Former House Speaker John Boehner tore into right-wing media and what he called the GOP’s “crazy caucus” in a book excerpt published by Politico Friday, targeting Sen. Ted Cruz, Fox News’ Sean Hannity and the late Roger Ailes, and former Rep. Michele Bachmann.
The big picture: Boehner seeks to cast himself in his new memoir, titled “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” as one of the last leaders of the GOP’s sensible conservative movement, before the party was co-opted by Donald Trump and other members who dedicated themselves to “wedge issues and conspiracies and crusades.”
On Obama and birtherism: Boehner recalls how he “got all kinds of shit” for stating, as a matter of fact, that the state of Hawaii said President Obama was born there — writing that “you would have thought I’d called Ronald Reagan a communist.”
- “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 Sean Hannity: “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. … At some point I called him a nut. Anyway, it’s safe to say our relationship never got any better.”
On Roger Ailes: Boehner describes meeting with his old friend Ailes, who was ousted as CEO of Fox News in 2016 after sexual harassment allegations, “to plead with him to put a leash on some of the crazies he was putting on the air,” telling Ailes that he was making his job harder.
- “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.”
On Rupert Murdoch: “He was a businessman, pure and simple. He cared about ratings and the bottom line. He also wanted to make sure he was ahead of any political or policy developments coming down the line. … If he entertained any of the kooky conspiracy theories that started to take over his network, he kept it a secret from me. But he clearly didn’t have a problem with them if they helped ratings.”
On Michele Bachmann: Boehner calls the former Minnesota congresswoman, who ran for president in 2012, a “lunatic” who embodied the ability of right-wing media to make “people who used to be fringe characters into powerful media stars.” Boehner writes that Bachmann wanted to be placed on the powerful House Ways and Means, and that he turned her down.
- “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.”
On Ted Cruz: “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 now they had a new head lunatic leading the way, who wasn’t even a House member. There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless asshole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz.”