP members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and it is within that caucus of 240 members that Boehner needs to articulate his thoughts, his vision and, ultimately, his plan for bringing to a vote a bill that will not only pass the U.S. House of Representatives – but the U.S. Senate – and will be signed by the President.
As Doug Holtz-Eakin, President of the American Action Forum has said, the proposal by Speaker Boehner is “… a way to meet the need to raise the debt limit. Moreover, the Boehner plan forces Congress to address entitlements sooner (six months) rather than later.
But, most importantly, as Holtz-Eakin points out, “The ideal debt-limit package would combine up-front discretionary cuts with medium-term discretionary controls and real policy changes to entitlement programs that address the spending explosion and display to international capital markets the ability of the United States to address the debt threat. The Boehner plan is not ideal, but certainly is a strong B+. The Reid plan, in contrast, is a gentleman’s C at best.”
Trying to meet the needs of everyone cannot be easy work for anyone.
But, candidly, if not for Boehner and his 240 member caucus, America would not even be having this debate.
By now, with Nancy Pelosi in power, along with Harry Reid and Barack Obama, we would have not only raised the debt ceiling – but we likely would have raised taxes and increased spending even more in America.
It’s a process that is painful, and often, it can bring even the most patient American to the conclusion that everything about our process of democracy is broken and dysfunctional.
The President has said America voted for divided government, not dysfunctional government.
In that, I agree with the President.
However, he misses the real point, and has since the November 2010 election.
The dysfunction of government isn’t that everyone doesn’t agree with him and his liberal allies in Congress.
The dysfunction of government is that the President and his liberal allies can’t understand why they don’t.
In a quote most often attributed to Winston Churchill, it has been said that “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”
In 2011, in the midst of the ugliness occurring in Washington, D.C., that still remains true.
It remains to be seen what the final result of the gnashing of teeth between Congress and the White House will be, and what the next steps are in the debate over the fiscal future of America.
But this much is certain and without a doubt, Speaker of the House John Boehner is the right person at the right time to get to the right solution.
Those who doubt his resolve, or his ability to bring to conclusion a most difficult and thorny debate, I would suggest to them that we are having this debate today because John Boehner is exactly where he needs to be.
And, frankly, for those who believe he hasn’t done enough, I would suggest to them that the alternative is what drove America to put John Boehner in the driver’s seat today.
Godspeed, John Boehner – let’s bring this debate home and get America back on a path of fiscal sanity for future economic growth and job creation.