The House Minority Leader sits in his spacious Capitol Hill office contemplating an upgrade to larger digs should his party live up to expectations and win a majority of congressional seats in the midterm elections this November.
Ohio Rep. John Boehner could very well become third in line to the presidency. But when I ask him what his late parents might think of him, given the humble circumstances in which he says he was born, he displays an emotion rarely seen in a politician not confessing to scandal: he begins to tear up and reaches for a box of tissues.
"'Why me?' I ask God," he says, "I'm just a regular guy with a big job."
While resisting presumption ("we still have a long way to go") and with a sign on his desk that reads, "It CAN be done," Boehner still discusses things he believes are possible should Republicans regain majority status.
Asked about the most important lesson he learned from losing the Republican majority of 1994, Boehner replies, "Our team failed to live up to our own principles."
He points to recent votes as proof "we have learned our lesson" -- Republicans stood together and voted unanimously against the stimulus (twice), the Obama budget (twice), health care reform and almost all Republicans voted against Cap and Trade. Boehner suggests that unity will carry over to what he hopes will be a second chance at a GOP majority.
He promises a freeze on any new federal programs and to undo those that aren't working, cost too much, or are outdated. "Congress hasn't done a good quality job of oversight in a long time," Boehner says. "I came here for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government and that has not been what's been happening. We don't need any more programs; we need to undo a lot of programs."
Where to start? Both parties know Social Security and Medicare are in need of drastic reform. What would a Republican majority do with these nearly bankrupt programs?
Having learned from President George W. Bush's attempt to reform these spending monsters, Boehner maintains, "You can't lead with your chin. (Bush) led with a solution to a problem people didn't understand." Instead Boehner wants "an adult conversation" to "lay the problem out. Then you can be able to talk about an array of possible solutions." Only after people get it, he says, can you attempt "what's doable."
Boehner says part of the conversation will remind the public exactly how much their government is spending and in terms they can understand, instead of speaking about trillion-dollar debt.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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