John Boehner made a startling revelation Tuesday in a new video released by his office: The Speaker of the House is little more than a wind-up monkey operated by his staff.
The video, titled "Monkey in the Room," opens with a shot of Boehner sitting in a comfy leather chair holding a clapping toy monkey.
"This sits in my office on my coffee table, because this is me," Boehner says. The video then cuts to the Speaker and three little girls laughing at the monkey clapping its mini-cymbals.
"That's what I do all day!" Boehner says as he points at the monkey.
Later, he explains its significance:
My staff gave it to me. Every 15, 30 minutes they come in and wind me up, and I do my thing."
Now when it comes to doing his thing, Boehner could be referring to any number of his daily duties as Speaker – meetings with constituent groups, lobbyists, foreign leaders, or teary-eyed members of his own caucus.
But the times when the Speaker most closely resembles a wind-up monkey are the patented Boehner Outbursts – moments during a press conference or a speech on the House floor when he works himself into a lather, lets slip a mild cuss or two, and lays into President Obama.
As everyone knows, Boehner is an emotional guy, but these are done for effect, designed to grab the Speaker an easy headline and a soundbite played by cable news on a loop.
A few favorites:
'This isn't some damn game!'
It was the middle of last year's government shutdown, and Republicans, who were getting pilloried in the polls and in the press, needed to change the story. So Boehner seized on something he usually would ignore: an anonymous quote from an administration official in the morning newspaper. Leading off the House GOP leadership's weekly press conference, the Speaker angrily denounced the White House for suggesting that Democrats were "winning" the shutdown.
"This isn't some damn game!" Boehner bellowed, smacking a copy of The Wall Street Journal on the lectern.
To emphasize his anger, Boehner's office gave the video its own blog post on its website.
It turns out, however, that the Speaker was actually mad at conservatives at the time. Months later, he confessed to Jay Leno that his party was to blame for the shutdown and that he was forced into the budget brinksmanship by conservatives against his will.
Score one for the wind-up monkey.
'What the hell is this, a joke?!'
Boehner went off on Obama in March when the administration announced what turned out to be a rather benign extension of the Obamacare sign-up period, giving people who had begun the process by March 31 an extra two weeks to finish it. Enrollments were already surging after the bungled initial rollout of the federal exchange website, but Boehner's scripted anger ensured the Republican response got some attention.
White House 'hasn't done a damn thing'
There are few things that wind up the Speaker-monkey faster than the scandal over the I.R.S.'s targeting of conservative groups. Boehner called for officials to be thrown in jail when the reports first surfaced, and he's continued his crusade ever since. The above rant about the lack of cooperation from the White House isn't in Boehner's prepared remarks; rather, it's in response to a question at a press conference. But the proof that it's a wind-up job? The National Republican Congressional Committee sent around the video clip in a fund-raising email hours later.
'Hell no, you can't!'
An oldie but a goodie, this is perhaps the original Boehner Outburst. In one of his most famous public speeches, the then-House minority leader delivered the GOP's closing argument against the Affordable Care Act before it cleared the House on a tight vote in 2010. Boehner decried the process the Democrats used to pass the bill – a criticism Republicans still often levy more than four years later. "Can you say it was done openly, with transparency and accountability, without back-room deals struck behind closed doors, hidden from the people?" Boehner asked in a call-and-response with Republicans in the chamber. "Hell no, you can't!"
Clearly, the batteries were working.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.