Ronald Reagan was “The Great Communicator.” So then, pray tell, what does that make John Boehner?
I watched NBC’s “Meet The Press” this morning, because I wanted to hear Speaker Boehner’s comments. (If you haven’t seen it, here’s a
link. Boehner’s interview is the first 15 minutes.) There is really no kind way to describe how bad it was. Truly, a pathetic performance.
Ronald Reagan was indeed “the Great Communicator.” A few years ago, on the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birth, former Sen. Fred Thompson wrote a short essay explaining why Reagan was so effective. Well worth reading.
Thompson’s thesis is that Reagan’s success was due to three basic traits: “He was simple, he was clear, he was sincere.” Thompson stresses that “simple” does NOT mean “simplistic,” as many unsuccessfully attempted to portray Reagan.
This is not meant to be a critique of Boehner as Speaker, though personally I believe the House, and the nation would be better served if he were replaced. Rather, as Speaker, Boehner is the voice, the face of the GOP, and in that position he is, well, lacking.
Boehner, along with McConnell, Reid, and Pelosi, met with Obama this past Friday afternoon, ostensibly to discuss the sequester, but in actuality a staged event to give the White House additional talking points. Immediately after, Boehner met with David Gregory for an exclusive interview, the only one that he gave for the all-important weekend news cycle..
So, why, please tell me, why NBC? What genius decided that was the BEST forum. (Possibly the Speaker’s media guru is, like someone formerly with the Romney campaign, one who believes that the media isn’t really biased?) The entire network is completely in the tank for the Obama administration. If they wanted to avoid FOX ( and the stigma of seeming to seek a “safe haven,”) CBS or ABC would have been far better choices. Both are more balanced than NBC, and have actually challenged the administration on some issues. As just one option, ABC’s Rick Klein would have been an excellent choice.
Boehner is clearly not comfortable in this element ( possibly because he can’t smoke on camera?) Gregory dominated him, interrupting often, at one point telling Boehner, “Mr. Speaker, that’s not just true.” Gregory ( though admittedly it is hard to fathom) actually came across as the one with far more gravitas. Boehner diminishes the position, the authority, of the Speaker. Unlike Reagan, Boehner unfortunately does come across as simple, and worse, he is most definitely NOT likable.
So why then does he take to the airways?
Boehner banally recited the same talking points, almost ad nauseum. “The House has twice acted, it’s time for the Senate to act. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.” Yada, yada, yada…..
The Speaker is known for his one minute ( or less ) press conferences. That is probably the extent of his ability to communicate. Here, given 15 minutes to reach the American people, he ceded control to Gregory, and was completely unable to offer any cogent explanation of the Republican philosophy of conservative governance.
This cannot continue. Over the next several months, there will be major political confrontations on key issues, among them the CR, and the debt ceiling. Boehner can no longer be the point person for the GOP House leadership.
The Speaker has said that he will no longer negotiate with Obama “one on one.” He has called for a return to the regular order in the House. The Speaker can no longer be allowed to be the face, and the voice, for the House Republicans. He is simply not up to the task. Simply put, Boehner should no longer engage with the visual media one-on-one.
There are many poised, articulate, conservative House members. Pick a few, and rotate them out there. Paul Ryan is very effective. Want to see how it’s done? Just watch this brief exchange between newly-elected Rep. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, and Politico’s Mike Allen ( by no means a friend to Republicans.) Let these few be the “faces and voices” of the House GOP.
Boehner is Speaker, and likely to remain so. What he should do is regularly engage with the print media, both reporters and columnists. George Will, David Brooks, Cal Thomas, Deb Saunders, Ron Fournier, Major Garrett, to name a few. And the Hill reporters for the NY Times, WSJ, WP. Either one-on-one, or a small group, perhaps over a meal. On the record, but NO VIDEOTAPE. NO AUDIOTAPE.
The media is just starting to push back against the Obama administration’s practices of a) ignoring them, b) bypassing them, and c) threatening them. By giving unique access to the print media, Boehner will, at the worst, gain a slight advantage (they will make him seem more statesmanlike) and at best, well, there is always the possibility of a favorable presentation of his position.
Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
I say, “Mr. Speaker, put down that microphone!”