U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, heaped praise upon Knoxville’s Republican Congressman Jimmy Duncan Saturday before a packed house at the Powell guest lodge of businessman Pete DeBusk and his wife, Cindi.
“You have show horses and you have workhorses,” Boehner said. “And Jimmy Duncan is a workhorse. Of course, in Washington, you also have sick horses and lame horses and lazy horses,” he joked.
Boehner, in Knoxville for only a few hours to attend the Duncan fundraiser, did not refer to Duncan’s primary opponent by name. But he did take a slam at the man’s supporters, who are members of the super right-wing Tea Party faction of the Republican party. “Jimmy Duncan is a conservative,” Boehner said. “But they are criticizing him because he is not crazy.”
Boehner, sometimes dubbed “the weeper of the House” because of his tendency to become emotional, paused briefly three times during his remarks to fight back tears. Each time the emotion came when he was talking about veterans on the Memorial Day weekend.
But, at other times, Boehner was funny. Like when he described his job as Speaker as trying to successfully “get 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow,” referring to the number of votes necessary to pass a bill in the House of Representatives.
Boehner also spent a large part of his speech bashing President Barack Obama in front of the heavily partisan crowd.
In two substantive remarks he suggested that U.S. veterans should be given vouchers to allow them to be treated at any hospital in light of the present wait-time scandal in hospitals operated by the Veterans Administration, and he suggested that perhaps U.S. presidents should be limited to one five-year term rather than the current two four-year terms.
Boehner got a little surprise himself when he arrived at the DeBusk estate for a private meet-and-greet for large Republican contributors prior to the fundraiser in the lodge. Duncan and his wife, Lynn, had wanted to give Boehner a gift from Knoxville. So, on Friday prior to Boehner’s Saturday appearance, Duncan called his friend Richard Bryan, CEO of John H. Daniel custom tailors in Knoxville’s Old City, and asked Bryan to have a blazer made for Boehner. Duncan sent Boehner’s measurements and Bryan produced the blazer. When Duncan presented it to Boehner, it fit perfectly, said Bryan, who was on hand for the event.
After the fundraiser, the Duncans and Boehner, along with Boehner’s security detail, had dinner at Litton’s restaurant in Fountain City.
Jimmy Duncan has represented Tennessee’s 2nd congressional district since 1988.
Disclosure: My husband, Alan Carmichael, and I are friends and supporters of Duncan and served on the host committee for this event.