John Boehner’s Holiday Photo Snub & More Petty Political Moments
From Boehner’s photo dodge to Newt’s Air Force One hissy fit, the best of the worst in political pettiness.
1. Speaker John Boehner dodges a holiday pic with the president.
After weeks of bitter “we’re nowhere”s and unwavering “we must”s, a little eggnog and caroling at the White House could have been just what the doctor ordered. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It’s not as if the strained relationship between Obama and Boehner is any surprise. But no photo at the White House holiday party? That’s just bad sportsmanship. Whether Boehner or Obama is to blame is up for debate. Next year, maybe they should cut the pretending, throw on some awkward Christmas sweaters, and call it a day.
2. Newt Gingrich throws a tantrum on Air Force One.
With a budget crisis looming in 1995, Newt Gingrich—then leader of the "Republican Revolution"—threw a hissy fit when he was forced to spend all 25 hours of the Air Force One flight to the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in the back of the plane. Gingrich had assumed that a large portion of the trip would be spent discussing a solution to the coming fiscal crisis; he was sorely mistaken. The New York Daily News famously immortalized the event, but Gingrich wasn’t amused. “This is petty,” he confessed. “I’m going to say up front it’s petty, but I think it’s human.” It was this very episode, which Gingrich considered the “snub of the century,” that allegedly led him to send the president two temporary financing and spending bills—which he knew Clinton would need to veto—essentially shutting down the federal government.
3. Rep. Joe Wilson yells, “You lie!”
Well, that’s one way to get your voice heard. When Obama, delivering a speech to a joint session of Congress in September 2009, denied the claim that health-care legislation would provide free coverage for illegal immigrants, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was seen shouting, “You lie!” It was a bold move—for the Republican congressional leadership, too bold. Wilson was eventually ordered to call the White House and apologize for the “inappropriate and regrettable” outburst. In other words, zip the lip.
4. Obama deadpans, “You’re likable enough, Hillary.”
Good thing she doesn’t hold grudges. During the nail-biting 2008 Democratic presidential primary, Obama was in it to win it. And with this low blow to main rival Hillary Clinton in the final debate, it showed. As the moderator began a question to Clinton about whether she had the “personal appeal” to win over the American people, Obama cut in with “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” The arrogant comment sparked harsh criticism from both sides and landed Clinton the win in New Hampshire. Hubris loses the day.
5. Speaker John Boehner plays hard to get.
This one takes phone tag to a place it’s never been. When Boehner refused to take a July 2011 phone call from Obama to discuss the debt-ceiling crisis, pundits everywhere were stunned. When the House speaker then waited an audacious 24 hours to return the call, the nation as a whole was dumbfounded. What could possibly be more important than returning a phone call from the leader of the free world? Guess we’ll never know.
6. Sen. Bob Kerrey goes to the movies.
The Nebraska Democrat once called President Clinton an “unusually good liar”—and then appeared reluctant to support the president’s five-year, $496 billion deficit-cutting plan. Clinton, aware that Kerrey’s vote was crucial to the bill’s passage, placed a phone call begging him to support it. The senator couldn’t be reached. Kerrey, described by a friend as a man who “marched to the beat of his own drummer,” had decided he needed some fresh air—and popcorn—and had sat down to watch the new release What’s Love Got to Do With It, based on the life of Tina Turner. He eventually voted to support the bill. (Guess the movies do a body good?)
7. Eric Cantor meets with Obama, spills the beans.
Revealing intimate details of a private meeting with the president might not be as egregious as doing so after a tête-à-tête with the queen of England, but it’s still in poor taste. After meeting with Obama in the Cabinet room for more than two hours in July 2011, Rep. Eric Cantor took a quick ride from the White House to Capitol Hill. Then he spilled the beans, telling reporters intimate details of their “private” debt-ceiling discussion. The news quickly took Washington by storm, earning Cantor the nickname the “boogeyman.”
8. Gov. Jan Brewer gives the finger.
Meeting on the tarmac in Phoenix in January 2012, Obama and the Arizona governor launched immediately into an intense discussion about her new book, Scorpions for Breakfast, in which she describes her reasons for signing Arizona’s notorious immigration law. What exactly was said we’ll never know, but judging from a ubiquitous picture that shows Brewer pointing angrily at the president, there has to have been a little of “now, you listen here.” While many speculated that Brewer had disrespected the POTUS, the governor claims the conversation was not as hostile as it appeared. “I respect the office of the president, and I would never be disrespectful in that manner,” she said.