Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 13, 2011

HOW BOEHNER SPENT HIS EVENING.... At first blush, the circumstances don't cast House Speaker John Boehner in an especially flattering light. The Ohio Republican chose not to attend the memorial service in Tucson last night, instead attending a cocktail party with members of the Republican National Committee. Also, President Obama offered Boehner a chance to travel to Tucson aboard Air Force One, but the Speaker declined.

Taken together, it doesn't look great. But Brian Beutler dug a little deeper and finds that Boehner probably doesn't deserve much in the way of heat on this.

Yesterday, House members attended a vigil for victims of the Arizona shooting spree in an auditorium underneath the Capitol Visitor's Center. As they trickled in, a House aide provided reporters, including me, a glimpse of the program of events and list of speakers. There was one small revision to the schedule, though: Minority Whip Steny Hoyer would be reading Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's portion of scripture, because she was on her way to Tucson with the President.

If Boehner had accepted the invitation, then the leaders of both parties would have missed the Wednesday vigil. [...]

Boehner's also getting knocked around a bit for what he decided to do while in DC: he attended an organizing event for Maria Cino, whom he's supporting to chair the RNC. But though that may have entailed chatting up donors over cocktails, Steel says he spoke for three minutes and left the event in time to watch Obama's speech on television. And while he plausibly could have made it out to Tucson separately in time for the service, Boehner would most likely have had to charter a military plane, to which he has access as Speaker. Republicans criticized former Speaker Pelosi for traveling via military air during her tenure, and Boehner has committed to commuting to his Ohio district on commercial flights.

In other words, it's probably fair to consider Boehner's decision not to attend the memorial service an excused absence.

But as long as we're on the subject, reader A.D. emails a thought experiment today: "Let's suppose, hypothetically, it's early 2007. A well liked, photogenic, centrist Republican congressman has been seriously wounded in a shooting incident in which several attendees have been killed, including a 9 year old. President Bush invites the new Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, to accompany him on Air Force One to a memorial service for the victims. She declines, and attends a partisan fund raising event instead. How much buzz would this create in the political ether?"

It's a fair question. I'm guessing the answer would be "a whole lot." The story would be the only thing Fox News covered for days, and newspapers would soon be filled with op-eds about the Speaker's callousness. There'd be whispers about whether Pelosi's position was secure. Democrats would emphasize the context, and Republicans would conveniently ignore it.

The parties choose to play by different rules. Dems aren't pushing this story at all today -- nor should they, given the circumstances. Instead, we see left-leaning outlets -- including the one you're reading now -- offering an implicit defense of Boehner, explaining why this isn't really a controversy worth pursuing.

I think any intellectually honest observer, regardless of ideology, should agree that the Republican Attack Machine has no real interest in such niceties or concern for details.

Steve Benen 3:25 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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I think any intellectually honest observer, regardless of ideology, should agree that the Republican Attack Machine has no real interest in such niceties or concern for details.

Of course. There's no profit in nuance.

Posted by: Bryan on January 13, 2011 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you for this article, Steve. I'm no fan of Boehner's. At all. But this gleeful bashing is making us Liberals look childish.

The president showed us the way to the high road, people. I think we should follow him.

Posted by: chrenson on January 13, 2011 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

Exactly. Many on the left will probably agree that Boehner probably deserves a pass, and it's wouldn't be fair to crank up the outrage.

Given the reaction of many prominent commentators on the right to Obama's speech -- complaining about T-shirts, people?! Really? -- it's clear that fairness isn't an issue, and finding something to be outraged about is.

The sad thing is, movement conservatives believes their Orewllian tactics genuinely benefit them; hence, the screaming about "censorship" -- they know they're being asked to tone down what they believe is their most, if not only, effective rhetoric.

Posted by: Gregory on January 13, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner's spokesman assures us further that the Speaker wept uncontrollably throughout the President's speech.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on January 13, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, I agree completely.

OT - Part of me froths at the mouth whenever I hear that orange guy blubber. This guy pulls out the kleenex at greeting card commercials. Remember that time Hilary almost cried? Remember the hours of "news analysis" following that near-tear? It sucks to be a woman in politics in this country.

Posted by: chacha on January 13, 2011 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Until we, as Democratic, patriotic, progressive Americans have the same broadcasting resources as the rePigs, we will always lose the communication race. Is that so hard to understand? How many liberal talk radio stations are there? What percentage of the media world is dominated by liberal/progressives? We have little in the way of a megaphone, we get little attention. SSDD. How will this change? If anything is going to change, we need to restore responsible journalism that is dedicated to truth. We need to balance out the right wing extremism. We have a small voice. How will this change? Thank God for the internet and blogs. But we need so much more.

Posted by: In what respect, Charlie? on January 13, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

I keep waiting for that magical moment when the right stops supporting the "win at all costs" mentality and starts to embrace a more open, intellectually curious stance. Until the market share for manipulative right-wing demagoguery shrinks, I'm afraid they'll keep at it.

Posted by: danimal on January 13, 2011 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I'll agree to let this story go and cut the Crying Man some slack -- just as soon as the righties let go of the Clinton "haircut on the tarmac" story. http://mediamatters.org/research/200702090015

Posted by: biggerbox on January 13, 2011 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

There was one small revision to the schedule, though: Minority Whip Steny Hoyer would be reading Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's portion of scripture, because she was on her way to Tucson with the President.

If Boehner had accepted the invitation, then the leaders of both parties would have missed the Wednesday vigil. [...] -- Brian Beutler

So... Cantor was unavailable as Boehner's substitute, the way Hoyer pitched in for Pelosi?

