A wave of Tea Party Republicans, elected in 2010, made John Boehner Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, a job he describes as “Mayor of Crazytown” in the new memoir On the House (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99).
The tone of Boehner’s book, toward his own caucus, evokes Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s wartime remark: “The human material I have to work with is useless.”
An exaggeration? Nope. Of Republicans sent to Congress in 2010, Boehner writes: “You could be a total moron and get elected just by having an R next to your name – and that year, by the way, we did pick up a fair number in that category.”
In retirement, Boehner has a lot to get off his chest. The expletives come so fast and furious that, should Boehner tire of life as a corporate director, he could write for The Stranger. Witness this spot-on description of a fellow Republican in the Senate: “There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless (expletive) who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz.”
The ex-Speaker is, however, washing his hands of responsibility for awful deeds, acts of extremism and fiascos engineered by his caucus.
He had no responsibility for the 1998 impeachment of President Clinton, which backfired and cost the Republicans several House seats (including two in Washington). It was all the doing of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay.
House Republican bomb throwers were also a thorn in the side of the Bush administration, resisting legislation to stabilize the financial system in 2008.
“Too many Republicans in Congress cared more about what Sean Hannity thought than the Secretary of the Treasury or the Speaker of the House or the President of the United States,” he writes. “They were ready to destroy the economy for decades rather than come up with any realistic alternatives – just as long as it looked like they were standing up to the ‘establishment’.”
What’s glossed over is that Boehner was once a bomb thrower in the Newt Gingrich mold, helping set the stage for the Tea Party crowd to come.
He failed in leadership, unable to hold his caucus to negotiate any of the sort of bipartisan deals that once raised the minimum wage and gave us the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A discharge petition — spearhead by the bipartisan team of Representatives Denny Heck and Dave Reichert — was required to go around Boehner’s House leadership and force a vote on renewing the U.S. Export-Import Bank.
One of twelve children, from a family that ran a bar, Boehner is from a mold of those brought into the Republican Party by Ronald Reagan.
Having found success in business, he got angry that he was paying more than he wanted in membership dues to his country. The man’s goal in public office was always to curb rather than expand social and human services.
On the House is strewn with anecdotes. Boehner is a guy’s guy: His wife and daughters are barely mentioned in the book. He smokes his Camels, so many that successor Paul Ryan spent months trying to rid the Speaker’s office of tobacco stench. The beer of his youth had given way to a taste for red wine. He is an avid golfer, writing of Russia: “The golf courses there are all (expletive) anyway.”
We learn that George W. Bush is a poker player unable to bluff.
Ex-President Gerald Ford is a great guy save for one episode on the golf course. Ford hits three balls, in succession, into a water hazard.
“And then the eighty-six-year-old former leader of the Free World began to jump up and down screaming [the most famous expletive in the English language] as loud as he could scream. Over and over again… It was like some crazy exercise routine. I’d never seen anything like it on a golf course and haven’t since.”
Ultimately, for all his excuses, Boehner is appalled at what has become of the Republican Party he helped lead on Capitol Hill.
He is critical of President Obama as a negotiator, conveniently ignoring the Mitch McConnell block-everything legislative strategy. But there follows this insight:
“He (Obama) could come off as lecturing and haughty. He still wasn’t making Republican outreach a priority. But on the other hand, how do you find common cause with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?”
Boehner has already introduced readers to Donald Trump by describing his boorishness toward an aide who screws up names of golfing partners. His disgust with Biden’s predecessor, and Trump enablers, boils over at the end:
Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the [nonsense] he’s been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November.
He claimed voter fraud without any evidence and repeated these claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust.
It was especially sad to see some members of the House and Senate helping him along — although some of the people involved did not trust me in the least. The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as Speaker now encouraged actual terrorism.
The Republican Party of John Boehner – “of smaller, fairer, more accountable government, and not conspiracy theories,” as he describes it – has now grown to include “everyone from garden-variety whack jobs to insurrectionists.”
What a devastating admission.
The extremists’ enablers have included a member of Boehner’s leadership team from this state, Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R‑Washington.
Already, militant extremist Republicans (including a state legislator) are plotting revenge against Representatives Dan Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R‑Washington, who voted for Trump’s impeachment.
While entertaining his readers, John Boehner has laid out a chilling threat to American democracy. Insurrectionists didn’t just invade the U.S. Capitol. They are already inside and working to destroy American democracy from within.
I would love to share a glass of fine Walla Walla wine with John Boehner and hear his stories of President Bill Clinton taking mulligans on the golf course. But never again can I vote for a House or Senate candidate from his party.