April 10, 2021

I have a thing about headlines that begin with the word "how."

You may remember my post from last December, "How the word "how" has become the most deceptive word in the history of headlines": "I'm sure some 'how' headlines sit atop articles that really explain how to do something, but I must cry out against the infestation of 'how' in headlines." 

Since it is my self-imposed task to be on the alert for "how" headlines, I must bring you this from today's Washington Post: "How the forces inside the GOP that pushed out John Boehner led to Matt Gaetz." 

I doubt that this piece (by Paul Kane) is really going to tell me how these "forces" led somewhere. I expect to find only an assertion that the moderates who used to have the GOP under control have lost their grip. But I'll give Kane a chance. Show me the forces and show me how they "led to Matt Gaetz" (whatever that means).

Reading, I see Kane is reviewing Boehner's memoir, which, Kane admits up front, hasn't got one word about Matt Gaetz. 

Boehner writes about his distaste for immoderate politicos within both parties: They are self-promoters who "claim to be true believers and purists, like the right-wing Freedom Caucus or the left-wing Squad, but really they are just political terrorists." There were always people like that in Congress, and Boehner supposedly wanted to tame them.

Kane writes: 

In his new memoir, [Boehner] finally admits that he couldn’t control this new crowd, that they often handled him, not the other way around. “They didn’t want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades. To them, my talk of trying to get anything done made me a sellout,” he writes.

The very people who had delivered him the speaker’s gavel had now made his job a living hell.... After a couple years Boehner met with Roger Ailes, a longtime friend who was then head of Fox News. He pleaded with Ailes to keep flamethrowers like [Michelle] Bachmann off the air.

Instead the TV executive told the speaker that the Obama administration was spying on him — the conspiracy theories were within Fox headquarters. Fox was afraid that other conservative personalities would eat into their ratings, so they ignored Boehner’s entreaties and steered deeper into that world, right through Trump’s own 2016 campaign, according to Boehner.

“These shows went from real commentary pushing conservative ideas to just pissing people off and making money,” he writes....

And Gaetz flourished in that environment — that environment that was always there, that Boehner (purportedly) didn't like but couldn't change.


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