Posted by: exlibra on January 13, 2011 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for making the issue less about Boehner and more about the attack machine.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 13, 2011 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, alright, Steve.... in the spirit of a kinder, gentler, and more humble political discourse I'll give Boehner a pass on this one.

But part of me still remembers the Other Side hollering about Clinton's Christmas card list, huffing about how it was inappropriate of Michelle to wear a sleeveless dress to meet Queen Elizabeth, and sneering that Jean Francois Kerry "looked FRENCH!"

Posted by: Eeyore on January 13, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Surely you mean "at first blush."

Posted by: monocle on January 13, 2011 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I was also curious about something regarding this - isn't VP Biden out of the country in now? Would you want to have both the President and the second in succession in the same place while the VP is unavailable? No sure it matters, but I was wondering about that.

Posted by: g on January 13, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - I understand and agree with your point but nevertheless it is terribly frustrating because your post reinforces exactly why we are held to a different standard than the GOP.

At what point does the Village give us any CREDIT for this?????????!!!!!!

Posted by: Trinity on January 13, 2011 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure the Orange Boner was drunk as a skunk. Our only hope is that the alcoholic tosspot either gets cirrhosis and croaks or wanders into traffic while stumbling home from the bar some night.

Posted by: Sam Simple on January 13, 2011 at 3:59 PM | PERMALINK

"At face blush"
Now Steve, your not making fun of the Orange One are you? Tee Hee!

Posted by: joyzeeboy on January 13, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK
At face blush, the circumstances don't cast House Speaker John Boehner in an especially flattering light

Either that should be "first blush" or you've just revealed the reason for Boehner's citrus-y hue.

Posted by: navamske on January 13, 2011 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Let's give Boehner a pass on not attending the memorial service.

But that is not to say that attending a fund raising cocktail party while the memorial service is going is acceptable behavior.

Posted by: arkie on January 13, 2011 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

The House should pass a rule requiring the Orange Boner to pass a Breathalyzer test before he sets foot in the chamber!

Posted by: Sam Simple on January 13, 2011 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

There wasn't an open bar at the memorial.

Posted by: SaintZak on January 13, 2011 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

With due respect, and quite unusually, I disagree with you on this, Steve. I'm fine with leading politicians giving Boehner a pass, but not with commentators. He has been for years an unusually shameless practitioner of the politics of money; see Taibbi's article in the current Rolling Stone for several examples. He also sees everything in the light of politics; in the same article there is a horrifying anecdote about someone paying respects when Boehner's mother died. He could have rescheduled, he had an opportunity to act, and thus to make the memorial an even more clearly bipartisan event. He chose not to, and the fact that he has excuses cuts very little ice with me. No, it's not worth wall-to-wall outrage, but it sure is worth mentioning. Of course, you did mention it! But a little huffing would not have gone amiss.

Posted by: pete on January 13, 2011 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Theres a bit of a misconception about using military aircraft costing more money. Its already been budgeted It doesnt save any money by that plane sitting on the ground it costs prtty much the same. I dont care if Boehner or Pelosi used those planes. The reason Beohner probably doesnt use them is because he will look like a hypocrite and his base, now thinking that plane costs the government more money when used, might start balking.

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 13, 2011 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Decision time in the Speaker's office:

A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails. A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails. A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails.. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 13, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I think any intellectually honest observer, regardless of ideology, should agree that the Republican Attack Machine has no real interest in such niceties or concern for details."

The Republican attack machine will do what they do. It's the double-standard applied by the traditional network, cable, and print media that bothers me.

Yes, if the shoe were on the other foot, Republicans would complain. But traditional media outlets don't have to take cynical GOP complaints seriously. Unfortunately, they do take such complaints seriously, and therein lies the problem.

Posted by: Chris on January 13, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Flying on a military plane, like any plane, uses a large amount of fuel, which does cost money for each flight. Aircraft fuel is fairly expensive and a whole lot of it is used on any given flight.

I give Boehner a pass under the circumstances, but I'm curious as to when, if ever, Boehner or Cantor will pay a visit to Rep. Giffords in the hospital. It would be a nice show of bipartisanship (although meaningless).

Posted by: DRF on January 13, 2011 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails. A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails. A ride on Air Force One with POTUS, or cocktails.. . .

... I'm thinking it over !!!! (w/apologies to Jack Benny)

Posted by: G.Kerby on January 13, 2011 at 5:20 PM | PERMALINK

You know, if I were Boehner's image consultant, I'd tell him that if he attends any events in the next several years where there are cocktails served, there had better also be a sit-down dinner involved. Because it's going to be real easy to paint the new Speaker as a fellow who only got into politics for the free booze and golf.

Posted by: JoyceH on January 13, 2011 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

g: "Would you want to have both the President and the second in succession in the same place while the VP is unavailable?"

Interesting observation, but immaterial. If the president is incapacitated, the Speaker doesn't get the job just because the Veep is out of the country.

But suppose Obama and Boehner were both at the memorial and Sarah Palin herself went postal and killed them. And further suppose that, on his way home, Biden's plane crashed. Boom! President Inouye.

Posted by: Grumpy on January 13, 2011 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm betting Boehner didn't want to be on tv blubbering at the memorial. Just a hunch. Voila, an excuse. Terrible excuse, but one nevertheless.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on January 13, 2011 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

"At what point does the Village give us any CREDIT for this?????????!!!!!!" Trinity @ 3:58 PM.

And just why should WE care about the drooling synchophants that occupy said "Viilage"?
Just because something isn't noted breathlessly by a talking head on a cable network doesn't invalidate what was DONE.
Nor does it mean it wasn't noticed...

Posted by: Doug on January 13, 2011 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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