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John Boehner, Finally, Unloads On The Republican Right Wing

Then-House Speaker John Boehner participates in the swearing-in ceremony of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. Boehner later called Jordan a "legislative terrorist."
Jacquelyn Martin
Associated Press
Then-House Speaker John Boehner participates in the swearing-in ceremony of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. Boehner later called Jordan a "legislative terrorist."

It was only a matter of time before the former House Speaker John Boehner, raised in blue-collar Reading and now living in a gated community in West Chester Township, would simply just blow his top.

Boehner hates with a visceral passion what he believes the Republican Party – particularly in Washington; particularly in Congress – has become: a haven for right-wing crazies who have no real interest in doing anything but destroying those who oppose them.

Washington, Boehner says in his new book, On The House, has become "Crazytown."

Mount St. Boehner has erupted and is spewing lava all over the Trumpian landscape of Republican politics. It is covering everything in its path. No one is spared.

Particularly not the ingrates who gave him a majority – with his help – and then turned on him with their "Freedom Caucus," ultimately driving him out of office in 2015.

"In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called a 'shellacking,' '' Boehner wrote. "And oh boy, was it ever. 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."

Some more examples of Boehner dumping on his political foes in the new book:

On the new GOP House members elected in 2010:

"All of this crap swirling around was going to make it tough for me to cut any deals with Obama as the new House Speaker. Of course, it has to be said that Obama didn't help himself much either. He 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?"

On Jim Jordan, the Ohio congressman who was a leader of the revolt that drove Boehner out of office, from an earlier interview with Politico:

"A legislative terrorist."

On the late Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News:

"I once met him in New York during the Obama years to plead with him to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air. It was making my job trying to accomplish anything conservative that much harder. I didn't expect the meeting to change anything, but I still thought it was b******t and I wanted Roger to know it.

"When I put it to him like that, he didn't have much to say. But he did go on and on about the terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, which he thought was part of a grand conspiracy that led back to Hillary Clinton. Then he outlined elaborate plots by which George Soros and the Clintons and Obama (and whoever else came to mind) were trying to destroy him. 'They're monitoring me,' he assured me about the Obama White House."

On Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas:

"By 2013 the chaos caucus in the House had built up their own power base thanks to fawning right-wing media and outrage-driven fundraising cash. And they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn't even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a*****e who thinks he is smarter than anyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz."

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in Washington.
Credit Greg Nash / AP
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, March 23, 2021, in Washington.

And, of course, Donald Trump, who wasn't in office by the time Boehner left the House:

Trump "incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons,'' speaking of the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6 by mobs of angry Trump supporters.

I have no idea how this book was written, but I can tell you this: It reads exactly the same way Boehner talks. It is as if somebody put a recorder in front of him, turned it on and let him rip.

It is pure, unfiltered Boehner.

At the time Boehner became Speaker in January 2011, I was still the politics writer for the Cincinnati Enquirer and was sent to Washington to chronicle the swearing-in of Cincinnati's first House Speaker since Nicholas Longworth in 1925.

Photographer Michael E. Keating and I showed up a few days early. Boehner and his staff made sure we had good access; the new Speaker seemed to be anxious for lots of coverage in his hometown newspaper.

On the morning he was sworn in as Speaker, he was standing in the hallway outside the Speaker's Offices, as what seemed liked hundreds of his Reading relatives streamed by for a photograph with famous kinsman (he comes from a family where he was the second of 12 children; you can only imagine how many cousins he has).

I was standing across the hall taking notes. I could tell he was getting weary of the picture parades. Then he motioned to me to come over.

"I need a break,'' he told me, "let's go in and have a smoke. I'll talk on the record."

We go in and sit down in front of the glass doors that open to a patio with the most fantastic view of the National Mall you could ever see.

A staff member came by with a heavy leaded crystal ashtray and put it between us. We both fired up cigarettes. (For the record, I quit smoking for good in January 2015.)

For the next half hour or so, we talked about his new job, how he would lead the House, how he would deal with Obama, and other topics, as I scribbled furiously in a reporter's notebook.

Boehner never said it that day, but I could read between the lines when he talked about all the new, very conservative House members he would have to deal with and I sensed he knew it wasn't going to be easy.

I have to say that politics aside, I always liked the chain-smoking congressman from Ohio's 8th Congressional District, the son of a neighborhood bar owner in blue-collar Reading who became a perpetually tanned country club Republican, who spent his free time with the rich and powerful.

Boehner traded the beer and a shot culture of his family's bar in Reading, preferring in recent years a glass of merlot at a country club bar.

But, in many ways, he's still that kid from Reading who would sweep the floor of the bar his grandfather started every night.

He has a droll sense of humor; he always understood that there is give-and-take in politics; and it seemed he always took a liking to me because, during his years in the House and as Speaker, I was, like him, a heavy smoker. We'd often find ourselves out on the street, breaking away from some boring political event, to have a smoke.

I ended up with a lot of good stories because John Boehner was looking for someone to suck down a smoke with.

Boehner, in all the years I have known him, never once apologized for his style of politics, even when it caused outrage in the media and among his political foes.

The most egregious example came in 1995 when the House was voting on a bill to abolish a $49 million taxpayer giveaway to tobacco companies. There on the House floor, as the vote was taking place, was Boehner passing out campaign checks from the tobacco companies to his fellow House members. On the floor of the House!

True to his style, he was unapologetic.

About a year later, Republicans from all over country gathered in San Diego for their 1996 presidential nominating convention, where they bestowed the title of presidential nomineeon Sen. Bob Dole, who had the unenviable task for taking on Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton in the general election.

I think they all knew that their chances of unseating Clinton were slim to none, and slim had left town. But if you are going to hold a losers' convention, it might as well be somewhere with really nice weather.

Boehner, who, in 1996, was the House Republican Conference Chairman, the fourth-ranking position in the majority party's hierarchy, threw a party for the Ohio delegation and an assortment of friends and political allies in a restaurant on San Diego's harbor.

He even invited the media to stop by, although, as I recall, he didn't want us to be interviewing his guests – although he could talk plenty.

Parties and receptions like this go on 24 hours a day at presidential nominating conventions, both Democratic and Republican. And, more often than not, the shindigs would have a corporate sponsor picking up the tab.

I remember walking in, seeing Boehner greeting the guests (a cigarette in his hand, of course). I was covering the convention for the Cincinnati Enquirer; he always got along well with me for that reason and because, at the time, I was, like him, a heavy smoker.

Next to him was a sign: "Sponsored by R.J. Reynolds." At the time, that tobacco company was responsible for about one-third of the cigarette sales in the U.S.

So, I spoke up: "Given what happened last year with passing out the tobacco company checks on the House floor, doesn't this look kind of bad?"

"No," he said, "why do you ask?"

He had that wry grin on his face, as he took a drag on his smoke.

The guy had brass. You had to hand it him.

He knew perfectively well that making legislation was like watching sausage being made. Even if was very messy and somewhat gross, he knew you could end up with perfectly good sausage.

The Lilliputians who ended up running him out of the Speakership just weren't interested in making sausage. Instead, they made his time as Speaker miserable.

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

Read more "Politically Speaking" here.
Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.