Tea party calling the shots for Republicans in debt ceiling crisis

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks about the behavior of the Tea Party in the debate over the debt ceiling.

WASHINGTON - Legendary U.S. legislator Sam Rayburn once said: "Any jackass can kick down a barn, but it takes a good carpenter to build one."

It's an oft-repeated Capitol Hill adage that's making the rounds anew this week as the Tea Party, a political movement that didn't exist three years ago, continues to exert control over Republican legislators trying to come up with a viable proposal to reduce the country's massive $14.3 trillion debt and avert a potential financial calamity in less than a week. . .

"Right now the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives is the jackass kicking down the barn, but they have absolutely no idea how to rebuild one," Cal Jillson, a politics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said Wednesday.

The biggest failure of John Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, has been his inability to get through to the Tea Party caucus about the dire ramifications of a debt default, Jillson added.

"He has not been able to civilize them, he hasn't been able to teach them to respect the traditions of the House," Jillson said.

"He assumed he could over time, and instruct them on their responsibility as House representatives, but he's proven unable to do it. It's made Boehner look craven because he's not willing to stand up before the Republican caucus and say: 'Look, you need to grow up, you don't understand the implications of this, and you have to follow me. I will lead us to solid ground.' "

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