I’m not sure I’m ready to take this all the way to conspiracy-theory status, but it’s awfully convenient for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu captured America’s attention with his speech to Congress even as the final sordid act of the Cromnibus drama was playing out.
Boehner caved on amnesty while Netanyahu was standing up to the cavemen of Iran.
In case you’ve forgotten the Cromnibus horror – it was several long news cycles ago! – that was the genius strategy in which GOP leaders stripped their own caucus of the power to shape the nation’s budget for a year, as they once again decided that the hill they happened to be standing on wasn’t a hill worth fighting for.
A strategic retreat before the irresistible power of the Democrats – the party American voters curb-stomped in the 2014 election – was arranged. Republican leaders planted their tattered “Next Time, We’ll Fight!” flag on a funding showdown over the one piece of the Obama Administration they didn’t fund for an entire year: the Department of Homeland Security. (I imagine that flag looking a bit like the Gadsden design, except the snake is a sock puppet missing one of its button eyes, and the battle cry embroidered beneath it says “Don’t Tread On Me Again, I Really Mean It This Time.”)
In this bold strategic gamble, the Republicans would use DHS funding as leverage against Obama and the Democrats to make them cut funding for Obama’s illegal amnesty orders, which along the way got smacked down by a federal judge – a development that briefly led some people to think maybe the GOP leadership had finally devised a winning political strategy. Anyone who thought that should have known better. The legal challenge to amnesty might indeed be what kills it, but there’s no way our Republican solons could figure out how to draw useful political energy from such an event. They’re not even terribly good at coming up with graceful ways to lose.
Even in the heat of the Cromnibus battle, I always found it strange that anyone could see the DHS funding strategy as a credible effort by Republican leaders to win the amnesty battle.
For one thing, they don’t really want to win – quite a few of the Establishment’s donors are looking forward to that tidal wave of cheap legalized labor, and they don’t mind seeing the GOP become a permanent minority party in the Democrats’ redesigned electorate. Actually, an environment where it’s virtually impossible for the Republicans to gain real power is ideal. They want influence, not power. Influence as a minority party is useful and valuable, but it doesn’t come with the messy burden of responsibility. It leads to a lot of “Hey, we tried, but our hands were tied” speeches… exactly like the ones you’ll be hearing in the days to come, after Boehner’s amnesty cave.
More importantly, the huge red flag flapping over the Cromnibus strategy was that everyone with the briefest exposure to beltway Republicans knows they hold the belief, with nearly religious certitude, that Republicans always lose shutdown fights.
Obviously the actual voters don’t feel that way – hence the 2014 election – but the clergy of the Beltway media insist on it, and establishment Republicans accept their gospel. The media will always proceed from the basic Narrative that Democrats would never interfere with the smooth operation of the government they love so much. It doesn’t matter how many thick, greasy Democrat fingerprints are on the shutdown gun – media detectives will never finger them for the crime. After the ObamaCare shutdown battle, Establishment Republicans embraced this narrative more fervently than ever, because it absolved them of all political responsibility for what transpired, and they never liked Ted Cruz much anyway.
So… why would a GOP leadership absolutely convinced it will lose any and all funding showdowns engineer a funding showdown over Homeland Security, of all things?
The end of this drama was obvious from the instant the idea was floated months ago. There’s no way the Republican leadership would use the kind of tough talk against Obama and his “Americans-in-waiting” that would be necessary to reframe the issue in the minds of the public. What actually just happened was Democrats taking Homeland Security hostage to promote the interests of foreign nationals, but nobody in the upper echelon of the Republican caucus was going to talk that way.
It’s also rather difficult to believe they seriously thought Democrat “moderates” were going to stick with them against President Obama and the Democrat congressional leadership. There are no Democrat “moderates” any more, and both Boehner and nominal Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell know it. (Notice how Netanyahu slipped and started to refer to McConnell as the “minority” leader at the beginning of his speech? Very understandable mistake, Mr. Prime Minister.)
Everyone saw how the supposedly “moderate” Democrats who got bounced out of office in 2014 behaved, once it was no longer necessary to convince the rubes they were straight-shooting, free-willed, right-leaning gadflies who would become Obama’s worst lame-duck nightmares if re-elected.
There’s no way to autopsy the Cromnibus deal as anything but a scam to keep rule-of-law conservatives in line for a few extra months, until the pre-ordained hour of defeat arrived. The line we’re getting from Republican leaders right now is exactly like the “bad deal is better than war” straw man Netanyahu criticized Obama for burning to cast his Iranian nuclear deal in a less unflattering light.
Even before Netanyahu began speaking on Tuesday, word came out that Boehner would give Democrats the “clean” DHS funding they wanted all along, completing a surrender he could have made months ago with demonstrably less damage to the Republican brand… including anger from the conservative base, which is not going to be mollified by a fabulously inept Cromnibus finale in which Boehner and McConnell burned away Republican political capital and got absolutely nothing in return.
The end of American citizenship will be fully funded, and Republican signatures will be on the check. Now get ready for the Cromnibus epilogue, in which Establishment Republicans agree with Democrats that conservatives who insisted on trying to block Obama’s amnesty are the real problem with America, and should be driven away from the polls so the Establishment can put forth a respectable loser of a presidential candidate in 2016.
I don’t know if the leadership planned to use Netanyahu’s address to Congress all along as a distraction from this fiasco, but I’ve heard far less plausible conspiracy theories.