The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: Four questions about John Boehner’s new book

Placeholder while article actions load

with Mariana Alfaro

Welcome to The Daily 202 newsletter. Today we look at a book by a former House speaker that has Washington buzzing. But don't miss the latest on how lawmakers and companies are responding to Georgia's voting restrictions. Send me links to politics or policy stories you think deserve more attention! And tell your friends to sign up here.

John Boehner had a lot of people inside the Beltway giggling last week, and it wasn’t because the former House speaker has been successfully pitching pot legalization. Instead, the chuckling stemmed from the Ohio Republican’s obscenity-laced score-settling with members of his own party. 

In a long essay based on his new memoir, “On The House” published in Politico, Boehner ripped into “moron” lawmakers swept into office on the tea party wave of 2010, pilloried major right-wing media figures like Sean Hannity, and generally vented about the forces that drove him from office in 2015.

Then there was Boehner’s never-especially-well-hidden loathing for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). 

There is nothing more dangerous than a reckless a**hole who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Senator Ted Cruz,” Boehner wrote. In the audiobook version, Boehner takes an even more obscene jab at Cruz. 

There’s probably a lot more of this in the book, which comes out April 13. Boehner, who was first elected to Congress in 1990 and served as speaker from 2011 to 2015, was always quick with a quip in between Camels. 

But he’s done the insult comic thing before – including in this long assessment of his speakership and his retirement from 2017, also in Politico. (For example: Boehner called his fellow Ohio Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan, “a legislative terrorist.”) 

And there’s a lot Boehner could tell readers about his time in American politics beyond tarring the tea party or castigating Cruz. 

His memoir is sure to get “The Washington Read” (when people pick up the book to see whether they’re in it and flip to those sections), but it deserves the “control + F” read to find out whether and how he tackles these four questions: 

1. What does Boehner say about Republican former House speaker Newt Gingrich? 

In the essay, Boehner rips tea party-wave lawmakers, Fox News personalities, both on-air and behind the scenes like the late Roger Ailes, for the incendiary nature of modern politics.  

But Gingrich played a much bigger role in getting us here – a bomb-throwing back-bencher who quickly understood the power of the new C-SPAN cameras watching the floor of the House of Representatives and led his party in 1994 to a majority in the chamber for the first time in four decades. It was Gingrich who, when describing Republicans doing metaphorical battle with Democrats, declared: “This war has to be fought with a scale and a duration and a savagery that is only true of civil wars.” The “speak like Newt” pamphlet his GOPAC sent Republicans ahead of the 1990 elections was similarly brutal. 

Or, as now-President Biden put in in that long 2017 Politico profile of Boehner: “The beginning of the scorched-earth policy really began with Gingrich winning in the mid-’90s, the Gingrich revolution, and the enormous pressure put on moderate Republicans to walk away from anything remotely approaching a compromise.”  

How does Boehner see his role as a Gingrich lieutenant in the late-1990s? 

2. What does he say about the collapse of legislative efforts on the Voting Rights Act?  

In June 2013, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling invalidated a key part of the law that required states with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before changing election rules. The justices said Congress had to determine which states were subject to that requirement. 

Bipartisan legislation never made it through the GOP-controlled House during Boehner’s speakership. And the issue has renewed salience now as scores of states work to enact laws to set new limits on voting – largely as a response to Donald Trump’s false claims that he was cheated out of a second term. 

What happened and why? 

3. How does he explain his conversion on marijuana? 

“My thinking on cannabis has evolved” is how Boehner explained on Twitter in April 2018:

In another statement, he cited marijuana use by veterans self-medicating against post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times hinted at the fortune he stands to make if the federal government changes its policies on pot.  

The Times also flagged a statement from Boehner in 2011. “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug,” Boehner wrote. “I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.” 

What else, if anything, motivated the man who is arguably America’s most famous Merlot drinker?  

4. What does he make of the GOP obsession with “cancel culture”? 

Republicans seem to be using the term about anything and everything these days – they apply it to a decision by Dr. Seuss’s estate to stop publishing some of his books because they feature racist stereotypes as readily as to Major League Baseball’s decision to move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new election law.  

While appealing to voters’ fears of a world that is changing too quickly for them, or even vanishing, is perhaps a natural fit for conservative politicians, the complaint has strayed far from its roots in Black culture

As House conference chairman, Boehner was largely in charge of GOP messaging. What does he think about this update to complaints about “political correctness”? Especially when it’s coming from people like Jordan and Cruz. 

What’s happening now

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for a global minimum corporate tax rate, the New York Times's Alan Rappeport reports. The case made in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs “kick[ed] off the Biden administration’s effort to help raise revenue in the United States and prevent companies from shifting profits overseas to evade taxes….[Yellen] called for global coordination on an international tax rate that would apply to multinational corporations, regardless of where they locate their headquarters. Such a global tax could help prevent the type of ‘race to the bottom’ that has been underway, Ms. Yellen said, referring to countries trying to outdo one another by lowering tax rates in order to attract business." 

“Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo could testify as soon as Monday in the murder trial of Derek Chauvin for the deadly arrest of George Floyd, where prosecutors say he will undermine the defense claim the former officer followed police training,” per Reuters. “This was murder — it wasn’t a lack of training,” Arradondo said last year in a statement on the video footage of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck. 

The Supreme Court vacated a lower court ruling that barred Trump from blocking critics from his Twitter feed, saying the point is moot since he has been suspended by the company. “There were no noted dissents from the order, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote separately to say the court at some point will need to examine the power of tech media companies,” Robert Barnes reports.

Also, the Supreme Court will not hear former GOP congressional candidate and far-right activist Laura Loomer’s case in which she claimed Facebook and Twitter discriminated against her when they kicked her off their platforms. Loomer, who ran for a Florida seat in 2020, is known in far-right circles for her anti-Muslim views. She once protested her banning from Twitter by handcuffing herself to the company’s New York office doors.

To start your day with a full political briefing, sign up for our Power Up newsletter.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

  • "Florida officials scramble to prevent 'catastrophic flood' of contaminated water from leaking reservoir," by Paulina Firozi and Brittany Shammas: "Florida officials were scrambling Sunday to prevent a ‘catastrophic flood’ after the lining in a reservoir holding hundreds of millions of gallons of wastewater sprang a leak. They warned that the breached reservoir’s total collapse could send a 20-foot wall of contaminated water crashing down into the surrounding area. Manatee County officials on Saturday ordered people in more than 300 homes to urgently evacuate the area around an old phosphate plant at Piney Point, where officials described a deteriorating leak in one of the reservoir containment walls.”

… and beyond

  • America never wanted the tired, poor, huddled masses,” by the Atlantic’s Caitlin Dickerson: "As the country moves forward from the past four years of harsh immigration policies, it must reckon with a history that stretches back much further, and that conflicts with one of the most frequently repeated American myths. ‘This idea that somehow immigration was based on the principles stated on the Statue of Liberty? That never happened,’ [historian David Dorado] Romo said. ‘There has never been a color-blind immigration system. It’s always been about exclusion.’”
  • Amazon illegally fired activist workers, labor board finds,” by the New York Times’s Karen Weise: “The employees, Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, had publicly pushed the company to reduce its impact on climate change and address concerns about its warehouse workers. [The National Labor Relations Board] told Ms. Cunningham and Ms. Costa that it would accuse Amazon of unfair labor practices if the company did not settle the case. ... The two women were among dozens of Amazon workers who in the last year told the labor board about company retaliations, but in most other cases the workers had complained about pandemic safety.”

The first 100 days

Biden is dispatching his secretaries to step up the campaign for his infrastructure bill. 
  • “The officials — Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg; Marcia L. Fudge, the housing secretary; Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo; Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm; and Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh — will work to court the bipartisan backing Mr. Biden has said he seeks for the package," the Times's Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Nicholas Fandos report. Vice President Harris is also expected to join the publicity effort. 
  • “The public relations campaign comes as Republicans appear to be coalescing around a message of their own: Mr. Biden’s plan is really a giant social welfare initiative and tax increase masquerading as infrastructure... At least 10 Republican votes would be needed in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and pass the infrastructure bill under normal procedures, though Democrats have not ruled out using a parliamentary budget tool known as reconciliation to skirt the filibuster and approve the package with only Democratic votes.”
These five Cabinet members – dubbed the “Jobs Cabinet” – have already started their outreach. 
  • Raimondo called governors across the country to lay out details, while Walsh tapped into his network of mayors to spread the word, per Politico’s Natasha Korecki and Megan Cassella
  • A core part of the White House’s sales pitch is to appeal to suburban women, Korecki and Cassella note. This group has “been particularly battered by the pandemic, leaving the workforce in droves and often carrying the burden of caretaking amid schools and childcare center closures. They also happen to represent a key voting demographic.”

Quote of the day

“Listen, I’m all for working with the administration on an infrastructure bill,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press," arguing that Senate Republicans would not support Biden's new infrastructure plan if it undoes Trump’s 2017 tax cuts. "How could the president expect to have bipartisanship when his proposal is a repeal of one of our signature issues in 2017, where we cut the tax rate and made the United States finally more competitive when it comes to the way we treat job creators? He reverses all that."

