Is John Boehner the Real Deal?
To the relief of many, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) did not repeat the triumphalism that so marked the installation of Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House. Instead, after hearing Speaker Pelosi lavish praise on him and receiving a standing ovation from all House members, he shrugged and stated simply: “It’s still just me.”
Not to make too much of it, but Boehner is a political figure who has eluded celebrity status in this town where celebrity is craved. Instead, Boehner is a virtual unknown face to the American people. His biggest claims to fame have to do with his tan and his ability to cry. In fact, Boehner took out the handkerchief twice on Wednesday to wipe away tears before he received the gavel.
But mostly, Boehner is most comfortable working behind the scenes without fanfare. He’s a doer -- he held the Republicans together during the last two years. In public, he is not a sweet talker. It was revealing that his acceptance speech was a bit halting, not polished like his counterpart on the opposite side of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Barack Obama.
In sharp contrast to the last two years of his predecessor, Boehner hit notes of austerity, self-sacrifice, and humility: “Nearly one in ten of our neighbors are looking for work,” he stated at the beginning of his acceptance speech. In D.C., there will be no Republican galas and no celebratory parties. Boehner has already announced he will order a 5% cutback for his own speaker’s budget and will ask all the House members to accept a similar cutback. He also has promised he will fly on commercial aircraft, eschewing the expensive Air Force jets used by outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The contrasts between Boehner's and Pelosi’s backgrounds are pretty revealing. Nancy Pelosi was born into a powerful political family in Baltimore. Her father was a congressman and mayor of Baltimore. She married Paul Pelosi, a millionaire. The Pelosis live a comfortable, lavish lifestyle -- her husband is a wealthy real estate developer and venture capitalist as well as the owner of two sports teams. As of 2008, the Pelosis have officially reported a net worth of $12.5 million, but estimates are that this understates their wealth. In addition to their large portfolio of jointly owned San Francisco Bay Area real estate and a Washington condo in fashionable Georgetown, the couple also owns a vineyard in St. Helena, California, valued between $5 million and $25 million. Just days ago the Pelosis vacationed in Hawaii before returning to Washington -- she stayed at the exotic Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, where she reportedly spent $10,000 per night.
Boehner, on the other hand, came from modest beginnings. He is the second of twelve children. He grew up in Cincinnati having to share one bathroom with his eleven siblings in a two-bedroom house.
He started working at his family's bar at age 8, a business founded by their grandfather. He has lived in southwest Ohio his entire life. All but two of his siblings still live within a few miles of each other, two are unemployed, and most of the others have blue-collar jobs.