In the wake of a blue comment from House Speaker John Boehner on Wednesday, we were issued a challenge, of sorts, by our colleague Paul Kane.
If Hill reporters could do math, we'd do historical statistical correlation between Boehner cursing & degree of legislative jam he's in.
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) February 11, 2015
Boehner, you see, urged reporters to "go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their [colloquial term for buttocks] and do something, other than to vote 'no' " on funding the Department of Homeland Security. He has used that line in the past, at a moment when he was similarly frustrated about getting a bill out of the Senate. We'll come back to this.
Now, we here at The Fix aren't Hill reporters, but we can do math. (Boehner spokesman Michael Steel gave us that much credit, at least.)
You want a graph? Let's talk graphs.
As it turns out, this isn't actually a very good subject to graph. Graphs rely on numbers, and the two sets of numbers we're talking about here are small (the amount of cursing) and/or unquantifiable ("degree of legislative jam"). Even the amount of cursing is a relative determination: How often does Boehner curse as a function of, say, everything he says? It's nearly impossible to know.
Using this nice index of past Boehner swears supplemented with amusing Nexis searches for the word "Boehner" near words that would get you in trouble in fourth grade, we created a list of the times Boehner has sworn in public or is reported to have sworn in private since 2007 -- several years before he gained the gavel. We (very subjectively) evaluated the strength of each swear and mapped it to the (very subjective) precariousness of Boehner's political position. And then we graphed it.
The swears, in order.
1. "a piece of s—"
May 2007. Referring to President George W. Bush's immigration reform proposals.
Curse strength: 8. Crisis size: 4.
2. "In Congress, we have a red button, a green button and a yellow button, all right. Green means 'yes,' red means 'no,' and yellow means you're a chicken s—. And the last thing we need in the White House, in the Oval Office, behind that big desk, is some chicken who wants to push this yellow button."
2008. Referring to Barack Obama's "present" votes in the Illinois state Senate.
Curse strength: 5. Crisis size: 7.
3. "You know, I think this thing is a crap sandwich, but I'm going to eat it anyway."
September 2008. Referring to the TARP vote.
Curse strength: 3. Crisis size: 9.
4. "Don't say that s—."
Spring 2009. A private comment to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) after he criticized Nancy Pelosi.
Curse strength: 7. Crisis size: 2.
5. "Hey, people deserve to know what's in this pile of s—."
June 2009. On the proposed cap-and-trade bill.
Curse strength: 6. Crisis size: 5.
6. "Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment? Hell no you haven't" and "Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals, and struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people? Hell no, you can't."
March 2010. The debate over Obamacare.
Curse strength: 2. Crisis size: 10.
7. "Why isn't the president looking for an a— to kick on this issue?"
June 2010. Referring to the budget deficit in a private conversation.
Curse strength: 3. Crisis size: 4.
8. "Hell, they want to save the American dream - and so do I."
November 2010. On Democrats working with the incoming class of Republicans.
Curse strength: 2. Crisis size: 0.
9. "I'm trying to catch my breath so I don't refer to this maneuver going on today as chicken crap, all right? But this is nonsense."
December 2010. Referring to a vote on the Bush tax cuts.
Curse strength: 1. Crisis size: 4.
10. "Get your a— in line."
July 2011. To Republicans in a private meeting about the debt ceiling.
Curse strength: 4. Crisis size: 8.
11. "Sometimes our job is to turn chickens — into chicken salad."
December 2011. A private conversation about the payroll tax debate.
Curse strength: 5. Crisis size: 6.
12. "Go f— yourself."
January 2013. To Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as the fiscal cliff approached.
Curse strength: 10. Crisis size: 8.
13. "We should not have to move a third bill before the Senate gets off their a— and begins to do something."
February 2013. Pushing for Senate action before the sequestration kicked in.
Curse strength: 4. Crisis size: 6.
14. "What an a—h—."
2014. Private comment made about Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).
Curse strength: 6. Crisis size: 3.
15. If Obama "expects us to stand idly by and do nothing while he cuts a bad deal with Iran," two words would provide an answer: Hell no."
January 2015. In the wake of the State of the Union address.
Curse strength: 2. Crisis size: 6.
16. "Why don't you go ask the Senate Democrats when they are going to get off their a— and do something, other than to vote 'no'?"
Wednesday. About DHS funding.
Curse strength: 4. Crisis size: 5.
You may notice, by the way, that there is in fact no direct correlation between the severity of the political crisis at hand and the outrage in Boehner's language. If anything, the correlation is inverse.
The math has spoken.