Boehner Resignation Tied to Papal Visit?

WaPo's Robert Costa reveals an emotional reaction by the Speaker to the papal visit to Congress.

In “What John Boehner told me the night before he said he was quitting,” WaPo’s Robert Costa reveals an emotional reaction by the Speaker to the papal visit to Congress.

Politico’s Jake Sherman and I stood there for an hour or so, steno pads in hand and trading stories, as we waited for Boehner to appear. We had heard rumors from several lawmakers that Boehner was mulling retirement and that, as a Catholic, he privately saw the pope’s congressional visit, which he had orchestrated, as a fitting denouement to his long political career.


Boehner moved a few steps over and closed his eyes for a moment, seeming to recall what it was like for him as Francis entered the Capitol. Boehner’s blue eyes grew moist and his voice shaky. He asked me to stand inches from him, in essence standing in for the pope as he re-created the scene, perhaps hoping to savor the rush of it again while the memory was fresh.


“The pope, he comes up the steps right there. He comes right here,” Boehner said, pointing down at my feet.

“Right here?” I asked. “Right here!” Boehner said, smiling. “Right here. When he gets here, there are all of these kids he is going to bless. And you know how I get.”

“You start crying?” I asked.

Boehner shot me a look, as if that was obvious.

“So. So, the pope puts his arm around my left arm,” he said as he pulled my arm up to his shoulder. Boehner was now fully committed to acting it out. “Hold on, hold on,” he said as I pulled my arm away. “Let me finish. The pope says to me, ‘Please pray for me.’ ”

“Please pray for me,” Boehner repeated as he dipped his head. “He said, ‘Please pray for me.’ ”

Boehner has been under siege from the moment he became Speaker, a grown-up trying to legislate with a caucus increasingly filled with amateurs who actually believed their extreme anti-government rhetoric. It’s really remarkable that he’s lasted as long as he has. But it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he saw his time with the pope as the apex of his career and an opportunity to go out on a high note.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ron Beasley says:

    I am also surprised he lasted as long as he did – herding cats is an impossible job. He has a nice pension and can retire to his place in Florida play golf, sit in the sun drinking wine and smoking cigarettes and be at peace with the world far from the craziness of DC. I rarely agreed with him on much of anything but I think he was a good man and more importantly sane. It’s never easy being the head of an institution when the crazy inmates have taken over.

  2. Tyrell says:

    Boehner is an emotional person. He certainly has not had an easy time. Things are far different now. Give me the days of smoke filled back rooms, bourbon, and poker games where the leaders worked things out, made the deals, and kept things going.
    “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em” (Rogers)

  3. MBunge says:

    This is reminding me of Chris Matthews’ praise of Mitch McConnell in the shutdown debacle.

    Boehner was a willing and joyful participant in ALL of the Republican/conservative nonsense that has brought the country nothing but grief. The ONLY reason Congress is so screwed up is Boehner’s happy embrace of the principle that only Republican votes matter. Time after time on issue after issue, there have been and are bipartisan solutions proposed that go nowhere because Boehner decided that if it couldn’t pass with just GOP votes, it won’t even come up for a vote.

    Only after leading the nation into crisis and the brink of catastrophe over and over again did Boehner ever relent and allow the Democrats to essentially save him and the country from his own party…and for THAT he deserves credit?