Monday, February 13, 2017
Politicos pay attention to those who are paying attention!
Weekly Opinion Editorial
By Steve Fair
In Las Vegas, at the annual meeting of the National Grocers Association, former Speaker of the House John Boehner said helping run his parent’s bar prepared him for politics; “You have to learn to disagree without being disagreeable and you have to be nice to every jackass that comes through the door,” Boehner said to laughs. Bounced from the U.S. House Speaker’s chair eighteen months ago, by what he called ‘right wing knuckleheads,’ Boehner said that neither he nor President Obama could find common ground because of the political extremist factions in both parties. He predicted Speaker Ryan will have an easier time holding the House GOP caucus together because President Trump did so well in the ‘knuckleheads’ districts. “They are going to have a hard time going against the POTUS and that will force them to support some legislation they have been railing against because I can assure you Trump is not as conservative as some believe,” Boehner said
When during Q&A, a questioner railed on Trump’s choice of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education instead of asking her question, Boehner interrupted and said, “I know Betsy Devos and have worked with her. She is an excellent choice.” When asked by another grocer if he supported term limits for Congress, he said no. “We have term limits every two years-they are called elections. When you have term limits, the staff and bureaucrats run government and not the elected officials. If someone doesn’t like the way I represent them, they have the ability to support someone else and kick me out,” Boehner said. In theory, the Speaker is right, but it doesn’t work in practice. 94% of incumbents are reelected. Money and power flows to the incumbent, making sending incumbents home very difficult. Term limits have worked in Oklahoma and they would work at the federal level.
When asked about the top three issues he believes will be the most important Congress and President Trump will address, Boehner said the mounting national debt, the Affordable Care Act, and tax relief. “We can’t keep spending more than we take in- we have to get spending under control. Expect the replacement for the ACA to be later rather than sooner, but I do think Congress and the President will get tax relief passed,” Boehner said. His answers were short, concise and to the point. He seemed relaxed and unencumbered.
When asked about former President Obama, he said their relationship was workable and cordial but not warm. “Obama loves to lecture, instead of discuss. I have never labored under the delusion I was the smartest man in the room, but that is who he believes he is. When I was ousted as Speaker, he called me and said: ‘Boehner, I’m going to miss you,’ and I said, ‘Yes, you are.’ In spite of our deep ideological differences, we were trying to find common ground, but it was next to impossible because of the political extremists in both Parties,” Boehner concluded.
“Watch what politicians do and not what they say,” he admonished when asked about Trump’s rants on social media. “Trump is a populist- he isn’t a Party guy and this is the first time in a long time that we have ever had a POTUS who has no respect for or history with politics. It should be interesting, because he understands how to make a deal and the fact is, politics involves making deals,” Boehner said.
“Will he drain the swamp?” a grocery retailer from Michigan asked Boehner. “I don’t really know what ‘drain the swamp’ means. I mean I know what some people think it means, but in Trump’s case I think that is just something he says to energize his base,” the former Speaker responded.
I have heard Boehner speak a number of times, but never as ‘unplugged’ as he was at the NGA’s annual meeting. His candor was refreshing, his insight logical. Instead of playing to his audience, he spoke his mind. During the Q&A, Paula Deen (yep that one) came to a mic in the aisle and said she wasn’t political, but she loved Boehner’s wife. He graciously accepted the compliment for his spouse, then said accurately said; ‘everyone’s political.’
The final question for the former Speaker was from a grocer in his home state of Ohio who asked him; ‘How do we make a difference?’ “Stay engaged, not just in a civic club or charitable organization, but in a political Party. Pay attention to what is going on around you. I can assure you elected officials pay attention to those who pay attention,” Boehner said.