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John Boehner's 'Naked Lunch' Moment

4 years ago
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Does House Speaker John Boehner have any shame? You don't have to answer. That's a rhetorical question.

This past week, the Republican from Ohio put on one of the crassest performances seen in Washington in years. In a matter of seconds, he reached a level of hypocrisy that far exceeded the standard political norm and demonstrated that (despite his habit of crying at the first sign of an emotional moment) he has little empathy for many of his fellow Americans.

You will recall that during the 2010 congressional elections, Boehner had essentially only one thing to say: "Mr. President, where are the jobs?" It didn't matter to him that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had concluded (as of last August) that the Obama administration's recovery package had created or saved 3.3 million jobs and had lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 percent. Boehner incessantly and derisively repeated this talking point (no doubt tested with focus groups and polling) and gave up any pretense of having a serious discussion. His "where are the jobs" tag line was designed to suggest that there were no jobs -- to shortcut the facts. It was a brilliant piece of political rhetoric: misleading, but effective. He was engaged in the practice of the Big Lie. Boehner was so proud of his ability to shape -- or pervert -- the national political discourse, his office produced a video in October showing that his favorite line had become accepted and echoed throughout the mainstream media.

Asking again and again about jobs made it seem as if Boehner cared about the millions of unemployed Americans. But this week, he showed he doesn't have much compassion for the unemployed. At a press conference, he was asked about the loss of jobs that could be caused by the GOP's effort to slash $61 billion from government programs. "So be it," he replied, noting that over the past two years Obama has added 200,000 workers to the federal government.

Boehner was dead wrong about the 200,000 figure. ( judged it a false statement). More important was Boehner's attitude. One federal budget expert estimates that the Republican cuts could lead to 1 million people losing their jobs (650,000 of them federal workers). Boehner displayed no concern for these folks -- and no concern about the economic consequences of adding 1 million to the ranks of the unemployed. It was a callous dismissal. He didn't even grant these Americans the courtesy of crocodile tears.

It's easy to pick on federal workers. But these are the people who safeguard our food supply, protect our water and air, guide the airliners that carry us, research cures for diseases, maintain our national parks, ensure that products from overseas are safe, respond to natural disasters, and guard our leaders. Why disparage them so and treat them as if they don't matter?

Boehner and his fellow Republicans have a theory: The best way to aid the economy and create jobs is to slash government spending (while giving tax breaks to the wealthy) and reduce the deficits (which are exacerbated by those tax cuts). This notion -- which counters the idea that at a time of economic trouble the government needs to rev up the economy by spending and investing -- does not have much historical precedent. Certainly, not the Reagan years. Unemployment and inflation back then did drop after the initial Reagan recession, but Reagan added to the deficits. In fact, David Stockman, Reagan's budget guru, now contends that Reagan kick-started the process that has led to the fiscal trouble of today.

So Boehner's one big idea may be wrong and misguided. Still, if he believes it, he ought to be less Scrooge-like. His lack of sympathy for those who could lose their jobs due to the proposal he's pushing is stunning and belies his where-are-the-jobs mantra of the previous campaign. In a less-imperfect world, he'd be ridden out of Washington on a rail for such coldheartedness, his duplicity denounced far and wide (and maybe even on Fox News). But all that ensues is a day or two of bad press, with liberal partisans griping about his insensitivity. And the moment gets lost in the wash.

But it was an exchange to remember. In explaining how he had come to title a novel "Naked Lunch," William Burroughs said that beat author Jack Kerouac had suggested it and that "the title means exactly what the words say: naked lunch, a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork." This week Boehner had his naked lunch moment -- and what was on the fork was ugly and, worse, mean.

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.
Tagged: John Boehner

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Mr. Corn

One would expect a level of accuracy in a piece by a nationally known columnist.

I would suggest that you #1 accurately portray what Speaker Bonner said - he was referring to FEDERAL bureaucrats that got make-work jobs, NOT productive jobs that actually contribute to the economy. Typically the Federal government jobs are a HINDRANCE to the creation of REAL jobs.

#2 Instead of parroting the Administrations line of the fictitious "created or saved" statistic, why not hold them to the SAME standard you used with previous Presidents?

#3 If the Administrations policies lowered unemployment by 1.8% as you claim, why is the unemployement rate HIGHER than when Obama took office?

