I fell asleep just looking at this thing.
I fell asleep just looking at this thing. Alex Edelman/Stringer
As the newly self-appointed National Portrait Reporter here at the Stranger, let me tell you, I'm eating WELL this week. While I was typing away about Jeff Bezos and his unsettling portrait that now adorns the walls of the National Portrait Gallery, Congress went and formally "honored" Former Speaker of the House John Boehner with a portrait. Current Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood next to him. Apparently she brought him a box of tissues, an intimate gesture, knowing that he was going to tear up at the ceremony.

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This portrait dedication came right as the impeachment hearings were ramping up, a fact that multiple outlets reporting on the ceremony noted. Hailed as a "uniting moment for Democrats and Republicans amid a divisive impeachment inquiry" by Business Insider, this is my moment to remind you, the world at large, that John Boehner, former House Representative of Ohio's 8th district, still fucking sucks. So it's fitting that his portrait—painted by Ronald Sherr and destined to hang at the U.S. Capitol forever—does too.

The sheen from this photo makes it hard to get a good look, but it's rather boring. Boehner is portrayed sitting with his legs crossed in a giant leather chair, looking out at the viewer. His tie is red in what I assume is a nod to his party affiliation. On his hand, you can very clearly see his wedding band, which is perhaps a comment on his values (fidelity, endurance, heterosexuality, belief in the institution of marriage, etc.). None of the emotion that the former Speaker was known for is apparent at all.

Taking a break from hawking tobacco, Boehner gave an emotional (for him) speech after unveiling the portrait, where he thanked the people of his district, his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, and shared some highlights from his time in office. He, of course, resigned from his position in 2015 after facing mounting pressure from the right-most flank of his party, which has now overrun our capital.

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His voice thick with a cry he was trying to suppress in his throat, Boehner said, "It's my hope that when our fellow citizens see this portrait in the Speaker's lobby for decades to come, they'll think not about me but about the things that we stood for during my time here at the Capitol: it doesn't cost anything to be nice." He added with a slight smile, "I'd like to think we were able to disagree without being disagreeable."

If I ever happen to find myself in the Speaker's lobby—wherever that is in the marble bowels of the U.S. Capitol Building—and if I ever happen to look upon this portrait of a man I watched glower on my TV screen during my adolescence, I will not think about his niceness nor his aversion to being disagreeable. I will probably think about:

  • How in 2010, he demanded that the Smithsonian remove gay activist and artist David Wojnarowicz's video piece, "A Fire In My Belly," because it contained a brief clip of ants crawling over a crucifix. He even threatened to defund the Smithsonian.
  • How he believed he was "not qualified" to talk about climate change.
  • How in 2016 he called Ted Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh" which actually seems...spot on.
  • How much he cried.
  • How he partially shut down the government in 2013 for 16 days because he refused to approve a funding bill that included the Affordable Care Act.
  • How he opposed gay marriage all the way to the very end.
  • How he did a lot of fuckery with the debt ceiling in 2013 that I didn't understand in 11th grade and still don't understand now.
  • How he was the OG orange-tinted white dude scuttling around the Capitol.
  • How he ran the least-productive Congress in U.S. history.

I think there's a temptation to look at the pre-Trump era of American politics with rosy glasses. Hey, Boehner was bad and orange, but have you seen Trump's Twitter feed lately? Make no mistake—though Boehner stepped out of office before the White House's current occupant set foot into D.C., the former Speaker of the House has always and will forever suck. Right along with his portrait.