New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has taken a contrarian stance: John Boehner’s not just a survivor — he’s a downright American hero!
It is, perhaps, a sign of our troubled times that merely averting catastrophe is the new definition of heroism. Talk about grade inflation. (“Victim” or “hostage” might be more a more appropriate description.)
Of course, Douthat is correct about Boehner’s many challenges. As I’ve written before, he is essentially tasked with the thankless job of herding cats.
There are two types of leadership: Transactional leadership and Transformational leadership.
I don’t fault Boehner for failing at the former. In the old days, political leaders had a lot more carrots and sticks to wield. It’s easier to be a transactional leader, for example, when you can dish out earmarks. Today’s leaders do not have the institutional power their predecessors enjoyed.
Absent the ability to transact business (essentially to bribe or blackmail members), the only arrow left in the quiver is to be a transformational leader — to actually inspire your team to follow you.
This often requires vision, earned loyalty, respect, etc. Clearly, though, Boehner has not (yet, at least) inspired that sort of followship.
Again, Boehner has been handed a very difficult situation, so I agree we shouldn’t be too hard on him. But at the end of the day, leaders lead. And “hero” just seems to me to be a tad too strong, all things considered.