Those statements are only half true.
The true part is that Boehner, McCarthy and the rest of the House GOP leadership team do have a broad strategy and a series of tactics they try to employ to both accomplish their legislative goals and pressure President Obama. Whether that's "Plan B," Boehner's attempt to avert the fiscal cliff while simultaneously forcing Obama's hand, or the latest attempt to extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security for three weeks, Boehner, McCarthy and the rest have a strategy behind most of these big legislative fights. (The lack of a back-up plan, on the other hand, is a little odd.)
The untrue part is that the rump Republican resistance — led by a handful of tea party-aligned conservatives — has its own alternative strategy or even tactics. Think back to the vote for speaker earlier in this Congress. The establishment had a plan to get Boehner reelected to the House's top job. The resistance? Not so much. They nominated three alternatives to Boehner — Dan Webster of Florida, Ted Yoho of Florida and Louie Gohmert of Texas — ensuring that the anti-Boehner vote was splintered. What did that reveal? That even in making a purely protest vote, there wasn't a whole heck of a lot strategy going on in the not-Boehner crowd.
Fast forward to Friday's vote on the three-week extension backed by Boehner. Yes, the conservative coalition in the House was absolutely the key to killing that measure. But to what end? What is the broader strategy of voting that extension down? The answer that group will give you is to tie the repeal of Obama's immigration executive orders to funding DHS. But that is never going to happen. Even if Senate Democrats allowed a vote on such a joined package and it passed, which wouldn't happen, Obama would veto it without a second thought. And we would be right back where we started.
This is a classic letting-the-perfect-get-in-the-way-of-the-good approach. It is neither a strategy nor a tactic to say "we will get everything we want or there will be no deal." Saying "no" isn't a strategy. Jeb Bush addressed that reality during his question-and-answer session at CPAC last week. "It's good to oppose bad things," Bush said. "We need to start being for things."
That's what Boehner — and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have been saying for quite some time. The problem for Boehner and, to a lesser extent, McConnell, is that they are not dealing with a group of members who see the world as they do. While Boehner et al are trying to draw up a broad strategy of how to approach the final two years of Obama's presidency, the resisters in the House are taking it issue by issue — and always standing on ideological ground to oppose Obama.
Opposition without a plan of what to do next is neither a tactic nor a strategy. That's why John Boehner may have the most difficult job of any speaker in modern history.