John Boehner's blast at Conservative interest groups was political theater at its best.
First of all, it implied a bigger division within the Republican Party than there is actually. Proof enough is that only 60-some odd GOP representatives voted against it, scarcely an overwhelming number. It made him appear responsible, and Democratic critics took the bait. The so-called civil war in the Republican Party is, if anything, a barroom fight that can be quickly cooled.
With the 2014 midterms looming, Boehner craftily sees an opportunity to place the Affordable Healthcare Act at the forefront. The government shutdown was a catastrophe, probably costing the GOP Virginia. Ken Cuccinelli's narrow loss was due to a backlash on Obamacare which, unfortunately for Republicans, took center stage at the end of the shutdown. Boehner is anything but a sellout and he gambles that the healthcare debate will dominate.
Is it risky? Somewhat; anytime you bet this far out on one issue there are a few dangers. For instance, if the Obama healthcare initiative begins to succeed, Republicans are back to the drawing board. There is also a chance the Tea Partiers will stay home on Nov. 4, but given their dislike of Obama this is probably not going to happen. Like the Christian Right, they will accept disappointment with discipline. Democrats who have bet on far righters not showing up have been sorely disabused of their hope on election days.
However, Barack Obama could be in a good position if the economy improves and the health issue fades. In 2010 it was the size of government and the Obama economic record that created a landslide for the GOP. In 1998 it was the Bill Clinton scandal and that produced a rare victory for the party in power.
It also demonstrates that Boehner is willing to gamble and make a safe wager that the public will be pleased to see Republicans appear responsible. Somewhere Ray Bliss is smiling as another Ohioan is gambling on Republican unity in the face of what is a modest compromise. This is the spirit of 1966, but let them hope that it will not be more like 1866, when Conservatives denounced Radicals in Congress over reconstructions and had their heads handed to them in return.
But for now Boehner has made a safe bargain. His blast at his detractors within the GOP demonstrated that he has no fear that it will cost him even a little. It was done stoutly, impromptu and without fear, indicating that he had wisely counted the House before acting. With Paul Ryan aboard, his right flank was secured. He got just enough "no" votes to make him appear a profile in courage, standing up to narrow-minded ideologues.
Perfect at least for now. Democrats foolish enough to swallow the "Civil War within the GOP" rhetoric should reflect that Boehner stole victory out of the jaws of defeat. It was a percentage move that indicated that the children's hour within the Republican party was over. This was brilliantly played, both tactically and theatrically.