Much political hay has been made recently about Speaker-elect John Boehner’s habits and quirks. His smoking, drinking, golfing, and moments of tears have proven to be great fodder for pundits, writers and talk show hosts. I thought all this would pass soon enough and his work as Speaker, not his superficial traits, would begin to shape the American public’s view of him.
Last week, I read some comments Meghan McCain made about the Speaker-elect. Ms. McCain came across as catty and hypocritical. Apparently, she couldn’t think of anything constructive or at least witty to say so she was reduced to shallow blithering. For example, McCain called Mr. Boehner’s smoking “a sign of weakness.” I find that quip ironic since she frequently tweets about her love for tattoos, to which I could make the equally flawed argument that tattoos are simply an immature cry for attention.
While I appreciate Ms. McCain’s view of what a leader should be, I find it puzzling that Mr. Boehner expressing emotions would make her squeamish. Isn’t Ms. McCain’s fear that the Republican Party will be made irrelevant by a whole bunch of emotionless old white men? I would have expected Ms. McCain to be thrilled that a Republican leader would buck the cookie cutter-trend of an insensitive, detached white guy. He is a unique personality — what you see is what you get — and he will not change to fit a media image. How refreshing to see emotion instead of the arrogant, dismissive leadership that we sometimes see on the other side of the aisle.
Ms. McCain prides herself on her frankness and frequently writes and tweets with candor about her views on politics, the political process and politicians themselves. I think people my age like her because she is real, she does not put on airs or try to be something she is not. She is frequently unscripted and sometimes a bit uncouth but in an edgy and honest way that is, in my mind, a large part of her appeal.
That is why I believe it is so hypocritical that she would criticize a man who, like her, is not a caricature or an affectation. Speaker-elect Boehner is comfortable in his own skin. He is not scared of the public seeing his emotions or quirks and judging them as unacceptable.
When you visit with Mr. Boehner, he is genuine and honest; if anything he comes across more gruff than gooey. However, I never get that creepy used car salesman vibe from him that so many politicians emanate.
The first time I met Mr. Boehner was at a House freshman orientation dinner in November of 2008. He teared up talking about what a great honor and tremendous responsibility it is to serve in the U.S. House. That was just Mr. Boehner being Mr. Boehner. I was moved that after 20 years he was not cynical or condescending when addressing his new Republican colleagues. He was optimistic and reverential to American ideals. I have always said to my mom, “He is a true believer.”
The person I have read about in Time, seen on 60 Minutes and listened to on NPR is the same person that I have observed as the daughter of a rank-and-file member of Congress. He plays the Horatio Alger card and has the bona fides to support it having grown up in a big family, worked his way through college as a janitor, and turned himself into a successful small business owner. What you see is what you get and after four years of Democratic leadership that has been nothing but smoke, mirrors and Botox, I cannot tell you how excited I am for a little honesty, even if the packaging is rough, and bronzed, around the edges.
Annaliese Wiederspahn is a graduate of Haverford College and consults on communications and political strategy. She is the daughter of Congressman Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming. Annaliese lives in Washington, D.C.