Namaste friends. This post is a collection of quotes from the book - On the House by John Boehner. In On the House, former Speaker John Boehner shares colorful tales from the halls of power, the smoke-filled rooms around the halls of power, and his fabled tour bus.
When you’ve been around politics as long as I have, you see a lot of strange things. You may even think you’ve seen everything. But every now and then something happens that still has the power to knock your socks off, to show you that democracy can be full of surprises.
I’ve learned that if you want to be successful at anything, it helps for you to pay attention. As Speaker of the House, you don’t hold on to the job long unless you do - noticing how a president tells you something so you can see he doesn’t really mean it, or a member promises their vote on a tough bill but has a funny look in his eyes when he does, or when a group of rebels always seems to be staring at their feet when you walk by.
Americans are well aware that our government isn’t working the way that it ought to. In part, it’s because of a cable news world in which controversy sells and outrage and rebellion are rewarded. In part, it’s because of people who come to Washington intent on promoting themselves instead of working together. They claim to be true believers and purists, [...] but they really are just political terrorists, peddling chaos and crisis so that everyone keeps paying attention to them.
Something happens to a lot of good people when they start feeling powerful. As for the bad people, well, power just makes them all the more dangerous.
There are certain defining moments in Congress, as in life, that force you to decide what kind of person you’re going to be. Are you going to be your own man or are you going to be part of the flock of cackling chickens following behind whoever is in charge, tossing out the feed?
The biggest institutional power of the Speaker of the House is by far the ability to decide which bills make it to the floor and which don’t. [...] trust me, nothing came to the floor for a vote unless I said it was coming to the floor.
I just don’t have a mean bone in my body. I don’t do mean. It’s a waste of energy. I couldn’t be mean to somebody if I tried - and I have no interest in trying! It’s not who I am.
Anybody who says there are “rules” to the political game is probably not very good at playing it. Rules can hem you in. I followed the law and my own code of ethics - especially remembering to do the right things for the right reasons - but beyond that, I tried to avoid hard and fast rules when it came to applying political pressure or working different angles.
Any legislative assembly, anywhere you go in the world, is like that. All kinds of people thrown together to argue and hopefully get stuff done, all bringing their talents - and their strange baggage - to the table.
Impeachment of the president is meant to be a tool of last resort. [...] it has to be bipartisan. Not everyone in both parties has to be on board, but at least a good number do. A partisan impeachment simply does not have credibility to most Americans.
It was better to have talented members with a rabble-rousing streak working with you rather than against you. Put another way, it was better to have them inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.
Everything changes when you’re out there in the middle of the field with the stands full of your family and friends all looking down at you, hoping you don’t screw up. I just tried to do the best I could, which, in sports, politics, and pretty much everything else is easier said than done.
It says something a little disturbing about the country, especially our education system, when people recognize a singer more than a president.
Anybody who’s actually been in the arena can tell you that a good man is worth a hell of a lot more than points on a scoreboard or an electoral tally.
A lot of people sling around ideas to “fix Washington,” and most of them are bullshit. But there’s at least one thing that every single American citizen, no matter where they live, can do to help set things right in the nation’s capital. You can vote to send people there to represent you who actually want to get things done instead of hucksters making pie-in-the-sky promises or legislative terrorists just looking to go to Washington and blow everything up.
There are people we are electing who will destroy this country if we aren’t careful. It doesn’t matter whether they call themselves “conservatives” or “progressives.” Many of them are actually neither.
Never make a move without knowing your next one.
I thought it was important for any book that deals with Washington antics to make clear that power, especially in that city, doesn’t stick around. As I’ve said, a dog that shits quick doesn’t shit long. Nobody can hang on to power forever. And even if you look like you’re in charge, new centers of power can pop up and destabilize everything.
The capacity for politicians to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, and do it happily, will never cease to amaze me.
As hard as it is to pass a law like Obamacare in the first place, it can be just as hard or harder to repeal or “unpass” it. The way to do it is to dismantle key components bit by bit.
If given the choice between covering Democrats’ screw-ups and Republicans’ screw-ups, the press would shine the bigger light on Republicans any day of the week.
A leader without followers is just a guy taking a walk.
The most consistent lesson I’ve learned from the political game: weird shit is just going to keep happening, so you might as well give up being surprised.
A non-cynical politician is rare no matter how you slice it.
People underestimate the power of the status quo. Changing the status quo is typically a monumental exercise because people get invested in the status quo. I don’t care whether it’s a line item in the tax bill or a particular regulation, there is someone somewhere who has become vested in what the law is or what the regulation is, and they typically don’t want to see it changed. I’m not saying it can’t be done, or that you shouldn’t try for real change if you’re doing it for the right reasons. I’m saying it’s stupid to go in thinking you’ll be able to change everything - or anything - in Washington by waving some magic wand.
Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but when you’re trying to change the status quo, chances are you’re going to lose. If you want to change something that’s been the same way for a long time, you’d better have some forces working along with you to push the momentum in your direction.
It’s true that no matter how long you’ve been in Washington, you’re more likely to remember the people than the politics. Legislative fights come and go, but personal relationships stick around. And there are few more interesting types of Washington relationships than those between politicians and the reporters who cover them.
The changes I’ve seen firsthand in the last few decades have been striking. The press used to strictly report the news, with less commentary. That was the case for mainstream print, TV, and radio news. Now these outlets offer a lot more opinion pieces alongside the news, because people click on opinion pieces they agree with, and clicks mean ad money.
If there’s one thing no American likes it’s being taken for a ride. And when someone on television or radio or elsewhere in the media is trying to gin you up to get mad about something - that’s exactly what’s happening. They’re trying to profit off your anger by selling ads. So maybe it’s time to stop looking at every new day’s headlines as a chance to prove your political point’s right and the other guy’s is wrong. If the news becomes fully weaponized, we’re in big trouble.
I’m grateful that I realized a simple truth before it was too late to act on it: if you don’t go to the end of the road, you’re never gonna know what’s there.
I like to play golf, I like to smoke cigarettes, I like to drink red wine, and I like to cut my own grass. If you think I’d give all that up to be president of the United States, you’re crazy.
I’m still me - I was the same jackass when I left the Capitol as I was when I first walked in, and I still am today. And one of the things I’m most proud of is that I left on probably the highest of all the high notes you could think of.
The most important thing to remember - in golf, in politics, in life - is that if you do the right things, for the right reasons, the right things will happen for you.
Americans are the most versatile people God ever put on earth. We’re a smart people, a nimble people. We stumble, but we can adapt. And it’s our commitment to freedom that makes that possible. Freedom means you can be a genius and invent a new product that makes you millions of dollars and helps millions of people. It means you’re free to work your way to becoming the first in your family to go to college. It means you’re free to reach as high as you want, no matter where you came from - even if you’re a little kid sweeping out a bar in southwest Ohio. Take it from me - you never know where you’ll end up. That’s freedom. I’ll raise a glass to that any day.