John Boehner, Without A Filter
It's been two years since John Boehner stepped down as Speaker, and he's got a few things to say about his former colleagues and the state of American politics.
John Boehner has been out of office for just over two years now, and he’s not holding back:
John A. Boehner has always had a gruff side. During his four-plus years as House speaker, the Ohio Republican let it show occasionally, like when he told former Democratic leader Harry M. Reid “go f— yourself” outside the Oval Office.
Now, two years to the day after he left Congress, Boehner is truly free to speak his mind. And a sprawling new profile in Politico Magazine finds the 67-year-old retiree doing just that — with his harshest words reserved for his old antagonists on the political right.
Speaking with Politico’s Tim Alberta, a chain-smoking, merlot-drinking, golf-playing Boehner gave a typically foul-mouthed assessment of some of his Republican colleagues, dumped on right-wing media stars, and opened up about his concerns over the Trump administration and the GOP’s future. The 12,000-word profile is worth reading in full, but what follows are some highlights
Boehner had choice words for former Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz, the former Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee who retired earlier this year, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was favored among conservatives to replace him. When Boehner was asked about the two, he made his feelings clear.
“F— Jordan. F— Chaffetz,” he told Politico. “They’re both a——-.”
Anyone who followed the internecine fighting between Boehner and the far-right House Freedom Caucus during Boehner’s run as speaker will understand the resentment. Jordan, the Freedom Caucus’s founding chairman, was Boehner’s main antagonist, undercutting his efforts to broker deals with the White House to address the national debt and other issues. Each effectively accused the other of betrayal.
“Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate,” Boehner told Politico. “A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.”
Presented with Boehner’s opinion of him, Jordan responded that he was merely doing what voters asked of him. “I feel sorry for the guy if he’s that bitter,” he told Politico.
As for Chaffetz, Boehner said the beef wasn’t personal. Chaffetz was just a “total phony,” he said. “With Chaffetz, it’s always about Chaffetz.”
Not everybody made Boehner’s bad list, however. He has even wound up becoming friends with some members of Congress who have crossed swords with him, according to Politico.
On the whole, Boehner said, Congress was a mixed bag.
We’ve got some of the smartest people in America who serve in the Congress, and we’ve got some of the dumbest,” he said.
He added: “We have some of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet, and some that are Nazis. Congress is nothing more than a slice of America.”
When Boehner looks at America, he sees a nation with deep, troubling divisions. The culprit, he said, was an increasingly polarized media. He pointed to talk radio and Fox News on one side, and MSNBC and social media on the other.
In particular, he took aim at radio host Mark Levin, saying his popularity among right-wing audiences turned fellow conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and Fox News host Sean Hannity against him while he was speaker.
Levin, he said, “went really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys — I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly they’re beating the living s— out of me.”
In early 2015, Boehner reportedly called Hannity and vented his frustrations: ”I called him and said, ‘Listen, you’re nuts.’ We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasn’t going to be a right-wing idiot.”
Boehner said he counted Roger Ailes, the late chairman of Fox News, as a personal friend, but grew concerned during a 2012 meeting when Ailes started peddling conspiracy theories. “He had black helicopters flying all around his head that morning,” Boehner said. “It was every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard, and I’m throwing cold water on all this bulls—.”
Boehner was more cautious when discussing President Trump, whom he considers a friend, but made clear he doesn’t think much of the current administration.
“Dysfunction is a relative term,” he said of the White House in the Politico profile. ”Right now it looks like I was a genius.”
At a conference earlier this year, Boehner called Trump’s presidency a “complete disaster,” a remark that reportedly resulted in irate voice mails from Reince Priebus, then White House chief of staff.
For Boehner, Trump seems to represent bigger problems in the Republican Party’s ability to govern, according to Politico. The GOP has no real leadership, he said.
“Donald Trump’s not a Republican,” Boehner said. “He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist. He doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body.”
During his tenure as Speaker, one always got the impression that Boehner was a man who was on the horns of a dilemma. After nearly twenty years in Congress, he managed to rise to the top of the body even after suffering a number of setbacks both early in his tenure and during the Speakership of Newt Gingrich when he was part of a small group of House Republicans who sought to unseat Gingrich after the failures he had suffered during the government shutdown crisis in late 1995. It took several years after that for Boehner to work his way back into the good graces of the powers that be to the point where he was once again part of the leadership team, but he was somewhat lucky in that it happened at the same time that Gingrich finally met his downfall in the wake of the losses that Republicans suffered in the 1998 midterms as well as the revelations about his affair with the woman who eventually became his third wife. Thanks to that, Boehner quickly found himself rising to Majority Leader under Speaker Dennis Hastert and, after Hastert left Congress in the wake of Republican losses in 2006 that put the Democrats in power. That made Boehner Minority Leader and the logical choice for Speaker when the GOP regained control of the House in 2010.
