John Boehner on Ted Cruz: ‘Lucifer in the Flesh’
Policy + Politics

John Boehner on Ted Cruz: ‘Lucifer in the Flesh’

REUTERS/Daniel Kramer

It’s safe to say that Ted Cruz shouldn’t be counting on an endorsement from former House Speaker John Boehner anytime soon. The longtime Ohio representative who left Congress in October of last year appeared at Stanford University on Wednesday and said that while he would support either billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump or his home state governor, John Kasich, if either of them won the Republican nomination, he would not cast a vote for the senator from Texas.

Asked for his thoughts on Cruz, Boehner was unsparingly derisive.

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“Lucifer in the flesh,” he called him. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”

Boehner’s antipathy toward Cruz is easily understood. In 2013, as a newcomer to Congress, Cruz was the architect of a shutdown that closed non-essential federal services for 16 days in a dispute over government spending and Obamacare funding. The senator actively courted the most conservative members of the House to back his effort. He persuaded them to break with Boehner on the spending bill, denying leadership enough votes to pass a bill approved by the Senate unless anti-Obamacare language was restored.

The resulting shutdown was wildly unpopular with the American public, and though Cruz may have benefitted from the drama, the GOP took the majority of the blame.

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Cruz’s role in the fight made him deeply unpopular with Republican leadership in both chambers, not least of all because the effort to “defund” the ACA was largely symbolic. Much of the funding for the law was already in place and was not dependent on the bill in question. The insurance exchanges that serve as the backbone of the plan actually launched during the shutdown.

Cruz’s penchant for high-profile showboating — like his 21-hour Obamacare filibuster in 2013, in which he ostentatiously read his daughters “Green Eggs and Ham” from the Senate floor — did little to advance his stated cause, but much to raise his public profile in advance of his presidential run. That has always aggravated his fellow lawmakers.

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The Texas senator is also fond of drawing not-very-subtle parallels between himself and President Ronald Reagan, a conservative icon. Without mentioning Cruz by name, Boehner also tweaked members of his party who have mythologized Reagan into a doctrinaire Cruz-like conservative. Those who really remember the Reagan years, Boehner suggested, recall a very different figure.

“Well, you know I’m a big fan of Ronald Reagan,” Boehner told the Stanford crowd. “But I love all these knuckleheads talking about the party of Reagan. He would be the most moderate Republican elected today.”