Standing behind the same lectern, on the same stage, before the same reporters in a Capitol Hill briefing room only moments apart on Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, both needed to make something clear: Members of their own party have been bad, and no, they do not approve.
Pelosi addressed the Capitol Hill press corps first, where she fielded a question about the most recent saga of personal scandal from Anthony Weiner, a former Democratic House lawmaker now running to become New York City’s next mayor.
It was only two years ago that Pelosi stripped Weiner of his committee assignments in the House and urged him to leave Congress after he posted explicit pictures of himself on the Internet. (Weiner denied it at the time, claiming someone had “hacked” his social media accounts. He was, curiously, unable to “say with certitude” if the phallic images being splashed across the Internet were his own. Weiner’s story failed to hold up under scrutiny, and he stepped down in disgrace.) This week, after new pictures emerged on the website TheDirty.com, Weiner, who is married, admitted to misbehaving again, even after his public fall from grace.
Asked about the new pictures of Weiner, Pelosi looked physically perturbed that she still had to deal with him so long after his exit from the House, but she was unequivocal in her condemnation.
“Let me be very clear: The conduct of some of these people we’re talking about here is reprehensible,” Pelosi said. “It is so disrespectful of women and what’s really startling about it is they don’t even realize — they don’t have a clue — if they’re clueless, get a clue. If they need therapy, do it in private.”
After answering a few more questions, Pelosi left the stage.
It was Boehner’s turn to be clear.
Although Republicans don’t have anyone in the their party advertising their bodies on the Web this week, one member did cause an uproar after making disparaging remarks about immigrant children.
During an interview with Newsmax last week, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, one of the fiercest opponents to the ongoing effort to pass an immigration overhaul, suggested that many immigrants who had been brought to the United States by their parents illegally as children would grow up to become drug smugglers.
"For everyone who's a valedictorian,” King said of children living in the United States illegally, “there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.”
Not the best thing to say during a time when your party is making a deliberate and expensive campaign to bring more Hispanic Americans to vote Republican.
House leaders rushed to condemn King’s remarks, and Boehner reinforced his disapproval by bringing it up at his press conference.
“I want to be clear: There’s no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected officials,” Boehner said. “Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect the values of the American people or the Republican Party. We all need to do our work in a constructive, open and respectful way. As I’ve said many times, we can disagree without being disagreeable.”
With that out of the way, perhaps leaders of both parties will get back to governing.