How Boehner got the best deal 

Speaker John Boehner did a brilliant job of negotiating the fiscal year 2011 budget deal that was reached less than two hours before the Friday deadline. Jennifer Rubin at her Right Turn Washington Post blog understood the shrewdness of his bargaining position. While many commentators were saying that Boehner was foolish to risk shutting down the government in order to defund Planned Parenthood in one of the riders he was seeking, Rubin recognizes that


“This is how you get the best deal: Democrats need to ‘buy’ the rider with more cuts or take the rider and leave the cuts where they are. The way negotiators phrase this is, ‘There’s no deal on any issue unless there is a deal on all issues.’ And guess what? That’s what Boehner has been saying nearly every day. (Take my word for it, this is no different than negotiations with the Directors Guild, the Screen Actors Guild or any entertainment-industry union that I sat across the table from for years and years.)”

Liberal commentators like to portray tea party-type conservatives as mindless ideologues, bent on advancing their positions on moral issues whatever the political cost. But that description is a better fit for many Democrats in this budget fight. Who cared most about defunding Planned Parenthood? Answer: the feminist left, as my Examiner colleague Timothy Carney’s column this morning makes clear. For many gray-haired feminists, of the baby boom generation or older, the abortion issue is emotionally important; “choice” is a proxy for the choices they have made in their personal and professional lives which are different from the choices they were expected to make when they were growing up. As Carney writes, these people want Planned Parenthood to have enough government money to keep performing lots of abortions, but I think that even more than that they want federal funding as an imprimatur of approval; they want not just money but honor for their cause. That’s why you have an experienced Democrat like former House Rules Committee Chairman Louise Slaughter saying the Republicans want to “kill women.”  

So will liberal commentators condemn them for giving up dollars-and-cents programs in return for John Boehner’s dropping the Planned Parenthood rider? Not likely. They’d rather not notice. But it’s interesting that the feminist left was more highly motivated on this issue than the tea party right. Liberal commentators want to tar (for their sympathetic) tea partiers as conservatives mainly interested in cultural issues and raising economic issues only to disguise that. That’s a misreading. The tea partiers are primarily interested in reducing the Obama Democrats’ vast expansion of the size and scope of government, and that in my judgment is the driving force today on the Republican right. John Boehner knew that the Republican Conference cared less than the feminist left about the Planned Parenthood rider, and that by brandishing the rider he’d be able to extract more spending cuts from Harry Reid than he would without it. Pretty shrewd analysis and pretty smooth execution.

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Michael Barone

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