Last night, Speaker of the House John Boehner appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I always find it amusing when politicians attempt late night comedy. Although politicians require minimal people skills in order to garner sufficient votes to be elected, charisma does not always translate to humor. The late night scene often reveals a different side of politicians. Last night we learned at least two things from Speaker Boehner, 1. He is not going to receive a Las Vegas contract on the Strip for his stand-up comedy anytime soon, and 2. He is not an effective legislative leader.
One of my favorite moments of the night was his attempt at a joke. He said, “It is hard to run for office when people can’t pronounce your name. Thank God my name wasn’t Weiner.” Although, he offered a candid and perhaps valid point, his monotonous elocution did not fully capture the crux of the joke. I found it funny that the audience missed the joke entirely. Leno generously prompted his band to give Speaker Boehner a courtesy rimshot drum roll before the audience offered a courtesy laugh.
Throughout the interview Boehner appeared as he often does, complacent, and bored. He explained to the late host that as part of his job he as to act as a big brother figure, and sometimes even a father figure to his coworkers in the House of Representatives. Soon thereafter he compared members of the House to frogs suggesting, “My job is to get 218 frogs in a wagon long enough to pass a bill.” To me this means that he is not interested in changing legislative culture, or changing the way people think. He is satisfied with doing the minimum amount of work to get bills passed, if that. I find that he is not capable of leading his own party; needless to say it is hard to imagine that he could direct the affairs of the House of Representatives as a whole. He claimed that fighting within his own party is as bad as it has ever been, and that it was his party was to blame for the government shutdown. He said:
“I told my colleagues in July that I think shutting down the government over Obamacare wouldn’t work because the President was not going to negotiate. And so I told them in August, It’s probably not a good idea. I told them in early September. But when you have my job, there is something you have to learn. When I looked up I saw my colleagues going this way. [Points his fingers to one direction] And you learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk. So, if you want to fight this fight, I’ll go fight it with you, but it was a very predictably disaster.”
A leader is a person who cuts against the grain, and creates trends, not follows trends. I admire leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., who went against the trend of his day. Before the Civil Rights movement the African American mindset was to stay low, and not make a scene, because aversion offered the most protection. King offered a peaceful, but resolute approach which aligned his followers and stirred contemporary ideology. Leaders who I admire include: Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Henry Ford, and Walt Disney. What these leaders all have in common is that chose to create trends which benefited their communities.
I find it somewhat appalling that Speaker Boehner foresaw the government shut down, and made no such attempt to avert it. That political stunt, according to Standard & Poor’s, cost the United States $24 billion. I fear that legislative dysfunction will continue, because the leaders such as Speaker Boehner do not have a clear vision for what they want for America. Speaker Boehner blamed his party, blamed Obama, blamed democrats, and he even blamed the American people for being too divided and electing polarizing leaders. The one person he forgot to blame is himself. Leno asked the Speaker of he would run for President in 2016. Thank goodness for cigarettes, golf and wine, for those will keep this Speaker off the Primary Ballot.
Brian D. King, Mesa, AZ