Which JB Would You Rather Be?
They work in different capitals, hail from different parties, grew up in different time zones, have taken distinctly different paths to power, and each scored big in the last election.
Begging the question: who would you rather be right now? California Gov. Jerry Brown or House Speaker John Boehner?
The two, it seems, have more in common than you might think. To wit:
Mandate: Boehner and the Republicans took over the House largely on the message of fiscal discipline. For Brown, it’s all about political discipline — at his stage in life, an adult attitude toward governing the Golden State.
Budget: Boehner can brush off irrelevant House Democrats, but has to convince hard-core conservatives (for political reasons — the mechanics of getting a budget all the way through Congress) of fewer spending cuts than they’d like; Brown can brush off all the select few irrelevant legislative Republicans he needs to pass his spending-tax deal, but has to convince hard-core liberals (for political purposes — the mechanics of getting the deal on the special-election ballot) of more spending cuts than they’d like.
Upward Mobility: The House is a graveyard as far as national aspirations concerned (the Senate being no bargain either, until Barack Obama came along) — not that Boehner seems interested in anything other than Speaker; term limits and length of tooth have Brown pretty much boxed in.
For Who the Polls Toll: Public Policy Polling, which does weekly opinion surveys for the liberal Daily Kos, would have you believe that Boehner’s honeymoon is (surprise!) already over; the Public Policy Institute of California reports a growing number of his constituents unsure of Brown’s job performance.
Personal Vice: Boehner smokes; Brown swipes food off others’ plates.
The People Factor: Boehner’s odds of making the cover of America’s favorite pop-culture read? Slim, unless he suffers a personal crisis. Brown’s chances of showing up on People’s cover? Excellent — if you dial the way-back machine to June 1976.
The Lousier Valentine’s Day? Boehner, try to pitch woo to a skeptical Tea Party. Brown, trying make nice with a cynical GOP caucus.
East Coast trumps West Coast? I’ll take Washington’s cultural advantages (museums, monuments, performing arts) over Sacramento’s any day of the week. Both have unbearable summit heat, with the difference being East Coast thunder storms break up the humid monotony.
West Coast trumps East Coast? Tahoe, Napa, San Francisco all within easy driving distance of Sacramento. The only thing you can ski down Washington is a mountain of debt. When I first moved to California’s capital in 1994, it amused me how the locals played up their town by offering backhanded compliments: “You’ll love Sacramento, because it’s close to . . .”
Final tally: I give the edge to Boehner. Unless he’s Pelosi Redux, he should be running the House for at least years (Brown may leave office after one four-year term). Boehner Co. can still borrow money from the Chinese (maybe Brown will get lucky and China makes a generous offer for now-available state properties). Boehner still has Nancy Pelosi as a convenient foil (Brown must wish Meg Whitman was still on the air). Keeping House Republicans in line is, in theory at least, an easier proposition than pulling the reins on California’s legislative Democrats.
Next up: which MM would you rather be — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Marshall Mathers III?