Former House Speaker John Boehner claims the GOP thought ex-President Barack Obama was a “ secret Kenyan Muslim traitor, ” he called Senator Ted Cruz a “ reckless hole, ” and said Republican “ idiots ” engulfed Congress in 2010.
In Boehner’s new book, “ On the House: A Washington Memoir, ” the chain-smoking, red-wine-sipping former top Republican does not allow himself to back down from judging members of his own party.
Boehner rose to speak in 2011 after the Tea Party movement helped the GOP take the House majority two years after Obama’s tenure.
Former House Speaker John Boehner (left) wrote in his new book that Republicans and right-wing media figures really believed President Barack Obama (right) was a “secret Kenyan Muslim traitor.”
Former speaker John Boehner’s book, “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” will be out April 13
He recalled how Obama called the experience a “shellacking.”
“And oh boy, was it ever,” Boehner wrote in an excerpt for Politico Magazine that was released Friday. “You could be a total idiot and get elected just by having an R next to your name – and that year, by the way, we picked up quite a few in that category.”
Boehner complained about the tone of the new Tea Party members.
Since I was in charge of a large group of people who had never been in Congress, I felt I owed them a little tutorial on governing. I had to explain how I really got things done, ”he explained. A lot of that went straight through the ears of most, especially those who didn’t have a brain that got in the way. Incrementalism? Compromise? That was not their thing. ‘
Many of them wanted to blow up Washington. That’s why they thought they were chosen, ”he continued.
Plus, the conservative media establishment leaned into conspiracy theories and uplifts those who spit them, Boehner observed.
The former speaker recalled a meeting he had in the early 1990s with the late Roger Ailes, who became CEO of Fox News Channel, and Rupert Murdoch, the owner.
They spoke to Boehner about the new TV network they started.
“I had no idea I was listening to the outline of something that would make my life hell later on,” Boehner noted.
Cut back to 2011, Boehner saw how “ birtherism ” – the conspiracy theory that Obama wasn’t born in the United States – went from the Internet to, according to his calculations, radio host Mark Levin. “It got him ratings, so he ended up dragging Hannity and Rush with him to Looneyville,” Boehner said.
“My old friend Roger Ailes, the head of Fox News, was not immune to this,” added Boehner. “He got caught up in the conspiracies and paranoia and became an almost unrecognizable figure.”
Boehner wrote about confrontations he had with Ailes and also with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity.
Ailes, the Ohio Republican, told him how Obama, the Clintons and George Soros “tried to destroy him” and so he installed a “safe room” in his house.
“It was as if he’d been reading crazy spy novels all weekend,” Boehner recalled. ‘I thought I could let him control the nuts, and instead I found myself talking to the president of the club. One of us was crazy. Maybe it was me. ‘
“At one point I called him a nut,” added Boehner.
After Hannity went after Boehner on his show night after night, the House speaker called him and asked, “What the hell is it?”
Hannity insisted, according to Boehner, that the speaker had no “plan.”
See, our plan is pretty simple: we’re just going to stand up for what we believe in as Republicans, ”Boehner said, firing back.
The Ohio Republican said his relationship with Hannity never got better after that conversation.
Between the members and the conservative media, Boehner worried he wouldn’t be able to do much with Obama – though he said Obama could have done more to reach down the aisle as well.
“But then again – how do you find common ground with people who think you are a secret Kenyan Muslim traitor to America?” Boehner noted.
He recalled the backlash he received from members of his party when he got on TV and confirmed that Obama was born in the United States.
The state of Hawaii has said that President Obama was born there. That’s good enough for me, ”Boehner said in January 2011.
He also wrote about the moment when he realized that the ‘madmen’ had become more powerful than the Republican leadership.
Boehner recalled a conversation he had with Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican with presidential ambitions.
Bachmann was one of the “ fringe characters ” for which Fox was responsible for becoming a media star, Boehner said. “One of the first prototypes from their lab was a woman named Michele Bachmann,” he said of the general trend.
Bachmann, who was entering her third term in Congress, told Boehner that she wanted to be placed on the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful of the House.
That would never happen because she would need steering committee approval – so it wasn’t technically in his hands – but Boehner would be in a difficult position for not doing any nuance.
When he said diplomatically no to her, she pushed back and said, “Well, then I should talk to Sean Hannity and everyone at Fox. And Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and everyone else on the radio, and tell them this is how John Boehner is treating the people who made it possible for the Republicans to take back the House. ‘
Boehner (right) was referring to Rep. Michele Bachmann (left) as a ‘madman’ and said she was one of the ‘first prototypes’ from Fox News Channel’s laboratory of ‘fringe characters’
Boehner introduces Senator Ted Cruz (pictured) as the ‘new head lunatic to take the lead’ and adds that ‘there’s nothing more dangerous than a reckless bastard who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else’
“I wasn’t the one in power,” she said. I just thought it was me. She had the power now, ”Boehner said. “She was right, of course.”
Boehner eventually placed Bachman on the House Intelligence Committee, admitting she had “done her homework,” and impressed other members on the panel.
Boehner concluded his clip with a foretaste of what happened in the next cycle with the ‘chaos caucus’.
“Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz,” Boehner wrote, referring to the Texas Republican who took office in 2013. Boehner called Cruz the “new head lunatic at the forefront.”
“There’s nothing more dangerous than a reckless bastard who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else,” Boehner said.
Boehner closed the chapter with a cliffhanger: ‘[Cruz] turned on the GOP’s crazy caucus in what was a really stupid idea. Not that anyone asked me to. ‘
He likely looked ahead to the chaotic government shutdown in 2013.