A fiscal cliff deal hasn't even begun to take shape and John Boehner's speakership already might be in jeopardy over capitulations to Democrats. Conservatives were initially disquieted last week when a string of right-wing ideologues in the House who had voted against the party line during the last session were purged from plum committee assignments by the current speaker. Now they're also warning against potential deals to avert the fiscal cliff. National Review's Robert Costa interviewed Georgia Representative Tom Price, who unloaded scorn on Boehner's leadership of the Republican caucus. "My concern is that within our conference, conservatives, who are a majority, don’t have a proper platform,” Price said. “That’s true at the leadership table and on the steering committee." Costa interpreted that as a hint that Price might to run against Boehner as House Speaker, a rumor reinforced by anonymous Republicans.
For what it's worth, Price's office dismissed such speculation Monday afternoon. But even if Price doesn't mount a challenge against Boehner, the threat is in the back of Boehner's mind as he contemplates a deal with President Obama. Given Obama's edge during the negotiations—the expiring tax breaks, his recent re-election, and public-opinion polls all grant Obama the upper hand—it's unlikely that Boehner can muster a deal that will appease the Tom Prices of his caucus. In order to reach a compromise with the president, Boehner would need to convince his Republicans to disavow their anti-tax zealotry. That will be an impossible task if his position as speaker is threatened from the right before he even floats a proposal.
So They Say
"I mean, that is a mop of real hair. He has hair like a 15-year-old … and so, I have to acknowledge I am a little envious of his hair."
—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a farewell speech to lame-duck Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson
Daily Meme: OBL is Dead, Film Controversy is Alive
- Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden movie, is racking up awards and stirring up a controversy about its politics. How do you treat an excellent piece of cinema that glamorizes torture?
- As David Edelstein puts it, "As a moral statement, Zero Dark Thirty is borderline fascistic. As a piece of cinema, it’s phenomenally gripping—an unholy masterwork."
- Jason Clarke, one of the film's stars, said of the film, “It’s taken time for people to see it and get comfortable talking about it, because it has a taboo-ness. When I first watched it, I came out of it really stunned.”
- Clarke, who underwent waterboarding in preparation of the film, may be underplaying the "taboo-ness" part.
- It started back in August 2011 when Representative Peter King accused the White House of sharing classified information with the filmmakers.
- But now that the film has been screened, torture has become the axis upon which the taboo-ness spins. The New York Times's Frank Bruni writes, "I’m betting that Dick Cheney will love the new movie Zero Dark Thirty .... not only does Zero Dark Thirty decline to toe a conventionally liberal line, but it is being embraced by many cultural arbiters who are probably at some level horrified by the conclusions it seems to reach."
- The weird thing? As Salon's Glenn Greenwald notes, torture wasn't crucial to finding bin Laden, as the film insinuates.
- The filmmakers' response? Screenwriter Mark Boal: "It’s a movie, not a documentary. We’re trying to make the point that waterboarding and other harsh tactics were part of the C.I.A. program.” Bigelow adds, "the film doesn’t have an agenda, and it doesn’t judge. I wanted a boots-on-the-ground experience.”
- Mother Jones's Adam Serwer's final take? "The critical acclaim Zero Dark Thirty is already receiving suggests that it may do what Karl Rove could not have done with all the money in the world: embed in the popular imagination the efficacy, even the necessity, of torture."
What We're Writing
- Rich Yeselson writes that if a right-to-work bill passes in Michigan, the heart of the auto industry, it can pass anywhere.
- Sarah Libby reports on the microsites that teamed up to offer disaster relief after Hurricane Sandy.
What We're Reading
- Howard Kurtz dares to say what no one else will: The fiscal cliff is super boring.
- From October 18 to November 6, Allen West was raising $3,908 an hour, 24/7.
- South Carolina is gunning for Stephen Colbert to run for Jim DeMint's Senate seat.
- Dexter Filkins looks back at David Petreaeus's suddenly abbreviated career.
- Jon Cohn on why raising the Medicare age is a bad idea.
- OFA is coming back to life to help out in the fiscal cliff fight.
Poll of the Day
Conservatives might treat "amnesty" like a verboten concept, but most Americans aren't opposed to a policy that grants full rights to undocumented immigrants. According to a new Politico/George Washington University poll, 62 percent of voters support immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, with just 35 percent opposed.