The PJ Tatler

Longest-Serving Congressman: 'Boehner's Problem Is He Doesn't Have Followers'

The longest serving member of Congress marked his 20,997th day in the House by taking a few dings at President Obama’s experience and contending that Democrats don’t fight Republicans in the lower chamber.

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) got a statement from Obama early this morning. Early in the week, Vice President Joe Biden visited Dingell’s office to give him a gift.

Dingell, 86, began serving in Congress since 1955 — before President Eisenhower was re-elected, with 11 presidents, casting more than 25,000 votes along the way.

“He has helped pass some of the most important laws of the last half-century, from Medicare to the Civil Rights Act to the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act, and he continues to fight for workers’ rights, access to affordable healthcare, and the preservation of our environment for future generations to enjoy,” Obama said, not mentioning Dingell consistent votes against gun control legislation.

“Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to John and his family, and I look forward to congratulating him in person at the White House next week.”

Dingell told Chuck Todd on MSNBC that Obama is “gonna go down in history as a good president.”

“I think he had the — the smallest Rolodex ever when he hit town. And he had moved so fast, he never had a chance to build the scar tissue, to learn politics, to be hurt, because you’ve got to be hurt in this business so that you toughen and so that you learn. Because that’s a very important learning device, getting hurt. So he’s had to kind of fight his way up fast without the experience,” the congressman said.

“I don’t — I don’t think that he’s had the kind of eclectic advisers that Truman had or that Roosevelt had or that Johnson had. And I don’t think he’s had the experience that those people had. He moved — he moved too fast.”

Dingell also called House Speaker John Boehner a “gentleman” and “really a fine individual.”

“And if he could get his party to follow him, which he can’t do, this place would run much better,” he said. “To be leader, you’ve got to be a leader. But second of all, to be a leader you got to have followers. John Boehner’s problem is he doesn’t have followers.”

“They’re not — everybody says this Congress is so busy with the Democrats fighting Republicans. It’s not Democrats fighting Republicans. It’s Republicans fighting Democrats — or rather fighting Republicans. They don’t have time to fiddle with us Democrats.”

Dingell said his proudest accomplishment through 57 years of congressional service was the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“Almost cost me my job, so I remember it very well,” he said.

The congressman said today there’s “more bitterness and anger and ill will” on the Hill than he’s ever seen.

“It’s an angry time. People are scared, they’re concerned. They don’t know really what the future is. We have all the uncertainty — the terrorism, two wars going on, a deficit. These are — these are serious matters,” Dingell said. “But beyond that, the climate out there is not good. The media encourages this kind of behavior.”