The Cutline

Was WSJ op-ed praising Boehner ill-conceived?

Joe Pompeo
The Cutline

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Would it be absurd to run a piece praising John Boehner's leadership on the debt deal when it appears to have failed?

The Wall Street Journal didn't seem to think so. The editorial section of the investor's broadsheet teed up a piece by opinion columnist Kimberley A. Strassel offering a glowing assessment of the House speaker's "week-long struggle to pull his party behind him."

Strassel writes: "By last night, Mr. Boehner was on the precipice of passing the only workable debt plan in town and shifting responsibility for further debt fallout across the aisle."

Only he didn't.

Boehner's plan to raise the debt ceiling while slashing government spending collapsed late Thursday evening after defiant Republicans postponed a vote on the package. As the New York Times noted in its coverage of the negotiations: "Failure to pass the measure would represent a significant defeat for Mr. Boehner, the first-year speaker who has invested significant political capital in trying to get his fractious majority behind the legislation, which had the strong support of the entire leadership team."

But to hear Strassel tell it, Boehner sounds like a martyr:

For weeks, House Republicans had feared their only choice would be between a problematic Boehner-Obama deal or their principles. Many had chosen to risk default in the name of the latter. By outing the White House and pushing a legitimate Republican alternative, Mr. Boehner gave his members a new choice: They could rally behind their leader for a deal that was good (if not perfect), or they could hand victory to President Obama.

President Obama took it from there. His week of lashing out at the GOP—in a press conference, in a national address, in a veto threat—only clarified the stakes for members and began earning Mr. Boehner standing ovations. The desperate quality of the Democratic attacks confirmed for House Republicans that the speaker was on to something.

The blame, she argues, should fall to the tea-partying conservatives standing in Boehner's way:

By Thursday evening, Mr. Boehner had moved a significant portion of his conference, though he proved unable to net the final few votes. Some remained wedded to their vow to never vote for a debt-ceiling hike. Some, like presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, continued to insist, ludicrously, that a failed deal wouldn't be a problem. It is an open question if Mr. Boehner could have ever won these votes, no matter how big, deep and dramatic a budget-cutting deal he presented.

What he did do this week is position his party to take credit for a bill that averts a crisis, cuts more spending than any Democrat ever thought possible, and exposes the White House's insincerity on the deficit and economic prosperity. The Republicans who yesterday undermined bill [sic] now bear sole responsibility for whatever political fallout comes next.

Perhaps her argument would be easier to digest had a successful vote transpired. A spokeswoman for the Journal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

You can read the full piece, "Boehner's Moment of Truth," over at

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