Pittsburgh Publish-Gazette Editorial: John Boehner, former Home Speaker, takes revenge in his memoir
In public affairs there is little as entertaining as a politician who has freed himself.
This usually happens after a political career has ended, or at least has ended.
It helps if he or she has a sense of humor.
Harry Truman only became the unvarnished Harry Truman after defeating Tom Dewey. He was even more open after he resigned and was in his dotage.
Barry Goldwater was always dull, but in his later years he just didn’t care about the finer points. He would say what he thought and phrase it whatever he wanted. “I don’t care,” he would say.
And now we have John Boehner, a chain-smoking former longtime congressman from South Ohio who rose to become President of the Republican Party in the US House and then Speaker of the House. He has written a treatise on his time in politics entitled “On the House” that has received a lot of attention.
Boehner has a good sense of humor and a good memory. He does some points and has fun.
It helps that his slides are Ted Cruz and the Republican far right. He calls Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh” and Donald Trump an “unemployed” troublemaker. (He also voted for him in 2020 based on the policies and appointments of the Supreme Court.)
For five years, John Boehner ran a broken house and a broken GOP caucus. He felt stuck between the new generation of Republicans – tea partners and freedom fighters – and Obama’s White House, which viewed all Republicans as cave dwellers dragging their ankles. Boehner came from a world of compromise and business and Democrats and lobbyists who were “good guys” (his highest form of praise).
This new world of politics as performance art was one that Boehner did not understand or like. He now had colleagues who had no real interest in legislation. They just wanted to feed the right and social media and let them enlarge them. They weren’t seriously interested in the government other than to dismantle it.
Boehner was known as an emotional but fair professional politician. He was respected by Nancy Pelosi and he respected her even though they fought hard against each other. He liked and worked well with Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden. For decades he had the classic Washington Republican problem: If the government is the problem, what are we doing here?
If Joe Biden’s mantra is “Better Back it Down,” the Republican slogan is, “How about we do half your plan?” That’ll fix things somehow, and we can afford it.
That’s not particularly inspiring.
And neither is “letting the adults deal with the government”.
Well, John Boehner walked over the Crazy Town wall. He resigned as a spokesman and left politics before he was expelled. He says he cannot be elected a Republican today, even though he is still a Republican and believes in limited government, strong national defense, and controlled government spending.
Is he right about his basic premise – that politics should be left to the professionals? Is he right that the zealots are ruining both parties and Congress?
No, politics is too important to be left to the experts.
But yes, the ideologues are a cure that is worse than the disease.
However, what he fails to take into account when he says with astonishment and a little disgust that the American people sent these “nuts” to Washington is that the people had a reason. They were fed up with it. Compromise and the Washington buddy system didn’t make it for a lot of people.
Those responsible in Washington over the past 40 years have brought us one endless, non-winnable war after another. a shrinking middle class; the hollowing out of the small town of Central America; and ongoing, divisive culture wars.
Yes, politicians who know and understand the government and who respect one another are a good idea.
And no, Yahoo and weirdos who go to Washington just to show poise and anger are not the answer.
But in the good old days, things didn’t work out for a lot of us, and you can’t really blame the American voter for saying, “Let’s try something else.”
We need something better. But we also need better elites and a better status quo.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette