Speaker John Boehner has gotten some criticism from both the left and the right after announcing his plan (/cut-and-pasting old press releases) to "bring legislation to the House floor that would authorize the House of Representatives to file suit in an effort to compel President Obama to follow his oath of office and faithfully execute the laws of our country." And on the surface level, the criticisms are similar: They argue that Boehner should just do his job instead.
Both liberal Sally Kohn, writing a response piece to Boehner's at CNN.com, and conservative Erick Erickson, writing at RedState, argue --just as Barack Obama did! -- that the lawsuit amounts to little more than a "stunt." Each also writes that it's a waste of taxpayer funds, which I suppose is implicit in the idea that it's a stunt.
And each argues that Boehner should be doing something else instead, this mystifying concept of his "job." What is John Boehner's job? According to Sally Kohn, it is working with the Democratic Party to pass bills with significant bipartisan public support:
If House Republicans don't like these executive orders, then pass immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Don't sue the President. Passing laws that our nation wants and needs is doing your job. Suing the President just because you don't like him is irresponsible partisan petulance.
Meanwhile, Erick Erickson, the nation's foremost alpha male, resorts to anatomical imagery to express what he believes Boehner's "job" is, which is to refuse to fund President Obama's government if he and the House Republican conference don't like what they see.
I realize John Boehner and the House Republicans may lack the testicular fortitude to fight President Obama, but I would kindly ask that he save the taxpayers further money on a political stunt solely designed to incite Republican voters who might otherwise stay home given the establishment’s bungling of Mississippi and abandonment of their constitutionally derived powers.
John Boehner’s lawsuit is nothing more than political theater and a further Republican waste of taxpayer dollars. If the Republican leaders in the House are too chicken to use their constitutional powers to rein in the President, they should just call it a day and go home.
It's hard to disagree with Erickson's suggestion that everyone would be better off if House Republicans just called it a day and went home. But! They intend to stay (for a couple more weeks until August recess, at least).
Neither of these pieces were written naively, so as to think that John Boehner might read them and go, Ahh, that's my job, finally someone explained it to me. He does not do the "job" Kohn describes -- of working with Democrats to pass bipartisan legislation -- because he would face a revolt in his conference, and he would no longer have the titular "job" of speaker. He does not do the testicular-fortitude thing that Erickson describes because that would mean inviting another government shutdown or risking a federal debt default, neither of which would look good for the Republican Party or the American economy or, especially in the latter case, global civilization.
Suing Barack Obama is the latest manifestation of Boehner's "job" as he defines it: taking a conservative base-pleasing posture that's just useless enough to avoid obliteration of the party and the nation, while saving his speakership. All can agree that suing the president is a stunt, but at least it gives the right a tangible product to define its "imperial presidency" messaging heading into the midterms, and (hopefully?) takes the place of any truly damaging move like risking another debt ceiling showdown.
John Boehner's "job" is to dodge any pitfall big enough to lose John Boehner the speakership. A dumb distracting lawsuit? Sure, that'll work. It hits that ever-sought sweet spot between usefulness and outright destruction that our system of government so rewards.