Hope and Cash

HOPE AND CASH…. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) apparently has a stump speech with a favorite quip.

At each stop he draws on nostalgia for the Republican glory days of the 1980s, by telling the same joke. “Remember when Ronald Reagan was president,” he said. “We had Bob Hope. We had Johnny Cash. Think about where we are today. We have got President Obama. But we have no hope and we have no cash.” It draws hoots of laughter and applause every time.

As it turns out, Johnny Cash’s daughter, singer and author Rosanne Cash, finds it far less amusing.

“John Boehner: Stop using my dad’s name as a punchline, you asshat.”

The amusing qualities of the exchange notwithstanding, Boehner’s little attempt at humor got me thinking. At the risk of taking a joke too seriously — we might have more “cash” if Boehner, Bush, and their buddies hadn’t failed so spectacularly — I do, actually, “remember when Ronald Reagan was president.”

In fact, at this point in Reagan’s presidency, the then-president’s approval rating had dropped to the low 40s, unemployment was nearly 11%, and Republicans were already talking publicly about pleading with Reagan not to seek a second term.

Steve Kornacki recently noted that after the ’82 midterms, “some outspoken conservatives even demanded — publicly — that [Reagan] be challenged in the ’84 primaries if he went ahead and ran.” Then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) even went to New Hampshire in late ’82 to dip his toe in the presidential primary waters. Congressional Republicans, who’d avoided Reagan during the midterms, “began charting a course independent of the Reagan White House.”

“Remember when Ronald Reagan was president”? Sure. But does Boehner?