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Boehner’s weak attack on Conservative “outside” groups

Speaker Boehner has blasted conservative outside groups for their opposition to the Ryan-Murray budget deal. Presumably, his attack is aimed at such groups as Heritage Action, Freedom Works, and the Club for Growth.

Boehner claims that such groups “have lost all credibility.” Asked whether these groups should stand down, the Speaker responded, “I don’t care what they do.” The House leadership has also suggested that the outside groups are fighting the budget deal as a way of raising money.

Boehner’s attack lacks merit. Even if one believes that, on balance, the deal deserves to pass, its merit falls well short of what should be required before denying the good faith of opponents.

No one can believe that this compromise is a fiscally sound deal. Its merit, if any, resides in tactical considerations. Tactical disagreements should not give rise to vitriolic attacks.

Boehner’s only evidence of “bad faith” on the part of opponents of the deal consists of the fact that they criticized it before they had seen it. But the modern legislative process, in which deals are reached by a small number of legislators — in this case basically two of them — and then slated immediately for a vote, requires anticipatory opposition based on reports about the impending deal.

Boehner has not shown that the deal, once finally revealed, did not suffer from the main problems cited in the anticipatory criticism. And the critics say that they offered those close to the deal the opportunity to correct press accounts of the compromise before they attacked it.

Boehner’s attack is also unwise. In all likelihood, he has the votes he needs to pass the deal. So why lash out at opponents within the Party? Does Boehner imagine a Republican majority in which groups like Heritage and the Club for Growth have abandoned the Party? I don’t, and certainly not a conservative majority. So why antagonize them unnecessarily?

Boehner’s attack seems to reflect bitterness over the shutdown fight, which the outside groups helped drive. The bitterness is understandable. But Boehner didn’t publicly blast these groups at that time. Instead, he went along with what they wanted.

To attack these groups now only makes Boehner look weak for not having stood up to them when it mattered, and petty for barking at them long after the fact.

Boehner seems like a guy who didn’t even honk his horn when a driver cut him off and side-swiped him, but two months later rolls down the window and curses at the same driver after seeing him driving a few miles over the speed limit.

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