Outgoing House Speaker John A. Boehner, in his first one-on-one interview since announcing his resignation last week, compared conservative hard-liners in his party to biblical "false prophets" who promise more than they can deliver.
Boehner announced Friday that he would step down Oct. 30 after nearly five years as speaker amid constant pressure from his party's right flank. Asked Sunday by host John Dickerson on a live broadcast of CBS's "Face the Nation" whether those hard-liners are "unrealistic about what can be done in government," Boehner exploded.
"Absolutely, they're unrealistic!" he said. "But, you know, the Bible says beware of false prophets, and there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done."
Boehner referred, as he has in the past, to the ill-fated 2013 shutdown over funding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare: "This plan never had a chance," he said, but he blamed outside forces for leading Republicans down an ill-advised path: "We got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town, who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they know — they know! — are never going to happen."
Dickerson followed up by asking whether Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), the leading proponent of the 2013 shutdown, was a "false prophet."
"Listen, you can pick a lot of names out; I'll let you choose 'em," Boehner said as he sipped from a coffee mug. He added: "I refer you to my remark at a fundraiser I made in August in Steamboat Springs, Colo." — a reference to a report, published in the Daily Caller, that he had called Cruz a "jackass" behind closed doors.
Earlier Sunday, the leader of one of those outside groups who have pushed for greater confrontation cheered Boehner's departure. Michael Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action for America, said on Fox News Sunday that Boehner and his allies treated conservatives as "crazies" to be marginalized, not as central players in developing the party agenda.
"[Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi does not talk about her base that way; Barack Obama doesn't think about his base that way," Needham said. "We need a Republican leadership that is showing conservative values. ... That's not what we've had. We've had to fight our own speaker."
Boehner addressed the remaining five weeks of his speakership, in which he pledged to "get as much finished as possible." Pressing matters include striking a deal with President Obama to keep the government open through the coming fiscal year, raising the federal borrowing limit, passing a long-term transportation bill and extending popular tax breaks.
"I don't want to leave my successor a dirty barn," Boehner said. "So I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets here."
On Friday, he offered words of support for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as a successor. He did not mention McCarthy on Sunday but offered advice to whoever follows him in the speaker's chair: "Have the courage to do what you can do. ... Just go do it."
"In our system of government, it's not about Hail Mary passes; it's the Woody Hayes school of football," he said, referring to the legendary Ohio State University coach. "Three yards and a cloud of dust. It's a slow, methodical process."