Thingish Things

Lead On, Boehner

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Mar• 04•11

House Majority Leader John Boehner (3) shows guts today in announcing that Republicans in Congress will grab the third rail of American politics in advocating reforms in Social Security and Medicare. He also shows considerable political acumen, no matter what current polls indicate.

Public opinion surveys will say Boehner’s  crazy. The average American will always oppose raising the age at which social security kicks in or reducing health care benefits when asked. He will also say he’s less likely to vote for a member of Congress who would support such ideas. But what the polls will never be able to measure is the leadership quotient — that intangible quality in some people that makes others follow them despite their immediate self interest.

Abraham Lincoln handily won re-election over  George McClellan in 1864 even though voters badly wanted the Civil War to end. McClellan promised to negotiate a peace; Lincoln vowed to fight on.

Had pollsters surveyed Jimmy Doolittle’s volunteer pilots before their symbolic, and almost assuredly suicidal, mission to bomb Japan in early 1942, I suspect, to a man, they would have reported a preference to skip the whole thing and go to the movies instead. Yet they went.

Liberals in New York City detested most of what Rudy Giuliani stood for in 1997. But they re-elected him overwhelming because he was a leader.

It is yet to be seen if Boehner has that leadership quality — yes, leaders can cry — but signaling willingness to do what looks politically crazy in the short-term to help save the country in the long-term suggests that he very well might.

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