PHILIP SCOTT ANDREWS / THE NEW YORK TIMES
OCTOBER 3, 2015
John Boehner stands smiling in front of the mirror in the bathroom of his English basement apartment on G Street on Capitol Hill. He breaks into song as he fastidiously ties the four-in-hand knot in his bright green tie to get the perfect dimple.
“Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah, Zip-A-Dee-A, my, oh my, it’s almost my last day,” he belts. “Plenty of golf and sunshine heading my way.”
The Speaker speaks: “I’m almost free of these knuckleheads. That visit by Pope Francis was a blessed exorcism. I’m casting out the demons. Begone, Ted Cruz, you jackass! Away, Louie Gohmert! In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, out you unclean devil, Mark Meadows. You wanted to get rid of me and I’m soon going to be rid of you.”
Boehner chuckles as he heads out to meet his security detail and the black S.U.V.s that won’t be at his disposal after October 30. “You’re the only part of the job I’m going to miss,” he tells the Capitol police officer at the wheel. “There’s just nothing like being driven right up to my private smoking room at Trattoria Alberto.”
His Blackberry ring-a-ding dings. He rolls his blue eyes. It’s another panicked call from Kevin McCarthy. Boehner is beginning to wonder if the kid just doesn’t have it, if he’s bombsville. McCarthy styled himself as one of the “young guns,” along with Eric Cantor, who misfired, and Paul Ryan, who can’t pull the trigger. Now Boehner’s worried that McCarthy might be a pop gun.
“Kevin, did you make another mess I gotta clean up?” the Speaker growls. “Stop blubbering. That’s my department. Obviously, you really stepped in it with that Benghazi crack on ‘Hannity.’ You told Sean that I get a B-minus as speaker? I give you a D for Dumbo.
“We’ve spent 16 months and a lot of taxpayer dough persuading people that the Benghazi committee is a legitimate attempt to get to the bottom of what happened, not a way to drag down Hillary so whichever lamebrain we nominate has a chance against her. As I like to say, always do the right things for the right reasons, unless you need to do the sneaky things for the wrong reasons.
“You can’t just go blurt out the truth — even on Fox. It still gets around to regular people. You managed to give Hillary the first break she’s had in months. I may have to email her my congratulations. But that’s classified.
“Stop hyperventilating, man. Haven’t those mixed martial arts you practice manned you up? As your Mr. Miyagi, here’s my advice: Try yoga. It’s done wonders for unclenching me. And the sphinx pose has fixed my backswing. In fact, you should start acting like a sphinx and shut your big trap. Your colleagues and my soon-to-be-ex colleagues are ripped about you undermining their Benghazi scam.
“You ran around and recruited all these Tea Party crazies so we could win the majority and now you’re going to have to live with this pack of rats. You better watch how far you go trying to show you’re one of them, like you did on ‘Hannity,’ because you’re really not and all it’s going to do is get you in trouble.
“Now some of those bozos think you’re ‘untrustable,’ to use one of your mangled words. Jason Chaffetz may not have made the cut to get into the Secret Service but he could be a headache for you. Not like Daniel Webster. The actual dead Daniel Webster could get more votes than that guy.”
The S.U.V. pulls up on the Capitol plaza and Boehner hops out, still trying to soothe the distraught McCarthy.
“Consider yourself lucky that the Draco Malfoy look-alike, Trey Gowdy, didn’t run. He could totally beat you and he would have reason to, since you made him look like a chump as the head of the House Select Committee to Drive Down Hillary’s Poll Numbers. You should be thankful Draco didn’t hit you with the Cruciatus Curse.
“And Kevin, you might want to freshen up your wardrobe, get rid of that Bakersfield chic and hit Joseph A. Bank. And quit sleeping in your office. What did you do with that lottery money you won? Use your raise as speaker to pop for an apartment. Even a gym rat shouldn’t use the House gym as his actual house. No rent is low rent.
“I gotta go. Remember: A leader who doesn’t have anybody following him is just a guy taking a walk.”
Boehner hangs up and tears up as he walks alone through Statuary Hall, recalling how he tenderly accompanied Pope Francis there only a week ago, after the pontiff blessed the speaker’s first grandson.
“It was a miracle,” he thinks to himself. “It suddenly hit me that I didn’t have to tough it out with these losers any more. I’ve told reporters that garbagemen get used to the smell of bad garbage. But 25 years in, this place stinks to high heaven. The institution is filled with people who should be in an institution.
“Back in the day, me and heavyweights like Ted Kennedy and Ted Stevens actually got together on big bills, hashing out policy issues. Now the famous Ted in the Senate is Cruz. Guys like him don’t give a whit about policy. Neither does McCarthy for that matter. I’m not sure Kevin has even passed a bill naming a post office.
“The pope made me see the light. I can go down to my condo on Marco Island, eat oranges and get as orange as Trump’s hair. I can get some board seats. If I can’t tee up bills, I can tee up at Augusta.
“Geez. People think I’m gonna become a lobbyist. How wigged out is that? I didn’t like hanging with most members of the House when I could tell ’em what to do. You think I’m going to come up here and beg those goofballs for stuff?”
Boehner fires up a Camel Ultra Light as he enters his office and heads out to the balcony to stand in the Shoes of the Fisherman.
“I have four weeks to clean out the barn,” he muses. “I guess it’s up to me to save the Republic because absolutely nothing is gonna happen once I’m gone. The false prophets going for profits at Heritage and other non-think tanks, the guys egging on my right-wing members to spread chaos, are going to make sure of that. I need to try one last time to strike some kind of bargain with Obama before I leave and he becomes an even lamer duck. We’ve at least got to increase the federal debt limit to keep these clowns from tanking the economy. After all, I’m gonna need some income, too.”
The Dean Martin of D.C. begins crooning the Disney lyric again. “‘Mister bluebird on my shoulder’ — oh wait, I don’t want some bird pooping on my Brooks Brothers suit and that’s the truth. But everything else, as the song says, is satisfactual.”