John Boehner spilled his guts to Jay Leno Thursday night, candidly outlining the problems he has leading his own caucus.
In his debut appearance on the “Tonight Show,” the speaker of the House conceded that Republicans were responsible for October’s government shutdown, saying it was a “very predictable disaster.”
“Listen, I told my colleagues in July I didn’t think shutting down the government over Obamacare would work because the president said I’m not going to negotiate,” Boehner said. “And so I told them in August, ‘probably not a good idea.’ Told them in early September. But when you have my job, there’s something you have to learn. When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. You learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk. So I said, do you want to fight this fight? I’ll go fight the fight with you.”
“But it was a very predictable disaster,” he continued. “And so the sooner we got it over with the better. But remember the issue. The issue was we wanted to delay Obamacare for a year because it wasn’t ready. Then we asked them to at least delay the individual mandate for a year. So we were fighting for the right things, I just thought tactically it was not the right way to do it.”
Asked by Leno whether the current GOP infighting is the worse he’s ever seen, Boehner initially said “no” before changing his mind.
“Well, maybe it is,” he said. “It’s bad. Listen, you know, the funny thing about the so-called infighting, is that we agree on all the goals. We think Obamacare is bad for the country. We think we shouldn’t spend more than what we bring in. We think the president is ignoring the laws. It is all a fight over tactics. It’s not over what our goals are.”
Boehner said his problem was not with the tea party per se, but with organizations he believes falsely claim the mantle of the tea party.
“Listen, I don’t have any problem with the tea party,” he said. “Those people have brought great energy to the political process. Most of them have never been involved before. When you agree with someone 90 percent of the time, they’re not your enemy. My problem was with some Washington organizations who purport to represent the tea party who I think mislead them. There’s nothing I could do that was ever conservative enough for them.”
Boehner also discussed his relationship with President Obama, his view of Ted Cruz, the 2016 presidential race and Edward Snowden, among other topics. Check out some of the highlights below:
“He and I get along fine. We get along fine. But we come at our jobs from a very different perspective. You know, I’m right of the center. I think he is way left of the center. What’s happened in Washington here over the course of the 20 years, 24 years that I’ve been there, is that there is not as much common ground as there used to be. Yes, Republicans believed in X and Democrats believed Y. But there was enough common ground to come to some understanding. But the country has gotten more partisan. As a result, the Congress has gotten more divided and there’s less common ground. But the president and I have a very good relationship.”
On Ted Cruz
“He’d be on the conservative side, tea party side. But listen, Ted Cruz used to be my attorney a long time ago. … He’s a good guy. Not that I always agree with him, but he’s a good guy.”
On 2016 presidential race
“Well, listen, I’m not endorsing anybody, but Jeb Bush is my friend and I frankly think he would make a great president.”
“All I can say is that I think Snowden is a traitor to the country.”
On running for president:
“Listen, I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I’m not giving that up to be President of the United States.”
WATCH: Part II of the Leno interview