Former House Speaker John Boehner said he’d vote for Donald Trump in the general election if he were the Republican presidential nominee, but he would not vote for Ted Cruz.
“Lucifer in the flesh,” Boehner called Cruzon Wednesday during a talk at Stanford University in California,the student newspaper reported.
“I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
Boehner’s scathing remarks are the latest sign of Cruz’s poor relationships on Capitol Hill, which the Texas senator has attempted to turn in his favor as he campaigns against what he calls the “Washington cartel.” Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich are trying to deprive Trump of a delegate majority in the waning weeks of the nomination race in order to force an open convention in July.
I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.
Former U.S. House speaker John Boehner, talking about Sen. Ted Cruz
Boehner, a Ohio Republican who left office in2015, said at Stanford that he was “texting buddies” with the billionaire Trump and had played golf with him.
Boehner mocked Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, saying, “Oh I'm a woman, vote for me” to suggest she is campaigning on her gender. But Boehner also said Clinton was accomplished and smart.
This isn’t the first time Boehner has unleashed on Cruz: He’s previously called him a “jackass” and a “false prophet,” and his loathing of Cruz is legendary inside the Capitol.
The tension is a result largely of Cruz’s drive to defund Obamacare in 2013, leading to a government shutdown.
In Boehner’s final years as speaker, Cruz was his nemesis, often plotting with a breakaway group of conservatives, many of whom would later form the Freedom Caucus in opposition to Boehner’s hopes for big budget deals and an immigration overhaul that would ultimately allow most undocumented immigrants to stay in the U.S.
When Boehner released his immigration principles in 2014, Cruz quickly labeled it amnesty, and few Republicans outside of leadership were willing to publicly sign on.
At Stanford, Boehner referred to Freedom Caucus members as “knuckleheads” and “goofballs,” and said his hero, former President Ronald Reagan, “would be the most moderate Republican elected today.”
In March, Boehner said that if no candidate received a majority of delegates on first ballot at the convention, he’d support his House speaker successor, Paul Ryan.
A spokesman for Boehner, David Schnittger, later said Boehner was speaking in hypotheticals and supported Kasich for president. Ryan has ruled out a bid for the nomination.
Cruz, campaigning in Fort Wayne, Indiana Thursday ahead of the state’s May 3 primary, responded by saying Boehner was letting his “inner Trump come out” with his remarks. He attempted to turn the criticism into a slam on Republican front-runner Donald Trump before a campaign stop in Fort Wayne, Indiana Thursday.
“John Boehner in his remarks described Donald Trump as his texting and golfing buddy,” Cruz said. “So if you want someone that’s a texting and golfing buddy, if you’re happy with John Boehner as speaker of the House and you want a president like John Boehner, Donald Trump is your man.”
Both Cruz and Carly Fiorina, who was campaigning with him after he named her as his running mate Wednesday, also referred to Boehner’s comments during the rally.
In 2013, Cruz joined forces with tea party conservatives in the House in triggering a partial, 16-day government shutdown over demands to undo President Barack Obama health care law. There was no chance Obama would agree to such a step, and Republican leaders like Boehner saw the move as a fruitless effort that only hurt the GOP politically.
Two years later, it was the same House conservatives who challenged Boehner’s leadership, and the speaker decided to step down rather than allow a very public fight.
Boehner’s successor, House Speaker Paul Ryan, said at his weekly news conference Thursday that he has “a much better relationship than that with Sen. Cruz.”
“My job is to help unify our party,” Ryan said, when reporters pressed him on Boehner’s comments. “I have a very good relationship with both of these men, and I’m going to keep it that way.”
Cruz told reporters Thursday that he had never worked with Boehner who stepped down as speaker in the fall.
“The truth of the matter is I don’t know the man,” Cruz said. “I’ve met John Boehner two or three times in my life. If I have said 50 words in my life to John Boehner, I would be surprised. And every one of them has consisted of pleasantries, ‘Good to see you Mr. Speaker.’ I’ve never had any substantive conversation with John Boehner in any respect.”
Cruz said he was rebuffed by Boehner when he asked to meet with him during the government shutdown.
Cruz said Boehner’s comments reflect his frustration with Americans who stand with Republicans who want to hold members of Congress accountable for their campaign promises to repeal Obama’s health care law and pursue other conservative goals.
“When John Boehner calls me Lucifer, he’s not directing that at me,” Cruz said. “He’s directing that at you.”