"[S]omewhere along the road, a number of voices on the right began demanding that the Republican Congress not only block Mr. Obama’s agenda but enact a reversal of his policies," intoned Cantor. "The tragedy here is that these voices have not been honest with our fellow conservatives. They have not been honest about what can be accomplished when your party controls Congress, but not the White House. As a result we missed chances to achieve important policies for the good of the country."
One weekend later, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Cantor dispensed more advice to the poor, misguided souls whose demands probably contributed to Boehner's exit. "There's a small minority of a nearly 250-member caucus that's engaging, I think, in setting false expectations," he said. "There is this thing called math in a legislative body.... there's a small group of voters who've adopted this view."
David Brat, the congressman who defeated Cantor, was darkly amused to hear that. Cantor was echoing and adding to Boehner's own criticism, that "false prophets" in the party were misleading voters by over-selling what the GOP could do. Brat left today's meeting with House Republicans still undecided on who should be the next Republican speaker and majority leader. "I hope we have some competition for all the races," he said.
So: Did he think that the lack of Eric Cantor in the mix was good or bad for conservatives like him?
"I'll just put it this way," said Brat. "Yesterday, he was having coffee with Morning Joe, talking about his extensive interactions with his constituents."
A reporter laughed. "That's the proper response," said Brat. "He wrote, ran on, and promised the Pledge to America. He is now name-calling, and making fun of -- as 'unrealistic' -- those who are running on the pledges that he made on paper. So, Eric Cantor was the leader who put forward the Pledge to America, and we're 'unrealistic' for following his logic. Run that by a college freshman in philosophy. That's called a contradiction. Socrates would give him an F."
The Pledge to America, which now gathers Internet dust on the governing party's House website, was a crowd-sourced manifesto for the GOP's 2010 win. It was full of Washington-ese, but it was also clear: "We offer a plan to repeal and replace the government takeover of health care with common sense solutions focused on lowering costs and protecting American jobs."
Brat cited that, and encourage reporters to use the "transitive property" to judge which Republicans were "false prophets" and which ones were just living up to the party's promises. His concern was that while the party had run on boldness and transparency, the budget process had become opaque, even to a member of the budget committee like himself.
"I ask the press: Who's in charge of the budget process right now?" Brat said. "Answer that. Find out who's in the room. Whoever put us in this ditch, find out, and report the name. Who's the genius who planned this scenario that everyone agrees is a disaster?"
Not that Brat was going to join the Cantors and Boehners in the world in a contest of insults. "Everybody knows when you're crossing the line," he said. "We make fun of the Democrats, working out in the weight room. We call each other names, and it's fun. But then, there's the other kind of name-calling."