The New Yorker has published an 8,739-word profile of John Boehner, the Ohio congressman unanimously elected the leader of the 112th Congress by his Republican colleagues after the midterm elections. Reporter Peter J. Boyer looks at Boehner's upbringing, his rise to prominence, and his challenges in working with the more revolutionary-minded members of the Republican caucus he hopes to marshal as Speaker of the House. Here, five takeaways from the article:
Boehner's upbringing: lots of diapers
Although Boehner has been open about his impoverished childhood, Boyer delves into the details, reporting that the congressman and his 11 siblings shared two bedrooms in a "single-story stone-slab box of a house" in Reading, Ohio. As childhood friend Jerry Vanden Eynden recalls, diapers were an inescapable part of the decor: "If it was the summertime, diapers were hanging outside. If it was winter, the basement was full. It was just diapers." And we thought David Vitter was the one with the "alleged diaper fetish," jokes Jack Stuef at Wonkette.
He's the "Congressman from K Street"
"Inevitably" nicknamed "Boner" in high school, Boehner has earned a new sobriquet: The "Congressman from K Street," a reference to the Washington address of many lobbying firms. The incumbent speaker — an "old-school pol who loves his golf, his wine and his cigarettes" — is "unapologetic," says Boyer, about his "chumminess" with lobbyists. This is a recurring motif for The New Yorker, points out Joel Meares at the Columbia Journalism Review. Just last September, it claimed Boehner maintained "tight ties" with "some of the nation's biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R. J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS."
Boehner's complexion: Is it natural?
While many assume that Boehner's famously orangey skintone is the product of a tanning regime, the congressman says no. So how to explain his glow? Boehner has "three other brothers and a sister who are very dark-complected," explains the speaker's elder brother, Bob, as quoted in The New Yorker. "Even in March and April, they look like they've been out in the sun all day." Boehner's skin tone has "softened noticeably" in recent months, writes Boyer. Now, it's a "commonplace Crayola peach."
He's surrounded by driven 'Young Guns'
Boyer's profile also touches on Boehner's congressional colleagues, including the self-described "young guns," Eric Cantor (R-VA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Although none of these three are freshmen, all align themselves with the crop of zealous newcomers, many of whom intend to sleep in their offices. "There's two ways to fight a fire," says McCarthy. "You put water on it, and put it out, and rebuild, or you backfire and burn it all down, you know? And I think this freshman class is like that. Sometimes you change from within, and you bring the revolution in."
The Republicans have some generational disagreements
Boyer picks up on some "generation tension" within Republican ranks. Boehner says any change will have to be "tentative." But the Young Guns are "unlikely to embrace that approach," says Boyer. Indeed, Ryan explicitly rejects the "go slow" approach. "I could not disagree with it more," he says. "I am so sick of playing small ball." Here, says The Economist's Lexington blog, "is where the new speaker and the Tea Partiers may indeed have to part company."