After a long period of seemingly enjoying his return to private life after more than 30 years in elected office, former House Speaker John Boehner has been back in the news lately. He’s been making the rounds of all the cable shows and giving interviews right and left, drawing the most attention for perceived slams against members of his own party. The reason for this should be fairly obvious. Boehner has a new book that just came out and it’s in his best interest to sell as many copies as possible. And the one way that you can assure that cable news hosts will put you on their shows is by having a Republican talk trash about other Republicans. It also helps to make sure that you put some of those insults and juicy, gossip-worthy stories into your book, so Boehner is following the script to the letter.
But how much of this trash-talking is really reflective of Boehner’s own feelings and how much is just for promotional value? He’s been scattering his shots around rather widely. He suggested during one interview that Matt Gaetz should resign immediately if he’s indicted for anything, also seeming to suggest that perhaps he never should have been seated in the first place. He similarly went after Marjorie Taylor Greene, saying that her pro-Trump, America First caucus was “one of the nuttiest things” he’d ever seen.
“I wouldn’t call it mainstream in our party, but I can tell you that this so-called America First Caucus is one of the nuttiest things I’ve ever seen,” the Ohio Republican said.
“Listen, America is a land of immigration. We’ve been the world’s giant melting pot for the last 200 years. And we’ve got to celebrate that we’re this giant melting pot,” he continued, adding that it was “the silliest thing” he’s ever seen, and that members of the GOP should “denounce it.”
Both Gaetz and Taylor Greene are favorite targets for liberal news hosts these days, so it’s natural that they would want to prod Boehner into taking a poke at them. After all, there’s a lot of leverage in getting someone who is not only a member of their own party but a former Speaker of the House to trash them on the air.
Some of Boehner’s other comments, however, seem a bit more strange and fairly dubious in terms of the facts. As Dave Weigel pointed out earlier this month, Boehner seemed to write off the impacts of Obamacare in his book, claiming that there really “isn’t much left” of it after all was said and done.
A revealing little part of Boehner's book I haven't seen in reviews is that he claims, twice, that Obamacare is mostly gone. "Today, there’s not much left of Obamacare," and "there really isn't much of Obamacare left." Reads like unsuccessful self-hypnosis.
— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) April 13, 2021
Is John Boehner trying to make the case that Obamacare wasn’t such a big loss for conservatives on his watch by claiming that it didn’t wind up being very durable or impactful? Because that’s really not the case at all. With penalties associated with the individual mandate being turned off, some of the worst sins were clearly lessened, but plenty of bits of the Affordable Care Act remain to this day. In fact, the aforementioned mandate isn’t really “gone.” Congress just set the penalty rate for noncompliance to zero. It could still be turned back up if the votes exist to do so.
Medicaid expansion happened just as the original bill intended. In fact, there are still debates over further expansion taking place today. Also, the portion of Obamacare that allows dependents up to 25 years of age to remain on their parents’ insurance plans is still in place. There were also loopholes in the bill that were included as a deal to get Big Pharma to sign off on Obamacare that are still hanging around. One example is the legislation’s failure to allow rural, 340B hospitals (known as safety-net hospitals) to buy some drugs at a discount as would seem consistent with the federal drug pricing program, which we covered in detail back in 2017. That little gem disproportionately impacts patients and consumers in rural red states when compared to more urban areas. It was done solely to win over some support from the pharmaceutical industry and it’s still with us today.
Still, even with those errors in both his book and his interviews, Boehner is probably not as daft as you might imagine and is far more likely just trying to maximize his book sales. Also, it’s not as if he’s ever been all that shy about criticizing fellow Republicans in his retirement. The former Speaker came out and called Donald Trump’s presidency “a complete disaster” before we were five months into it. He also hasn’t been shy about criticizing the House Freedom Caucus. But now he has added incentive to do a little GOP-bashing if it moves more copies of his book. And the strategy seems to be working since he debuted at number one on the NY Times best-seller list.