WASHINGTON - 'Tis the season and Nancy Pelosi has given the hands-down best gift to the American people -- her phrase "Embrace the suck."
Offered to fellow Democrats as a push to pass the bipartisan budget bill, the phrase has all the characteristics necessary to ensure a permanent place in the popular lexicon. It's succinct, raunchy-esque and, most important, you know exactly what it means. "It sucks, but it's the best we'll get."
In no time, Embrace The Suck (ETS) had its own hashtag and was launched into the Twitterverse. Suckitude is aloft at a time when nothing floats.
Punctuating her epitaph-ready mandate, Pelosi added a characteristic subtitle: "We need to get this off the table so we can go forward," which sounds similar to her previous comment on the Affordable Care Act: "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."
We now know she wasn't kidding. The ACA rollout continues to reveal hitches, glitches and pitches that have Giuseppe's Pinocchio nose factory working overtime.
And Republicans are on fire. The real story isn't that a bipartisan budget bill has been hammered out but that House Speaker John Boehner has ignited.
He and others of like mind obviously have decided to sacrifice party unity in the interest of national well-being. What a concept. Over a couple of days during the budget negotiations, Boehner turned both barrels on insurrectionists -- both inside and outside Congress -- especially the big conservative action groups that have undermined any efforts at compromise and bipartisanship.
Depending on how things shake out in the remaining days of the jolly season, we could be witnessing the first shots of an old-guard revolution from which emerges the leader Republicans have been waiting for.
Center stage: Paul Ryan.
As all know, the budget deal was crafted by Ryan and Democrat Patty Murray. It's a not-grand bargain -- i.e., "it sucks" -- but it's something, and it staves off another budget crisis through fiscal year 2015.
Boehner's rather sudden, unexpected attack on conservative groups such as Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity was to many minds overdue. He condemned the groups for forcing tea party Republicans into corners and encouraging them to fight battles they couldn't possibly win. Boehner has always thought this, insiders tell me, but had never expressed it publicly. His statements this past week were bold and consequential.
Conservative advocacy groups are "using our members, and they're using the American people for their own goals," he said. "This is ridiculous."
Deliciously refreshing, if I do say. His remarks also leave tea party congressional members a little wiggle room by implying that, though they acted in good faith, they were being manipulated by powerful forces.
This is the part where Angry Tough Guy creates contrast for Cool Pocket-Protector Jock -- the budget-savvy, fully seasoned, conservative-but-sane presidential candidate with crossover appeal. No longer is Ryan the kid standing next to the grown-up, he has matured into a full-throated advocate for bipartisan problem-solving with a tough stance on fiscal restraint, who is also humorous, humble and respectful toward his political opponents. He even speaks with greater authority than when he was Mitt Romney's sidekick.
At first glance, one wonders whether Republicans are spiking their coffee with testosterone. What's clear is that the era of Boehner's bottom-up approach to leadership has ended. Not again will he allow the obstructionist wing of the party to force showdowns and shutdowns that hurt the American people and the Republican Party. Even if he has to draft Democrats to help him, Boehner enjoys the further benefit of speaking the truth.
Meanwhile, concurrent with Boehner's one-man firing squad, another significant sub-story was unfolding. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., leader of the Republican Study Committee, orchestrated the departure of his chief of staff, Paul Teller, who is beloved by these same conservative groups. Teller was thought to be leaking information on budget and other negotiations to these same organizations, according to inside sources.
Boehner hinted at this when he responded to a question about conservative opposition: "You mean the groups that came out and opposed [the budget deal] before they ever saw it?"
Gee, how did they know?!
What everyone will know soon enough is that Paul Ryan is The Guy -- the missing leader the GOP has been searching for and who is clearly being groomed for 2016. Until then, if Boehner continues playing hardball and prevails, Democrats really may have to follow Pelosi's imperative come 2014 -- and thereafter.
Kathleen Parker is a columnist for The Washington Post.