The Corner

Politics & Policy

John Boehner Admits to Having No Political Instincts Whatsoever

John Boehner writes:

Twenty years ago, while serving as chairman of the U.S. House Republican Conference, I tried to persuade Scalia to become Senator Bob Dole’s running mate on the 1996 GOP presidential ticket.

And out of a sense of duty, he listened.

I share the recollection of this ill-fated recruitment effort now because I believe it helps to shed light on the person Antonin Scalia really and truly was.

To be honest, I think this “sheds” far more “light” on John Boehner than on Antonin Scalia. More specifically, it highlights how astonishingly poor Boehner’s political instincts are. Antonin Scalia had a unique legal mind, which he used unyieldingly in service of the restoration of constitutional originalism. For decades, Boehner writes, Scalia was “willing to stand in the breach and defend, elegantly, the principles in which he believed.” Quite how anybody could believe that his skillset would have been better deployed in the vice president’s office than on the Supreme Court I will never, ever understand.

To put this into another context, imagine if Boehner had suggested that Ronald Reagan retire from the Oval Office in 1983 to seek an appointment to the D.C. Court of Appeals. Such a move would have been a chronic misapplication of talent, and an unforgivable strategic blunder. If I were John Boehner, and I had at one point in my career attempted to transfer the Right’s most valuable legal asset onto the lower tier of a losing presidential ticket, I’d try to keep that quiet.

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