When he retired from Congress last year, former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said in his final address to the chamber “Real change takes time. Yes, freedom makes all things possible, but patience makes all things real.”
So where along the freedom-patience continuum does Donald Trump’s election fall?
To address that, Boehner quoted Thomas Jefferson. “Jefferson said, ‘A revolution every now and then is good for our democracy.'”
“We’re in the middle of a political revolution,” he told a crowd of financial leaders at the Global Financial Leadership Conference. “This revolution, in my opinion, is due to the fact we’ve gone eight years with no economic growth.”
Boehner was at the conference in Naples, Florida to discuss how to rebuild trust between the American people and Washington just six days after Trump’s surprise win in the Presidential race.
Boehner told Vice News a month ago that he would vote for Trump, citing that he was a better choice than Clinton despite not being a traditional Republican. “He’s not a conservative— he’s barely a Republican. He kind of became a Republican in order to run. But his ideas, when you can get to them, are frankly more in the direction that I would want the country to go to than Hillary Clinton,” he said at the time.
He reiterated those thoughts Monday, recalling that when asked about then-candidate Ted Cruz during an appearance at Stanford University earlier this year, he used some colorful language to dismiss Cruz before stating that he would support Trump if he were the Republican nominee.
“Not five minutes went by and my phone rang. It was Trump saying ‘Thanks for the endorsement.’ What he didn’t know is that he wasn’t my first choice or second choice or third choice.”
Trump and current Speaker Paul Ryan had an up and down relationship during the campaign, with Ryan ultimately deciding in October that he would distance himself from the candidate. What will happen now that the two men control the White House and Congress is one of the biggest questions looming in a Trump Presidency.
Boehner, who recruited Ryan to the speakership, says the animosity between Trump and Ryan ended the day after the election when Trump visited Ryan on Capitol Hill “Over. Done with. Taken care of,” he said.
As to whether or not he believes trust in Washington can be restored, Boehner takes issue with the premise of the question.
“95% of the people I’ve worked with in Washington over 25 years are some of the most good, decent, honest people you’re going to meet. This nonsense about draining the swamp. It’s populism. That’s only going to work for a few weeks or a few months,” he says, adding “You’re likely to see things get off to a pretty fast start,” under Trump.
Nonetheless, Boehner admits Trump’s election has changed things in the Republican party.
“I would describe it as the Trump party. Trump’s not really a Republican, he’s not really a Democrat. He’s what he has to be on a given day… It’s Trump’s to shape in the immediate future.”
In order to be effective, however, Boehner stressed the limits that exist on executive power, and the need for any President to work with Congress.
“Presidents have limited powers. Presidents don’t get things done unless they have a Congress that will work with them. Donald Trump is not able to get big things done unless he has a good relationship with Congress. And that starts immediately.”
He also called Trump’s choice for a Chief of Staff, RNC Chair Reince Priebus, a “perfect” selection, crediting him with reorganizing the Republican party to engineer “the Trump turnout machine.” Choices like that will also help Trump in an attempt to heal a divide in the country, says Boehner.
“There’s a lot of raw feelings out there. The President-elect is trying to say the right things. Time heals all wounds. And the sooner these wounds heal the better.”