In a crowd, it’s impossible not to spot John Boehner, the new leader of the House of Representatives and the man who will succeed Nancy Pelosi: the orange hues of his facial complexion make him stand out immediately. His penchant for excessive sunbathing throughout the year has earned him jokes from his colleagues and the press. But Boehner, whose other characteristic is to nearly cry on command, will no longer need his tan to be recognized. From now on, he will be the figurehead of the Republican opposition. His post as Speaker of the House gives him very important powers. And since the Republicans and their tea party allies failed to take control of the Senate, Boehner is going to be, for the next two years at least, the voice of the opposition. A daunting task for a man whose only political program has been to oppose everything that Obama suggested. That’s a little short.
Time Magazine had fun listing all the times Boehner has started crying in the middle of a speech: when he defended the Wall Street bailout plan (but today he isn’t embarrassed about reproaching the government for being a sprawling octopus and transforming America into a socialist dictatorship); during a speech reproaching the Democrats for abandoning American soldiers in Iraq (but he has no shame about voting for the invasion of Iraq that caused the death of 5,000 soldiers and left 35,000 others handicapped forever); and during an appeal to raise funds in order to help Catholic schools (but now he wants to reduce the federal budget, which will have a direct impact on all public schools). In short, John Boehner has a soft heart.
But at his post, where, according to The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, he wants to return to the American values of the ‘50s, the future Speaker of the House will have considerable powers. For example, Congress has the power to “subpoena,” meaning they can require the disclosure of documents held by the executive power or even require members of the administration to testify before them. Already circulating within conservative circles is the idea of requesting the disclosure of all sorts of documents from the White House, particularly those relating to Barack Obama’s birth. As John Boehner said, “no witch hunt, just legitimate investigations,” but the line between the two is thinner than a razor’s edge. The leader of the House also wants to reverse healthcare reform by blocking funds marked in the budget for certain provisions of the new law. But the declared objective of cutting $100 billion from next year’s fiscal budget could well be the boomerang that will ensure Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012, just as Newt Gingrich’s intransigence ensured the reelection of Bill Clinton after an even more severe midterm defeat. In that case, John Boehner will really have something to cry about.