John Boehner’s Stepping Down

And honestly, can you blame him? He’s had to ride herd on an increasingly dysfunctional GOP Caucus in the House for four years now, a group that sees actually shutting down the government to get its way as just another political tactic. That’s got to have taken its toll on the man, who I believe at his heart does see government needing to be useful, even if he and I have rather different ideas about what “useful” means in this case. It can’t be fun being Speaker of the House these days. There’s less chaos in a kindergarten, and at least when you’re in charge of a kindergarten, when everyone’s cranky, you can make them take a nap.

So now he’s done, or will be soon — he’s resigning at the end of October as I understand it. I’ve seen people wondering if the Pope, who spoke to Congress yesterday and whose presence in Congress Boehner has apparently worked toward for years (ironic he got his wish with this particular pope, but even so), might have been an influence on what seems like a sudden decision to resign. I don’t suspect directly, no. I don’t think the Bishop of Rome pulled him aside and said, “dude, what are you doing? Get out while you can,” but I think Boehner may  have felt that this particular event was a highlight of his tenure and maybe it was time to go out on a high note, and while he was still young enough (he’s 65) to do something else with his life. I think maybe it crystallized his thinking, as in, why not leave now? It’s a valid question.

I don’t think Boehner’s departure from the Speaker position is going to do the House GOP or the GOP in general any good. I suspect whoever replaces him will be to Boehner’s right and more willing to use the House as a bludgeoning tool to get their way, which will be an interesting dynamic coming into an election year, and I use “interesting” in all its connotations. Right now the House GOP is on the verge of shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood; even if they dodge this particular bullet it will likely be by a stop gap measure that means there will likely be another possible government shutdown a few months down the line. The optics of shutting down the government are never good, and it’s better-than-even odds that the next House speaker won’t have the wit to recognize this. We’ll see.

I live in Boehner’s district and I’ll be very interested to see who replaces him, both short- and long-term. Boehner’s been the representative here since 1991 and he’s never gotten less than 61% of the vote (his first election), and there hasn’t been a Democrat in the OH-8 seat since the Depression. This seat is so safe the Democrats didn’t even run someone against him in 2012. Everyone including me assumed that he’d be in that seat until he was rolled out on a gurney. That being the case, I don’t think anyone’s been lurking in the wings. I mean, I’m sure someone is, in some way; I just don’t have the slightest idea who it might be. In one sense it doesn’t matter, since the GOP could run a dead raccoon in this district and it would still get 60% of the vote. But in another sense, well. Boehner was actually a good fit for OH-8, politically: rock-ribbed Republican rather than unhinged reactionary. I’m mildly worried whoever comes in will be more of the latter than the former.

People have jokingly suggested that now would be a fine time for me to enter public service; my response is thanks, no. I have no ambition to be a US Representative, for many reasons, among them that I would have less time for writing and also because while franking privileges are a compelling perk, overall the pay/perks package is not as good as what I get now. Also, the idea that what I would actually be doing with most of my time is begging for money from people who want me to vote their way, i.e., institutionalized bribe-seeking, depresses the shit out of me. I’m not a fan of the job as it functions today, basically; it seems very far away from what it’s supposed to be, which would be me acting as an actual representative of the people who live in the district.

But even if I were interested in the job, I’m unelectable in OH-8. I’m not a Democrat, so I don’t have that strike against me (I’m registered independent), but I am generally what passes for liberal in the United States. OH-8 is religious and conservative; an agnostic pro-choice dude who believes the rich aren’t being taxed enough is gonna be a hard sell. I’m not going to bother to make it. I have other things to do, and I like those other things I have to do. So, sorry, folks: Not running. Try to contain your disappointment.

As for Boehner, I hope that he does something other than become just another lobbyist. He and I don’t have a lot in common politically, but he generally seems to be a decent human being who means well and tried to do what he saw as best for his district, his nation and Congress. He’s still young enough to do something more with that impulse. I’d like to see him to do that.

71 Comments on “John Boehner’s Stepping Down”

  1. Parsing your post a little bit…Not interested in the house seat. You did not say anything about local office, state offices, the senate or the White House. Scalzi-Kayne 2020!!!

  2. Faruk Ates:

    I don’t personally see that happen, but it wouldn’t be the worst thing for the GOP

    Chris Brown:

    Heh. To be clear, I have no interest in public office at this point.

  3. Nicely done Sir! Apparently you read your own blog about not being an ass. This would have been a great opportunity to kick the man and you gracefully gave him his due. I would like to have more engaged conversation with my fellow human beings about conservative issues, however I am hailing from the same state where they call Nicky Haily a RINO.

