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SHOCK WEARS OFF, ALONG WITH DECENCY

Oh, dear. Rep. John Boehner has become one of them. When he first went to Washington from ex-urban Cincinnati, he was shocked at what he found. Shocked.

"I am," he said, "shocked."He made, in that quotation, specific reference to the effort by House Democratic leaders to keep secret the names of legislators who had been caught writing checks for more money than they had in the bank. But Boehner's words captured the essence of his general posture in those days.

In his first term, which started in 1991, he became known as one of the "Gang of Seven" Republican freshmen whose issue was House reform. They pressured the Democratic leadership not only on the check scandal but on unpaid lunch bills, on pay raises taken in the middle of a congressional term - you name it. They were the idealistic freshmen come to straighten out the old cynics.

Some politicians are holier than thou. Boehner was holier than thou's bishop.

In those days, Boehner said the work his group was doing could lead the American people to realize that not all politicians are "dirtbags," that politics can be "clean and decent."

Now we learn that in 1995 Boehner - having risen to a middle-management position in his party - was walking around the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives handing out checks from tobacco-industry lobbyists to fellow Republicans.