John Boehner: Our King Saul?

Barb Wire

When the Values Voters Summit learned that John Boehner had resigned from his post as Speaker of the House and quit Congress, its members burst out into a standing ovation. Once they calmed down, evangelicals and pro-life leaders said the one quality they most want in the next Speaker is that he (or she) be a fearless fighter for their cause.

Whatever his other redemptive qualities, Boehner was not someone willing to use the full power and resources of his office to fight for the cause he found himself leading.

His tragic tale – a story of public tears and squandered opportunity – reminds me of King Saul, not just because of their downfall but because of another common trait: their refusal to fight.

As a young man, Saul went seeking some donkeys that had wandered off his family’s farm, when the Lord told the prophet Samuel to anoint him the first king of Israel. Samuel gave him clear instructions: Saul would go to the city of “Gibeath-elohim, where the Philistine garrison is,” and meet a group of prophets. “Then the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.” Then, he told him, “do whatever your hand finds to do.”

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Some Biblical scholars see Samuel’s reference to the Philistines’ stronghold at Gibeath, and telling him to do what his hand found to do, as an instruction to wipe out the enemy army.

Instead, the record shows that Saul became Spirit-filled, prophesied, and worshiped, then went home. When a relative asked him what he had been doing all day, he told him only Samuel’s words about the donkeys. (I Sam. 10:1-18). The New Interpreters Study Bible speculates, “Perhaps he hopes that the bewildering episode is now over.”

The refusal to fight may have been his first rebellion.

Of course, Saul soon fell into blatant disobedience – choosing to personally profit from evil rather than eradicating it, and he lost the kingdom. Plagued by depression, he lashed out at his anointed successor, David, then fell on his own sword.

As the old wag said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

Some 3,000 years later, John Boehner became Speaker of the House, because voters hoped for a national cleansing. By 2010, the Obama administration had already been too much for the American people to bear.

They tired of the government forcing them to pay for abortion-inducing drugs as part of their “health care,” picking and choosing which laws they would enforce, and pitting one segment of loyal Americans against another.

They wanted a fighter, a judge, a deliverer.

They got just another politician, eager to cut deals and barter away their rights.

In 2010, Boehner promised to cut $100 billion from Obama’s bloated budget “almost immediately” – then backed away at once. He initially asked for less than one-third what he promised. He cut about half that much. After conservative prodding, he settled for about $78.5 billion, calling it “the best deal we could get.”

When his party did not want him to raise the debt ceiling, he warned against confrontation, and ultimately caved in.

When President Obama sent U.S. troops into war in Libya without even having a Congressional vote – a potentially impeachable act that put Muslim radicals in charge of Libya – Boehner let him slide.

Through it all, he said, “Republicans control just one-half of one-third of the federal government.” If they controlled the Senate, he could take action.

Then came the 2014 midterms. when Republicans regained the Senate.

Just after election day, Boehner said, “We are going to fight the president tooth and nail” on executive amnesty for illegal immigrants. “This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want!” he said. But this March, he funded it.

In January, he promised to introduce a bill to save unborn babies capable of feeling pain, but let a tiny number of people squelch the vote. Pro-life representatives organized a lobbying campaign, then held rallies outside his office, until he finally brought the bill forward. (It passed.)

In March, as President Obama pushed the Supreme Court to redefine marriage, Boehner announced that the House would do nothing.

When he golfed with Obama, he even played on the same team.

The latest controversy over funding Planned Parenthood was the breaking point that forced Boehner to step down. This week, he forced through a bill to fund the abortion provider through mid-December, relying on Democratic votes.

On his way out the door, Boehner turned bitter. He regularly demoted or punished members, like Mark Meadows, who defied him on procedural votes or did not support “fast-track” free trade deals.

But, he backed down from those moves, too.

Now, after resigning, he is lashing out at the dozens of conservatives who wanted him to be more confrontational and active – and Sen. Ted Cruz by name – calling them “false prophets.”

Possibilities are always limited for those who don’t believe. That’s not a commentary on Boehner’s faith in God, which is deep and sincere, but in his lack of belief that one person – even one-third of the U.S. government – can make a difference against one man and his increasingly unpopular agenda. His speakership was a tale of lost chances – and the nation is poorer for it (literally).

The good news is, after Saul came King David. Like Samuel, let’s eagerly seek who that person may be.

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson is U.S. Bureau Chief of, the guest host of “Nothing But Truth with Crane Durham” on AFR Talk Radio, and the author of three books. His personal website is

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