An Inside Assessment

Those of us who are Democrats, ex-Republicans and/or Never Trumpers often encounter allegations of bias. The charge is that our criticisms are unfair to the GOP members of Congress–that we are exaggerating their flaws for political reasons.

John Boehner’s new book rebuts that accusation.

No one can accuse Boehner of being a “lib.” He was–for those who may have forgotten–the Speaker of the House when the Republicans controlled that legislative body, and his scathing description of its members rings true.

In the 2010 midterm election, voters from all over the place gave President Obama what he himself called “a shellacking.” 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.

Retaking control of the House of Representatives put me in line to be the next Speaker of the House over the largest freshman Republican class in history: 87 newly elected members of the GOP. 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.

 Boehner quotes Ronald Reagan for the sentiment that getting 80 or 90 percent of what he wanted was a win, while the “new guys” wanted 100 percent every time. “In fact, I don’t think that would satisfy them, because they didn’t really want legislative victories. They wanted wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.” When Boehner tried to get legislation passed, they considered him a sellout, a dupe of the Democrats, a traitor–a “liberal collaborator.”

Boehner pulls no punches when it comes to the hatred House Republicans felt for Obama.

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. When I was first elected to Congress, we didn’t have any propaganda organization for conservatives, except maybe a magazine or two like National Review. The only people who used the internet were some geeks in Palo Alto. There was no Drudge Report. No Breitbart. No kooks on YouTube spreading dangerous nonsense like they did every day about Obama.

He’s a secret Muslim!”

“He hates America!”

“He’s a communist!”

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.

Most of us saw that hatred, and understood the racism that motivated it. What was truly eye-opening, however, was Boehner’s description of Roger Ailes’ metamorphosis from a politically conservative media person to something else entirely.

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. I didn’t expect this meeting to change anything, but I still thought it was bullshit, 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. He told me he had a “safe room” built so he couldn’t be spied on. 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 walked out of that meeting in a daze. I just didn’t believe the entire federal government was so terrified of Roger Ailes that they’d break about a dozen laws to bring him down. I thought I could get him to control the crazies, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club. One of us was crazy. Maybe it was me.

The excerpt at the link also has juicy stories about Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz, among others.

This excerpt from Boehner’s book demonstrates two things: (1) there were once sane Republicans who cared about governing (and knew how to spell it), and (2)the degree to which they have been replaced by members of the lunatic caucus.


  1. Boehner quote: “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.”

    How many of those 2010 “newbies” sitting in the House and the Senate today are the senior Representatives and Senators currently leading the 2020 “newbies”? Are they sitting mute and idle and taking the “NO” position on every issue put before them, not because they are against it, but because they do not understand the issues or the current conditions on this entire nation? Or do they still live in fear of repercussions from Trump’s Republicans? How many of the millions of white Republican Trump and his minion supporters who voted for them understand their rights are being ignored by all Republicans in office and are protected only by President Joe Biden and the slim majority of the Democratic party? How many of them understand that Mitch McConnell’s strong stand to continue his do-nothing system in the Senate is only to regain the full power position he held for years under the Republican Senate?

    Wasn’t Boehner removed from his position as Speaker of the House for being too weak to please the Republican party? An old adage; “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Is John Boehner, once a Republican insider, now in the position of being our “friend”?

  2. Curious, at any point in his book did he take any responsibility for his own role in this mess? I doubt it. That might be the only thing that would make me consider starting to respect the man.

  3. The people who stormed the capitol on 6 January represent the people who elected Boehner’s “newbies”. They’re still electing them. And yes, they are the products of the right wing scream machine. These people have always been there stewing in their own ignorance. But the right wing media moguls allowed them to come screaming out of their caves.

    January 6 was the latest exclamation of white males who fear being usurped by “the other”. Ailes tapped into that. Of course, he was crazy. Murdoch hired him to run FoxNews for money and ratings. Nothing else matters to that fetid family.

    Back in the early 60s, Roger Ailes was involved with WOUB, the university-sponsored radio station at Ohio University. I was a student there at that time. If only I had known… In his defense, Ailes was a hemophiliac and had an abusive martinet for a father. Is it any wonder that he had anger and paranoia issues?

