The Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner and I are friends.
We have seldom visited since I left the Congress in 1997, but during John’s first years in the House I was the chairman of an education committee of which he was a member. John, despite our political differences, was attentive, engaged, and always considering fresh ways, as he saw it, to improve the nation’s schools.
I liked him and still do – although now I am troubled by the policy and political muddle in which he has been cast. It is also disappointing to note that he prefers to follow rather than lead.
Boehner, although a genuine “corporations come first” Republican, is far more moderate than his four dozen Republican members who agree with the “take no prisoners” radicalized creed of their Tea Party constituents. That minority within the House Majority trampled roughshod over the preferences of most of the citizenry by taking the U.S. federal government hostage to their demands.
The John Boehner I knew wouldn’t agree with the brinkmanship procedures that were imposed by a handful of his Republican colleagues.
Only a year ago Boehner broke with his arch conservative Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy by supporting compromise legislation to prevent a federal debt crisis and agreeing to limit spending and increasing federal taxes on families earning $500,000 per year. However, this year’s Boehner seems to feel the Speaker’s cloak slipping from his shoulders and apparently is unwilling to jeopardize his vaulted position.
Thus he continues to substitute ducking and dodging for bold leadership. Perhaps it was too much to hope, but wouldn’t it have been historic if Speaker Boehner told his Republicans to either act like adults or find themselves a new speaker of the House.
Pat Williams served nine terms as a U.S. representative from Montana. He later taught at The University of Montana.