Watching House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on "Meet the Press" yesterday, it was hard not to wonder about the Republican leader's frame of mind. Given the distance between reality and his rhetoric, one question hung over the interview: does Boehner actually believe his own talking points?
For example, the Speaker insisted, "[T]here's no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester." Host David Gregory explained that the claim is "just not true," leading Boehner to respond:
"Well, David that's just nonsense. If [President Obama] had a plan, why wouldn't Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?"
Now, I suppose it's possible that the Speaker of the House doesn't know what a Senate filibuster is, but Boehner has been in Congress for two decades, and I find it implausible that he could be this ignorant. The facts are not in dispute: Democrats unveiled a compromise measure that required concessions from both sides; the plan enjoyed majority support in the Senate; and Republicans filibustered the proposal. That's not opinion; that's just what happened.
"If he had a plan, why wouldn't Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?" One of two things are true: either the House Speaker has forgotten how a bill becomes a law in 2013 or he's using deliberately deceptive rhetoric in the hopes that Americans won't know the difference. It's one or the other.
What's worse, the "dunce vs. deceiver" debate intensified as the interview progressed.
Consider this gem:
"Listen, there's no one in this town who's tried harder to come to an agreement with the president and to deal with our long-term spending problem, no one."
If by "tried," Boehner means "blew off every overly generous offer extended by the White House," then sure, he tried. In reality, Boehner walked away from the Grand Bargain in 2011, walked away from another Grand Bargain to pursue "Plan B" (remember that fiasco?); and walked away from balanced compromise on sequestration.
Or how about this one about the sequester:
"Listen. I don't know whether it's going to hurt the economy or not."
Boehner, just two weeks ago, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the sequester is going to hurt the economy. Does the Speaker not remember this?
And finally, let's not forget this one:
"I'm going to say it one more time. The president got his tax hikes on January the first. The issue here is spending. Spending is out of control."
First, no sane person could look at stagnant government spending rates during the Obama era and think it's "out of control." Second, using Boehner's own logic, the Speaker got his spending cuts in 2011 -- to the tune of nearly $1.5 trillion -- so if we're following his line of reasoning, the issue isn't spending.
Honestly, Boehner came across as a man who's just terribly confused about the basics of the ongoing debate. Putting aside ideology and preferred policy agendas, the Speaker just doesn't seem to keep up on current events especially well -- he doesn't remember the 2011 spending cuts; he doesn't remember last week's Senate filibuster; he doesn't remember President Obama's offers to cut more spending; he doesn't remember his own op-eds; and he doesn't remember the economic growth that followed tax increases in the 1980s and 1990s.
I'm tempted to take up a collection to help buy Boehner some remedial materials, but I'm not sure what he'd need first: an Economic 101 textbook or a subscription to a daily newspaper.