    That’s what the Republican “base” has become. Also note that the billionaire caucus has funded every think tank, every university chair and every extremist, right-wing foundation for the specific purpose of destroying democracy. Why? Because they can’t think past money. They are all in for 1984-style government. This is the scenario that Marx predicted in 1850. Right wing Republicans of today – aided by Russian propaganda distributors like the Trumps – are the tools that Marx alluded to in “Das Kapital”.

  4. Interestingly, Speaker Boehner never brought a bill to the floor without majority support from his own caucus (the Hastert Rule). He certainly knew that there were a lot of good bills that would have and SHOULD have passed, but he chose to kill them rather than risk the wrath of the idiots he supposedly led. Maybe he needed a class in leadership?

  5. Wasn’t Boehner the original orange man in Washington?

    I read somewhere that he ate too many carrots, which caused his skin to turn orange. Yes, I am sure that was Trump’s problem too. I also heard John leaned a little too heavily on the alcohol to drown out his conscience. I expect a drying out period was required for the man surrounded by Ayn Rand flunkies.

    Roger Ailes helped organize Neoliberalism for Ronald Reagan and a few other policies we shall not discuss today. Roger’s role at a Murdoch rag was perfect to lead the effort. The Koch’s were engineering this mess since their daddy resented FDR’s New Deal which hurt the oligarchs. It saved capitalism but hurt the oligarch’s wealth-building, so they started the operation “Blow up the government.”

    If you look closely at Ayn Rand’s rugged individualism (selfishness, objectivism), it was due to a resentment fueled by communists taking her daddy’s business.

    If you look closely at Koch’s same libertarianism or anti-government sentiment, it came from a resentment fueled by the government interfering in the family’s wealth building.

    Both of them have a favorite bogeyman who funds a democratic organization called Open Society which funded BLM — George Soros. Does anybody remember Glenn Beck’s obsession with George Soros? Roger Ailes, anyone?

    Glenn’s obsession cost him his job at Fox News. He was considered too crazy for Fox News, or maybe it was his support for Sarah Palin, who is dumber than a box of rocks. Oh, she did get Covid19 and is now an advocate for mask-wearing.

    I honestly think the current crop of Republicans were at one point too dumb to find a precinct so they could vote. I honestly blame John McCain for selecting Sarah as his VP. That was a flashpoint beginning the ultimate demise of anything resembling intelligence from the GOP, and I don’t think it’s hit bottom yet.

  6. Mr B lives on K st,the lobby end of the marijuana push,after he,well, decided he was never to legalize pot,now he’s making money as its mouthpiece..smoke on mr B ,smoke on,,,,,

  7. I would agree with Todd @ 9:18 am, “I honestly blame John McCain for selecting Sarah as his VP. That was a flashpoint beginning the ultimate demise of anything resembling intelligence from the GOP, and I don’t think it’s hit bottom yet.”

    I was never a fan of John McCain – He was a militant cheerleader for American Imperialism. McCain by picking Sarah Palin chose a person who was intellectually vacant but, had all the Social-Cultural traits of bible thumping and aggressive Reactionary Right Wing Ramboism.

    Palin became the high profile model for the GOP. You did not not need a grasp of issues just memorize and repeat the talking points and cliches.

    The Trumpet took the GOP over because he represented the essence of the GOP: a total lack of an intellectual approach to issues. What the Trumpet did was injected the Social-Cultural Warfare with his own personal brand of steroids. Pastor Pence “blessed” the Trumpet and became the Supreme Bootlicker.
    Along the way he made the Oligarchs happy with tax cuts and de-regulation.

  8. I think this is even darker than Sheila paints and that is truly frightening. Why did SO many who knew SO LITTLE all run and get elected only because a Black man was elected president? The question answers itself and we have never recovered. In the end, it will be racism that kills us.

