By Kevin Mooney — With the mid-term elections just a few weeks away, the New York Times appears set to attack Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House Minority leader, from every direction. An article that ran in Saturday’s paper begins with demeaning and disparaging comments about Barry Jackson, Boehner’s chief of staff that are juxtaposed with an unflattering photo.
“Mr. Jackson, the chief of staff to Mr. Boehner, the House Republican leader from Ohio, is shaggy-haired and dough-faced, pale to Mr. Boehner’s preternatural tan,” the report begins. “He is rumpled and pudgy; his boss is lean and sharply tailored. While Mr. Boehner, 60, loves golf, Mr. Jackson, 49, prefers car racing — he has been going to the dirt tracks ever since he was a child in Ohio and makes an annual pilgrimage to the Indianapolis 500.”
Jackson is not someone who covets or seeks media attention; laudatory traits that are viewed as negatives here.
“Mr. Jackson is also press-shy,” the report says. “Friends and journalists say he seems almost physically uncomfortable around reporters. When reached at the Capitol for comment for this article, Mr. Jackson simply said: `I’m John’s chief of staff. I’m John’s chief of staff.’ Even though he avoids the limelight and does not publicly take credit, Mr. Jackson’s faint fingerprints were all over the Pledge to America, the campaign platform and legislative blueprint released Thursday that Republicans say they will follow if they win back the House,” the report continues.
While he may appear awkward and ungainly in the eye of a hostile media, there is no denying that Jackson is a serious intellectual force and a shrewd strategist who can help his party remain on offense after the November elections, the report acknowledges. When Republicans took control of the House in 1994, he was widely recognized as a key player. Jackson also helped safeguard the party’s interests earlier this year when negotiations over health care policy intensified.
Jackson has attracted the attention of the NYT because he is an effective, tough, agile political operator. He can expect subsequent reports to intensify in criticism, especially if his boss becomes House Speaker.
At one point he is described as “Mr. Boehner’s Karl Rove.”
That is not meant as a compliment.