He’s consolidated his own power by courting the Republican House tea-party-loving freshmen who swept in last year.
Cantor has an interesting outlook about working in Washington – being liked is not an advantage.
One suspects he thinks it’s much better to be deemed so unreasonable that your opponents ultimately feel no choice but to bend to your will.
That may explain why so many in his own party don’t like him.
Even his supporters say he doesn’t have the social graces and natural confidence of most politicians.
Cantor rarely hangs out with his colleagues, and since he doesn’t golf or fish or have any hobbies, when he does find himself in social situations, he usually talks about work.
We all know how boring it can be to have someone like that at a party.
According to New York magazine, more than once Cantor has asked his aides: Why does the president seem to hate me so much?
The magazine says John Murray, Cantor’s deputy chief of staff, thinks it has to do with his boss’s eloquence.
“Eric articulates very strongly and aggressively a principled stance that’s conservative and they don’t like that.”
Cantor himself chalks it up to basic political differences.
“I think his view of the economy and how to fix it is so removed from reality. And it’s just theory that may work in the classroom, but it does not work, according to my experience.”
The answer is much more simple:
No one in Washington has done more to disrupt Obama’s first term—and threaten his chance at a second—than Cantor.
The two have clashed from the start.
It was only three days after Obama’s inauguration that Cantor came to a White House meeting on the economic crisis and proceeded to hand out copies of the Republican plan to fix it—which Obama quickly dismissed.
“Elections have consequences,” the president reportedly told Cantor, “and, Eric, I won.”
Not a good way to start off any relationship.
But it all truly went to hell this past July during the debt-ceiling fight.
For weeks, Obama had been negotiating with House Speaker John Boehner over a so-called “grand bargain” that would cut spending and raise taxes in exchange for a debt deal.
But Cantor, who led the tea-party Republicans’ opposition to any tax increase, helped scuttle those talks.
During a break in the Obama-Boehner talks, a group of congressional leaders met for several hours in the White House Cabinet Room.
The President was there arguing for the Democrats – Cantor for the Republicans.
It made headlines when Obama said, “Eric, don’t call my bluff. I’m going to the American people with this.”
It all might have ended there except Cantor went before some reporters and accused Obama of petulance.
“It ended with the president abruptly walking out of the meeting. I was somewhat taken aback.”
That started the war of words with Harry Reid calling Cantor “childish.”
Cantor doesn’t understand.
“I try to be deferential. I mean, I’m a lawyer, I was raised in the sort of schooling, if you will, of deference to someone on the bench—and certainly to the president … I’m not this guy with horns and a partisan only.”
As for those who don’t like him – it’s a dislike with an intensity that surpasses the usual partisanship – they accuse him of acting in bad faith.
Two stories from the House:
Last January, when, in a supposed gesture of bipartisanship, Cantor invited Nancy Pelosi to sit with him at the State of the Union.
The problem was, he offered the invitation less than 24 hours before the speech, and through reporters, not in person.
Pelosi had already arranged to sit with another Republican, and when she turned down Cantor’s invite, it led to headlines like “Pelosi Spurns Cantor on Seating.”
Then, after repeatedly rejecting Democratic congressman Steny Hoyer’s efforts to work on health-care-reform legislation, Cantor approached Hoyer for a meeting just weeks before House Democrats were set to bring their bill to the floor.
After presenting Hoyer with a set of proposals like tort reform and “association health plans”, that had long been poison to Democrats, Cantor complained to reporters that Hoyer had ignored his efforts at bipartisanship.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is Cantor wants the Speaker’s job and is constantly scheming for ways to take it.
Cantor is being cautious.
In internal House politics, attempted coups usually end in murder-suicides.
Meanwhile he waits and does what he does.
No matter how it hurts the nation.