The Conversation

Boehner Tries the Limbaugh Theorem

The "Limbaugh theorem," named after talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, is that President Barack Obama is never to be blamed for the faults of his own administration--at least not by the mainstream media. On Thursday, Speaker of the House John Boehner tried applying the Limbaugh theorem to himself.

Lashing out against conservatives who criticized the Ryan-Murray budget deal, Boehner said: "They pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government." It other words: it wasn't his fault.

But Boehner was not pushed by anybody. He willingly went along with the conservative push, for two reasons. First. he had intended to force a showdown over the debt limit anyway, using the Full Faith and Credit Act to provide leverage over Obama and the Democrats. Second, it was win-win: if conservatives succeeded he would be hailed, and if they lost he would be able to marginalize the main source of opposition within his caucus.

If Boehner felt he was being forced to do something he did not want to do, the responsible and honorable course of action would have been to resign as Speaker. He would have remained in office and could have challenged for the office again in the next Congress, perhaps at the head of a stronger, more moderate caucus.

Instead, he has chosen to play the victim. Among the many unwise and divisive things Boehner has said in the past several days, his attempt to dodge responsibility is the most unfortunate. It is exactly the opposite of leadership. It is abdication, and it does not bode well for the future of the GOP, no matter who wins this fight.


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