Is the Cig-Smoking, Heavy-Drinking John Boehner Bottoming Out?
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As Congress lurches toward its next crisis—whether or not to raise the debt ceiling—Boehner will again be at the helm clutching his smokes like a cutlass. But with Obama saying he won’t negotiate on the need to raise it, the House Speaker will be in for another rough ride with his Republican bedfellows. And the pressure he is under from his own party, let alone the larger responsibilities of being Majority Leader, are likely only to increase his craving for the opiates, endorphins and other sedatives delivered by booze, cigs, UV rays and a good, old cry. Frequent resorting to the Serenity Prayer is probably also on, uh, tap.
Just last week, Boehner claimed he had Republican defense hawks in his “back pocket,” to use as leverage against Obama to avoid the automatic defense cuts that are set to go into effect if the two sides can’t agree to lower other spending. At least one, Representative Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California—a member of the Armed Services Committee whose district is home to one of the nation’s biggest military installations— shot back that Boehner was getting into “dangerous territory when you talk about using national security as a bargaining chip with the president.”
In his personal narrative, Boehner is fond of sharing the worldview he earned sweeping out his father’s Cincinnati bar as a kid (all 12 Boehner kids did the job at one time or another) and that seems to have shaped his entire life. “You have to learn to deal with every character that walks in the door,” Boehner said in 2010, explaining how he was prepared to handle the incoming freshmen.
But maybe it’s time to step out of the bar and get (back?) into the rooms.
Kevin Gray is a New York-based journalist. He writes about business, crime, politics and celebrity. He has reported from the Congo, Libya, Lebanon, Colombia, China and throughout the U.S. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York , Details, People, Men’s Journal and the Washington Post .