Like much of the world that doesn’t live Inside the Beltway, I was only marginally aware of John Boehner until some months ago when it was becoming clear he might be the next speaker. And even then I wasn’t impressed. The man-tan look made me assume he was just another shallow pol.
I was wrong. As of now, I have done a total about-face. In his speech today, John Boehner showed himself to be among the most impressive figures on our political landscape, and he did it by being that rarest of things in politics: a humble human being.
His opening ad-lib quieting thunderous applause – “It’s still just me” – should be an instructional moment in public behavior in our celebrity culture. Can you imagine Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Barack Obama or even, alas, Sarah Palin saying such a thing with the authenticity Boehner clearly had at such a moment?
He spoke graciously for a brief twelve minutes — as compared with his predecessor Pelosi, who spoke for thirteen before passing him the gavel. And unlike Pelosi, he spoke about us, the people, and very little about himself. (She spent the better part of the thirteen minutes listing her own accomplishments. But enough about Pelosi — let’s hope for a long time.) Boehner emphasized comity and civility, virtues the almost feel extinct in our society.