  9. I have heard that John liked a bit of booze a la Nixon but that was a better potion than whatever Ailes was drinking, and John was a conservative. Current Republican haters in and of government who have nothing to say about such as Gaetz and his ilk who pretend to be conservatives don’t know what conservatism is. (I am not a conservative but recognize it as a point of view in governing with some merit in specific areas whereas hating Obama, eschewing compromise, and silence and/or even coordination of the January 6 atrocity has no merit.)

    Apparently today’s Republicans (with the aid of Fox and others) have decided to play the propaganda game in teaching the ungovernable masses to be even more ungovernable rather than take reasoned stands on the issues and be prepared to compromise here and there, as politicians have done since 1789 with our Constitution, itself a product of compromise. Now it is enough to be opposed to literally anything Democrats propose and rather than counter proposing alternatives go instead the racist/Soros/socialist route leading to frozen government.

    John should have written his book sooner and Rupert should have stayed in Australia.

  10. Gerald writes, “John should have written his book sooner and Rupert should have stayed in Australia.”

    Rupert is hated in Australia as well. Especially by journalists. Don’t forget, his own family has been splintered by Rupert’s use of propaganda versus sourcing the news.

    Also, Rupert’s buddies funded the 1/6 insurrection and helped the Ecuadorian government spy on Assange while in their Embassy, and eventually overthrow the government itself.

    Do you think it’s a coincidence that governments like the UK/US/AU that are so concerned with mis/disinformation on social media allow Rupert to operate his massive misinformation media for profit??

    Be careful or it all may start to click…

  11. It’s been offered before on this blog, but Heather McGhee’s book, “The Sum of US” describes, in historical context and detail, how our institutionalized racism has been part of white America since before we were a nation. The struggle white people in power have with integrating ALL citizens is steeped in our founding and the economic imperatives we employed so the rich could get even richer.

    The rich are still fighting that war. Read my earlier post, please.

  12. Yes, I like todd’s (9:18) comment, as well.
    Boehner was part of the drive to end bi-partisanship, when he partnered with McConnell, to insist that the GOP folk not converse with, not even have lunch with the folks from the “wrong” side of the aisle.
    I would not consider him to be a “friend.” He was part and parcel, as the saying goes, of what led to where we are today.
    The Tea party, Koch Boys crowd pushed him out of House leadership, but only after he helped pave the way for the “crazies.”

  13. An interesting article in today’s Guardian:

    Just 47% of the US population are members of a church, mosque or synagogue, according to a survey by Gallup, down from 70% two decades ago – in part a result of millennials turning away from religion but also, experts say, a reaction to the swirling mix of right wing politics and Christianity pursued by the Republican party.

    This week the governor of Arkansas signed a law allowing doctors to refuse to treat LGBTQ people on religious grounds, and other states are exploring similar legislation.

    David Campbell, professor and chair of the University of Notre Dame’s political science department and co-author of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, said a reason for the decline among those groups is political – an “allergic reaction to the religious right”.

    “Many Americans – especially young people – see religion as bound up with political conservatism, and the Republican party specifically,” Campbell said.

    “Since that is not their party, or their politics, they do not want to identify as being religious. Young people are especially allergic to the perception that many – but by no means all – American religions are hostile to LGBTQ rights.”

    “I see no sign that the religious right, and Christian nationalism, is fading. Which in turn suggests that the allergic reaction will continue to be seen – and thus more and more Americans will turn away from religion,” he said.

    Among some of the bible thumpers I know they objected to wearing a mask and social distancing. They are also refusing to be vaccinated as it is the mark of the beast. Living in their silos it seems no conspiracy theory is too far fetched to be believed and the GOP is happy to feed off of it.

  14. I had a sense when Boehner was Speaker that he was struggling with the Tea Party. What I read from his book confirmed that he was dealing with people who did not really want to govern. They just wanted to obstruct what Obama proposed. His book is a brave choice to reveal how insane the GOP has become.

    I recall he went to see the Pope either shortly before or after he resigned as Speaker. His visit with the Pope seemed to have a profound impact on him.

    I read a sociological study that indicated that German children were horribly abused in the late 19th and early 20th century. They even witnessed infanticide at the hands of their parents. This study makes me wonder how many of the men on the far right were physically and yes, I dare say sexually abused as children. I’d really like to find out if a significant number of people in militias were abused.

