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John Boehner on Jay Leno: GOP Infighting 'Maybe' the Worst I've Ever Seen

photo of Brian Resnick
January 24, 2014

Two white men of a certain age who are not as popular as they once were sit down to talk politics, spray tans, and health care. 

That's a setup for a bad joke, but it happened Thursday night on NBC. 


House Speaker John Boehner joined Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and took some jabs at his fellow Republicans. Leno, who asked some very sober questions ("Did your parents live to see your success?") said he had wanted the speaker on the show for some time. Because Leno is ending his tenure on the show next month, Boehner agreed.

"I heard you going—this show was about over and I thought I'd better get here before it was too late," Boehner said at the beginning of the interview.

"I was going to say the same thing for you," Leno quickly replied. 


Here are the highlights from the transcript.

On Republican infighting: 

LENO: Now this GOP infighting. Is this the worst you've ever seen it?

BOEHNER: Oh, no. Well, maybe it is. [Laughter.] It's bad.

On how the Republicans caused the government shutdown:

BOEHNER: Listen, I told my colleagues in July, I didn't think shutting down the government over Obamacare [would] work because the president said I'm not going to negotiate. And so I told them in August. Probably not a good idea. Told them in early September.

So I said, do you want to fight this fight? I'll go fight the fight with you. But it was a very predictable disaster. And so the sooner we got it over with the better. But remember the issue. The issue was, we wanted to delay Obamacare for a year because it wasn't ready. Then we asked them to delay the individual mandate for a year. So we were fighting for the right things; I just thought tactically it was not the right way to do it.

On his extraordinary complexion:

BOEHNER: Listen, listen, I play golf. I ride a bike, I cut my own grass, ride a bike. And my mother is dark-complected [sic] so I'm a little dark.

LENO: So, there's no tanning bed.

BOEHNER: There's no tanning bed.

LENO: There's no tanning bed.

BOEHNER: There's no spray. Never. Not once, never, ever.

LENO: Never a spray tan?

BOEHNER: Nothing.

On his job as speaker:

BOEHNER: Well, people think, all right, you're the speaker, you're the leader. They don't realize I've got a a lot of other roles that I play. You know, some members, I have to be the big-brother figure. 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.

On 2016:

LENO: Who do you like in 2016? For the Republicans?

BOEHNER: Well, listen, I'm not endorsing anybody, but [former Florida Gov.] Jeb Bush is my friend, and I frankly think he would make a great president.

On running for president himself:

LENO: You ever think of running for president?


LENO: No? Do you want to show what you did you when I asked you that question before? Do you want to show them what you told me?

BOEHNER: Listen, I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes, and I'm not giving that up to be president of the United States.

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