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John Boehner’s moment of truth

Will the Speaker of the House be able to take 'yes' for an answer?

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And for a few hours last weekend, Boehner seemed ready to take the deal. But, in the face of stiff criticism from his own caucus, Boehner now sits mute while the hard-core anti-tax faction of the GOP speaks for the party. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who covets Boehner’s job, insists that not only must no new revenues be included in any fiscal agreement, there is, in fact, nothing to talk about as long as taxes are in the picture. As one GOP freshman congressman told The Washington Post, “Cantor’s just being very clear that we’re not going to get drawn into any negotiation.”

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Heaven forbid that politicians should negotiate.

Boehner is in a tough spot. He has about 80 “young gun” House members who dream of the day the government loses its ability to borrow. And he must represent the interests of GOP presidential candidates whose political fortunes might vastly improve if the Treasury defaults. Yet Boehner also seems to understand the catastrophic economic consequences if he fails to cut a deal.

Of course, much of what we are hearing and seeing on both sides is theatrics. Still, within the next few weeks, Boehner must decide whether to try to sell a budget agreement that many fellow Republicans will consider a failure. And he may have to put his job on the line to do it.

It is worth noting that Arafat died just four years after rejecting Clinton’s plan, his capital in ruins. Israel elected a far more conservative government than it had in 2000, and chances for a solution to the Middle East mess are more distant than ever. You don’t need to be a fan of Arafat or his methods (and I am not) to learn a lesson from his failure of will: There is something to be said for taking yes for an answer.

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