  4. Just checking: I think you mean to reverse former-latter? “Boehner was actually a good fit for OH-8, politically: rock-ribbed Republican but not unhinged. I’m mildly worried whoever comes in will be more of the latter than the former.”

  5. Thank you John for a considered and even handed comment on Mr. Boehner’s announcement. My political views are much as you describe yours. And, like you, I believe the Representative did his best to represent his district and country. It’s a shame that the Republican Party has gone so far to the right that John Boehner has been accuse of liberal views by some of his own party, and that there seems to no longer be an atmosphere of give and take in congress.

  6. Yeah, I can’t bring myself to laugh at him. I may not agree with him on anything, but I’ve developed a fair amount of sympathy for him in recent years. He seems like a fundamentally decent man who landed his dream job of cat herder, only to learn that he then had to train as a lion tamer.

  7. I think this is the best move he can make at this point. I’ve long respected Boehner as someone who seemed to be trying to do what was best for the people he represented, though I didn’t always agree with him. But in the past few years, I think he’s been losing the fight against the rest of the GOP, and has been giving in to them (or getting run over by them) too much.

  8. He can’t have had much fun in the past eight years, and the last four have been terrible for him.

    I’m glad you are not considering politics as your next career. I’m sure you’d be great at it, but why take on even more stress, and willingly put yourself in daily/hourly contact with ignoramuses?

    And, is the plural of “ignoramus” ignorami?

  9. I agree, whoever follows him is likely to be much further from sanity by my standards. Boehner at least appeared to be trying to govern, rather than actively seeking to destroy government and urinate on its corpse in the name of faith.

  10. An interesting idea I’ve seen floated (and it’s an interesting one) is that he hopes to push through an extended budget deal through the end of 2016 to prevent a shutdown (which would really sink the GOP in an election year). To do this, he needs to work with the Democratic Party, and that will sink him with his own party. He’s doing the best he can for the country (and his party), and is going to step down rather than be forced out (because he almost was the last time around).

    It’s an interesting idea, and makes a certain amount of sense. The next few weeks will tell.

  11. In addition to what you said about successfully bring the Pope to congress being a career highlight, it is not inconceivable to me that a sincere Catholic in his shoes might be reexamining his life choices and philosophical positions in the context of the Pope’s speech.

  12. .
    So I was weeping and my red facepaint was running, as Pope Francis, who was here on MY damned ballpark, and he talked about the necessity in this hour that has come, for a pause, a moment of reflection, of reconsideration, of prayer, and I thought — let me go out on a winning day, top of my frickin’ form, and take the ball with me, you ungovernable teaparty loons. And wiped away my tears…

  13. While he was in the minority, he was obstinate to the point of ridiculousness. However, once becoming Speaker, I do think he tried to walk it back and wrangle the insane kittens posing as his party members. I don’t envy the task his successor as Speak has in front of them.

  14. It seems to me that it’s been in the last two years that TV journalists have decided to start using “optics” to refer to public perception; now John is doing it too. I suppose it’s too late for the pebbles to vote, but I’m not fond of that usage.

    It also seems to be too late to get TV journalists to stop using the phrase “hone in”.

  15. At this point, there seem to be few actual conservatives left in the leadership of the Republican Party. Mostly they’re reactionaries and Dominionists. Most of the conservatives left in Congress are Democrats.

    There are garbled reports that Boehner may have thrown himself under the clown bus to prevent a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. Not that he gives a frack about PP, but he may have worried about the effect another shutdown would have on the 2016 election.

  16. There’s a lengthy examination on @ReignOfApril’s Twitter of his stepping down from the angle that he might try running for President. It’s…not a crazy idea.

    Yes, it is. He has no real constituency in the Republican Party, let alone with anyone else. He knows that.

    I do think that this reduces the chances of a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood because if the crazies in the House GOP caucus threaten not to vote for it, Boehner can use Democratic votes. What are they going to do to him? Force him out of the speakership?

  17. nice thoughts about why not run personally, but seriously you lack the experience to run and be effective. You write good books, stick with that.

  18. Thank you, John, for your gracious assessment of John Boehner’s resignation. I wasn’t a great fan of the man. But Boehner, unlike certain other GOP colleagues, wasn’t a living example of the axiom that being mentally unhinged or arrogantly ignorant was a prerequisite of running as a Republican for public office.

