As 2013 draws to a close, there’s plenty of year-end lists and accolades, and much of the Beltway media decided quite a while ago that President Obama had the “worst year in Washington,” my arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.
But who had the best year? According to a new National Journal piece, it was House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
John Boehner spent 2013 methodically transforming himself from prey to predator, a Machiavellian makeover that belies the underrated political savvy of Washington’s favorite punching bag. […]
Boehner not only endured the January uprising, but has earned the respect of those members who organized it. As a result, the conference is more unified than at any point in recent memory, and Boehner’s standing has never been stronger.
That’s one, extraordinarily generous way to look at it.
But my take on Boehner’s year is a little different. Taking stock of the last 12 months, we see a beleaguered House Speaker with no legislative accomplishments at all. And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In 2013, Boehner shut down the federal government, not because he wanted to, but because his right-wing members ignored his wishes and forced his hand. He ultimately had to cave in exchange for nothing.
In 2013, Boehner threatened another debt-ceiling crisis, again at the far-right’s behest, clinging to his misguided “Boehner Rule.” Once his scheme collapsed, he was left humiliated, his credibility in tatters, and his so-called “rule” was relegated to the trash.
In 2013, Boehner oversaw the least productive Congress since clerks started keeping track several generations ago, and when asked to defend his chamber’s record of ineptitude, the Speaker demanded that Congress be judged on how many laws it repeals – apparently unaware that he’s failed miserably on this front, too.
In 2013, Boehner ignored the overwhelming will of the American mainstream, killing several popular legislative proposals, ignoring the need for job creation, and refusing to schedule votes on bills that enjoy majority support.
In 2013, Boehner’s chamber struggled to complete even routine tasks, and ended the year with important legislation sitting undone.
In 2013, Boehner saw his caucus reject his guidance repeatedly, fight amongst themselves, and push his party to new depths of national unpopularity.
This guy had “the best year in Washington”? As compared to the House Republican who got busted on cocaine charges? Maybe. But compared to everyone else? I’m not seeing it.
The National Journal piece, written by Tim Alberta, emphasizes that Boehner ended the year on stronger footing, passing a budget compromise and thumbing his nose at right-wing groups. On this, Alberta raises an entirely fair point – and if one wants to argue that the Speaker may be positioned for an improved 2014, there’s ample evidence to support the thesis.
But Boehner had an awful 2013, burdened by weakness, incompetence, and poor judgment. He accomplished nothing and solidified his reputation as the most inept Speaker of his generation. If he had DC’s best year, Washington is in worse shape than widely understood.