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Boehner finally calls it as he sees it

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden Seth Rogen says he's not in a feud with 'fascist' Ted Cruz, whose 'words caused people to die' MORE is a “reckless asshole” and Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBoehner says he voted for Trump, didn't push back on election claims because he's retired Boehner: Trump 'stepped all over their loyalty' by lying to followers Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE a “lunatic.”

Conservative pundits like Sean HannitySean Patrick HannityMcCarthy dings Biden after meeting: Doesn't have 'energy of Donald Trump' Jenner says she didn't vote in 2020: 'I just couldn't get excited about it' White House says Biden won't 'underestimate Trump' if he runs in 2024 MORE and Rush Limbaugh are residents of “Looneyville.”

And Donald Trump, pushing a “bullshit” lie that the election was stolen, incited the “bloody insurrection” on Jan. 6 “for nothing more than selfish reasons.”

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In the world according to John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez What's a party caucus chair worth? MORE, detailed in his profanity-laced memoir out Tuesday, the former House Speaker is the voice of reason and sanity in a Republican party that has been taken over by “whack jobs” and “insurrectionists” and become unmoored from reality — and its core conservative principles.

Liberal critics and even some GOP allies say they wish BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon The Memo: Lawmakers on edge after Greene's spat with Ocasio-Cortez What's a party caucus chair worth? MORE, the son of an Ohio barkeeper who rose to become one of the most powerful figures in Washington, had been open with his views much sooner, when the “crazies” among the Tea Party insurgents first came on the scene or when former President TrumpDonald TrumpFranklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Man suspected in wife's disappearance accused of casting her ballot for Trump Stefanik: Cheney is 'looking backwards' MORE was still in the Oval Office.

Indeed, Boehner mostly held his tongue and remained out of the spotlight during the five-and-a-half years since he was pushed out of the Speaker’s office, sticking to private paid speeches, corporate board meetings and manicured golf links rather than the cable news and Sunday shows circuit.

But Boehner’s patience in publishing his tell-all, legacy-shaping book, “On the House,” has allowed him the space and time to reflect and write about the entire arc of the Republican party during this chaotic decade: how the anti-spending, anti-Obama Tea Party movement that elevated Boehner to the Speakership in 2010 gave rise to the far-right Freedom Caucus that forced him into retirement in 2015, and ultimately morphed into the Trumpism of today that has rendered the Grand Old Party almost unrecognizable from when Boehner first arrived in Washington three decades ago.

Delaying publication until now also has made it easier for Boehner to directly take on Trump and some of the Speaker’s former archenemies who eventually aligned themselves with the Trump wing. Boehner will be doing so this week, as he kicks off a media blitz to promote his book that will include appearances on “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR. 

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Under Trump, Republicans lost the House, then the White House and finally the Senate. 

And while the former president still remains the most popular, powerful figure in the GOP, Trump’s false narrative that the 2020 election was rigged coupled with his role in the deadly Capitol insurrection has sparked a fierce backlash in corporate America, turned off some big donors, and encouraged tens of thousands of voters to flee from the GOP.  

“I wish he'd been saying this stuff earlier. But given Jan. 6, the whole stolen-election lie, the fact that many in the party appear to be kind of still embracing it, I think he’s an important voice to have out there,” Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerSunday shows - Cheney removal, CDC guidance reverberate Kinzinger: 'I would love to move on' from Trump but he is the leader of the GOP Crenshaw: Republicans can't 'excommunicate' Trump MORE (R-Ill.), who was part of that historic 2010 freshman class and later became one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump this year, said of Boehner.   

“Given the rise of this insurrection caucus, we didn't think this was going to be a permanent thing and lead to where it did. And I think [Boehner] still thought when he was Speaker that there was a way to bring the Republican Party back — maybe without him — but that it was saveable,” Kinzinger added. “Now there’s an understanding that there’s a real fight. And part of that fight is just being honest, telling people the truth of where it came from, what's happened, and that they're being misled. That's what this book can play a good role in doing.”

Boehner could be a bit of a bomb thrower himself. As a freshman member in the early 1990s, Boehner was young, hungry and fiscally conservative, a self-described troublemaker who never shied away from the TV cameras. As House minority leader in 2010, he rallied Republicans against ObamaCare in a memorable, fiery floor speech, exclaiming: “Have you read the bill? … Hell no, you haven’t!”