    Thank the Great Spaghetti Monster that you can resist getting sucked into the politician’s problem of having people with money cozy up to you for your support. Maybe it seems like a low aspiration in life, but having a beautful wife and daughter plus a pair of sweet cats and a lovable dog feels worth a lot more than a suitcase full of bribe money.

  19. From what I’ve read, in exchange for Boehner’s scalp the self-described Freedom Caucus in the House will pass the Senate’s clean continuing resolution, which will keep the federal government running through December without defunding Planned Parenthood. OTOH. it also sounds like the Republican’s long-term plan is to use reconciliation to pass a budget that will defund both Planned Parenthood and the ACA.

  20. it also sounds like the Republican’s long-term plan is to use reconciliation to pass a budget that will defund both Planned Parenthood and the ACA

    Can you say “VETO”?

    Of course, if a Republican wins the White House, that doesn’t work so well.

  21. “Ignoramus” is not a Latin noun, so no, it has no Latin plural. It’s a verb – it means “we ignore” (the 3d person present inicative of “ignorare”). It was the name of a character in an early 17th century play (cf Malaprop). As an English noun, its plural is regular.

  22. I think he only seemed a reasonable human being compared to the other flying monkeys in the Senate, but he did at least believe that government should more or less happen, unlike the Republican lunatic majority.

    Gohmert next, probably? Cruz is too busy not getting elected as Pres, and is probably too possessed of a certain low cunning to take on the poisoned chalice.

  23. Relevant to folks asking you about running for the office. My cousin did PR/press secretary duty for a then-freshman rep from the Eastern Shore of Maryland who came in with the ’94 GOP sweep of Congress. I believe she fielded the first question about “what will he do when Tom Clancy (who lived in the district) runs for the seat?” at their victory celebration on Election Night, and it went on for MONTHS until someone got the bright idea of actually asking Clancy about it.

    Paraphrasing, Clancy’s response was along the lines of “Have you even read *any* of my books? What on earth would make you think I have even the slightest interest in subjecting myself and my family to that meatgrinder?”

    So I’m relieved but not in the slightest bit surprised by your statement on that subject today, John.

  24. .
    I spoke by phone with Tom Clancy about exactly that, autojim, and personal/Navy/Intel/Space/Authorly stuff, when I returned his phonecall back when Dan Quayle was Veep…

  25. I dunno; I could see OGH running as an utterly epic troll. Since he is obviously not electable, he could get away with speaking the simple truth about, well, pretty much anything and everything, without any need to pander to whichever small and noisy minority can bring out the most money and/or votes.

    Of course, merely running for office—any office—isn’t exactly a bed of roses, for either the candidate themself or their family. So that’s one strike against the notion.

    The second strike is, what if the horse sang Scalzi actually did win!?

  26. Fact:: any U.S. citizen can be named as Speaker of the House even if not a representative sitting in the House. What existing Republican anywhere in the US would be the best person? John, your thoughts? One of the current candidates in the running for the Presidential nomination? Someone else? I am really curious.

  27. I’ve never been a huge fan of Boehner, but I certainly agree that he has taken a beating from the more extreme right of his party. I also agree that whoever takes up being the Speaker will likely represent that same extreme, and further divide the polarity that’s already present in congress. To this extent I think Boehner served as a buffer, and he certainly sees government as an institution that should exist, and that it should function. And it’s not functioning appropriately.

    More to other points, I don’t agree that he’s doing this as an attempt to defeat democrats, or because he’s giving up. He planned to step down up until Cantor lost, and it really could be as simple as this is a good place to stop.

  28. I heard part of Mr. Boehner’s press conference, and I’ve never heard him sound so lighthearted. Reminded me a little of the day I accepted that it was time to leave the classroom, like a great weight had lifted off my shoulders.

    And then I thought of the previous pope, and that moment when he looked at the stack of papers comprising the Vatican Bank issue, and decided right then that he wasn’t the man to deal with this properly. I wonder if Mr. Boehner had a similar moment last night?

  29. Top of the list of people who don’t want John Scalzi running for Congress is probably Tor, who has a bit invested in your future.

    But Scalzi for Congress… Krissy Scalzi!

    She’s the perfect candidate – she’s smart, hard working, from the local area, and that picture with her and the baseball bat would be perfect for her campaign materials.

    Krissy for Congress!

  30. Not a big fan of Congressman Boehner, but I never envied him the job of riding herd on the nutjob contingent we sent him from Texas. In all honesty, I am surprised he put up with them as long as he did.

    Second Krissy for Congress! All in favor, signify by saying “Arrrr!”

