John Boehner Is Basically Running a Summer Camp for 3rd-Graders

Robert Costa’s behind-the-scenes look at the Republican House leadership is interesting primarily for the way it shows how John Boehner deals with his caucus these days. In a nutshell, he has to treat them like very small, very volatile children who can’t be reasoned with and have to be constantly cajoled along with promises of treats somewhere down the road. Like this:

Members were also buzzing about the leadership’s emerging strategy for the autumn talks. Sources tell me the House GOP will probably avoid using a shutdown as leverage and instead use the debt limit and sequester fights as areas for potential legislative trades. Negotiations over increasing the debt limit have frequently been used to wring concessions out of the administration, so there may be movement in that direction: Delay Obamacare in exchange for an increased debt limit. As members huddled and talked through scenarios, leadership aides reminded them that since the House GOP retreat in Williamsburg, Va., earlier this year, the plan has been to end the year with a debt-limit chess game, and not a messy continuing-resolution impasse. But the aides didn’t press too hard. As Boehner knows all too well from past struggles, it often takes only 20 to 30 irritated Republicans to destroy his best-laid plans.

This is, of course, crazy. Boehner is stringing them along with a fairy tale about how a government shutdown would be messy and unwinnable in September, but somehow a hostage crisis with a threatened debt default in November will go swimmingly. So eat your vegetables, kids, and we’ll all have ice cream cones later! This despite the fact that a debt ceiling crisis is worse than a budget showdown and far less likely to produce any kind of concessions. I suspect Boehner knows this perfectly well, but figures he’ll just have to cross that bridge when he comes to it.

As for delaying Obamacare in exchange for a debt ceiling increase, Boehner must know that this is a fantasy. But the kids are insisting that the Easter Bunny is too real, and I guess Dad knows there’s no point in trying to convince them otherwise. All he can do is hope that when the time comes, maybe they can be bought off with some other shiny bauble.