Politico has a long profile piece on former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) that, in a lot of ways, demonstrates just why the exiled Establishment leader was pushed out of is leadership post in the first place.
Included in the interview are Boehner’s thoughts on two North Carolina Republican congressmen that represent two very different ends of the D.C. spectrum when it comes to GOP lawmakers: House Deputy Whip Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC-10) and Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11).
McHenry, after a few years of at least acting like he was in D.C. to translate campaign positions into tangible policy wins, has subsequently endeared himself to the Republican Establishment well enough to be elected Deputy Whip and set himself on a path toward great leadership roles.
His willingness to sacrifice principles for prestige earns him praise from former Swamp leader Boehner:
“The new chief deputy whip, McHenry—who admits to being “a bomb-thrower” his first three years in Congress and viewing Boehner as a nincompoop—tells me his view changed upon joining the speaker at his daily management meetings. “I’m in there and it’s this realization—Oh, wait a second. Boehner does actually care about policy. He understands the dynamics of the conference. He understands where all these different groups are.” He laughs. “Like, who is this guy?” McHenry wishes other conservatives had his vantage point. “He could see through opportunities without having to make the 50 or 75 phone calls that I made.”
On the golf course in Ohio, Boehner singles out McHenry as an example of how some lawmakers mature after initially acting like “anarchists.” He also makes a prediction: “McHenry’s going to be the speaker one day.”
So McHenry becomes enamored with Boehner’s position of power and influence and begins to reconsider his pledges on the campaign trail in favor of brown nosing his way into the Establishment’s good graces.
The transition is reflected in his ranking on Heritage Action Network’s Conservative Scorecard.
As recently as 2012, McHenry was ranked the second most conservative of the North Carolina Republican delegation. Granted, the field in 2012 did not feature very many conservative firebrands (Rep. Virginia Foxx received the highest ranking from N.C. that year), but McHenry achieved a respectable 79 percent on his votes.
Still, at the time Republicans were busy passing conservative legislation that they were certain would not be signed by then-President Barack Obama. In other words, they were ‘show votes’, as the current reticence of the Republican majority clearly demonstrates.
Fast forward a few years, and several drinks of Establishment kool-aid later, and McHenry finds himself on a fast track to leadership. His conservative ranking? Well, it necessarily started sinking like a stone, dropping to 60 percent over the 2015-2016 congress. It will likely be lower next year.
As your Establishment interests rise, your conservative stock dives, earning you kudos from the likes of Boehner.
When it comes to Meadows, it makes sense that Boehner harbors negative feelings for the Freedom Caucus Chairman. Meadows, after all, was the one that filed to remove Boehner as Speaker, a move that put him on the map and encouraged conservatives all over the country that there was hope.
Boehner speaks plainly of the western North Carolina Republican, calling him an “idiot.”
“But Boehner’s plans were thwarted once again. Mark Meadows, another co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, sent shock waves through Congress on his birthday—July 28—by filing a “motion to vacate.” The idea was to force another floor vote on the speakership, gambling that this time Boehner would either lose or step down to avoid the spectacle.
When news broke of Meadows’ move, Boehner’s allies were furious. They implored him to call up the motion and hold the vote immediately, in a show of strength. Boehner wanted to think. And after meeting the next day with Jordan and four other Freedom Caucus members, the speaker decided against it. They had urged him not to hold the vote before August recess, since the Republicans who supported him would then spend the month getting pummeled back home. Boehner found himself agreeing. “He’s like, ‘I don’t want to make members take that vote,’” Ryan, who urged a same-day vote, recalls Boehner telling him. “Totally selfless. Always thinking about protecting the membership.”[…]
And yet the maneuver didn’t sit well with Boehner—especially since he was dead set on leaving in November anyway. “It would be awful for the institution. We hadn’t gone through this in 100 years,” he says. “All these Republicans were going to get crap at home for supporting me, only to have me leave soon after that.” Boehner is still angry with Meadows, who canceled an interview for this article, for putting him in that position: “He’s an idiot. I can’t tell you what makes him tick.””
Well, John, apparently what makes Meadows ‘tick’ is a devotion to conservative principles, and a distaste for business-as-usual in D.C.. His courageous move to oust Boehner from the speakership was risky, cavalier even, but his reward is being reaped right now as he wields an increasingly consequential conservative influence on Capitol Hill and has the ear of President Trump.
It’s no surprise that the congressman Boehner classifies as “an idiot” sports the highest conservative score of the current North Carolina delegation at 90 percent.
What’s more, in the process of maintaining loyalty to his principles, Meadows has exhibited impressive leadership and coalition building acumen, instead of being outcast as an ‘extreme right-winger.’ In helping to form and then lead the Freedom Caucus, convincingly making the conservative case while surrounded by the Swamp, and using his leverage to advance the conservative perspective with the president, Meadows is proving that he, not McHenry, is the Speaker that Republicans deserve.
He may be an “idiot” according to Boehner, but he seems an innovator in terms of advancing the cause of freedom.