More on the future of the GOP

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said corporations responding to Georgia’s new voting law and similar bills are bullies. 
  • In a statement this morning, the Kentucky Republican took aim at Biden for claiming that state-level measures on voting procedures are “worse than Jim Crow,” John Wagner reports. “Nobody actually believes this,” McConnell said. “Nobody really thinks this current dispute comes anywhere near the horrific racist brutality of segregation... [But] a host of powerful people and institutions apparently think they stand to benefit from parroting this big lie.”
  • Corporate America has lashed out against Georgia for enacting restrictions that critics say disproportionately affect voting access for people of color. MLB, for example, will move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in response to the law, a decision blessed by Biden. “It’s jaw-dropping to see powerful American institutions not just permit themselves to be bullied, but join in the bullying themselves,” McConnell said.
  • “Our private sector must stop taking cues from the Outrage-Industrial Complex,” McConnell said. “Americans do not need or want big business to amplify disinformation or react to every manufactured controversy with frantic left-wing signaling.”
Corporate America’s response to the Georgia law will bring major political consequences no matter what side it stands on. 
  • “For corporations, the dispute over voting rights is different. An issue that both political parties see as a priority is not easily addressed with statements of solidarity and donations. Taking a stand on voting rights legislation thrusts companies into partisan politics and pits them against Republicans who have proven willing to raise taxes and enact onerous regulations on companies that cross them politically,” the Times’s David Gelles reports.
Rep. Liz Cheney took on Trump’s wing of the GOP and appears to have survived an ouster attempt. 
  • “The Wyoming Republican became Trumpworld's public enemy No. 1 this year after her vote to impeach the former president, jeopardizing her career and leadership job. Since then, though, Cheney has racked up a string of wins that put her on more solid footing in the party — starting with her easy victory over a conservative-led effort to oust her as House GOP conference chair,” Politico’s Melanie Zanona reports.
  • “Her triumphs continued late last month, when the Wyoming state legislature rejected a measure endorsed by Donald Trump Jr. that could have made it harder for Cheney to prevail in what's likely to be a crowded primary field... Boehner and Paul Ryan are lining up to help her stockpile cash. And a sex trafficking probe that threatens to take down one of her chief critics, MAGA-loving Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), also gives Cheney some vindication.”
  • But her challenges “are far from over. She still has to lock down her party’s endorsement in the deep red state of Wyoming next August, leaving plenty of time for pro-Trump forces to mobilize against her... Several Republicans think Cheney will struggle to clinch their No. 3 House leadership spot again next year.”

The pandemic

Health-care companies are grappling with vaccine mandates. 
  • “The question of whether employers should compel their workforces to be immunized against the coronavirus is rippling through the health-care industry and beyond. It is a question of uncommon intricacy, involving public health, ethics, law, labor relations and ingrained American values,” Amy Goldstein reports.
  • “Whether bosses should be able to dictate a protective shot is a polarizing matter among front-line health-care workers, according to a recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Among health-care workers who have an employer, rather than being self-employed, nearly 6 in 10 said they would support their boss requiring vaccination for all employees who work with patients. Slightly more than 4 in 10 said they would oppose such a mandate. Objections are considerably greater among the roughly 3 in 10 health-care employees who said they did not intend to get vaccinated or had not decided by the time the survey was conducted.”
India announced 100,000 new cases a day, a grim measure achieved by only the U.S. and briefly Brazil. 
  • “India, which has one of the world’s largest vaccine-manufacturing capacities, is immunizing citizens at a rate of 2 million a day but has not made significant headway, with just 5 percent of the population having received a first dose. India is also slowing down its vaccine exports in the face of domestic demand, with potentially dire consequences for other countries,” Erin Cunningham and Joanna Slater report.
  • Experts believe that changes in behavior, waning immunity from prior infections and the spread of new variants are all contributing to the dramatic rise in cases. In the western state of Maharashtra — the epicenter of the surge — a new “double mutant” variant has been detected in about 20 percent of cases.”

Hot on the left

Justice Democrats, “the liberal group that put New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) in Congress, has recruited a challenger to Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper (D).” Odessa Kelly’s campaign would be the group’s first in the 2022 midterm cycle, Dave Weigel reports. “Our grassroots movement has shocked the nation in two cycles and we are prepared to do it again,” Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said in a statement. “It’s time to usher in a new generation of progressive leadership into the Democratic Party.” “Tennessee has not sent a Black member to Congress since 2006, and Kelly, if elected, would be the first openly gay Black woman in the House. It’s unclear how Tennessee Republicans will shape the district map next year, however, and some Democrats fear that the traditional Nashville seat could be split into several Republican-leaning districts,” Weigel notes.

Hot on the right

“'The 45th': Why Trump is abandoning his iconic brand for a number,” by NBC News’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Last week, the 45th president launched his new official website, 45Office.com, a URL unlike those of his predecessors, who used their names for their web addresses. Trump's shift from his name to his digits has been across his political properties. ... Trump is defying convention. ... It also may help him avoid a reminder of being a loser. Official communications from Trump... never refer to him as the ‘former’ president — he is always the ‘45th President of the United States of America.’ That's not an accident, said David Johnson, a corporate branding consultant in Atlanta, who added it helps to ‘continue his myth that he is still the President of the United States and reinforce that message with his followers.’”

Police convictions, visualized

Despite nationwide protests, police are rarely charged when they kill someone on duty. And even when they are, winning convictions is often difficult, Mark Berman reports.

Today in Washington

Biden will deliver remarks on Easter at the White House today at 1 p.m., in lieu of the traditional Easter Egg Roll, which will not be held this year because of the pandemic. 

Harris will visit her native Oakland, Calif., today as part of the White House's pitch for its jobs and infrastructure plan. She will hold events focused on drinking water infrastructure and small businesses.

In closing

John Oliver discussed the national debt: 

Loading...