Meet the Real John Boehner

December 14th, 2010 at 8:39 am | 16 Comments |

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This Sunday, 60 Minutes ran a segment on Speaker-elect John Boehner that would have made Horatio Alger proud.

In the run-up to this year’s midterm elections, President Obama spent the campaign’s latter weeks attempting to define his opponent. Aided greatly by an October profile in The New York Times, Boehner was painted as a suntanned corporate shill in love with lobbyists and private golf courses. His sartorial preferences were meticulously scrutinized, while the anecdote of his distributing checks from tobacco lobbyists on the House floor was offered as evidence of his ultimate insider-ism. For the amorphous Tea Party movement, surely Boehner was an unacceptable avatar. Now that campaign rhetoric has subsided (allegations of “hostage-taking” notwithstanding), it’s incumbent upon the incoming Speaker to define himself to the American public.

In this pursuit, the 60 Minutes profile couldn’t have been better scripted by the NRCC itself.  Boehner appeared humble and urbane, reasonable and, yes, prone to tearful loss of composure. The segment revisited Boehner’s childhood home, a single-story residence shared with his parents and 10 siblings. His wife of 37 years—who never moved to Washington—sat beside him as she recounted meeting her future husband while he was working as a garbage collector. In the evening’s closest approximation of a tough exchange, Leslie Stahl pressed the Speaker-elect on his aversion to the term “compromise” in working with President Obama. Boehner pivoted brilliantly, saying that in discussing values, the word makes his working class brethren “perk up” and say, “They’re gonna sell me out.” Instead, he continually stressed the need for “common ground”, a semantic distinction allowing him to appear both reasonable to independents and principled to the Tea Party contingent.

Just as the segment offered a stark counter narrative to Democratic depictions of Boehner this fall, it also served as a rejoinder to Tea Partiers’ irrational disdain for the “lamestream media”. Boehner rode to power on a wave that harbors only the greatest contempt for the journalistic establishment, yet Stahl’s treatment was closer to Frank Capra than Katie Couric. In the segment’s closing moments, Stahl sat with Mr. and Mrs. Boehner at the bar once owned by Boehner’s father. With Stahl remarking on his remarkable rise from mopping the bar’s floors to Speaker of the House, Boehner paused and delivered a line with Reagan-esque flair: “Welcome to America.” No, the segment wasn’t exactly journalistic hardball. But politically, Boehner knocked it out of the park.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • balconesfault

    The segment revisited Boehner’s childhood home, a single-story residence shared with his parents and 10 siblings.

    Yep – which is why he was a Democrat until his sales job started making him wealthy, and he decided he didn’t like paying the taxes that do things like allowing a working class family to put 11 kids through school without going broke.

    Perhaps he’s not a suntanned corporate shill in love with lobbyists and private golf courses.

    He might just be a naturally tan corporate shill in love with lobbyists and private golf courses.

  • sinz54

    It’s not easy for the Dems to turn Boehner into a boogeyman hate-figure like they did with Gingrich. He doesn’t have Gingrich’s monumental ego or insistence on a sweeping right-wing vision of the future that would terrify Democrats.

    He’s a pretty conventional low-key guy, even boring. That’s why before the election, polls showed that most Americans never heard of him.

  • armstp

    “Boehner was painted as a suntanned corporate shill in love with lobbyists and private golf courses.”

    Actually there was nothing in that 60 Minutes interview that proved that Boehner was not a corporate shill. In fact, Boehner is one of the biggest corporate shills in Washington. Other than the Tea Party that is all the Republicans got is corporations and corporate money; a la the Chamber of Commerce; and that is all they care about.

    All I got from the Boehner interview is that that guy cries at lot. On one hand he is a very very sensitive man and on the other hand he is a reptile. Boehner is actually fairly embarrassing, as a public leader in this country. Have you ever heard anything actually intelligent coming out of that guys mouth? how about something constructive to solve the countries problems? Boehner is just another Washington insider who is good at the game of politics and throwing bombs at the Democrats. He is not a problem solver. I think that pretty much sums up the Republican party and something Frum is fighting against.

  • Madeline

    Stahl’s treatment was closer to Frank Capra than Katie Couric.

    Katie Couric is now the high water mark of hardcore journalism? God help us all. I’ve rarely seen Couric do a hard-hitting interview.

    Boehner appeared humble and urbane, reasonable and, yes, prone to tearful loss of composure.

    “Tearful loss of composure” is a bit of an understatement. He reminded me of one of my drunken uncles at Thanksgiving, giving a rambling toast about how thankful he is for all the [sob] blessings he’s experienced in his life, and for his wonderful [sob] family, etc.

