Peter Cavanaugh

“Bye-bye Boehner”

I agree with our president.

“John Boehner is a good man. He is a patriot. He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he has served for a long time. He cares about his constituents and he cares about America.” – Barack Obama – September 25, 2015.

Not Ted Cruz.

The shocking news of John Boehner’s abrupt and unanticipated resignation as Speaker of the House and from Congress broke last Friday morning just as Senator Cruz (R-Texas) was about to address the laughably titled “Values Voters Summit” in Washington.

This ultra-conservative gathering, funded by the similarly delusional “Family Research Council,” broke into thunderous applause upon being informed of Boehner’s decision. Senator Cruz, who electrified the crowd with an updated list of lunacies, then launched them to mind boggling heights of fantasy as he further gloated over Boehner’s pending departure, threatened the assassination of Iran’s supreme leader and called President Obama a communist.

I first met John Boehner on August 27 of 1992 during his first term representing Ohio’s 8th Congressional district. He was accompanying President George H. W. Bush when the President landed at Toledo Municipal Airport near the end of the 1992 election campaign.

Executive vice president of a major Midwest radio group at the time with Secret Service clearance, I was allowed on the tarmac as Air Force One rolled to a halt and the President and his entourage embarked.

Since one of our more important radio facilities, the 50,000-watt WZRZ - serving both Cincinnati and Dayton - included his district, it seemed appropriate to introduce myself to Representative Boehner and spend a few minutes in conversation. I found the new congressman to be a “hail fellow well met” – that somewhat archaic phrase referring to a person whose behavior is hearty, friendly and congenial. I have never changed my opinion since.

Readers of this column should quickly observe that I have often expressed serious misgivings about Speaker Boehner’s actions or lack thereof, but my severe reservations have always been about the politics, not the person. He remains beloved in his district, but not by many in his delegation.

John Boehner is a good man trapped by bad dynamics.

It’s hard determining exactly when things started unwinding so viciously in our national dialogue.

Perhaps it started when sophisticated voter measurement revealed that negative campaign ads worked wonders at gaining elective office?

Was it when the Republican Party found a perfect embodiment of conservative beliefs in the emergence and election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980, in the process converting millions into becoming “Reagan Democrats” – including primary beneficiaries of FDR era legislation that created the first viable American middle class – making them feel they were finally rich Republicans?

Was it the subsequent audience acceptance and amazing ascension of Rush Limbaugh introducing his “Excellence in Broadcasting Network” in 1988 which many believe ultimately brought about 1994’s “Contract with America” and Republican capture of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years?

Rush tripled the ratings on our Toledo AM – catapulting us to #1 in the market. There were “Rush Rooms” everywhere in Northwest Ohio – restaurants, bars, coffee shops and snack bars that carried Rush on loud speakers so lunchtime customers wouldn’t miss a word. I even broadcast him twice a day, repeating his noon to 3 p.m. show from 3 till 6. Guilty!

But in the decades since, we have surely become a people self-divided, “indivisible” existing only as a wistful word in our national anthem.

Ultimately it was paralyzing polarization that brought about John Boehner’s pending departure – a decision unlikely to generate healing change in any meaningful way.

It makes me sad.

“We have met the enemy and he is us!” Pogo (1971)