Filling our monthly bitter-pill subscription
I truly wish I had confidence that Speaker Boehner and the rest of the leadership would come roaring out of this debt-ceiling capitulation and deliver that focused battle against ObamaCare you speak of. Part of the problem with the perennial "we'll fight next time" response is that at a moment like this, when it really does make sense from both strategic and philosophical standpoints - what better exercise of good old-fashioned civics than to tell the American people, "Here are our plans, and if that sounds good to you, give us the Senate?" - it falls on the deaf ears of people who remember how often last time was supposed be next time.
I agree that Boehner has been disappointing. Sometimes I'm willing to cut him slack for playing a bad hand of cards as best he could, but other times he seems to be making very obvious mistakes, driven largely by the desire to make Beltway media hate his party a bit less. The entire GOP leadership is to blame for failing to integrate the Tea Party's energy into the Republican fold. A surge of eager voters who handed the Democrats a historic victory in 2010 would have been treated better (and of course wouldn't have to worry about the media portraying them as Neanderthal extremists.)
The real problem is not so much the intractable Barack Obama as the intractable and invisible Harry Reid. Reid is the hit man who quietly murders every good bill to emerge from the Republican House. On the rare occasions when someone at the press bothers to point a camera at him, the results are sickening and repulsive to the American people ("Why should I care about kids with cancer when government employees are suffering?") but that almost never happens. The public doesn't know how he scuttles pro-growth House bills or "fills the amendment tree" to poison legislation. They blame the Republican Party in a nebulous sense for do-nothing gridlock, when it's really this one guy who is personally responsible for most of it. His invisibility means President Obama never has to pay the political price for openly vetoing bills that would sound great to the voters. For whatever reason, the GOP leadership doesn't even try to explain that to the American people.
Instead, the GOP leadership accepts a media narrative that blames them for everything, especially when they think some of the blame can be dumped on those conservative and Tea Party upstarts they hate. They fight internal battles with glee, but shrink from external conflicts with the Democrats, afraid to use anything resembling the fiery language routinely deployed against them.
The result is that Democrats rarely pay the kind of political price Republicans do, for either success or failure. Democrat political capital remains safely locked in the bank, while Republicans deliberately burn theirs as an offering to the media gods. The debt ceiling capitulation is another example of that. The Democrats mostly sat quietly and watched Republicans negotiate with themselves, until they got to zero. It's not going to hurt as much as it would have, say, last year, because the wind is at Republican backs, and the American people aren't really in a mood to watch the Left do a victory dance over its new license to accumulate unlimited debt without restrictions.
An issue that could have hurt the Left has been quietly surrendered because Republican leaders feared a bitter battle would hurt them more at this moment, and they're probably right. Some of the blame for that must go to the American people, who have yet to stand up and make the kind of demands that would stiffen GOP spines. But I fear they're not going to stand up unless we get more actual leadership out of the leadership.