John Boehner: Real Republican Legislator

At the close of the second season of The Newsroom, news anchor Will McAvoy – who had recently offered blistering criticisms of Tea Partiers – was questioned by a Republican guest as to why he is a Republican:

TAYLOR: And I’m wondering, with all respect, do you call yourself a Republican so you can make a claim to credibility when you attack the G.O.P.?

WILL: No, I call myself a Republican because I am one.  I believe in market solutions, and I believe in common sense realities, and the necessity to defend ourselves against a dangerous world, and that’s about it.  Problem is, now I have to be homophobic.  I have to count the number of times people go to church.  I have to deny facts and think scientific research is a long con.  I have to think poor people are getting a sweet ride.  And I have to have such a stunning inferiority complex that I fear education and intellect.  In the 21st Century.  But most of all, the biggest new requirement, really – the only requirement – is that I have to hate Democrats.  And I have to hate Chris Christie for not spitting on the President when he got off Air Force One. . . .

House Speaker John Boehner announced yesterday that he will resign his Speakership, and his seat in Congress, at the end of October.  He faced repeated challenges from a small group of Republicans in the House.  I think he simply believed that he had had enough and that the House and his Party’s leadership of it would be better off if he stepped aside.  The Pope’s well-managed visit to a respectful Congress helped give the Speaker, I think, a sense of finality with dignity.  He has led a remarkable life, devoted to serving his country.  He wasn’t perfect; he would get it wrong on occasion.  But he was an old-fashioned congressional institutionalist who cared about the prerogatives and role of the House in the constitutional scheme.  And in a world where the moderates are the real conservatives, and where many of those who call themselves “conservatives” are really just extremists and demagogues, John Boehner was the real thing.

So let’s be honest here.  John Boehner’s Speakership was not challenged by people in his own party because he was not a conservative.  His leadership was not challenged because he was not a good public servant or someone who cared deeply about his country.  His leadership was not challenged because he was a bad legislator, nor was it challenged because he wept in public occasionally.  Rather, John Boehner’s leadership was challenged because he did not drive to the White House, walk into the Oval Office, and spit in Barack Obama’s face.  His leadership was challenged because he did not hate Democrats enough.  His leadership was challenged because he refused to close the federal government over every disagreement with Democrats, no matter how significant or how minor the issue in the scheme of things.  His leadership was challenged because he believed that the practical governance of a great Nation requires compromise, judgment, good sense, and a willingness to work with – and even like – people who disagree with you from time to time.  In other words, John Boehner’s leadership was challenged because he is not an extremist, masquerading as a conservative; rather, he was actually a conservative Republican, the likes of which we rarely see today.  Thank you for your service, John Boehner.

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