WASHINGTON – Former Ohio Republican Chairman John Boehner says in a new memoir that he regrets supporting the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, calling it a partisan attack he now wishes to have rejected.
In his book “On the House: A Washington Memoir,” a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Boehner Representative Tom DeLay from Texas, then the second Republican, for leading a politically motivated campaign against Mr. Clinton about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, a White House intern.
The Republican-led House voted in 1998 to oust Clinton on two counts. He was acquitted by the Senate.
“In my opinion, Republicans have only accused him for one reason and one reason – because it was strongly recommended to us by one Tom DeLay,” writes Mr Boehner. “Tom believed that ousting Clinton would get us all these House seats, would be a big political victory, and he convinced enough of the membership and the GOP base that this was true.
“I was on board then,” Mr. Boehner continued. ‘I will not argue otherwise. But I regret it now. I’m sorry I didn’t fight it. “
Mr. Boehner’s memoir, the cover of which is a photo of the former speaker holding a glass of merlot, with a lit cigarette in an ashtray next to him – his natural habitat for decades – is full of colorful stories from his time in Congress.
He’s not pulling fists for those he sees as far-right bombers in his party. (He saves some particularly forceful insults to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.) And he issues a sharp charge against Donald J. Trump, saying that the now-former president “sparked that bloody uprising” by his supporters in the Capitol at 6 January and that the Republican Party has been taken over by “whack jobs”.
“Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the election results not only cost the Republicans the Senate but also sparked mob violence,” writes Mr. Boehner.
Mr. Boehner also details the account of some of Capitol Hill’s most high-profile exchanges, including the time when Alaska Republican Representative Don Young pulled a knife at Mr. Boehner on the House floor after a critical speech about sweetheart projects going to Alaska. .
“Sometimes I still feel that thing against my throat,” Mr. Boehner writes. (The two would later fix everything up, and Mr. Boehner would serve as the best man at Mr. Young’s wedding.)
Mr. Boehner also relates a meeting in his office where Mark Meadows, then a North Carolina Republican representative and a leader of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, fell to his knees to beg forgiveness after a political coup attempt against Mr. Boehner. failed.
“Not long after the vote – a vote that, like many of the Freedom Caucus’ efforts, ended in gross failure – I was told Meadows wanted to meet me one on one,” recalls Mr Boehner. “Before I knew it, he had fallen off the couch and was on his knees. Right there on my rug. That was a first. His hands came together in front of him as if he were about to pray. Mr. Speaker, please forgive me, ”he said, or words to that effect. “
Mr. Boehner says he was wondering at this point what Mr. Meadows’ elite and uncompromising band of Freedom Caucus warriors would have made of their star organizer about to burst into tears, but that wasn’t my problem. ”
Mr. Boehner looks down on the man who would later become Mr. Trump’s White House Chief of Staff.
“I took a long, slow drag on my Camel cigarette,” he writes. ‘Let the tension hang there a little bit, you know? I looked at my pack of camels on the desk next to me, then looked at him and asked (as if I didn’t know), “What for?” ”
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York.