He stands at the podium wearing a dark suit and salmon colored tie. His eyes are slightly bloodshot and looking more tired and beaten down than usual. But today this man is about to step out of character and show folks who's the boss.
"Ridiculous," was how Speaker John Boehner described the conservative opposition to the first budget compromise since the Ice Age. For the first time in his tenure as Speaker, John Boehner was finally going to stand up to those who have worked hard to neuter him and derail the Obama presidency.
For a fleeting moment it appeared as though this man, who has presided over the worst, do-nothing Congress in the history of the United States, was finally going to lead and stand up to the obstructionists. He did great for a minute. Maybe it was the pressure of weeks/months/years in the job. Maybe it was the fear of the risks of actually being a leader, we'll never know. But just when things looked good, Boehner made this startling admission.
"Well, frankly, I think they're (the conservative movement) misleading their followers. I think they're pushing our members in places where they don't want to be. And frankly, I just think that they've lost all credibility. You know, they pushed into us the fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of you know, my members know, that wasn't exactly the strategy that I had in mind," he said.
I guess the first question is that if this wasn't "the strategy that he had mind," why did he implement it? He's the Speaker of the House, for heaven's sake. He's one of the most powerful people in the free world. Apparently, instead of running the House like a leader he's been doing the bidding of the conservative movement, until this week. Now, years later, he's decided he's had enough.
Within hours the Conservative Action Project coalesced and fired back, declaring war on Speaker Boehner; "It is clear that the conservative movement has come under attack on Capitol Hill today," their statement reads.
So now the war is internal. Conservatives have been deemed not conservative enough by other conservatives. Who will cave first -- the 100 corporate CEOs who back the Conservative Action Project or the Speaker, who's been known to weep uncontrollably publicly?
This past week has been pretty tough on the two-party system -- or at least half of it. It's a rare day when we see the Republican Party airing its laundry in public like this. Perhaps it's the consequence of losing the presidency twice to a man that they, for whatever reason, seem to genuinely despise. It causes one to wonder where this is going to shake out.
Fortunately for Vermonters, we've just been treated to the first glimpse of the future. We were paid a visit by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Well, that's not quite accurate. The governor was in Vermont for a private fundraiser sponsored by the State Republican Party. If you paid $50 you could go. If you were a member of the Vermont Press Corps, no amount of money would get you in the door. Governor Christie refused to allow any press at the event.
Thankfully, we live in an age of technology and of the 500 or so folks that were there, 499 of them had cell phones and were able to send out information about what the governor had to say.
"Here's our message: candidates matter. Candidates matter more than money. Candidates matter more than data mining... Candidates matter more than TV commercials and they matter more than mail pieces and they matter more than those incredibly annoying automated phone calls. They matter more than any of that," Christie said Wednesday according to the Vermont Press Bureau.
He's right. Candidates do matter; a lot. However, might it be interpreted that what he's saying is that he is looking to distance himself from the Party? Should he decide to run for president (his announcement will be anticlimactic) Gov. Christie might very well have a tough time being elected in a Republican primary. He did, you will recall, hug President Obama. Those conservative Conservatives out there won't forget that.
But back to excluding the press. Why would a man who relishes the spotlight do that? We recently learned that a Christie appointee ordered three lanes of traffic closed on the George Washington Bridge for five days during the opening week of school leading into Fort Lee. This is the busiest bridge in the nation. No valid reason has been forthcoming. It appears to be a vindictive act because the mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse Christie for governor. To date Christie has only made light of the issue. No valid explanation as to why he closed the bridge has been forthcoming.
He's correct when he says "candidates matter." Gov. Christie is well-spoken and charismatic. However, underneath lies a man who appears to be thin-skinned and exhibits bully tendencies. There's a reason he failed Romney's vetting process for vice president. Maybe we'll find out.
Bob Stannard is a Banner columnist.