Some interesting insights into the mind of a Republican establishmentarian.
I’ve never liked John Boehner. From the moment he weaseled his way into the House Republican leadership by virtue of his corporate connections (which, to be fair, is how most modern politicians get the job) to his penchant for maudlin emotionalism, virtually everything about the Ohioan rubbed me the wrong way. I’m still nauseous at the fact that, thanks to the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, he was two heartbeats away from the presidency for more than four years.
Nevertheless, while his recent appearance at a Stanford University forum didn’t change my opinions in any way, it offered some useful insights into the thinking of the Republican establishment which Boehner used to not only represent, but actually lead. Some choice excerpts:
1. Ted Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh.”
Boehner is hardly the first congressional Republican to denounce Cruz – indeed, the Texas Senator’s unpopularity among his colleagues is practically a thing of legend – but his explanation for why he hates Cruz is quite revealing. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends,” Boehner explained to the rapt audience. “I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” Considering that Boehner eventually resigned from the Speakership because he found working with Tea Partyers to be too stressful, it makes sense that he would harbor a particular grudge for the man who practically single-handedly engineered a government shutdown. More importantly, it offers an ominous foreshadowing of what might be in store for America if Cruz ascends to the presidency.
2. Boehner and Donald Trump play golf together and are “texting buddies.”
Although the current media narrative emphasizes the Republican establishment’s disdain for Trump, I suspect many of them will fall into line behind him if he winds up being the GOP presidential nominee. Certainly this is the case for the former House Speaker. “Boehner for the most part accepted Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, though he did express his surprise at the candidate’s success,” explained The Stanford Daily. “While he did not praise Trump’s policies, the former Speaker did say he would vote for Trump in the general election if he becomes the Republican nominee.” Believe it or not, Cruz himself made a valid point about the deeper meaning behind Boehner’s warm feelings for Trump: “If you are wondering who actually has stood up to Washington, then John Boehner has made it crystal clear. John Boehner in his remarks described Donald Trump as his texting and golfing buddy.”
3. Boehner shares Trump’s sexism.
When Boehner mockingly impersonated Hillary Clinton by summarizing her message as “Oh, I’m a woman, vote for me,” he did more than take a cheap partisan swipe. Like Trump before him (who recently said that Clinton wouldn’t as successful as she is if she had been a man), Boehner doesn’t hesitate to dredge up base prejudices in order to advance his personal agenda. Since no one can know for sure how Clinton would have fared against Sanders if they had both been men, the argument that she only did well because of her gender is akin to claiming that racial minorities at universities were only accepted due to affirmative action. Demeaning speculations may be comforting when you happen to dislike their target, but ultimately they impugn not only that one individual, but everyone else from that same background who aspires to success despite generations of oppression. Unless you can prove that the other person succeeded because of what they are rather than who they are – and neither Trump nor Boehner could do this for Clinton – insinuations to the contrary are beneath contempt.
When the final words are written about Boehner’s career, he will most likely be remembered as a non-entity. The Republican Party underwent major upheavals during his tenure as Speaker of the House – the rise of the Tea Party, the government shutdown, the Donald Trump phenomenon – and he mostly sat on the sidelines, trying to manage an institution torn between hateful radicals and the acquiescent corporatists who feared them. There isn’t much dignity left in the man… but, as his appearance at Stanford shows us, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from him.