    If a majority of the people Boehner is calling “nuts’ were abused as children, that does not excuse their behavior. It would simply demonstrate how child abuse affects everyone in our country.

    I am a firm believer that if every child in the world had his/her/their needs met(notice I did not say their wants met), the human race would become much more sane.

  15. It may be that Obama’s most enduring service to America was to expose the depth of the racism that has motivated so many Americans for so long. Problems cannot be solved, or even addressed, until their seriousness and pervasiveness are widely understood. After Lyndon Johnson and MLK and Barack Obama, many of us patted ourselves on the back for the progress we had made on the racial front. We couldn’t have been more wrong. With Trump’s clarion call to the racists and white supremacists to show themselves and assume their “rightful” roles, the racists felt liberated and, in the form of a major political party, have demanded their rights as true believers comprising almost half of America’s voters. So deep is their faith that many have chosen to die in the pandemic rather than subscribe to the scientific beliefs of those they oppose.

    So the enemy has exposed himself and the problem has been defined. Now what? Appeals in the form of love of country, fundamental fairness, religious faith, common sense, legality, and many other guises have gone out to little avail. Indeed, the convictions of the haters have increased to the point that they now signal they will overthrow democracy rather than allow equal rights. At the behest of one ignorant man with a putrid mind we have been revealed as the heirs of Calhoun and the Confederacy with little claim to the philosophies of Jefferson and Lincoln. This problem has further led to a deadlocked Congress which makes our form of government barely sustainable.

    I would argue that the problem is so near to unsolvable that it will plague national advancement forever without some out-of-the -box thinking. A not-new possibility that has a certain appeal for me is to peacefully devolve into two nations, one of which takes an implacable stance against racism and another that allows whatever level of hatred and debasement its leaders and followers choose. While this might carry an increased risk of war, it also presents the possibility that the hater nation will eventually erode from within and be consumed by its own intolerance. But surely there are better and less traumatic ideas out there to address the problem that defines our legacy – a house divided against itself.

  16. Todd is right, the introduction of Sarah Palin into the political fabric represented a sea-change. It allowed for the Tea Party to become officially main stream. John McCain is in the final analysis to blame for that, but let’s not forget that it was Steve Schmidt’s brain child. He has been MSNBC’s bloviator-in-chief for years now and for some mysterious reason still has quite a following.

  17. It seems that we are caught in the aftermath of slow speed collision between entertainment media in search of high-profit ubber loyal audiences and the Constitution. The current focal point is in Georgia where Gov Kemp is trying his hardest to cancel the Constitution which is in the way of conservative Republican politicians finding employment in politics.

    What led to the collision was the advent of the entertainment media industry’s realization 40 years ago that conservative audiences in search of ending progress could be easily recruited to become loyal audiences for people who gave out conservative bias confirmation like candy based on the notion that what used to be was the better than what is coming. The media birthed organizations like the Tea Party which was a white male supremacy cult based on all things cowboy and military and the notion that nefarious liberals were taking over the country that used to be the property of white, male, Christian, heterosexual, pioneers empowered by giving dark-skinned natives of North America and Africa a good licking for not being European and therefore sub-human. American political activism became a thing again after resting following the civil and gender rights victories of the 60s, but his time based not on rights but on power.

    As is almost always true activism supporting power eventually gets met with resistance supporting rights. The Republican/Democrat wars came about peaking during the era of Trump and Obama defining the sides.

    Where/when/how will it end? Like all wars, the impact will remain unknown until it’s settled in and becomes the new reality. A lot of the outcome of these wars is for good or bad now on the shoulders of Biden and company.

    Personally, I’m optimistic that the Constitution will prevail as it has before.

  18. Todd – I knew Jim Murdoch became “mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” but that’s after years and mountains of Fox propaganda had been thrown to the gullible with the blessings of Republicans. We are now living with those mountains as well as what is being produced by Fox today, though I supposed that in Jim’s case we can say better late than never.

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