What does John Boehner see when he looks at it? Does he see white and gold? Blue and black? Benghazi? Eleven million Uber drivers lined up to return 11 million immigrants to whatever country they came from? The end of Obamacare? VB day in Baghdad? A relative handful of mildly deranged conservatives trying to end his own political career?
By now, probably the only person in the universe not up to speed on the color of a dress that ate the web last week is the late Boris Nemtsov. He was the political opponent of Putin who was assassinated in Moscow a few days ago, shot dead on a bridge within sight of the Kremlin.
The debate over the color of a dress caused millions—millions—to nearly break BuzzFeed. Brain surgeons, ophthalmologists, politicians, famous actors, cab drivers, waitresses, schoolteachers, and nearly everyone with an iPhone threw down an opinion.
There are a lot of reasons why this occurred. The primary reason, of course, is simple: There is basically no live sports programming on TV to attract us between the Super Bowl and opening day of the baseball season, so our days and lives seem long and empty. Another might be that we have morphed into a nation glutted with the bored as well as those who think constantly tweeting means you have lots of friends who think alike.
But I digress. It’s Boehner’s vision that is the top interest here.
He’s the speaker of the House. He’s a guy who grew up in a tavern owned by his dad in Cincinnati. He’s one of 12 kids. He went to a Catholic high school and a Catholic college where he was taught by Jesuits, yet apparently nothing took hold.
Now when he looks at the landscape around him, here is part of what he sees: a political party, his own, dominated by people who would rather scratch an open sore than do their jobs.
He’s looking at maybe 50 to 80 Republicans in the House who want him fired because he is always on the verge of making a deal with Democrats to do things like making sure TSA agents get paid on time. He doesn’t even have to squint to see his own party led by an obnoxiously loud man who would not be at all out of place walking around wearing paper slippers in the dayroom of an asylum. I’m thinking specifically about Steve King from Iowa and Louie Gohmert from Texas here, two of the lead cheerleaders of the Krazy Caucus.
Boehner isn’t crazy. He’s just scared and powerless. He’s frightened they’ll lead a charge on his job, and if he had the clout to stop them—unlikely—he’s either afraid to use it or doesn’t know how.
So he sits there like a box of rocks figuring that inviting Bibi Netanyahu to speak to the House of Representatives this week is a good move when it is just the latest and lamest example of six years’ worth of what passes for official Republican policy: Diminish and destroy anything that President Obama says or proposes. Doesn’t matter what it is.
And in between watching golf on TV or playing golf almost as often as the president, Boehner sees the national future of his party flexing its muscles at gatherings like CPAC. That’s where several potential candidates for the Republican nomination for president spoke last week to a petting zoo of people who walked around screaming “Benghazi, Benghazi” and seemingly couldn’t wait to put “boots back on the ground” in Iraq, a country fractured forever a decade ago as a result of a decision made by one of their own.
Boehner sees and hears “He who must not be named” from Wisconsin standing in a tough-guy pose, shirtsleeves rolled up, strolling a stage like a daytime TV talk show host, sort of a dime-store version of Dr. Phil with his own security guards, saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
In other words, this guy figures if he can go after the pensions of Wisconsin firefighters, teachers, and university professors, he sure can handle the crazed psychopaths of ISIS. A union-busting tough guy masquerading as some 21st-century version of Patton, and he brings down the hall with ovations. That’s the present-day reality of Boehner’s party.
And there’s nothing he can do about it. So he’ll sit there in his big chair this week listening to the prime minister of Israel continue his slow stroll toward the destruction of any reasonable working relationship with the United States of America. Unlike millions on the web, though, he won’t be wondering about the color of that dress, because in his heart he knows that he, John Boehner, speaker of the House, now wears no clothes at all.
For more from Mike Barnicle, visit mikebarnicle.com.