Sage, Ink: Boehner Makes an Exit

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

One of my favorite things about our nascent Notes section is its ability to feature more work from Sage Stossel, our long-time contributing editor and resident cartoonist. Her watercolors and clever wit bring real character to Notes as it slowly gels. Here’s Sage’s latest:

Speaking of Boehner, check out Marina’s writeup of his appearance on Face the Nation yesterday, in which he talks about yoga, among other matters. And many readers are discussing Boehner’s political eulogy written by Molly. One insists that he “always had an alternative”:

Boehner could have chosen to be the Speaker of the entire House, instead of what amounted to a leader of a hopelessly divided party. Had he done so he could have passed compromise legislation on a raft of issues with bi-partisan votes and left his lunatic fringe out there the stomp and scream by themselves. Instead, by sticking to a “majority of majority” framework, he allowed his extremist members to dominate the business of the people's house.

Another reader agrees:

Yeah, the failure of this article to mention the Hastert rule is surprising.

(Basically, it's an internal rule the Republicans adopted that says a majority of the GOP legislators have to approve something before it goes up for a vote.) So there were plenty of times Boehner could have passed budgets, but only with some Democratic votes.

But of course, if he did that, he would have lost his Speaker chair long ago. You have to dance with them who brought you, and as head of the Republicans in the House, he had to dance with the crazies.

Another reader doesn’t see as much of a separation:

Although Boehner actually wanted the place to function, he was still very conservative. Not an insane idiot like other members of his caucus, but still very conservative. For instance, he made sure there were zero votes for the stimulus—during the greatest economic crash since 1929.

This reader circles back to the first one:

Actually Boehner often did craft compromise legislation and utilized Democratic lawmakers to get need-to-pass bills through over the bloody-murder screams of much of his party. Hence why every right-winger in America is jumping with glee right now. I had tremendous respect and sympathy for the man, given what he was working with. He did the best he possibly could while leading a half-mad caucus, short of switching parties.

If you’re a Democrat, you weren’t likely to think highly of him anyway. But as a moderate Republican who is well-acquainted with the echo chamber crowd, I have to say he didn’t do all that bad.

For more on Boehner’s struggle with the right wing of his party, check out Norm Ornstein’s new piece.