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The wrong guy to talk about 'leadership'

<p>&lt;p&gt;House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who apparently missed the spotlight over the recent recess, is all over the news this afternoon.&lt;/p&gt;</p>
The wrong guy to talk about 'leadership'
The wrong guy to talk about 'leadership'

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who apparently missed the spotlight over the recent recess, is all over the news this afternoon. There were his strange remarks on CBS this morning, followed by Boehner complaining to reporters this afternoon that President Obama is "shrinking from his responsibility to lead."

I'm sure John Boehner has many fine qualities, but I have to admit, listening him lecture the president about leadership is a bit much.

Whether one agrees with him on the issues or not, Boehner is easily the weakest House Speaker in recent memory, in large part because he's "shrunk from his responsibility to lead." Boehner got pushed around during the debt-ceiling fiasco; he was pushed around on the budget; and was left weakened and embarrassed during the fight over the payroll tax cut.

If there's any evidence of Boehner having great leadership skills, it's hiding well.

There's arguably no better example than the highway bill -- a measure Boehner hoped would be his signature accomplishment of 2012, but which has proven to be a debacle after the Speaker's own caucus decided to ignore his plans. Boehner is poised to have some success on a temporary extension, but it's remarkable to consider the steps that have led to this point.

What was once seen as Boehner's effort to leave his imprint on a fundamental aspect of the federal government has since devolved into a legislative nightmare. [...]Boehner has sought to sweeten the legislation with his latest offering by including language mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But many conservatives have questioned the strength of the provision. [...]Boehner is taking few chances. The Rules Committee today is expected to consider a closed rule for the bill, which would likely preclude conservatives from offering any amendments on the floor.

In this case, Boehner wants a closed process because he's worried about his own caucus once again ignoring his lead and killing his bill.

Sure, Mr. Speaker, tell us another one about how Obama isn't an effective enough leader.

I'm reminded of a piece we discussed a couple of months ago, as it became clear that Boehner ostensibly leads a caucus that's increasingly disinclined to follow him.

With internally divisive fights over religion and the budget looming, Speaker John Boehner's leadership is showing increasing signs of wear and tear, according to GOP lawmakers who warn that his often laissez-faire approach has encouraged dissension and open defiance among the rank and file.Since taking the gavel, the Ohio Republican has explicitly pursued an approach to leadership that rejects the traditional top-down, carrot-and-stick approach of former Speakers, such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in favor of a more hands-off style.But that decision has come at a cost to Boehner. While his continued leadership of the party is not in doubt, in multiple interviews his colleagues said the Speaker's desire to use a more open approach has made shepherding his raucous Conference increasingly difficult.

One Republican House member told Roll Call that this election year, the intra-party, intra-chamber divisions are likely to get even messier. Boehner's style leadership leads "to a climate ... [of] 'Eh, who cares. What's he going to do to me?'" the GOP lawmaker said, adding that at some point members will simply say, "Sorry, we're not going back to that well."

In fairness to Boehner, he's still something of a rookie in this gig, and maybe his competence and leadership abilities will emerge in time. But looking back over the last several decades, we haven't seen a House Speaker this ineffectual in generations. This is generally considered one of the most powerful positions in the federal government, and Boehner seems to be shrinking, both in stature and influence.

Some of this is the result of a sudden, large majority -- Boehner leads a massive freshman class, and since they didn't even know the man up until a year ago, he hasn't cultivated a lengthy relationship with any of them. For that matter, these freshmen are far to the right of any caucus in modern American history, which makes their tolerance for compromises and concessions practically nonexistent. Boehner's been around Capitol Hill for a long while, and he doesn't know how to play the game by the rules Tea Party freshmen prefer, especially when the other party controls the Senate and White House.

Whatever the cause, the end result is the same: Boehner may wield the Speaker's gavel, but he hasn't demonstrated much of an ability to lead anyone, anywhere. It's why Congress can't pass meaningful legislation; why Boehner has brought offers, hat in hand, to his caucus, only to be shot down; and why the institution has the lowest approval rating since the dawn of modern polling.

For Boehner to struggle to lead this badly, only to complain about the president "shrinking from his responsibility to lead," is pretty silly.