Boehner doesn’t hold back on today’s GOP

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, April 20, 2021

“Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”—Joni Mitchell

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ROLLING FORK—Where have you gone, John Boehner? The sane portion of our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

In the latest Washington tell-all book to surface this week, “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” former Republican House Speaker Boehner, while retaining gentility, most refreshingly pulls no punches in showing his contempt for what he sees as the political party he grew up loving’s having been usurped and taken over by scoundrels and self-serving culls.

The greatest of these? Eh, pretty much a tossup between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

“I don’t even think I could get elected in today’s Republican Party,” he writes. “I don’t think Ronald Reagan could either.”

The cover photo of Boehner’s book shows him displaying the same sly smile he often sported during his 25 years in the House, holding a half-full glass of merlot, with a cigarette burning in the nearby ashtray. The only thing missing is an Andy Williams-quality sweater, reflecting the relaxed posture and comfortable ease with which Boehner then goes about metaphorically slitting the political throats of those whom he freely admits made his time as speaker a living hell.

Boehner acerbically and quite skillfully describes and bemoans a contemporary Republican Party that is virtually unrecognizable to the traditional conservative wing of the party and one which remains under the sway of “jackasses and media hounds.” Boehner said he made it a point not to be in Washington for Trump’s inauguration, because “I’m not sure I belonged to the Republican Party he created.”

But to the satisfaction of a lot of us who have seen it coming for years, Boehner does make it clear that the GOP’s devolution into Trumpism had its origins earlier—at least within the rise of the anti-establishment Tea Party, though some would argue the roots of today’s ugliness can be found even deeper within the modern political landscape and were planted by the boorishness and Machiavellian approach to governance represented by Newt Gingrich.

But the former president is the repository for Boehner’s blame and condemnation when it comes to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. “Trump incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons,’ Boehner writes. “He claimed voter fraud without any evidence. The legislative terrorism that I’d witnessed as speaker had now encouraged actual terrorism.”

For the record, Boehner’s book has arrived just about five and one-half years after his October 2015 abandonment of national politics, effectively brought about by the rebellion of some dozen Tea Partiers who had flirted with either faux or real anarchy throughout Boehner’s four-year run as the official cat-herder in the House. Now, like most of the formerly powerful in Washington, he sits on a number of corporate boards and as an “advisor” to one of Washington’s oldest and more prestigious law firms. In other words, he’s not hurting and hasn’t been reduced to soiling his palate with cheaper wine.

And perhaps accordingly, despite the surgical skill with which he carves up some of Washington’s larger egos (Cruz should visit an emergency room so that professionals might at least count the cuts), Boehner’s book, unlike so many of its ilk, does not come across as bitter or mean-spirited. Rather, as he suggests to readers in the last line of its introduction, “Get comfortable, Pour yourself a glass of something nice. You’re going to enjoy this.”

And if you follow politics at the highest level, either by professional necessity or personal interest, you will.

Boehner shares some choice tidbits about his private dealings with Trump, his opinion of current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (respectful of, but no fan of her style), the Clinton impeachment (regrets supporting it), Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows (shouldn’t ask for an endorsement), the “Deep State” (destructive delusion), his opinion of Washington (“Crazytown”), and even his own self-perceived shortcomings.

And after chronicling a great deal of what’s wrong with Washington and the politics that forms the oxygen which sustains it, Boehner also offers up some advice to those who might seek to fix at least some of what ails it: “Send people there to represent you who actually want to get things done,” he suggests, “instead of hucksters making pie-in-the-sky promises or legislative terrorists just looking to go to Washington and blow everything up.”

Ray Mosby is editor and publisher of the Deer Creek Pilot in Rolling Fork.