Boehner's Aria; No Hook for Now

My schedule yesterday precluded watching Wyle E. Coyote Nancy Pelosi hand off the gavel (finally!) to John Boehner, but I had planned to skip the event, anyway.

A lifelong poli-junkie, I have lately grown positively allergic to political theater and repelled by the showboating, the preening and the pride; I’ve had a bellyful of politicians gassing away about the wonderfulness of themselves and their marvelous ocean-receding powers; how they are going to be the “most ethical” this and “smartest” that. And I am fed up to the neck with hyperventilating factions among the political class–and even some portions of the citizenry–that project perfection onto ideologies (and onto mere humans who know how to talk up a crowd) and who spin like angry rottweilers, showing their teeth to any who do not fall in love and fall in line.

The tiresome, empty and predictable rhetoric being thrown our way by elected officials who seem to have no idea what either “serving” the people” or “cause and effect”) mean, accompanied by what Roger Simon correctly identifies as a self-destructive over-weaning hubris (and that’s not just for politicians, anymore) has so soured me on politics, that I’ve stopped listening to most of it.

But tempted by a couple of Instapundit links, I finally broke down and watched the video of Boehner’s speech last night.

Yes, it was the new speaker’s first aria, and he bumbled a few words. But after quelling the theatrics with a bang of his gavel, Boehner cleared his throat with four magical words that would be unimaginable coming from the throats of most of our current cabal of political “leaders”:

“It’s still just me…”

And then he sang not of hubris but of humility, not of superiority but of service. And in such a refreshing tone:

The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people’s House. This is their Congress. It’s about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves.

If these sane and humble words are real, we might be able to save ourselves. There may still be hope.

If this is genuine–and Boehner’s penchant for weepiness suggests to me that he is a man familiar with authentic humility–then it might actually become catalytic; other old-hand pols might come to realize that they no longer to polish that hard, shiny and slick shell of arrogant, I-have-all-the-answers assurance – which never re-assured any of us out here in the middle class, as we’ve had to slip-slide through oily wake. They will perhaps feel safe enough to even–gasp–admit their mistakes and take concrete, constructive steps to rectify those mistakes.

It is up to us to daily remind our “servants” that we never thought they were the godlings they believed, but that we’ll accept humble admissions of error accompanied by corrections, with our own genuine gratitude, but no more games. At this point, we are so near our very last chance to make things right that there is little room for error.

And our politicians need to realize that they have worn-out our indulgences, and are out of second-changes. What needs to be made right, needs to be made right now.

I liked Boehner’s speech. I thrilled at his aria. But he’d better be able to sing the rest of the show, and bring that chorus in line, too.

Otherwise, it’s curtains. For all of us.

UPDATE: Boehner, in this email, may well have figured that out.

Bookworm: Reading the Constitution in Congress: a chat with her daughter.

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  • Carlos Echevarria

    I always enjoy your incisive posts.

    I, too, watched our new Speaker’s speech, after the fact, due to business related matters during the live feed on C-Span.

    Pelosi rambled a little, no doubt, but I thought she was overall gracious, notwithstanding the little stump speech regarding Obamacare.

    I was rather pleasantly surprised to hear our august new Speaker cite Ash Wednesday and Catholic tradition as an analogy to what he has just assumed and what the People’s House is, as per the transitory status of the gavel.

    Let’s be realistic about expectations, in light of the Reid run Senate and the White House.

    Happy New Year and God bless.

  • Kris, in New England

    Well – Boehner certainly aimed correctly; the words he spoke are the words that the American people are thirsty to hear.

    I hope it’s more than that – more than words served up to an audience starving for even a hint that the politicians we put into office actually listened.

    I’ll believe it’s more than mere words when the actions follow.

  • Alfred Corbo

    So the first thing on his agenda is to repeal nationalhealth care. Wait until the GOP starts to tear down Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and every social program for the middle class and the poor. Exactly what Jesus would do!

  • Sheila Duane

    Although I’m not a fan of Nancy Pelosi, the majority of people I know who applaud John Boehner’s election complain about WIC and other public assistance programs, special educational services, bi-lingual education, the rights of migrant workers, etc. I’m not a democrat, but intolerance has forced me to reject the Republican Party as well.

  • J

    I have always felt that the dems were like the person who, rather than teach someone to fish, gave that person the fish, thus enslaving him forever.
    I, too, wait with baited breath and great hope (and terrible fear of disappointment)…..that the republicans understand that they are there to serve us and not to rule us. And ruling us was certainly the intent of the last dem-controlled congress.

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  • Manny

    I love that quote from Boehner’s speech. He hit the right note. Humility is an endearing quality. Obviously the witch handing the gavel over to him doesn’t understand the concept. I have such high hopes for the 112th Congress. They can only go up; the 111th was possibly the worst congress in the history of our country.

  • Sissy Willis

    Beautiful. Your thought that our new Speaker’s humility may be a catalyst resonates. In the prideful Pelosi’s handing over of the gavel to “It’s still just me” Boehner, I’m thinking of the dynamics of “preference cascades,” as Glenn Reynolds has explained:

    ” — in which people who have been obliged to conceal their true beliefs by social pressure or sheer force suddenly discover that a lot of other people feel the same way.

    “This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.


  • Mandy P.

    “the majority of people I know who applaud John Boehner’s election complain about WIC and other public assistance programs, special educational services, bi-lingual education, the rights of migrant workers, etc.”

    There really needs to be a distinction made here. When you hear people on the right complain about these programs, if you were to probe a bit, I would bet you’d find that the problem is not with. Social safety net, but with it being done at the FEDERAL level.

    The principal of subsidiarity is important in Catholicism and the same really goes for secular society at large. There is no reason why the safety nets should not be conducted at the local and state level. After all, the people who live in your state, county, town, neighborhood, are significantly closer to you and are more able to accurately assess your needs than a group of people in Washington, D.C. And letting people figure these things out for themseleves would inherently keep people involved with their neighbors and communities.

  • Kris, in New England

    the majority of people I know who applaud John Boehner’s election complain about WIC and other public assistance programs, special educational services, bi-lingual education, the rights of migrant workers, etc.

    Speaking as a Libertarian, I object to the sense of entitlement that goes with these programs. Once a person gets on them, there is no incentive to get off them. They support – indeed encourage – a life of poverty and depravity.

    And I believe Jesus would feel the same way. It’s not because we are against helping the poor and disadvantaged; it’s that we want them to eventually help themselves and not just sit back and suck society dry.

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