House Speaker John A. Boehner called last fall’s government shutdown a “very predictable disaster” that he warned his fellow Republicans to avoid, but ultimately went along with it at the behest of colleagues intent on a standoff with President Barack Obama over his healthcare law.
Making his “Tonight Show” debut Thursday, the Ohio Republican told host Jay Leno that the episode reflected the challenges he faces leading an often rambunctious House majority.
“When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. And you learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk,” he said. “So I said, ‘You want to fight this fight? I’ll go fight the fight with you.’ But it was a very predictable disaster.”
The nation’s highest-ranking Republican, in typically blunt fashion, explained that being speaker means playing various roles.
“Some members, I have to be the big brother figure,” he said. “Some, I have to be the father figure. Others, I have to be the dean of students or the principal. Some of them, I have to be the Gestapo.
“I like to describe my job as trying to get 218 frogs in a wheelbarrow long enough to pass a bill. It’s hard to do.”
Asked if tension within his party was the worst he’d ever seen, Boehner at first balked, but then agreed with the sentiment. The party is united in its goals but not its preferred tactics, he said, before again criticizing outside groups that he said “purport to represent the tea party.”
“There’s nothing I could do that was ever conservative enough for them,” he said, apparently referring to groups that had prodded his members to shut down the government over Obamacare.
Boehner made his “Tonight Show” appearance after what Leno said were multiple requests in the last few years. It came during a visit by the speaker to California that included the announcement of a drought-relief bill in Bakersfield on Wednesday.