John Boehner Isn't That Evil

Where was Speaker John Boehner last night? He wasn't at the president's memorial service in Tucson. And breathless reports are claiming he wanted to hobnob at an RNC cocktail party instead. That monster! But maybe there's more to it.

We are not known for our tireless Boehner Boosting, but a story like this — "John Boehner turned down Barack Obama's Air Force One invitation to Tucson because he wanted to drink cocktails with rich donors instead" — just begs for some additional facts. Boehner loves lobbyists and alcohol and money, but he's not an idiot freshman congressman either.

So what happened? Well, there was another ceremony for the Tucson shootings earlier yesterday: a vigil in the Capitol Visitors Center for House members. If you want to blame anyone for this shake-up, blame the schedulers who didn't coordinate well and effectively made House members choose between their vigil in Washington and the president's in Arizona. TPM's Brian Beutler writes:

As they trickled in [to the Capitol Visitor's Center], a House aide provided reporters, including me, a glimpse of the program of events and list of speakers. There was one small revision to the schedule, though: Minority Whip Steny Hoyer would be reading Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's portion of scripture, because she was on her way to Tucson with the President.

If Boehner had accepted the invitation, then the leaders of both parties would have missed the Wednesday vigil.

And what about the RNC cocktail party?

Boehner's also getting knocked around a bit for what he decided to do while in DC: he attended an organizing event for Maria Cino, whom he's supporting to chair the RNC. But though that may have entailed chatting up donors over cocktails, Steel says he spoke for three minutes and left the event in time to watch Obama's speech on television.

Maybe he shouldn't have gone to the reception at all. But really: Is it that bothersome? Although the House postponed its legislative agenda for the week, and most high-profile fundraisers have been shut down, don't think that every single member of Congress is sitting quietly at home, praying and meditating about mortality. The RNC has a competitive race for its chair coming soon that will affect the party's ability to take the presidency in 2012. There's a timeline that's been in place. Boehner had planned to make this endorsement before the shooting. If he shows up for three minutes, says "hi," and then leaves to watch a Tucson speech, the country isn't likely to collapse.

He's just a Boehner.

[Image via AP]