October 24, 2006

Just Prey

Boehner4-3  Boehner3-1

Boehner1-1  Boehner5-1

by Chris Maynard

In these days of high tech gadgets and gizmos, sometimes an old-fashioned telephoto lens makes a great stand-in for a polygraph machine. There are no electrodes to hook up, and most politicians willingly submit to the test. House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, demonstrates its simplicity, not to mention its effectiveness, in a Capitol hallway after testifying before the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

He said "I told the committee the same thing that I have told many of you," which admittedly covers a lot of possibilities. Boehner, of course, is famous for first saying he’d alerted Speaker Dennis Hastert to the problems of Rep. Mark Foley’s relationships with Congressional pages. Then, on the same day, he said he wasn’t totally sure he’d told Hastert. Then, on October 3, after the Washington Times ran an editorial calling for Hastert’s resignation, Boehner switched back, saying "I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of. And my position is it’s in his corner, it’s his responsibility."

Part of the power of news conference photographs is that we see the physical without being sidetracked by the verbal; consequently the image tends to have a longer shelf life than the questions answered or dodged. Ask anyone who saw the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon debates and they’ll say Nixon looked shifty and needed a shave; very few remember what either candidate said. Did Ed Muskie cry at a 1972 press conference or was he brushing snowflakes off his cheek?

So now with a long lens trained on him, Mr. Boehner watches the wind, looking for eddies, alert for any reason to modify his tale again. He  looks as if he’s searching for a bus to leap in front of. In the meantime, he purses his lips, looks to the right, looks to the left, looks anywhere but at the camera. His lips and tongue seem to be run by remote control. His eyebrows bounce. It isn’t pretty. He looks cornered, like a prey at the end of a hunt, treed and trying to figure out how the hell he’s going to save his skin.

(image: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images. October 18, 2006. Washington. nyt.com)

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Michael Shaw
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