Boehner wept. Often heavily and without regard. There was no stage too big, no occasion too slight for the soon-departing House speaker, who blotted tears beside a bust of Winston Churchill in a small ceremony and quite nearly disintegrated into sobs on “60 Minutes.”
Fitting, then, that Boehner’s turbulent speakership was bookended in tears. The Ohio Republican fought back tears when Nancy Pelosi handed him the gavel in 2011, which he then accepted “cheerfully and gratefully,” only to voluntarily surrender it four short years later. Pope Francis’s address to a joint session of Congress, an equally rainy affair for the devoutly Catholic speaker, was the best coda Boehner could think of to a reign of endless tumult and insatiable insurgency that he never seemed to get a handle of.
But I come to praise Boehner, not to bury him.
So I won’t talk about the record-shatteringly unproductive 112th and 113th Congresses, which did more nothing than the Do Nothing Congress that Truman battled. Or the 100 or so doomed-from-the-outset attempts to defund Obamacare. Or Louie Gohmert.
But, as H.L. Mencken wrote a century ago, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” And haven’t we been getting quite good from our most democratic body of late?
Sorry—I came to praise Boehner, not to bury him.
Two praiseworthy qualities of the statesman come to mind: the aforementioned tears, of course, and being the living embodiment of the establishment-strikes-back that, like the Galactic Empire, didn’t quite stick the landing.
You’re probably right dear reader, but allow me to try weaseling out of this one.
Let me be clear: Establishmentarianism is a multisyllabic and dangerous disease, observed at epidemic levels among certain populations—K Street, Capitol Hill, other Named Places in the District, Harvard undergraduates. After all, why rock the boat when it’s actually a yacht?
To overextend the infectious diseases metaphor, small amounts of normally fatal disease can occasionally be useful—like how the bacteria that causes botulism is used in the Botox used for facelifts!
All that is a long-winded way of saying that the brand of establishment that Boehner embodied, the old-boys-club attitude so often vilified, is much, much preferable to the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus up-and-comers who’ve fractured the House and the spirit of its poor caretaker. Yes, trading whiskey and cigars in smoke-filled back rooms isn’t the best way to decide government policies, but I’ll take any option that involves people actually sitting in a room together.
Among the most popular—and destructive—logical fallacies that have come into political vogue is the idea that one can outstubborn one’s opponents into submission, the idea that President Obama will defund his health care plan the 200th time around, that Iran will give up all its bargaining chips if you stare at it and stomp your feet hard enough.
Boehner, a sturdy abortion-disliking, gay-marriage-hating, red-meat Republican himself, stood against this wave of pigheadedness, and for that the ultra-right despised him and made his speakership hell.
And then there are the tears. Politics is the sport of scripted spontaneity, the fabrication of connection with voters with as much sincerity as LinkedIn requests. And yet, when Boehner cries, his innocent, childlike displays of emotion are without desire for political gain or strategy. The man just loves, among other things, children, the Holy Father, and America.
In an arena saturated with sleaze, grease, and grime, those tears were water, pure and simple water. And I’ll miss that.
So there you have it, folks: an entire column’s worth of praise for a bona fide Republican.
You owe me $10, Aaron I. Henricks ’16.
Idrees M. Kahloon ’16, a Crimson editorial executive, is an applied mathematics concentrator in Dunster House.
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