Former GOP majority leader Dick Armey sees him as Dean Martin without the piano – someone who makes everything look easy. “He is a man wholly without guile,” says Mr. Armey. “I don’t think John Boehner has ever spent a moment of his life in intrigue with respect to anyone else. He is a serious workman and, unlike some previous speakers, doesn’t require attention. He’ll get the job done with little fanfare. It’s not about him.”
Now in his second rise up House leadership ranks, Boehner has built a staff on and off Capitol Hill and a network of loyalists and donors so durable that it has a name: Boehner Land. He is often caricatured for the color of his skin – a famously deep tan – but he may be more notable for the thickness of his skin. He’s a survivor of fierce intraparty power struggles. If he holds grudges, it doesn’t show. He likes to quote Reagan: Disagree without being disagreeable.
Boehner has been willing to reach across the aisle. In the first year of the George W. Bush administration, he forged an unlikely alliance with Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller (D) of California to move President Bush’s top domestic priority: education reform. Notably, he did so over the strong opposition of powerful GOP colleagues.