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But at his core, Boehner, now 71, was an institutionalist, someone who had a deep respect for the Capitol and the Congress, as well as unlikely friendships across the aisle, including with liberal firebrand Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersJuan Williams: Tim Scott should become a Democrat The Hill's Morning Report - Biden address to Congress will dominate busy week Maxine Waters: Judge in Chauvin trial who criticized her was 'angry' MORE (D-Calif.). Any remaining goodwill Boehner might have felt toward Trump — a one-time golfing partner who would sometimes call the former Speaker for advice — was gone for good after the Jan. 6 pro-Trump riot.  

Trump’s “refusal to accept the result of the election not only cost Republicans the Senate but led to mob violence. ... It was painful to watch,” Boehner writes in his memoir, according to excerpts obtained by The New York Times.

Later, Boehner writes: “I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared for what came after the election — Trump refusing to accept the results and stoking the flames of conspiracy that turned into violence in the seat of our democracy, the building over which I once presided.”

The insurrection, which resulted in the deaths of a Capitol Police officer and four others, was “one of the lowest points of American democracy” and “should have been a wake-up call for a return to Republican sanity.”

Instead, just hours after the violent attack, nearly 150 Republicans voted to overturn Joe BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE’s election victory, including Boehner's one-time lieutenants Reps. Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthySunday shows - Cheney removal, CDC guidance reverberate Kinzinger: 'I would love to move on' from Trump but he is the leader of the GOP Cheney: I can't ignore Trump because he 'continues to be a real danger' MORE (Calif.) and Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseMcCarthy dings Biden after meeting: Doesn't have 'energy of Donald Trump' The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - What the CDC's updated mask guidance means Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position MORE (La.).

During his nearly five-year tenure as Speaker, Boehner seemed to be in a constant battle with Tea Party insurgents in his conference, some of whom later became staunch Trump supporters. They include Reps. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanSunday shows preview: House GOP removes Cheney from leadership position; CDC issues new guidance for fully vaccinated Americans GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump Roy to challenge Stefanik for Cheney's old position MORE, a fellow Ohio Republican who was the Freedom Caucus’s founding chairman, and Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBoehner finally calls it as he sees it Stephen Miller launching group to challenge Democrats' policies through lawsuits A year with the coronavirus: How we got here MORE (R-N.C.), who led the effort to oust Boehner and would go on to become Trump’s last White House chief of staff.     

Boehner rarely lashed out at his Republican foes in public, knowing that it would only inflame the infighting and exacerbate the divisions, colleagues said.

“One of his favorite lines was, ‘If you're out walking and nobody’s following, you’re just a guy out for a walk,’ ” Rep. David JoyceDavid JoycePorter urges increased budget for children's National Parks program Against mounting odds, Biden seeks GOP support for infrastructure plan Boehner finally calls it as he sees it MORE, a Boehner friend and fellow Ohio Republican, told The Hill. “Being a leader, he was trying to get 218-plus independent agents to start to come together and see the world his way, and that was hard work. He had a bunch of competing interests there. I can imagine there was a tremendous amount of frustration on his behalf.

“While he had to remain quiet while in charge, now he can explain things the way he sees fit," Joyce added. "He doesn't have to worry about anybody but himself and Debbie,” his wife.

In another twist of fate, Boehner was succeeded in Congress by Rep. Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP Boehner finally calls it as he sees it The Hill's Morning Report - Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran MORE (R-Ohio), a conservative hardliner and Trump ally who would join the very Freedom Caucus that had pushed Boehner into an early retirement.

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But in an interview, Davidson said Boehner is still extremely popular in his western Ohio district — just like Trump. And he gave insights into why the merlot-sipping, chain-smoking barkeeper’s son was able to make it so far in politics. Boehner called to congratulate Davidson the night he won his election in 2016, and they agreed to meet for dinner. Boehner drove an hour to Davidson’s hometown of Troy and they dined in a Mexican restaurant where Boehner gave him tips on navigating the House and the district and shared his contacts.     

“He's still well-liked in the district by tons of folks, just like on the Hill. Some people love him and some people were kind of happy to see him move on,” Davidson said. “But I think everybody has some sort of good story about him, and he's a likeable person. And I think a lot of people whether they loved him or didn't are going to enjoy reading his book.”

Davidson’s Boehner story happened at the Mexican restaurant that night. He asked the Speaker if the recent press accounts were true: Did Boehner really call Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh”?

“I did,” Boehner replied. “Have you ever met Ted Cruz?”