#4 If you are going to claim that those jobs lost were due to Bush's policies, why did you not give Bush the same benefit instead of trumpeting 2 MILLION jobs lost in the early Bush years - when ALL of those 2 million were lost BEFORE Bush's first policies were in effect. (2 million were lost by Feb 2002 before ANY Bush policy had been put in place EXCEPT the direct payments in the rebate portion of the tax cut - and since you argue in favor of such things that immediately put money in low income peoples hands, like that did, you are on shaky ground there)

#5 If you now hypocritically cling to that line of thinking but excuse Obama for a MUCH longer carry-over, how do you reconcile that with the FACT that the current recession ENDED BEFORE any of Obama's policies were in place? The stimulus money had not yet been spent so you certainly cannot credit the stimulus for THAT.

Perhaps you should be a bit more objective in your analysis of things.

February 19 2011 at 8:16 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tdconstit's comment
Joe Carlin

Because it's 1.8% below what it WOULD HAVE been had the stimulus package not have taken effect. Even under Reagan, under a far less severe recession, unemployment climbed to 10.8%, higher than what it climbed to under the recession Obama inherited.

And 1/3rd of the stimulus was actually tax cuts. Thanks for telling us that tax cuts lead to higher unemployment!

February 19 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

The best use for this article, is to print it out and use it for T.P.

February 19 2011 at 4:36 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

david, you have no concept of reality. you say in one sentence that the Speaker's number of 200,000 is too high and way off target. Then in the next sentence you say it might be as high as a million jobs lost because of his policies. you can't have it both ways, either the jobs were created by odumbo or not? If odumbo created 200,000 jobs within the government, why would cutting their funding cause the loss of 650,000 jobs?

February 19 2011 at 4:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

David is right on.....I would go further.....if you want to cut governmental costs make it more efficient.....realign states, counties and municipalities.
Our governments need to be "recreated" as distances and communications have evaporated and these two issues drove the creation of government entities.
We have too many of these entities.

Right now....for every 1 million citizens there is 1 billion in deficits on the state level not to address the deficits in counties and municipalities.

February 18 2011 at 6:06 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

This article lost it's credibility when The CBO was used to make Boehner look like a hypocrite. Everyone knows that Obama uses the CBO the way a butcher uses his meat grinder. The butcher can tell what is going to come out of the grinder by what he puts into the grinder. The CBO uses Obama's figures to reach a result that is favorable to Obama. The CBO simply crunches numbers and they have no control over the numbers that they are given to work with.

February 18 2011 at 5:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

as for "created or saved"... it is a completely new statistic created by the Obama administration which doesn't use math, but theory in order to be generated... so it can't be verified independently by anyone. Those who believe this stuff are being blindly partisan or intellectually dishonest or both.

February 18 2011 at 5:34 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

You can't cut federal spending and even entertain balancing a budget unless you shrink government, which means cutting public jobs. That money is then retained in the private sector and since the private sector is the only way to grow the economy and produce jobs... and since the private sector is incredibly more efficient and effective at producing jobs, we get to have growth and steer away from the edge of a banana republic... too many posters on here are giving knee-jerk reactions and not thinking this through.

February 18 2011 at 5:31 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Please don't talk that way about Speaker Boehner. If you do. It will make him cry. If he does cry. "Read my lips". "So be it".

February 18 2011 at 4:12 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

"His "where are the jobs" tag line was designed to suggest that there were no jobs -- to shortcut the facts"

Fact is the unemployment number was above 9% for all of this time period, a fact you conventiently forget to mention

February 18 2011 at 4:04 PM Report abuse +7 rate up rate down Reply

Does article writer David Corn have any shame. You don't have to answer. That's a rhetorical question. How hypocritical! After that opening remark, Corn goes on to show nothing but a left wing/liberal nastiness, that is becoming the norm with the Democrat Party. Just to post this article on PD shows a far left leaning that is alarming. Reading the few comments that have been allowed is fighening. PD and AOL calls for civility, but posts this article which steps far over the line of civility and by posting it, shows approval. Scary. I hope the censors allow this comment just to show the other viewpoint. If not, well I am used to being censored.

February 18 2011 at 12:40 PM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Andy's comment
Israel Estrada

So what in his article was false. Did Boehner not say "if they lose their jobs, so be it"?

February 18 2011 at 4:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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