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Congress / CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP

Boehner: The Tearful Tough Guy

Rep. John Boehner looks like he will be both a tough and emotional leader of the GOP.(Liz Lynch)

photo of Ben Terris
December 13, 2010

Updated at 8:03 a.m. on December 13.

There were two John Boehners on 60 Minutes last night. There was the macho unrelenting leader who looked directly into the camera and called out President Obama for his rhetoric and said he refused to compromise with Democrats. Then, there was there was the emotional wreck brought to tears by the thought of children going to school.

The tough Boehner came out first. He was quick to fight back when Lesley Stahl asked about Obama comparing the GOP to hostage-takers and Boehner to a “bomb-thrower.”

 

“Excuse me, Mr. President,” he said. “I thought the election was over. You know, you get a lot of that heated rhetoric during an election. But now it's time to govern.”

And for Boehner, governing means “finding common ground” but not “compromising.” The difference between the two may seem subtle, but Boehner is adamant in opposing the latter term.

“I reject the word,” he said. “I made it clear I am not going to compromise on my principles.... When you say the word ‘compromise’... a lot of Americans look up and go, ‘Uh-oh, they're gonna sell me out.’ And so finding common ground, I think, makes more sense.”

It might make the most sense to a base in search of a strong leader who won’t cave to Democratic wishes -- wishes that many of them believe led the country in the wrong direction. But, while Boehner managed to appear fiscally tough, emotionally he just couldn’t keep it together.

First, viewers learned that the GOP leader must keep a safe distance from schools -- because the very sight of school children brings him to the verge of tears.

“I can’t go to a school anymore,” he said. “I used to go to a lot of schools. You see all these little kids running around.... I can’t talk about it.” And with that, just talking about how schools make him emotional, made Boehner emotional. “Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American dream like I did is important,” he said, choking over his own sniffles.

Talking about the American Dream is clearly a sensitive subject for Boehner. It was the topic that set him off earlier this year when releasing the "Pledge to America," and it set him off again as the 60 Minutes interview came to an end. While sitting in his father’s old bar, Boehner again began to weep when his wife, Debbie, who was sitting beside him, spoke about how proud she was of her husband.

At first, John Boehner pretended he just had a runny nose, but nobody believed it. Stahl asked Debbie Boehner if her husband really cried all the time, and she said he’s ratcheted it up recently.

“He’s going through an emotional period, too,” she said. “I mean, this isn't you know, as you say this is not an ordinary job. Whoever would have thought that he'd be in this position. He was a janitor on the night shift when I met him. He's come a long way.”

CORRECTION: The original version of this report misspelled Lesley Stahl’s name.

Full interview available at CBSNews.com

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