    I will admit to being a crier. I once raised concern (alarm? suspicion?) on an international flight when I was moved to tears by one of the in-flight movies. In the last 48 hours, the following things have made me cry: a particularly well-crafted passage in Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, the Christmas (sorry “Winter Druid Light Festival”) episode of 30 Rock, and my fiance telling me he loved me “more than beer…even Czech beer”. And yet, somehow I manage to keep it together when I am in a professional setting. Why can’t Boehner do the same?

    ETA: Note to FrumForum webmaster: love the ability to log in directly in the comments section. Thanks!

  • balconesfault

    Madeline: Katie Couric is now the high water mark of hardcore journalism? God help us all. I’ve rarely seen Couric do a hard-hitting interview.

    Couric apparently got that reputation because she managed to get enough time with Sarah Palin before Palin had been exposed as a lightweight, and because she gave Sarah enough rope to hang herself with (with such hard-hitting questions like “what newspapers do you read?”), and because CBS actually aired damning parts of the interviews.

    But yeah … had Katie Couric had a reputation as a hardcore journalist, she’d have never gotten that much time with Palin in the middle of the Presidential Campaign in the first place.

  • forgetn

    Armstp

    You cannot prove a negative!

  • balconesfault

    forgetn … how about this?

    there was nothing in that 60 Minutes interview that proved suggested that Boehner was not a corporate shill

  • sublime33

    I guess “pivoted brilliantly” is in the eyes of the beholder. He can’t bring himself to say “compromise”? I thought it was a bit pathological more in line with Harry Potter (He-who-shall-not-be-named) than with governing the United States.

    Also trying to envision the ridicule that would ensue if Nancy Pelosi cried reminicing about how difficult her life has been. Rush would have a months worth of material.

  • Nanotek

    “Armstp You cannot prove a negative!”

    you can if you can eliminate an entire field of possibilities.

  • Drosz

    “Katie Couric is now the high water mark of hardcore journalism?”

    Yes! You didn’t know asking someone what newspapers and magazines they read is the most vexing, unfair, and difficult questions one could ask? Hell, next thing you know someone could be asking a VP candidate what they think about policy. Then where would we be!? I’ll tell you where…this nation would be headed for a disaster of biblical proportions. Real wrath of God type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes…the dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

    Just because the lamestream media wanted to be mean to Sarah Palin…and they hate America.

  • politicalfan

    “Why can’t Boehner do the same?”

    I for one like a sensitive man! This is not a bad thing, why is that a bad thing? I actually like him more after he started crying. Cry on Mr. B, being able to let our your emotion out is actually a positive thing.

    I hope that he will continue to think about the little “John Boehner’s of the world” that just want that American dream. Never forget that the tears should carry action. Give him time, I am sure people will make him cry if he doesn’t remember giving others that same chance.

  • busboy33

    @balconesfault:

    “He might just be a naturally tan corporate shill in love with lobbyists and private golf courses.”

    When he said, in the interview, that he NEVER went to a tanning salon, I walked away. That’s a blatant “What does ‘is’ mean” lie. You don’t spend the majority of your time in a suit, in Washington DC, and end up not only that tan but constantly betray that bizarre orange tan that only comes with artificial enhancement.

    So I have to assume he means he goes to tanning “boutiques”, instead of salons. Or he’s got a tanning bed in his apartment. But for him to look me in te face, smile, and try to make me believe he doesn’t artifically tan is nonsensical. Of course you do John, and you clearly think that the American people are stupid.

  • Madeline

    That’s not a tanning-booth tan, it’s a self-tanning lotion/cream tan. A tanning booth gives you the same color as the sun. Self-tanners leave you looking like an oompa-loompa if you overuse them.

    Which means his “never went to a tanning salon” comment is disingenuous.

    ETA: It’s also possible that he’s taking massive doses of Beta Carotene.

  • anniemargret

    Madeline: “ETA: It’s also possible that he’s taking massive doses of Beta Carotene.”

    LOL!

    Madeline is correct; it’s self-tanning lotion, easily done. Which means he’s into Truthiness.

    Boehner really must stop crying. It is unbecoming. There is no crying as Speaker of the House, or Weeper of the House, as it is now commonly being called.

    And it points to yet another bias. If Hillary Clinton started snorting and blubbering, Rushbo and company would be calling her a wimp. I think Hillary lost it for a few moments there during the election, and she paid a price for it.

    But Boehner? He’s not even subtle! Maybe he needs to make a visit to the thousands of Americans who are fighting to keep their heads above water as we speak, who have lost their jobs, and are being turned away from another because ‘they’ve been out of work for too long.’

    Now that’s something to cry about.

  • anniemargret

    Do you think he’s pasty-faced under all that tanning oil?

  • Sinan

    Mr. Speaker, the VP and POTUS have died in a horrible accident, you are now the President of the United States.

    I am? Oh my God, bwaaabwaabwaa…give me a few minutes to compose myself, this is just amazing. Only in America could someone like me become President. Oh…bwahhaaahaaaa……

    Mr. President, please get control of yourself, Putin is on the line.