Tuesday, September 14, 2010
(Above, John Boehner; right, actor Robert Conrad)
John Boehner has been in the news a fair amount recently. Now that Boehner is looking like the next Speaker of the House, post-partisan President Obama has elevated his name recognition by singling him out for ridicule on a number of occasions.
It's striking how much Boehner looks, carries himself, and acts just like a corporate CEO. (He also looks a little like Robert Conrad, star of the 1960's TV show The Wild, Wild West.)
Boehner is good-looking, but in a slick way: the cut of his suit is always stylish, his tie perfectly knotted, and never a hair out of place. These all suggest a vain man; the perma-tan confirms it.
Boehner's deep voice inspires confidence. And he carries himself with the erect bearing of a military man (he enlisted in the Navy but was honorably discharged after eight weeks for medical reasons). Google-image him and you won't see a picture of him smiling until the ninth page; this is often the mark of a man who feels he has to accommodate no one. Boehner's usual look is more one of grimness. Of course, he is almost always in his professional role when the publicly available photos of him are shot. Perhaps his private family albums show a more jovial and relaxed sort of guy, but that seems unlikely.
He also behaves like a CEO. When he issued orders for the Congressional Republicans to "knock it off" after they had been seen partying with comely female lobbyists in DC, he had the sound of someone used to ordering people around. And he is always on point. He never wavers from the party line, much like a CEO who always talks about how bright his company's future is -- regardless of the facts.
Sure enough, according to Wikipedia, Boehner started his career "with a Nucite Sales, a small sales company in the packaging and plastics industry, where he eventually became President of the firm." (How long before someone in our unbiased media points out that he is a plastic, pre-packaged politician?) In any case, it's not coincidence that Boehner comes across like a salesman/CEO.
When a reporter recently suggested that Boehner give up smoking with Obama, Boehner replied, "Thank you for your suggestion." The reply captured Boehner's persona perfectly: he could have made a joke but refrained, not wanting to chance being misinterpreted. And while what he said was technically neutral, the air of warfare was unmistakeably in the air.
Boehner is too slick to inspire trust, but formidable enough to inspire confidence -- and also a little bit of fear.
You don't get the sense that he would take teasing well; this is, of course, one mark of a narcissistic personality. On the other hand, you do get the sense that he could fend for himself without a Teleprompter.
Expect to see a lot of him in the next few years.
Addendum: this post was written before Boehner's penchant for crying became public: see this post for a more recent view of the Speaker.