Once he got in that role, though, Boehner quickly found that being Speaker of the House in the Tea Party Era wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Corralling his fellow Republicans to support legislation proved difficult unless it had the support of Tea Party. This led to several points over the four years that Boehner served as Speaker when he was put in essentially impossible situations over seemingly straightforward issues such as raising the debt ceiling and passing a budget.The most prominent of those, of course, were the showdowns he was essentially forced into by his caucus over extending the Bush tax cuts, raising the debt ceiling and, most famously, the government shutdown of October 2013, which turned out to be a huge political loss for the Republican Party that seemed at the time as if it would have a serious impact on the 2014 midterms. That didn’t turn out to be the case, but the die was cast by that event and it led directly to the circumstances that brought Boehner to abruptly decide to step down shortly after Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress. On the whole, it’s clear that Boehner has no regrets about that decision, and I can’t say that I blame him.
On a final note, I highly recommend reading the entire Tim Alberta piece in Politico Magazine. It’s long, but it provides a fascinating look into Boehner’s career, his time in office during the Gingrich years, and of course the years that he served as Speaker and the circumstances surrounding his decision to step down in October 2015. By the end of the piece, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what it was like behind the scenes for those four years, and how the Republican Party has changed in the twenty years since Boehner first won an unlikely bid to become the Congressman from Ohio’s Fifth Congressional District.
“Donald Trump’s not a Republican,” Boehner said. “He’s not a Democrat. He’s a populist. He doesn’t have an ideological bone in his body.”
Boehner looks like an every day drinker. Let him slobber…
@Guarneri: OK now you’re just phoning it in.
What’s the matter? Insanity Hannity hasn’t commented on the article yet?
I agree that the original politico piece is worth reading. You don’t get that many inside looks at the amount of maneuvering for influence that takes place. I also thought it was interesting to see his perspective on things like the collapse of the secret deal around entitlements, etc.
Sympathetic take on Boehner as a person aside, it does seem a little like a ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ kind of a thing. A lot of the current mess seems (to me at least) to be pretty easily traced back to precedents and attitudes that Newt Gingrich worked really hard to create. To the extent that Boehner was part of that effort, I think he has reaped pretty much what he sowed. Frankly, I’m also skeptical of Boehner’s implication that right-wing talk radio was any less of its nut in the 90’s….I remember some pretty weird conspiracy theories going around among my less cogent friends back then….
I can see Boehner now; hanging out, smoking cigarettes, drinking beer or wine, and smiling every time he sees a news clip of Paul Ryan dissembling, Ryan struggling to deal with people like himself, or a smug know-nothing like Devin Nunes selling out the House Intelligence Committee for a few pieces of silver.
Everyday drinkers can’t judge character? Seems like they’re hardwired to do it very effectively – likely every day.
Yea…That’s one of the things that always cracks me up about the Trumpkins (especially Evangelicals and the ‘White, no college’ demographic). They really seem to think he gives a sh*t about any of them, or their causes. Our dear leader has pretty clearly demonstrated that his first, last, and only priority is his own ego.
Any ‘republican’ policies that don’t line up with that will be jettisoned so fast that the editors at Breitbart will have to borrow Obama’s time machine in order to keep their talking points up to date.
Yeah….not really too impressed there. “Social media” isn’t on “the other side.”
Boehner was a bad Speaker and he became Speaker at a very bad time to be a R Speaker.
Trump will kill all of the current R leaders’ careers. Ryan, McConnell and co. have the task of fluffing a tanking President still beloved by the base. There is no upside. The base will hate you for not being 100% Trumpian, and everyone else will associate you with Trump who they despise / pity.
Quite likely Boehner is a very failed human being. And he was abused by his caucus. But he did have the good sense to get when the getting was good.
I always picture Boehner sitting in his easy chair with a glass of wine waiting, smoking a cigaratte, and just laughing his ass off.
You say that like it’s a bad thing.
While I definitely agree with that last sentence, calling Trump a “populist” is pretty laughable. Trump’s “populism” (Trumpulism?) basically comes down to accepting almost the entire GOP plutocrat agenda of tax cuts and deregulation, throwing in racism, and then claiming against all available evidence that it will benefit the common person.
Huey Long was a populist. Bernie Sanders is a populist. Trump isn’t a populist, he’s a me-ist.
It has long been a staple of right-wing commentary to use “populist” as a dirty word to weed out heretics. Limbaugh (whom Boehner offers qualified praise for in the Politico profile) used this very line of attack against Pat Buchanan in the ’90s, in comments that echo Boehner’s criticisms of Trump:
When Limbaugh made those comments in 1996, Buchanan was very popular with the rank-and-file. Limbaugh’s comments provoked something of a backlash from his listeners. I remember a cartoon from around that time in which Limbaugh picks up the phone and the caller shouts “RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT!” Limbaugh asks, “Is this Al Franken?” Then it cuts to an image of the caller, a guy in a cowboy hat.
