John Boehner passed up a ride in Air Force One to the Tucson memorial yesterday because he wanted to drink and shmooze with Republican donors and lobbyists! Well, that's what some people are saying. But is that what really happened? According to Politico, Boehner declined to attend the memorial with President Obama, attending instead a vigil in DC as well as an event for Maria Cino, his pick to replace Michael Steele as RNC chairman. Some criticized Boehner's absence from the Arizona gathering, wondering why the Speaker of the House couldn't just schedule a separate flight to Arizona so he could attend both the memorial and his prior engagements in DC. But, today, both liberal and conservative bloggers are coming to Boehner's defense, revealing that there is more to this story.
- Boehner Was Expected on Capitol Hill A vigil for the victims of the Arizona attack was held in DC yesterday specifically for House members. Ed Morrisey at Hot Air points out that "Boehner's role as leader of the House was to be on Capitol Hill to lead the House in its own memorial for Giffords' aide and its vigil for its member. Pelosi, as the leader of her caucus, could have appropriately chosen either venue for her public appearance. Both chose wisely, and both spent their time appropriately honoring the fallen."
- He Shouldn't Have Had to Choose Jim Newell at Gawker acknowledges that although "we are not known for our Boehner Boosting," the story that John Boehner simply refused to go to Arizona because he preferred to attend a political cocktail party seems like it might be missing something. "Boehner loves lobbyists and alcohol and money, but he's not an idiot freshman congressman either," Newell decides. "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." Newell gives the situation some perspective:
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.
- There's No Pleasing Everyone Some disappointed by Boehner's decision to miss the Arizona memorial asked why he didn't just meet Obama there. But Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo notes that people wouldn't have been happy with that decision either. "While he plausibly could have made it out to Tucson separately in time for the service, Boehner would most likely have had to charter a military plane, to which he has access as Speaker," he writes. "Republicans criticized former Speaker Pelosi for traveling via military air during her tenure, and Boehner has committed to commuting to his Ohio district on commercial flights."
- A Good Enough Excuse Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen admits that he was at first disappointed to hear that John Boehner had spent Wednesday evening at an Republican National Committee event when he had the opportunity to fly to Arizona with President Obama for the memorial. But after reading Brian Beutler’s clarification at TPM, Benen concedes, "it's probably fair to consider Boehner's decision not to attend the memorial service an excused absence."