John A. Boehner has always had a gruff side. During his four-plus years as HouseÂ speaker, the Ohio Republican let it show occasionally, like when he told former Democratic leader Harry M. Reid âgo fâ yourselfâ outside the Oval Office.
Now,Â two years to the day afterÂ he left Congress,Â Boehner isÂ truly free toÂ speak his mind.Â And aÂ sprawling new profile in Politico Magazine finds the 67-year-old retiree doing just thatÂ â withÂ his harshestÂ words reserved for his old antagonists on the political right.
Speaking with Politicoâs Tim Alberta, a chain-smoking, merlot-drinking, golf-playing Boehner gave a typically foul-mouthed assessment of some of his Republican colleagues, dumped on right-wing media stars, and opened up about his concerns over the Trump administration and the GOPâs future.Â The 12,000-word profile is worth reading in full, but what follows are some highlights.
Boehner had choice words for former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the former RepublicanÂ chairman of the House Oversight Committee who retired earlier this year, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who was favored among conservatives to replace him. WhenÂ Boehner was asked about the two, he made his feelings clear.
âFâ Jordan.Â Fâ Chaffetz,â he told Politico. âTheyâre both aââ-.â
Anyone who followed the internecine fightingÂ between Boehner and the far-right House Freedom Caucus during Boehnerâs run as speaker will understandÂ the resentment. Jordan, the Freedom Caucusâs founding chairman, was Boehnerâs main antagonist, undercutting his efforts to broker deals with the White House toÂ addressÂ the national debt and other issues. Each effectively accused the other of betrayal.
âJordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate,â Boehner told Politico. âA terrorist. A legislative terrorist.â
Presented with Boehnerâs opinion of him, Jordan responded that he was merely doing what voters asked of him. âI feel sorry for the guy if heâs that bitter,â he told Politico.
As for Chaffetz, Boehner said the beef wasnât personal. Chaffetz was just a âtotal phony,â heÂ said. âWith Chaffetz, itâs always about Chaffetz.â
Not everybody made Boehnerâs bad list, however.Â He has even wound up becoming friends with some members of CongressÂ who have crossed swords with him, according to Politico.
In the profile, Boehner recalled an incident years ago when Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska),Â apparently infuriated by Boehnerâs incessant heckling, pinned him against a wall in the House and held a 10-inch knife to his throat. Boehner responded with a two-wordÂ obscenity. Young told Politico that the account was âmostly true,â and said Boehner later served as best man at his wedding.
On the whole, Boehner said, Congress was a mixed bag.
âWeâve got some of the smartest people in America who serve in the Congress, and weâve got some of the dumbest,â he said.
He added: âWe have some of the nicest people youâd ever want to meet, and some that are Nazis. Congress is nothing more than a slice of America.â
When Boehner looks at America, he sees aÂ nation with deep, troubling divisions.Â The culprit, heÂ said, wasÂ an increasingly polarized media. He pointed to talk radio and Fox News on one side, and MSNBC and social media on the other.
In particular, he took aim atÂ radio host Mark Levin, saying his popularity among right-wing audiences turned fellow conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and Fox News host Sean Hannity against him while he was speaker.
Levin, he said, âwent really crazy right and got a big audience, and he dragged Hannity to the dark side. He dragged Rush to the dark side. And these guys â I used to talk to them all the time. And suddenly theyâre beating the living sâ out of me.â
In early 2015, Boehner reportedly called Hannity and vented his frustrations:Â âI called him and said, âListen, youâre nuts.â We had this really blunt conversation. Things were better for a few months, and then it got back to being the same-old, same-old. Because I wasnât going to be a right-wing idiot.â
BoehnerÂ said heÂ countedÂ Roger Ailes, the late chairman of Fox News, as a personal friend, but grew concerned during a 2012 meeting when Ailes started peddling conspiracy theories. âHe had black helicopters flying all around his head that morning,â Boehner said. âIt was every conspiracy theory youâve ever heard, and Iâm throwing cold water on all this bullsâ.â
Boehner was more cautious when discussing President Trump, whom he considers a friend, but made clear he doesnât think much of the current administration.
âDysfunction is a relative term,â he said of theÂ White House in the Politico profile.Â âRight now it looks like I was a genius.â
At a conference earlier this year, Boehner called TrumpâsÂ presidency a âcomplete disaster,â a remark that reportedly resulted in irate voice mails from Reince Priebus, then White House chief of staff.
For Boehner, Trump seems to represent bigger problems in the Republican Partyâs ability to govern, according to Politico.Â TheÂ GOPÂ hasÂ no real leadership, he said.
âDonald Trumpâs not a Republican,â Boehner said. âHeâs not a Democrat. Heâs a populist. He doesnât have an ideological bone in his body.â
Asked how he thinks historians will remember his term as speaker, he replied: âTheyâll be talking about the end of the two-party system.â