Press: John Boehner: good author, bad leader

Press: John Boehner: good author, bad leader
© Greg Nash

No matter what you think of his politics, you have to give a lot of credit to former House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE (R-Ohio). He didn’t produce another boring, self-serving Washington memoir. He’s actually written a fun book about his time as Speaker of the House and how he got there. And, making every other author jealous, this week his memoir — “On the House” — is enshrined at the very top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Seriously, I’m a political junkie. I devour political memoirs, whether written by Republicans or Democrats. And I must admit this is one of the most entertaining ones I’ve ever read. It’s at once hilarious, informative, irreverent, blunt, insulting, laced with four-letter words, and anything but politically correct.

With a glass of merlot in one hand and a cigarette in the other, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty Maher chides Democrats: We 'suck the fun out of everything' Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE does not hold back. Who can resist standing up and cheering when he defines his position as Speaker of the House, second in line to the presidency, as the “Mayor of Crazytown” and identifies members of his Republican caucus as “knuckleheads, crazies, legislative terrorists, media hounds, jackasses” or just plain “chickens—ts?”


You know even most Republican senators delight in seeing Boehner trash their colleague Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFormer CEO Glenn Youngkin wins Virginia GOP gubernatorial convention The Memo: Outrage rises among liberals over Israel Cheney drama exposes GOP's Trump rifts MORE (R-Texas) as Congress’s “new head lunatic.” “There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a-hole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else,” Boehner jabs. “Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz.”

You have to admire Boehner when, time after time, he describes how his goal in Washington was “to get things done” and make a deal. He could say of himself what he says about Ted Kennedy: “He came to Congress to legislate.” And you weep (yes, he weeps often) with Boehner when he laments that so many of his Republican members only came to Congress instead to blow things up, create chaos, and get on Fox News.

Of course, it’s also refreshing to hear a top Republican admit what a disaster Donald TrumpDonald TrumpCaitlyn Jenner says election was not 'stolen,' calls Biden 'our president' Overnight Health Care: FDA authorizes Pfizer vaccine for adolescents | Biden administration reverses limits on LGBTQ health protections Overnight Defense: US fires 30 warning shots at Iranian boats | Kabul attack heightens fears of Afghan women's fates | Democratic Party leaders push Biden on rejoining Iran deal MORE was for the country: a man who never understood the issues, never made any attempt to learn, insulted everybody he met, divided the country, destroyed the Republican Party — and added $3 trillion to the national debt in his first three years.

So far, so good. But at that point Boehner’s book fails to deliver: because he stops short of taking any responsibility for his own role in the rise of Trump and Trumpism. The truth is, Donald Trump didn’t just suddenly appear on the scene in 2016 and take over the Republican Party. The path to power had been created for him by Republican leaders, starting with Speaker Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE (R-Ga.).

One by one, Gingrich, Boehner, Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanBiden's relationship with top House Republican is frosty The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Emergent BioSolutions - Facebook upholds Trump ban; GOP leaders back Stefanik to replace Cheney Budowsky: Liz Cheney vs. conservatives in name only MORE, and Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyTop female GOP senator compares Cheney ousting to 'cancel culture' Kinzinger plotted to oust McCarthy after Jan. 6 attack Romney: Removing Cheney from House leadership will cost GOP election votes MORE gave in to the most extreme members of the Republican Caucus — or, as Boehner would put it, let the inmates take over the asylum.


Without Gingrich, Boehner, Ryan, and McCarthy, there would be no Donald Trump. Trump didn’t conquer the Republican Party. They handed it to him.

Now Boehner says he regrets it. But does he? He lost all credibility by admitting that, despite all the bad things he says about him, he actually voted for Trump in 2020. Not only that, on “Meet the Press,” he refused to say whether or not he believes Trump should be the Republican nominee in 2024.

In other words, Boehner’s trying to have it both ways: trashing Trump, while refusing to cut ties to him. Which is exactly what he accuses Trumpers in Congress of doing. In the end, despite all his salty language, Boehner’s just as bad as Ted Cruz.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”