Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Merry Christmas, Mr. Boehner
Scene: Tuesday night, December 21st, 2011. Speaker of the House John Boehner is sitting alone at the grand mahogany desk in his Speaker's office. His staff has all gone home for the evening. He can hear the whine of a custodian's vacuum cleaner from the hall outside. He opens the shallow drawer at the left side of his desk, pulls out a bottle of Old Crow, unscrews the lid and takes a quick nip. He does not notice the figure that suddenly appears in the doorway.
Senate Minority Leader McConnell: Old Crow, John? I must say, it is good to see the Speaker of the House patronizing his whiskey-distilling neighbors to the south.
[Boehner's startled exhalation is a whiskey mist that sprinkles the surface of his desk.]
Boehner: Jesus! Don't you ever knock?
McConnell: The door was open, John. I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas before I left for home. I won't be back here until after the new year.
[There is an extended silence as the moment ripens.]
Boehner: Have a seat, Mitch.
McConnell [smirking]: I know what you're going to say. So let me save you some time. The answer is "no."
Boehner: Will you do me the courtesy of at least letting me get the question out before you turn me down? Come in here and sit down!
[McConnell steps into the room and sits at the desk across from Boehner.]
Boehner: Listen, Mitch, I won't lie. If I were in your shoes, I'd be putting the screws to me, too. But think about it. Who'd you rather deal with? Me? Or Cantor?
McConnell: You know the answer to that, John. I hate that snot-nosed punk. But there's not a lot I can do. I hope to be in the Majority Leader's office in the next Congress. The only way for that to happen is for Senate Republicans to support the two month extension to the payroll tax holiday. And, unlike you, I still have a degree of respect from my caucus.
Boehner: Respect? Don't be a fool. If you win the majority next year, you'll have more than just Mike Lee and Rand Paul to deal with. You think those Tea Party yahoos like you any more than they like me?
McConnell: Times change, John. What looks like gold today, might turn out to be nothing but yellow tinfoil.
Boehner: Real folksy, Mitch. Mark Twain's got nothin' on you.
McConnell: It's that kind of snark that got you into hot water in the first place.
Boehner: Listen to me, Mitch. You've got McCain and Lugar and Scott Brown out there saying things that make me look bad. It makes us all look bad, Mitch. If you can't shut those guys up, the payroll tax holiday is gonna expire! Don't you know what that means? It means that the Republican party will be responsible for raising taxes!
McConnell: It's about time Grover Norquist got his ears pinned back. Don't you agree?
[Boehner shakes his head and buries his face in his hands. He stays that way for a long time. McConnell gets up and walks to the entryway.]
Boehner: So that's it, then? You're really gonna let me go down in flames like that?
[McConnell pauses at the door. He turns his head and smiles sadly.]
McConnell: Merry Christmas, Mr. Boehner.