More than half a century ago, in a Los Angeles group called the Westwood Village Choir, we sang a motet, a religious song, by a long-forgotten composer named Bacon, which quoted the Bible verse of Ecclesiasticus 44:1, to wit: "Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us."
As a lifelong Democrat, let me sing the praises of a now famous Republican, a man formerly much derided by all and sundry. He believes not only in the principles of his party, but in the institution he served. His name is John Boehner and he is, currently, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Above all he has served and continues to serve the nation. He has followed the traditions of his party, including the Hastert rule, that says that when the Republicans were in charge, legislation needed not only a majority but a majority of the Republican majority party to pass.
During his tenure as Speaker of the House he has endured the passage of foolish and feckless bills like the multiple attempts to repeal Obamcare. These were cynical plays to the right wing base, certain to fail in the Senate and if not dead there certain to get a veto from the president who had his name attached, Barack H. Obama.
John Boehner has refused to call up for an up or down vote on bills like the bipartisan Senate Bill for Immigration Reform, knowing that it would not meet the Hastert rule.
He endured the first shutdown of the government, which was sure to fail in its objective, and was destructive of the reputation of the Republican Congress.
Now he has apparently broken with the Hastert rule, and will allow a stopgap spending bill to pass to keep the government in business until Jan. 1, 2016. He will, of course, need Democratic votes and a few Republicans more motivated by the good of the nation than by the satiation of the Tea Party wing of what we used to call the Grand Old Party. Oh, yes, he is resigning from both his post as Speaker and the House itself, effective October 31.
This is a bit of political Jiu Jitsu, the ancient Japanese martial art, wherein you turn your opponent's strength against him. The right wing crazies will have finally run him out of office, but he has more than a month to operate free of the Hastert rule, free of blind party loyalty, and free of concerns about his own re-election as speaker.
Minimally with the help of Democratic votes he will cause a stopgap spending bill to pass, but he could do much more. He still is Speaker for more than a month. He could call up the Bipartisan Immigration Bill from the Senate under a rule that forbids amendments. This might gain some Republican creds with Hispanic voters in the 2016 election. All of the Democrats and a few Republicans could pass it, for the good of the nation and to the frustration of the adult-children of his own party. He could pass a real budget using the same combination.
John Boehner already has a rare success to take with him. After many failed attempts, he has at last brought a sitting Pope before the combined houses of Congress to speak to them and to the nation as a whole. He also had some private moments with the Pontiff. What was said there only God, Speaker Boehner and Pope Francis will ever know. But Francis is first of all a priest and Boehner is first of all a Roman Catholic. A priest can counsel, and a priest can if needed give absolution to a repentant sinner.
This is for sure, John Boehner will leave the political arena with a smile on his face, and of course the trademark tears in his eyes. To paraphrase Shakespeare: Nothing will become his political life more than his leaving of it.
Godspeed, John Boehner.
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John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.