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Boehner's "Boner" Gaffe

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U.S. Speaker of the House, John A. Boehner (R-OH), said in his recent Ohio State University's commencement speech, "When you begin to go out there and ask people to vote for you, they're probably not going to vote for you if they can't say your name. You know, my name looks like Beener, Bonner, Boner." Then adding, "Thank God it's not Weiner."

Representative Boehner's remarks were meant to be funny, not malicious, although as a powerful leader sworn to represent all American's best interests, he needs to consider his leadership role more carefully when making fun of other people, especially at the expense of their last name.

Although not necessarily a common last name, there are still thousands of fine Americans with the last name, "Weiner," and certainly many of those good folks are registered Republicans. Just in John Boehner's home state of Ohio alone, a search turned up hundreds of Weiners. And now, with the attention on U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner's (D-NY) growing crisis, the last thing other Weiners need are more insensitive remarks about their last name; especially from the United State's Speaker of the House.

Laughter is a reaction, not an emotion, and for comedians, Weinergate is a blessing from the comedy gods. It's easy and obvious making fun of a U.S. congressman with the same last name as the slang name for the body part he so proudly displayed across the internet. As a public figure, Anthony Weiner is fair game. Professional comedians are trained in the manipulation of human emotion, and through honed insight into both the obvious and hidden, if on target, can reveal essential truths, resulting in the expression of laughter.

Comedians will tell you, "Dying is easy, comedy is hard," as NBC's Tracy Morgan learned recently in Nashville, TN, after coming under universal condemnation for an on-stage homophobic rant. Morgan later apologized.

Humor at the expense of others is dangerous, especially for comedians, and particularly for leaders. No one is perfect, and although mostly unspoken, there is great discomfort when our leaders stoop to the common level of criticism and judgment for the sake of a laugh. By nature, we want our leaders to lift us high, not knock us, or others, down low.

John Boehner is new in his leadership role. He clearly wants the best for all Americans, and his frequent public display of tears demonstrates a strong, passionate belief in what is good, fair, and possible. Like most powerful public speakers, Representative Boehner would do best sticking to his prepared remarks, and not trying to be funny, unless he's paid a professional to write him funny.

Speaker Boehner will learn that to truly succeed as one of America's most celebrated and impressive Speaker's of the House, he must remain focused on his heart-centered messages of inspiration, along with his prosperous vision for the American future, and not allow those important messages to get distracted by flippant, sophomoric humor at someone else's expense.