Buchanan’s ideology was basically Trumpism before Trump (with a bit more of a religious angle). Like Trump he was a staunch critic of NAFTA and free trade more generally. And he was probably the last major figure in the conservative movement to truly straddle the boundary between mainstream conservatism and white nationalism. Limbaugh was a racist but even he stopped short of some of the things Buchanan said.
Two decades later, and Limbaugh became one of Trump’s staunchest backers in the conservative media. I should emphasize that Limbaugh didn’t wait till Trump won the nomination to support him, like Boehner (yes, it’s important not to forget that Boehner, while lashing out at Ted Cruz, still endorsed Trump in the general election); he was praising him effusively way back in mid-2015 when he was just one of over a dozen candidates, including several who on the surface would have seemed closer to Limbaugh’s views. No bellyaching about Trump’s attacks on free trade, his pledges not to cut Medicare or Social Security, or his past support for single-payer and for raising taxes on the wealthy. By then, adherence to conservative ideology mattered less to Limbaugh than Trump’s fine blend of racism and trollism.
In other words, Boehner’s criticisms of Trump basically put him about where Limbaugh was 20 years ago. As the Politico article notes, he began his career as part of a right-wing insurgency against the Republican establishment. It just goes to show how far off the deep end the party has gone.
OT…I find it fascinating that sexual harassers are losing their jobs one after the other, in the wake of the Weinstein accusations.
But the President has admitted to serial sexual assault and is still in office.
Why does Boner* place “talk radio and Fox News on one side, and MSNBC and social media on the other.”? Is he totally ignorant of the use of social media by GOPs, Nazis, and Russians? Does he know anything about social media? Does he seriously think MSNBC is even remotely as influential on the Left as FOX on the Right. Is he so deep into bothsidesdoit that he thinks Dems have gone nuts too?
Boner* seems to be joining Flake and McCain in being more willing to be honest now that he’s out of the game. Why it is impossible for practicing GOP pols to be honest I will leave as an exercise for the reader.
* He gets promoted to “Boehner” when he learns to say “Democratic“.
@gVOR08: “Democrat” is the best tell in all the Repub lexicon. If I begin reading a column or article and Democrat comes up in that snide way I know I’m wasting my time reading the rest of it.
A lot of folks don’t get that it is off-putting until you flip it and reverse it and write “the Republic Party” and then – sometimes – it sinks in.
The problem is that “the Republic Party” doesn’t sound insulting, it just sounds weird. The linguistic mechanism underlying “Democrat Party” isn’t the removal of a syllable, it’s the use of the noun form as an adjective, which is a device in English used to create slurs: it’s what’s behind a phrase like “Jew banker,” for example. But it only works if the noun form and the adjective form are distinct, and in most cases they aren’t. “Republican” is both an adjective and a noun, and therefore there can be no equivalent to “Democrat Party” for Republicans.
Most people don’t get this, I realize, not even Republicans who resort to this language. I’ve heard other explanations–that it’s a way of trying to avoid associating the party with small-d democratic, or that it’s a way of insinuating the word rat–but I don’t buy it. The use of “Democrat” as an insulting adjective goes back a long way (one particularly famous early example was Bob Dole’s reference to “Democrat wars” at the 1976 vp debate, but in fact the practice is decades older than that). To many Republicans today it’s almost an unconscious tic and they don’t even realize its pejorative nature–but that’s just because denigrating Democrats comes so naturally to them they barely even think about it as they do it.
I knew I liked him somehow. I always view Boehner as a basically decent human being who tried to get things done without being sanctimonious about it all. I could disagree with him but I could never despise him like I do Ryan.
Besides, he’s an easy cry. So am I. Shameless sentimentalist.
It’s not meant to be insulting (kinda), and it is meant to sound intentionally weird.
Like “Democrat Party” implies that its members and voters aren’t really democratic, “Republic Party” implies that the adherents don’t really want a republic style government.
I also like to drop “The Democratic People’s Republic of Alabama” into some exchanges just to mess with peoples perceptions of how political parties get shoehorned into slots.
As a general rule, I like criers. It takes moxie. (Although the argument could be made that Boehner is a public crier because he is an active alcoholic.)
My exception may seem weird: Dick Vermeil
I know. He’s a mensch. What’s your damn problem, de stijl?
During The Greatest Show On Turf era, Vermeil would cry at every freaking press conference. Every. Freaking. Time.
And it’s not like he was obvs faking; he wasn’t. He was genuinely crying because he loved his team and his staff that much.
Vermeil cried genuine tears in public – which I admire, and I still kinda hated him because of that. I lack the self-awareness to diagnose my visceral negative reaction to Vermeil’s crying.
