The long-overdue departure of John Boehner from his lack of leadership as Speaker of the House should really be an insignificant story, for a number of reasons. First, there's the aforesaid lack of leadership. Boehner took his Constitutional position as the third most powerful individual in our nation's government, and turned it into a nearly five-year excuse to guzzle free bourbon and point fingers at the President trying to fix the economy the GOP nearly destroyed. Second, and to be fair (but only slightly), Boehner's near-invisibility as a leader is due largely to the fact that the House Republican caucus is effectively ruled by a crazy minority of individuals (I feel using the word "people" would be an act of charity) that are convinced they can turn the moon into green cheese, if only they insist enough that Barack Obama "caves" so that it can happen.
This intransigence, largely an artifact of gerrymandering (and demonstrating the downside of trying too hard to manipulate the power to vote), is not going to go away anytime soon. So says the establishment chattering classes; here is but one example. But not everyone is thinking along those lines. It turns out that there are a few optimists left in the mainstream media in the world, ones who are floating an idea that would allow Boehner to potentially undue the most legislatively and morally egregious act of his Speakership. That idea: Boehner using his remaining days at the podium to introduce comprehensive immigration reform, perhaps even reviving the bill the Senate passed in 2013.
Let me, as we lawyers say from time to time, refresh your recollection. That bill, passed by a more than two-thirds bipartisan majority, was far from perfect,, if (as I am) you're an immigration advocate. Still, it managed to get Democrats and Republicans on board behind the most significant immigration legislation in decades. That's because, for all of its flaws, it successfully addressed border control, guest worker visas and the human rights crisis that we have all allowed to fester in our midst--the 11 million stateless souls (even "undocumented" is too polite a way to put it) that have become the most embarrassing political football of our time.
And Boehner, in order to keep himself swimming in free bourbon and away from the crazies in his own party, spiked it. Didn't allow debate. Didn't attempt to amend it. Didn't even allow a simple two-hour floor vote, one that would have shaved a little time off of House members' weeks of paid vacation. Despite being the leader of "the People's House," Boehner shut down a debate the people of this country needed to have--for no other reason than to pad his ample majority in the 2014 election.
Well, mission accomplished, John. You got your padded majority. And now you see what little good it does you. It doesn't insulate you from the crazies, nor does it keep you in free bourbon (but don't worry, K Street can help you with the latter). So why not do the right thing, and put this issue behind all of us once and for all? It would be good for your party, good for the sagging reputation of the House, and, above all, good for the American people. You remember the American people, don't you, John? Long ago, before the Supreme Court made elections something that could be bought at Tiffany's or Cartier's, they were the ones that fought the wars and ran the country. Chris Matthews wants you to do it. The New York Times wants you to do it, saying it would be an "October Miracle" for you. Why NOT go for it?
Ah, but here's the rub: Republicans do not admit making mistakes, even when everyone, including them, knows that they have made them. Not when it comes to self-financing tax cuts. Not when it comes to self-financing wars. Not when it comes to granting its followers the religious freedom to take away the religious freedom of others. And not, absolutely NOT, when it comes to passing legislation that would benefit non-white members of our society. After all, a party that is becoming whiter by the minute can't afford to share the people's power with THOSE people. Can they?
Well, what if our President finally inserted himself into the immigration debate in the way that many of us had hoped he would years ago? What if he went beyond administrative acts of prosecutorial mercy (which are bottled up in the courts in any case)? What if, above all, he taught the Republicans a meaningful political lesson, to wit: budgetary blackmail is a two-way street? Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Obama could be the real author of the "October Miracle." Maybe he could be the one to force Republicans to embrace the reality of a changing country in a changing world. And all he would have to do is say something that goes like this.
"Mr. Speaker, I wish you the best in your retirement. By the way, that retirement is probably going to be spent largely at places, from golf courses to nursing homes, that depend heavily on immigrants. So let me do you a favor. Let me be sure than you'll have a steady supply of practical help in your declining years. That's why I've decided not to sign a budget bill until you and Mitch McConnell hold a vote in October on the CIR bill you choked to death last year."
DO IT, Mr. President. Draw the line, and dare the drunkard not to cross it. It's the only way to get him to do the right thing. It may be the only way to do the right thing by 11 million souls.