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.
Was all this humility a pose or was it real? Of course, I don’t know. But I suspect it was a mix, as many things are. Still, I would like to think that Boehner is a genuinely humble man because he is a assuming the role of speaker at what is arguably the most critical moment of our history since WWII.
True humility would give him remarkable strength against his adversaries who have been destroying themselves and us with overweening hubris. As we all know, our country is in jeopardy of spinning into serious economic decline. And no doubt the world would go with it. Supposedly brilliant minds have tried to save us from this, but to no avail. In many ways things have gotten worse.
It’s clearly time for a little humility. No more Mr. Know-It-All, governing with a sense of entitlement out of all proportion to reality. Will Boehner be the Anti-Obma? Stranger things have happened.