Having just read Secretary of State John Kerry the riot act on the importance of understanding that Words Mean Things, and that the identity of the speaker influences the meaning of his words, I cannot fail to do the same for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
Last week, Boehner gave a speech in his home district, in which he castigated Republicans opposed to “comprehensive immigration reform” (read: amnesty for illegal immigrants) as a pack of lazy cowards. “Here’s the attitude: ‘Ohhh, don’t make me do this. Ohhh, this is too hard.’ You should hear ’em,” Boehner told his home-turf crowd, simulating the whiny tone he imagines hearing from amnesty foes. You really have to see him do it, to get the full effect. To be honest, he’s pretty funny when he does these political stand-up routines. He should take this mocking and derisive tone more often with the other party.
“We get elected to make choices,” he chided these immigration couch potatoes. “We get elected to solve problems. And it’s remarkable to me how many of my colleagues just don’t want to… they’ll take the path of least resistance.”
The Speaker adopted a very different tone when he returned to Washington, after several days of pushback. As reported by Bloomberg News, he now says he was just kidding – just playfully “teasing” the rest of his caucus, which he loves to pieces:
Back in the House speaker’s office, the Ohio Republican today told reporters: “You tease the ones you love.”
“Whoa, who, whoa,” he told reporters asking about his mocking of fellow House members last week. “It was no mocking.”
“Our members know me,” said Boehner, who drew some criticism for making fun of those within his caucus balking at action on the immigration reforms that he wants the House to pursue. “Sometimes I can rib people just a little too much.”
Such was the case at a Rotary Club luncheon last week where Boehner whined like a child as he portrayed the way his caucus complains about making hard decisions in Washington. Making hard decisions is what they are elected for, he explained.
“Some people misunderstood what I had to say, and I wanted to make sure the members understood that the biggest impediment we have in the — moving immigration reform is that the American people don’t trust the president to enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass,” he said. “It’s the truth. And our members know it’s the truth.”
We “misunderstood what he had to say” when he used a whiny-baby voice to describe members of his own caucus as do-nothings who are afraid to make tough decisions? Maybe he shouldn’t have said that, then. Especially since he’s the Speaker of the House, and one of the top leaders of the Republican Party.
Because of his position, Boehner’s comments are likely to be used by Democrats to bludgeon Republicans who don’t get on board with amnesty throughout the 2014 campaign. Even if most of the caucus is politically intimidated into hopping aboard the Amnesty Express, this kind of internal criticism – complete with insulting mockery – is the sort of thing that damages the Party brand. Has anyone seen Democrat leaders “tease” purple-state members of their caucus who don’t rush to embrace, say, gun control?
Also, Boehner should understand that when he does something like this, he’s not just “teasing” his beloved chums on Capitol Hill – he’s insulting their voters. Immigration reform is a total flub with the overall American electorate, which couldn’t care less about it; it’s a Ruling Class obsession, a Democrat scheme to remake the electorate, and a ploy to keep cheap labor flowing into certain industries. Within the Republican electorate, amnesty is strongly opposed by large constituencies, whose representatives are very much representing them when they slam the brakes on “Gang of Eight”-style proposals. Boehner’s “teasing” misrepresents that opposition as cowardice, which is an indictment of Republican voters – they become monsters that certain timid politicians are frightened of, not honorable citizens with legitimate concerns. You can see why Democrats would love the spectacle of the Republican Speaker making himself useful to their narrative about how conservative Republican voters are not respectable members of the electorate.
What Boehner is now saying about the American people’s mistrust of the Administration to “enforce or implement the law that we may or may not pass” is tough to square with the attitude he took at that speech in Ohio… and also with his expressed enthusiasm to strike some kind of immigration reform deal with Democrats, no matter how it roils the GOP base in the run-up to the midterm elections. If the American people are correct to mistrust this Administration, there are no deals to be struck until it’s gone… and the representatives who oppose an immigration deal are perceptive and accurate critics, not lazy cowards.
To be perfectly candid, it’s not just the Obama Administration people distrust on the matter of immigration reform – it’s the entire governing apparatus, including a good deal of the Republican Party. Not only are the American people focused on challenges other than immigration at the moment, but there is no confidence that the system is abruptly going to shape up and start taking border security seriously, if we hand out out citizenship to clean up the mess our Ruling Class has created over the past few decades. They want to make the illegal immigration problem go away by waving a magic wand and erasing the word “illegal.”
A variety of powerful, organized interests desire that outcome; their opponents are plain old American citizens, both native- and foreign-born, who don’t have any high-powered Washington lobbyists to insist on fidelity to laws our political elite doesn’t like. If there’s anyone afraid of doing hard work and making tough decisions, it’s the people who think there is no solution to the sorry state of our citizenship laws other than capitulation to the violators.