John Boehner vs. the Perils of Leadership

As a mere representative, John Boehner could afford to play the role of House stomper, standing athwart the advance of legislation yelling stop and indulging his caucus with nuggets of logical contortion like: "Keep the government out of insurance and also don't cut Medicare." As House Speaker, circumstances have aged him. Shepherding a rambunctious freshman class, he's learned to balance red meat like health care repeal with red alerts like his warnings about taking the debt ceiling vote seriously.

But one of the downsides of greater power is greater responsibility to the voters who keep you there -- old voters. Maybe that's why Boehner decided his recent calls to raise the Social Security age to 70 were hasty.

"I made a mistake when I did that because I think having the conversation about how big the problem is is the first step," Boehner said. "And once the American people understand how big the problem is, then you can begin to outline an array of possible solutions."

Before he became Speaker though, he and several conservative Democrats agreed -- raising the retirement age over time is a necessary step. "I think raising the retirement age going out 20 years so you're not affecting anyone close to retirement, and eventually getting the retirement age to 70 is a step that needs to be taken."

Who thinks Boehner seriously wants his caucus to have a public conversation about Social Security cuts -- hands? Only in Washington does "We should have a conversation about this" mean "I don't want to talk about this."

Read the full story at TPM.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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