Boehner's Handicap

By Jeffery, Clara; Bauerlein, Monika | Mother Jones, September/October 2011 | Go to article overview

Boehner's Handicap


Jeffery, Clara, Bauerlein, Monika, Mother Jones


What the speaker's boys-only game tells us

Sometime in the '50s, the story goes, a small plane ran into engine trouble over Bethesda, Maryland, and was forced to crash-land near the 18th hole of a bucolic golf club. Employees rushed to the scene, and- upon discovering that the pilot was a woman- had her "very gingerly and gallantly" removed from the grounds.

Three decades later, when a visiting head of state showed up at the same golf club with a complement of Secret Service agents, the lone woman among them couldn't set foot on the property. In 1981, a new Supreme Court appointee with a love of golf and a 12 handicap- Sandra Day O'Connor- became the first justice not to be offered a membership. That same chivalry has since been extended to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Honorary membership at Burning Tree Club is not to be sneezed at, seeing as how the initiation fee is north of $75,000, plus another $6,000 per year and tips for the caddie. Still, not all male Supreme Court justices in recent years have accepted the club's offer, though Antonin Scalia did. So did presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and George H.W. Bush. Indeed, according to an encyclopedic 2003 ESPN.com piece by Greg Garber, Ike was persuaded to run for office by fellow club members and subsequently "spent so much time at The Tree' that a hot line was installed between the White House and the pro shop."

We were moved to take this detour into archaic Washington folkways because of June's debt ceiling "golf summit" between President Obama and Speaker John Boehner, which, as some reporters noted, took place at the Andrews Air Force Base course because the president couldn't very well play Boehner's regular club- Burning Tree.

Deep breath. Okay. It is 2011. Boehner is the speaker of the House. The body that is supposed to, more than any other, represent the people- all the people- of the United States of America. Yet 91 years after women won the right to vote and 40 years after our mothers fought for more than token access to the levers of power, the signal the man second in line for the presidency intends to send to 51 percent of the nation, 40 percent of Republicans, and his own daughters is... well, we're too ladylike to say.

And yes, intends: The optics of belonging to one of America's last 24 boys-only golf clubs have been brought to Boehner's attention many, many times before. Evidently, Neanderthal sexism is simply another thing he refuses to compromise on.

But don't feel left out, guys: The speaker's contempt is not confined to those of the female persuasion. …

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