The dysfunction of Congress under John Boehner has been frustrating at times and comical at others. However, seeing the Speaker of the House tearfully announce his resignation provided an unusual glimmer of nonpartisan emotion. It was spontaneous admiration — possibly affection — for a genuine American public servant. These sentimental moments don’t come around often enough, but are that much more appreciable when they do.
Sunday on “Face the Nation,” when asked what he hoped “they” say about him when he is gone, Boehner said, “He was a good man … that’s all.” In moment of pure honesty, I could not help but feel simultaneously happy and sad for a man I never wished political success (obviously wished him success in making our government function, but not success in shutting it down over Obamacare or holding up immigration.) But what I saw Sunday was a man beaten, but not dead; I saw a man proud of his career, sad it was over and relieved that it was over. I saw a good man, nothing more nothing less.
Now that I’ve sufficiently praised a man I’ve disliked for years, it’s time to return to sanity. The most powerful country in the world does not just need a “good man” as Speaker of the House. Sure, it would be great to have a good guy or good gal as Speaker, but we need a dynamic leader: someone with the ability to bring the parties together, improve the functionality of a dysfunctional body and modernize an institution that is exponentially falling behind the needs of society. In the age of hundred-million-dollar donors, America needs a Speaker who is free from the influences of money, intra-party jockeying and corruption by personal ambition.
Ultimately, it would be good to have a “good man,” but America needs a statesman, or stateswoman.
One scarcely known civics fact is that the Speaker of the House of Representatives does not need to be a member of Congress or even affiliated in any way with the House of Representatives. Article I, Section 2 (pretty early on) of the Constitution says, “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.”
Never before has the Speaker not been an elected representative from the House, but now is the time to try. Now is the opportunity to find the person who will make Congress function again. And the solution is someone who will work with both parties, marginalize the overzealous, angry, anti-government rabble rousers who made Boehner’s tenure a neverending nightmare, and get things done. Now is the time for a “states-person,” not just a good person.
This may seem like pie in the sky, but Democrats only need to nominate someone who will appeal to at least 30 Republicans.
I nominate Michael Bloomberg. Sure, he may be too liberal on guns and soda sizes for Republicans, but he is an independent businessman with executive experience in both the public and private sectors. He has also demonstrated a willingness to be unpopular. And if you can upset everybody, often times you’re doing something right.
Or how about Chuck Hagel? A former Republican Senator from Nebraska for 12 years, before serving as Secretary of Defense under President Obama, Hagel is from a rural state, clearly a strong military mind, demonstrated a desire to serve country before party politics and understands how the speaker needs to work across chambers as well as across party lines. He is 68 years old and has not been rumored to be seeking any future political office.
The ever-keen political observer, and friend of LEO’s, John Ziegler, proposed Mark Cuban — the Shark Tank a fitting set — a man with unquestionable business acumen. Cuban’s wealth and independence appeal to that (sole desirable) Trump call, “I’m wealthy, I don’t need their money.” And the little I know about Shark Tank (outside of the amazing symbolism) is that Cuban plays a deal broker: He listens to all kinds of crazy and brilliant ideas, talks through the positives and pitfalls and brings people to agreement on whether or not it is an investment worth making. I know the Speaker of the House can’t wear a T-shirt on the House Floor, but we’re spitballing here.
From all accounts, Californian Representative Kevin McCarthy is favorited to be the next Speaker. He is less experienced — elected in 2006 with LEO’s Congressman John Yarmuth — and has proven he will sell out to the Tea Party to become Speaker. It reminds me of the movie “Multiplicity,” when Michael Keaton starts cloning himself, then the clones clone themselves and they get a broken clone.
We need something different, and right now we’re staring at the broken clone of an already dysfunctional leadership of House Republicans. We aren’t searching for Superman, we’re searching for a statesman … and 218 votes.