John Boehner: Bad Speaker or Worst Speaker?
All you need to know about the failed speakership of John Boehner was exposed to the entire world by Boehner himself as he announced his resignation from Congress. The what, the how, and the why of his failures were succinctly explained when he said, “The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love.”
Do what? Well, no wonder he was a disaster as speaker. He had no clue what the job description was. In just 15 words, everything about his disastrous reign was brought into laser-sharp focus. Never has someone so orange said so much with so few words and so many tears. When you're this out of touch and have abused this much power and wasted this many opportunities that have caused a nation great pain, there is no limit to the scorn you deserve.
And for the record, that "institution that we all love" comment may be the dumbest political statement since David Brooks proclaimed Barack Obama a great president on the strength of his pant crease. It's also a perfect bookend comment to some words he uttered through tears in November of 2010 as he was preparing to take the gavel without a clue what message the voters had just sent.
The salient point that Boehner made clear is that the country is here to serve the government. The important people are those in government. What else can his words possibly mean? When he said "the institution that we all love" – it's clear that we means the House of Cards Washington Cartel in the House. For damned sure, no one else has any love for that institution.
No one this side of Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood character has shown so much disdain for constituents while playing the Potomac game.
Boehner also was admitting to not knowing what his constitutional duties are. The duty he saw as his first and most important duty – "to protect this institution" – is not even among his duties, let alone first.
In other words, for seven years we've had a president who despises the Constitution – and held in check (theoretically) only by a House speaker for five years who doesn't understand what that document demands of him. Gee, what could possibly go wrong with that?
And there's no reason to doubt that Boehner sincerely thinks that protecting the institution was his "first duty." On the night it became evident he was going to have the speakership – election night 2010 – he gave a victory speech that was a harbinger of things to come under his leadership. To be clear, no conservative expected great things from Boehner, but he has managed to fall far below even our lowest expectations.
It wasn't the tears per se, even though they are what everyone remembers. It was what was missing from that speech that was most foretelling. To be precise, Boehner's comments made two related notions painfully clear. First is that the speaker in waiting had absolutely no idea what had transpired across the country to give his party majority power. It was if he had been off campaigning on another planet – far, far away from a place known as the real world.
This, in fact, is more or less true. Washington, where Boehner has spent most of the last 23 years, is an isolated planet of about eight counties with no resemblance to a nation subjected to the whims of those inside. There was a big message sent by the voters in 2010, and Boehner's brain apparently filed it under spam. This was true of most or all of the Republican establishment. They had no idea what was driving the mood of the public. And they haven't figured it out. Until now, perhaps. Perhaps.
It wasn't always this way. The John Boehner of 1994, as a freshman congressman, understood the times that led to the previous great GOP House victory, the Contract with America election. Hell, he even helped write the CWA. Ten years later, he was helping craft Karl Rove's brainchild, the No Child Left Behind Act, with Ted Kennedy. As if we needed it, this is more proof that the longer one is in Washington, the more vacuous one becomes. The Boehner of today, and really of the last 10-11 years, bears no resemblance to the contractor entrepreneur who was first elected in a state that gave Clinton a big win over H.W. Bush in 1992.
And that leads us to point number two, which is that Boehner thought – yes, really thought – this was about him. His tears were not tears of joy that President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi had been given an historic Obamacare-big-government-hell-no rebuke. No, such tears would have been appropriate. And that's what 2010 was.
No, Boehner's tears were about his personal journey, his rise from a small town in Ohio to the number-three position of power in the entire land. It was tone-deaf and cringe-worthy, with or without the tears. I remember thinking that night, John, dude, this is not about you! But as he made clear yesterday, oh, yes it was in his mind. It was all about John, and of course "the institution we all love."
And just in case we missed it, he also demonstrated the same lack of awareness a couple months ago in a Golf Channel interview, where host David Feherty asked him about his goals, and Boehner replied, "Well, if you don't shoot for the top, why shoot for anything? So I set my goal to be speaker."
And there you have it again. Nothing about the country, or reducing government's size, scope, cost, and power. Nothing about that little document known as the Constitution. Nothing even about being the "loyal opposition" to a far leftist radical party. Nope. Just a career goal – much like a stock broker in Manhattan answering the question "what's your number?"
This leads to the point of why he's the worst speaker ever. He had the opportunity to be historically great. He was an opposition speaker up against a failing president and Senate. He had the perfect foils, a stumbling, weakened, and exposed Barack Obama and a Senate still run by the ancient weasel from Nevada.
He had the failure of Obamacare, the failure of stimulus, the failures in foreign policy, and the failings of big government in general to take advantage of. He had the emergence of the Tea Party at his disposal. He had the chance, and moreover, the obligation, to use the power and influence inherently in his possession to blunt and thwart the most radical, petty, and elitist president ever. He could have saved hundreds of millions from the Obama-induced misery we now suffer.
He's not the worst ever because of what he did; he's the worst ever because of what he didn't do, even as he was given tremendous opportunities. It's not that he tried and failed – this happens in Washington sometimes – it's that he didn't even try. And he didn't try because he had no situational awareness of what needed to be done and what the nation was clamoring for. He didn't have a clue what his job was even supposed to be, and he told us that in his own words and through his own inactions throughout his tenure.
He was indeed worse than Pelosi. She was horrible because she is who she is. Any far-left Bay Area crony-connected statist would be a terrible speaker, or majority leader, or president. There was no way for Pelosi to have a speakership that was good for the country, because none of what Pelosi and her party believes in is good for the country. Frankly, she did in fact do what her party and voters elected her to do. Boehner did not. He ignored the mandate from the voters, was cowed by the Washington culture and Obama's skin color, too worried about his own skin color, and spent his time and energy with back-room gamesmanship against conservative junior congressmen.
Who knew that Netflix's House of Cards was really a true-to-life documentary? We all do now, thanks to the worst Speaker ever.
The author is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV, and Talk Radio Network and the author of several books including WTF? How Karl Rove and the Establishment Lost...Again.