Boehner Says “Blah Blah Blah” — The Rhetorical Situation

Earlier today, Speaker of the House John Boehner — remember, a United States government official 2 heartbeats from the Presdiency — responded to a question about the federal budget by saying “Blah, blah, blah, blah blah.”

Blah, blah, blah. I haven’t seen the word “blah” used in a political context since Rick Santorum totally used the word “blah” and didn’t at all say that he didn’t want to make “black people’s lives better.

I’m not saying that Boehner can’t have a good time and crack a joke. It’s a humanizing moment. But every political speech presents a “rhetorical situation,” which is the context of the speech taking into account factors such as the audience and timing. Basically a speech is more than the words coming out of the speaker’s (pun intended here) mouth, but the interplay between those words and the particular audience at the particular occasion. In this case the audience was a gathering of news media and the timing was a press availability about Congressional policy. A legislator responding to media questions about policy is the appropriate time to carefully craft a legalistic response. This response is usually steeped in misleading double-speak, but at least it conveys that the speaker is a legislator performing the job of a legislator responding to the press and by extension the people.

Screencap of Speaker John Boehner

Boehner responding to a reporter’s question with “Blah, blah, blah,” was lighthearted and not entirely inappropriate if couched as humor and followed immediately with a thoughtful response. Instead, Boehner moved on to the next question presenting a profound lack of interest in responding to a pesky question about trivial subjects like “the federal budget.” As it is, the Boehner response provides a ready-made clip showing the face of GOP governance mocking the idea of government leadership. If I were influencing the Obama campaign, I’d consider changing the time-tested phrase “do-nothing Congress” to “Blah Blah Blah Congress” when explaining to voters that the House of Representatives has given up on serving the best interests of the American people.

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