So in response to a phrase that avoids a complimentary adjective for Democrats, you come up with a phrase that uses one for Republicans? The fact that you have to explain why it’s insulting shows how weak it is as a rejoinder.
In any case, while the explanation you mention for the origin of “Democrat Party” may be clever, it’s probably not correct. As I explained, it’s more likely a case of turning the noun into an adjective as a way of creating a slur. That doesn’t mean most people who use this phrase are consciously aware of the linguistic mechanism underlying it, but it does suggest that’s what they’re doing. That’s the way it is with a lot of slurs; many common ethnic slurs have unknown or murky origins, but people still use them because they sound crude and denigrating, and turning a noun into an adjective is one way of producing that effect. “Democrat Party” very much has that quality. People who use the phrase aren’t thinking very hard about what it means or why, they just like the nasty ring it has to it. No matter how hard you try, “Republic Party” just doesn’t have that effect.
You’re astute, but kind of a dick.
If you can be blunt, so can I.
Hopefully, not in an abusive way. You’re educated and write well and clearly, but you are also pedantic and formalistic. I know it seems weird because I just called you kind of a dick, but I hope you’re not irreparably offended. You add great information to this forum, but your very blunt style makes it difficult to interact with you.
I’m also a dick. I’m the hyperbolic, overly dramatic dick.
Upon checking I find that use of the phrase “Democrat Party” goes back to at least the 1920s,
Like much of what’s wrong with modern American politics,
It’s normal courtesy is to call people what they wish to be called, but courtesy is beyond Republicans.
I don’t think Kylopod’s a dick. Then again ever larger numbers of people think I’m a dick. Styles of expression are changing, I think. I made a deliberate choice in my youth to express myself directly, with few if any qualifiers. This has been referred to (by ex-girlfriends, current wife) as Voice of God. People who don’t like me call it Voice of Aszhole.
Then again people generally believe me, trust me (more than I deserve) and tend to do what I ask them to do. Trade-offs. I imagine I’m aging out of that schtick – voice weakening, not as physically imposing as I used to be. Yep. I see people in walkers, the aluminum things with the two tennis balls and think, “There’s got to be something more upscale, I’m not driving something from CVS.” There’s no denying that there’s less time ahead of me than behind me.
And as we grow old we can’t bust heads like we used to, but we have our ways. One trick is to tell ’em stories that don’t go anywhere – like the time I caught the ferry over to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe, so, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on ’em. Give me five bees for a quarter, you’d say.
Now where were we? Oh yeah: the important thing was I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn’t have white onions because of the war. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones…
I miss old school Simpsons, and now it looks like Archer is kaput, but Bob’s Burgers is still cranking. God bless Kristen Schaal, Dan Mintz, etc. God, what a great voice cast they have!
I feel semi-bad that I basically “tone policed” Kylopod, because tone policing is almost alway a dick move. But I also am unable to interact successfully with the type of response he gave. Hopefully, my withdrawal was clear but respectful (as respectful as “You’re a dick, but…” can be anyway). Kylopod is a great provider of facts and information, but we would not make good conversation partners, which says a lot about my unwillingness to engage outside of my comfort zone.
Indeed — “Should I do what’s best for Americans, or what’s best for me?”
JB always chose “me”. No sympathy here. None at all.
No, not offended. A little puzzled, but not offended.
I think that’s the key point. They say “Democrat Party” because it sounds ugly. They don’t have to understand why, but they do know at some level it’s an insulting expression.
You can see the same thing with the term “Obamacare.” By now everyone uses the term, because at some point Dems decided to fall back on the age-old technique of trying to defuse a pejorative term by appropriating it. But there’s no question it was invented by Republicans in order to disparage the law. The practice itself actually goes back to the 1990s when Republicans referred to the health-care bill coming out of the Clinton Administration as “Hillarycare.” Explaining why the term is insulting is even trickier than it is with “Democrat Party.” But it was clearly an attempt to make the bill sound ridiculous. It also has had the effect of reinforcing the GOP’s attempts to paint the law as a singular policy, rather than a highly complex piece of legislation spanning numerous aspects of the health-care system.
At bottom, these are schoolyard-level insults, said without the slightest thought, and it’s a sign of the echo chamber these people live in that they barely even notice they’re saying these things.
He nailed Chaffetz. My gut feeling was the same for that fake.
@Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
We are all every day drinkers for the rest of this administration.
As do I.
I suppose it had to happen sometime, but Newt Gingrich really blew the doors off when he brought a carpet-bombing mentality to the GOP Speakership.
John Boehner just isn’t a Gingrich type of politician, but he DID go along with the ‘we need (must) only pass our legislation with out a single Democratic vote.’
@Tony W: I’m actually trying to drink less. Gotta keep sharp for the battle.