The New Yorker lands today with an 8,739-word look at Speaker-elect John Boehner and the challenges he faces in setting out to control “the Tea Party Congress.” Magazine staff writer Peter J. Boyer’s piece is fleshed-out, detailed stuff of a very New Yorker variety, hanging more meat onto some of the same issues covered by Michael Grunwald and Jay Newton-Small’s comprehensive Time cover profile from early November. Both articles touch on Boehner’s ties to lobbyists, the focus of a The New York Times’s September report, “A G.O.P Leader Tightly Bound to Lobbyists.” The story asserted that Boehner “maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.”
The latest life and times of John Andrew Boehner covers many of the tropes quickly becoming familiar as the media works to acquaint the public with the incoming Speaker. There are the personal tics—the love of Merlot, his Camel Light 100s, and “GTL” (Gym, Tanning, Lobbyists). There is the working-man’s bio—one of twelve children raised in a two bedroom house, he spent much of his youth working in a tavern the family owned in Cincinnati. And then there’s the transition from businessman to politician, to his place in Gingrich’s inner circle, then out of it to hard-working legislator, then minority leader, and now Speaker-elect. Mercifully, there is no mention of his overplayed tendency to tear-up.
Despite the sense that we’re treading some familiar ground here, Boyer’s piece is, as ever, more than worth a look. An expert with both politics and place, as readers of his New Yorker blog posts will attest, Boyer quite brilliantly synthesizes the recognizable and colorful chapters of Boehner’s rise with the realities he faces in the current political climate. He is also extraordinarily well sourced and scores a rare coup—he managed to get Boehner to sit down and talk. He also makes good use of Gingrich, Boehner’s family, and others.
The most interesting stuff, politically, comes towards the end, as Boyer lays out the potential tensions between the new Speaker and a more agitated trio of ambitious young GOP-ers—Republican Whip Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy, and Paul Ryan—co-authors of the book Young Guns, which is subtitled “A New Generation of Conservative Leaders.” Boyer uses the book to establish the latent fissure:
The title came from Fred Barnes, who, in a 2007 Weekly Standard cover story, named Cantor, Ryan, and McCarthy “the leader,” “the thinker,” and “the strategist” of a Republican revival. (Boehner’s name appears in the book only three times, though it was published in September, just a week before he announced what was supposed to be the defining manifesto of the Republican campaign, the glossy, forty-five-page Pledge to America. The Pledge laid out general conservative principles but, unlike Gingrich’s Contract, avoided specific to-do lists.) “Young Guns” is insistently contrite (“We lost our way when we were in the majority”), while implicitly distinguishing the authors’ generation from that of the ten-term, sixty-one-year-old Boehner: “We had a majority of people who came here to do something, and we atrophied into a majority of people who came here to be something.”