  31. But – but think of how many Rabid Puppies’ heads would EXPLODE if you were Speaker of the House! 3:)

    I know – in the unlikely chance you won in a heavily Red district, you’d be at best a Junior Representative of the Party that’s currently out of power….

  32. Arrr!
    Krissy would make a much better congresscritter. She’s tough, she plays well with others, she could do the job. Although the whole not suffering fools lightly would count against her, and then she’d need the baseball bat, and it all ends in tears.

    I don’t think anyone blames him for saying “Screw you guys, I’m going home.” His job had become un-do-able, and I can’t imagine the stress. Whether he goes into lobbying, Fox Newsing, or just sits around the old OH-8 with the family, his quality of life has gone WAY up.

    The local GOP must be burning up the email and phones looking for someone to take that seat in the special election, since nobody figured they’d have to run for years. Hopefully they’ll pick some other sensible Midwestern Republican type.

    @Gary Willis: If anyone GOP… I’d like to see Jon Huntsman, but the screaming reactionaries and Dominionists would hate him more than they hate Boehner.

  33. Boehner had an extremely stressful job for the last few years. And he’s getting on in years. And, whilst congresspersons won’t become filthily rich off of their salaries, it’s decent money. If he’s been smart with his money, he probably CAN retire and just play golf/tend his garden/whatever for the rest of his life.

    If he does exactly that, he can look back at his career and say he WON. His last few acts have been getting the Pope to adress Congress, a dream of his, and, possibly, preventing another pointless shutdown.

    I’ll echo the chorus. I’m a european socialist. There’s nothing about his politics I agree with.Still, I wish him a happy retirement.

    And if he chooses to supplement his income with occasional speaking engagements or stints on Fox? Well, better him than any of his more extremist former collegues…

  34. The beauty of this is that it really gives the Democrats leverage over who the next speaker is going to be. The remaining grownups in the GOP are going to want their guy. The Tehadists are going to want their guy. That means someone is going to have to forma coalition with the Ds in order to get the next Speaker in place (everyone votes for the Speaker’s chair), and “working with Democrats” is exactly the kind of stuff the Tehadists *don’t* do.

  35. Boehner is the guy who handed out bribes, uh, I mean campaign contributions, from tobacco lobbyists to other members of congress on the house floor before a vote on tobacco subsidies. Can there be any doubt as to whether he’s going to become a lobbyist himself?

  36. I’ve made my share of “Weeping Cheeto” jokes about Boehner, but I don’t feel great about that. Being a crier myself, I shouldn’t rag on a guy for being emotional. And, yeah, he’s been a shithead at times, but lately he’s been about the sanest member of the Goons On Parade.

  37. I feel oddly reminiscent because Mr. Boehner was the guest speaker at my high school graduation in – wait for it – 1991. I guess technically you could say we shared the stage, as I provided a brief valedictorian address. I do not remember him being orange (or any unnatural color). I wish him well, although I also did not agree with much of his rhetoric.

  38. I thought he looked strangely meditative during the Pope’s congressional address.
    He was not my guy, but at least he seemed like an adult in the room.
    Lord knows what they’ll put in now.

  39. Boehner’s decision was a combination of quitting before he was fired, and falling on his sword for the good of the country. He was almost certainly going to be either one, voted out of the Speakership or two, relying on Democratic votes to remain Speaker. The latter would be worse than the former.

    However, given that he was going to do, he did so in a way that probably ensures that the government won’t be shut down.

    I think Boehner was a terrible Speaker – he had no vision and no plan. Under his Speakership the GOP rarely fielded their own plans – and never even outlined what they’d do if Obamacare were repealed – the GOP House just said “no” to the Democrats’ plans. Not impressive at all. That said, he seems to be a decent human being and if he timed his departure to avoid a shutdown, then good on him.

    The next Speaker is almost certainly going to be the current Majority Leader, McCarthy. Boehner’s method of departing ensures he has a lot of influence over the choice of his successor.

  40. @ Jason Gilbert: “Exhibit 1 has to be the response of my own GOP rep, Thomas Massie, who was quoted as saying that Boehner had “subverted the Republic.””

    I live in Massie’s district, too, and am perpetually appalled by “our” US Congressman.

  41. Lurkertype and Gary, Huntsman would be even more hated by the establishment. Imagine, the guy is against corn ethanol. The horror!

  42. I don’t know, JS might make it to the White House if he wanted:

    “In America any boy may become President, and I suppose it’s just one of the risks he takes.” — Adlai Stevenson


  43. Can you say “VETO”?
    .No question president Obama would veto such a budget. But that then leaves the problem of there not being a budget.

