With North Korea's Kim Jung family having, for decades, periodically threatened to annihilate anyone who looks in their direction, you'd think we would long ago have nuked those little guys, but I'm pretty sure I heard somewhere those in the know have calculated that their little Pekinese barks are worse than their bites -- in other words, making threats is just their style, and they really don't mean it. And that's a good thing, because if the threats are ever determined to be real, a lot of innocents will die.
In other words, sometimes pipsqueaks do get their way through intimidation. As for what Matt Yglesias thinks Paul Ryan will do about his North Korean-like Republican Whackadoodle Caucus?
Even if House Republicans get a new speaker this week in Paul Ryan, they're not going to get what they really need: a new strategy.
The core problem that afflicted John Boehner during his tenure in office remains in place — a band of hard-line conservatives routinely insists that the GOP use routine but critical pieces of must-pass legislation (debt ceiling bills, government funding bills, etc.) as "leverage" to secure ideological concessions from the White House. The plan fundamentally doesn't make sense and can't work, which most Republicans know but aren't willing to say. It's a recipe for disaster, and it hasn't changed one bit. And in some ways, things may be worse than ever under Ryan, who isn't really a practitioner of the kind of crass transactional politics that Boehner used to make it work."Boehner used to make it work"? In what sense did he "make it work"?
While I really like the way Yglesias later breaks down the House Republicans into three groups -- the "Pragmatists" (the good guys), the "Fire-Eaters" (the bad guys), and the "Timids" (like the Claud Raines character in Casablanca, they're not really bad, but just go in whichever direction the wind blows) -- I do think I disagree with him on the above. The reason I say I "think" is because I'm pretty sure Yglesias knows more about this stuff than I do.
Still, it seems to me that, rather than reprising Boehner's strategy -- which was that of trying to get the Fire-Eaters to do the right thing, and eventually giving in to their demands under threat of losing his speakership -- Ryan might be better advised to try to light a fire under the Timids, and threatening that, if they don't go along with him, he will just quit his job -- putting everyone back to square one, that of trying to find a Speaker that is acceptable to everyone.
His threat would obviously be credible, since everybody knows he didn't want the job in the first place and had to be coaxed into taking it. And what makes the threat even more believable is everyone knowing that the reason he didn't want the job in the first place was his desire to someday become president, and that no longer being Speaker would allow him the freedom to go back to working on that project.
But won't the Freedom Fries crowd then go berserk? And by that, you mean even more so than they are now? Sure, but what of it? After all, the power of this maniac-minority only seems to be in intimidating the majority, which is what they're doing already. And so, if Ryan is unable to reverse that situation, then he just goes back to his old job.
But if Ryan is successful, he then will have done his party -- and his country -- an almost immeasurable good turn that countless presidential candidates, both winners and not, can only envy, and one that also might help him in any future run for the White House.