This morning at the Newseum, House Speaker John Boehner was asked by Politico"s Mike Allen if he could produce any small business owner whose lives would face an impact if a millionaire surtax became law. Allen cited NPR"s Tamara Keith, who couldn't find anyone in America who fit the bill.
Among others, former Playbook colleague and Washington Post star journalist Bob Woodward sat observant and stone-faced in the front row with no visible notepad in his hand.
Allen asked Boehner:
An objection on your side to the proposal on the millionaire surtax has been that it would hurt small businesses. NPR went out and they went to the House Republican Leadership, to the Senate Republican Leadership, they went to business groups that were lobbying. They couldn't find a small businessman hurt by the surtax. Have you found one?
Boehner, in his only real stumble during the 45-minute conversation, first went into how he had been a small businessman but didn't say it would have hurt him. Then Boehner said he "could rattle off half a dozen names right here and now" -- small business owners that he knew but whose tax returns he didn't have access to.
Allen, to his great credit, pushed. "Name just a couple," he said. But Boehner didn't or couldn't name a single person in the country, let alone in Ohio or his district, who might have suffered from a millionaire or billionaire surtax increase. He just rambled some more about small business owners and they moved on.
The Speaker of the House, whose ornate offices in the U.S. Capitol have been occupied by just 52 others before Boehner in the history of the United States, also hit a main talking point twice during the free-wheeling conversation that veered from tough questions to softballs throughout. "I'm just a regular guy with a regular job," he said.
Allen also asked Speaker Boehner about the deficit talks he had with the president and asked if he bore any responsibility for the failure of the talks. Boehner said he told the president, "'I'll put revenues on the table only if you're willing to make serious changes to your entitlement programs,' and he didn't."
When Allen pushed again, Boehner went back to the regular guy shtick and Boehner also said that "Our debt hangs over the economy and hangs over the American people like a wet blanket." Allen wouldn't have had much time, even if he wanted to, to push regular guy John Boehner further under his wet blanky, even though he was a voting member of the body that created massive deficits under President Bush, and now refuses to take any responsibility for them. Boehner's claims have also been refuted by the president and the media, who widely reported that "President Obama said he had put $650 billion in reductions over 10 years on the table."
Boehner also gave advice to the young politicos in the room at the behest of Allen. He recommended hard work and not to burn any bridges in your career. Some might say that although Boehner said he's grown closer to the president, he's burning bridges by telling blatant lies about their negotiations.
After the Playbook breakfast, Mike Allen and Bob Woodward hopped in a taxi outside the Newseum on Pennsylvania Ave., headed in the direction on the Capitol. They may have had a secret source in a garage near the Capitol who could tell them where to find Boehner meeting with his fellow regular guys and small businessmen who couldn't tolerate a millionaires or billionaires surtax.