The same day that The Huffington Post reported that conservatives in the House of Representatives might attempt a January coup to oust Paul Ryan from his job as speaker, Ryan’s predecessor John Boehner posted this video to his YouTube channel. The 7-second clip shows Boehner, casually dressed in shorts and a pink golf shirt, seated behind the wheel of what might be an RV. The camera pans to the view out the front window: an empty highway unrolling towards a distant horizon. The RV’s destination may be unknown, but the optimism and freedom inherent in the vision is quintessentially American, as if Boehner were re-creating a scene from Jack Kerouac. Or at least from “About Schmidt.”
In truth, the video is a bit deceptive. The RV is actually “Freedom One,” a bus that Boehner owns and has driven cross-country every summer for years to meet with and campaign for Republican representatives across America. This year is no different. Despite his semi-forced retirement last fall and the occasional glimpses of relaxation that he has released since, the former speaker is still out there being a good Republican functionary.
But the contrast with his replacement could not have been more obvious. While Boehner is out enjoying life, Paul Ryan is still stuck reading anonymous quotes from hard-right members of his own caucus about how terrible he is for not giving them everything they want and how that might result in his defenestration when the new #Congress is gaveled in next January.
The question of whether Ryan could coexist with the hard right, mostly represented by the 40 or so members of the House Freedom Caucus, has dogged the GOP since the Wisconsin congressman’s name was first brought up as Boehner’s replacement a year ago. Considering the way the angry GOP base has cowed most of the party’s elected officials into submission, as well as Ryan’s persona (which is more eager-beaver policy wonk than hard-edged political operator), the best-case scenario was always an uneasy détente between the speaker and the caucus.