John Boehner’s new book “On the House: A Washington Memoir” comes out on April 13, 2021. In the book, Boehner shines a spotlight on the GOP and the rise of the lunatics in the party, enabled by Fox and the new right-wing media. Amazon has the following blurb as part of the introduction to the book -
In addition to his own stories of life in the swamp city and of his comeback after getting knocked off the leadership ladder, Boehner offers his impressions of leaders he's met and what made them successes or failures, from Ford and Reagan to Obama, Trump, and Biden. He shares his views on how the Republican Party has become unrecognizable today; the advice--some harsh, some fatherly--he dished out to members of his own party, the opposition, the media, and others; and his often acid-tongued comments about his former colleagues. And of course he talks about golfing with five presidents.
This is from the back-cover of the book — it gives you a feel for the irreverent and saucy language in the book -
Former House Speaker Boehner (pronounced as Bay-ner, yes it takes some practice) wrote up a preview of the book in Politico, which was published today. There are some insightful and colorful passages in the essay titled “Panic Rooms, Birth Certificates and the Birth of GOP Paranoia. How America’s center-right party started to lose its mind, as told by the man who tried to keep it sane.”
Here is how the essay starts -
On the largest freshman Republican class (of lunatics) in history in 2010 (emphasis mine) -
Since I was presiding over a large group of people who’d never sat in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how to actually get things done. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most of them, especially the ones who didn’t have brains that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That wasn’t their thing. A lot of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were elected.
Some of them, well, you could tell they weren’t paying attention because they were just thinking of how to fundraise off of outrage or how they could get on Hannity that night. … they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.
On the rise of right-wing propaganda -
What I also had not anticipated was the extent to which this new crowd hated—and I mean hated—Barack Obama. By 2011, the right-wing propaganda nuts had managed to turn Obama into a toxic brand for conservatives.
On Obama and birtherism (he conveniently avoids naming names) -
And of course the truly nutty business about his birth certificate. People really had been brainwashed into believing Barack Obama was some Manchurian candidate planning to betray America.
I was asked about the birth certificate business by Brian Williams of NBC News. My answer was simple: “The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me.” It was a simple statement of fact. But you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist. I got all kinds of shit for it—emails, letters, phone calls. It went on for a couple weeks. I knew we would hear from some of the crazies, but I was surprised at just how many there really were.
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?
At some point after the 2008 election, something changed with my friend Roger Ailes. 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.
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.
His mansion was being protected by combat-ready security personnel, he said. There was a lot of conspiratorial talk. It was like he’d been reading whacked-out spy novels all weekend.
And it was clear that he believed all of this crazy stuff.
I thought I could get him to control the crazies, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club.
Places like Fox News were creating the wrong incentives. Sean Hannity was one of the worst. I’d known him for years, and we used to have a good relationship. But then he decided he felt like busting my ass every night on his show. … The conversation didn’t progress very far. At some point I called him a nut. Anyway, it’s safe to say our relationship never got any better.
On Michele Bachmann and the center of republican gravity -
Besides the homegrown “talent” at Fox, with their choice of guests they were making people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars. One of the first prototypes out of their laboratory was a woman named Michele Bachmann.
There was no way she was going to get on Ways and Means, the most prestigious committee in Congress, and jump ahead of everyone else in line. Not while I was Speaker.
Her response to me was calm and matter-of-fact. “Well, then I’ll just have to go talk to Sean Hannity and everybody at Fox,” she said, “and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and everybody else on the radio, and tell them that this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House.”
I wasn’t the one with the power, she was saying. I just thought I was. She had the power now.
She was right, of course.
Boehner’s lament that he was no longer in control -
Under the new rules of Crazytown, I may have been Speaker, but I didn’t hold all the power. 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.
The essay ends with an excoriation of Ted “reckless asshole” Cruz -
This is no doubt an attempt by Boehner to burnish his image as the “sane” voice among the cacophony of crazies in the Republican party. Perhaps, he was the one-eyed among the blind, but with an ample supply of crocodile tears. Besides, there is no hint (at least in the book preview) of any attempt at soul-searching or Boehner’s own role in the 4 years of hell unleashed by the republican party against Obama and Democrats. The book will probably sell well, perhaps more so among Democrats and the news media, which prefers entertainment and pie-fights to thoughtful policy discussions. And, he will get trashed from both sides of the aisle.
But, it’s OK; we welcome “words of sanity” from the old guard of the GOP, they are many more like him. If it helps drive wedges and schisms in the modern republican establishment, its base and right-wing media, then that’s all the better for humanity. Every little bit helps.
What do you think? Should we throw him a bone, if his words and actions help splinter the republican party and push a few Independents away from the GOP? What else should we be doing to reverse the rise of the lunatic right and its wealthy enablers? As always, constructive ideas and suggestions are better than ranting and venting 😄