Boehner’s brand of ‘leadership’

BOEHNER’S BRAND OF ‘LEADERSHIP’…. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) had a rather unpleasant stretch last week, with a controversy surrounding his comparison of the financial crisis to “an ant,” and scuttlebutt from conservative media figure (and former House colleague) Joe Scarborough that Boehner is lazy.

But to my mind, the most important comments were published over the weekend, after Boehner spoke to the Washington Post‘s Dan Balz. The reporter asked the would-be House Speaker what voters could expect from a Republican-led chamber.

Beyond saying Republicans would scrub the budget for wasteful spending, a pledge regularly made and ignored by politicians of both parties, he offered no examples of what programs Republicans would actually cut.

Nor did he seem eager to tip his hand on the terms of entitlement reform. In his interview with the Tribune-Review, Boehner volunteered that the Social Security retirement age might need to be raised to 70 for younger workers but he would go no further.

Asked whether partial privatization of Social Security, which Republicans pushed unsuccessfully in 2005, would be part of a GOP agenda, he twice replied, “I have no idea.”

Later, he called back to clarify, saying that what he meant to say was that, until Republicans complete their process of soliciting ideas from the American people, there will be no answer to that question. “We’re not going to prejudge what’s going to come out of this listening project.”

Even for Boehner, this is bizarre. Four months before a critical midterm cycle, the top House Republican can’t talk at all about what his party would do with power. Boehner wants to replace the Affordable Care Act, but he won’t say with what. Boehner wants to cut spending, but he won’t say where or how much or why the GOP should be considered credible on the subject after its recent failures. Boehner has pledged to have “an adult conversation” with the country about entitlements, but has “no idea” what kind of Social Security policy his caucus will pursue.

And to top it off with the ultimate cop-out, Boehner concludes that his taxpayer-financed gimmick — a website in which House Republicans ignore ideas they don’t like — prevents him from sharing his own party’s ideas.

This may seem like an odd concept to Boehner, but leadership requires those with vision and creativity to step up and point the way forward. For the leading House Republican to not have an agenda, and to wait for an online social-networking game to tell him what to think, is many things, but it sure isn’t “leadership.”