Despite his two decades of service in the House of Representatives, our suspiciously orange Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ohio native John Boehner has only now begun to catch some major notoriety. Even as a member of the Gang of Seven, a group of (not surprisingly) seven representatives known for squashing the House banking scandal in the early 1990s, Boehner stayed pretty quiet. It’s not for his newfound power or politics, that we know him now, though. It’s for his tears. That’s right, John Boehner is the federal crybaby.
When he received the Republican nomination for the title this last midterm election, he blubbered and cried in his address to his supporters. Then when he was featured in a “60 Minutes” interview, he did the same. Mention the “American Dream” or anything at all about children, and he’s sure to do so again.
The critics unfairly took these instances out of context though. Dirty spin-doctors. They say his tears make him a political liability but refuse to look at them as the sincere expressions of pride in great accomplishment that they were, coming from a man who grew up as the second among 12 children in a two-bedroom house. This is a man who began working with his siblings in the family bar when he was 8 years old. A man who was the first of his family to go through college, putting himself through business school working as a night custodian, among various other jobs.
This is a man who came from nothing and has achieved the world. He has a lot to be proud of and I can certainly understand where he’s coming from. I take the tears as a sign that he’s passionate about what he has done and accomplished. I take it as a sign that he still believes in the power of the “American Dream,” a better sign than the wishy-washy ones we get from politicians constantly vying to keep the status they were born with.
And you know what? Crying over the loss of an office, something former Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the New York Times she would never do, is much different than crying because you’ve finally seen your decades of hard work come to fruition.
Still, as a leader, it’s important to maintain a certain image in office. Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly said that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Boehner a sissy; I couldn’t find any evidence that Putin actually did say this, though. And while we’re on that topic, let’s remember that Russia is a big place, fraught with some of the coldest winters in civilization and huge black bears. Russian politics are not the same as American politics.
In the end, wrestling bears and fishing shirtless in the Russian wild, as Putin did, can just as easily be seen as a shameless publicity stunt. Putin, as it turns out, is not all manly-man. No, he got up and sang at a fundraiser this last December. Does his sudden show of artsy sensitivity suddenly undermine his particular Russian machismo? While the need for our foreign allies to respect our leaders is important, I must say that Boehner’s tears have not yet affected his politics.
In fact, the politically savvy are doing themselves a disservice by looking at this quirky indiscretion to judge his future effectiveness rather than his past political behavior.
If you want to criticize Boehner, do so on the merits of his political behavior. Criticize him for his outright, sometimes brash opposition to the president. Even more outrageous, just take a look at his new push to redefine rape. Just don’t criticize him for his ability to be a man and openly confront his propensity to cry on television.
Maybe he never belonged in Congress to begin with. How hard is it really to get the vote in Ohio, which really only has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame going for it? He may have gotten his seat in one unopposed election, but let’s face it, it was the combined efforts of the voter-elected national representatives that gave him his new position. He has been known to tear up when debating policy on the House floor. That apparently didn’t bother them enough to consider that his emotional sensibility might make him unfit for the role of Speaker.
The fact of the matter is that in this time of feverish political mudslinging, Boehner is committed to solving problems. To him, that means working with his Democratic colleagues and maybe even accepting a raise on the debt ceiling in exchange for the promise of cuts in spending. There is nothing in his past as a legislator in D.C. to suggest he isn’t actually willing to put in the effort necessary to fix the nation. During Clinton’s administration, he took an unpopular stand against fraud in Congress,W and I don’t doubt that he is fully willing and able to do that now.
Ariana Santoro is a fourth-year physics and political science double major. She can be reached at email@example.com.