    And the Republicans would own the ensuing shutdown (as they did last time).

  44. I do not accept Krissy for our Scalzi in Congress because she does not entertain us on Whatever. If I cannot have the dancing monkey of my choice, I will not have any dancing monkey at all.
    I am now executing the perfect Flounce.

  45. “…a group that sees actually shutting down the government to get its way as just another political tactic.”
    I think the truth is even worse than that: the Tea Party could care less about political tactics. Or politics at all. They aren’t interested in governing, but rather in using their position as an opportunity to harangue people. It’s government as performance art. Neutering Congress’ ability to do its job is a feature, not a bug to these people. After all, if Congress actually did anything to advance their agenda, it would undermine their core doctrine that government can’t accomplish anything.

  46. Josh: “An interesting idea I’ve seen floated (and it’s an interesting one) is that he hopes to push through an extended budget deal through the end of 2016 to prevent a shutdown (which would really sink the GOP in an election year). To do this, he needs to work with the Democratic Party, and that will sink him with his own party. He’s doing the best he can for the country (and his party), and is going to step down rather than be forced out (because he almost was the last time around).”

    This makes sense, and it keeps an ongoing shutdown/CR/sequester from being an issue when the American people start paying attention through primary season. And aside from avoiding a government shutdown and the problems, that might add to the, ah – ‘gratitude’ of various parties who are likely paying him a sweet golden parachute.

    I do have no sympathy for the guy. He’s just another guy who decided to mobilize the Evil and the Crazy, and found out just what those two words mean.

  47. The Revolution devours its children. And I do mean children.

    But (extending all respect possible to the “do not be an asshole” prohibition) how does this not mean Tea Party/Values Voters types are the Worst People Evar? Officially, and for keeps? Here’s Boehner breaking his back for years to get them as much of what they want as he can manage, and this is the way they act when they learn they’re not going to have him to kick around any more — and I ask this as an emphatic non-Boehner-fan, BTW.

    Man. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, indeed.

  48. I think Mr. Boehner would be a great fit for Fox. Think of all the money they’d save on make-up. (note to self: call stock broker and put in a buy order just in case)

  49. I was very surprised when I’d first hear about this. Like him or not, you have to give him props for attempting to do the right thing. I was listening to Bloomberg News this past Saturday on the radio, and they said that when Ted Cruz announced at a fundraiser Boehner was resigning, the hall erupted in thunderous cheers. Ugh.

  50. Glad you’re not thinking of politics, John. I figure the real pull to a political career is the excitement garnered through tremendous amounts of pressure, both upon oneself as well as the job. It’s getting to the point where an attraction to power and melodrama are primary requisites to political office. And while Washington has long been a stage, at least showmanship was but one of several tools of the politician. Now it looks like the show is all that really matters and politics provides dramatic direction. It doesn’t get any more divorced than that.

    Maybe it might more apropos to assign Washington DC a Nielsen rating?

  51. It can’t be fun being Speaker of the House these days. There’s less chaos in a kindergarten, and at least when you’re in charge of a kindergarten, when everyone’s cranky, you can make them take a nap.

    The problem with Congress is that they’re volunteering to take a nap.

  52. I am mixed about Boehner.

    On the one hand, he has a bunch of lunatics to ride herd on. On the other hand (if a one-handed person can use the phrase), he actively encouraged the lunatics.

    The GOP has perfected the art of passive-aggressive in politics. Boehner has been a big (non-) player because he has actively not done anything that had anything to do with Obama.He has allowed over 50 (useless) votes to get rid of the ACA. And he was a player in the last govt shutdown.

    That shutdown devastated a huge amount of science research in the USA. It basically handed China a 10 year lead in science, and we can never catch up. It made the USA a laughing stock in the world-wide scientific community. And the idiots still have zero clue of the damage they did – they want another shutdown!

    There are times when I want Obama to come out *in favor* of Oxygen, just so the GOP will hold their breaths. Boehner is getting out while the getting is good.

  53. John Boehner is very responsible for the obstructionist tone that Republicans have taken since 2009. He’s part of the problem with his coddling of Tea Party extremists in the House and his antagonistic comments about President Obama. I notice that lately he stopped with that stupid, “Where’s the jobs, President?” nonsense. As if he and his Republican Obstructionists have done anything to create jobs for Americans.

    I don’t see how any future Republican House Leader can be worse than him.

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