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A Top Hillary Clinton Adviser Called John Boehner 'Louche, Alcoholic, Lazy'

An email released by the State Department on Wednesday shows that Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Hillary Clinton adviser, foretold the outgoing House speaker's waning influence in 2010.
October 1, 2015, 12:00am
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

One of Hillary Clinton's top political advisers claimed to have insider information on Republican House Speaker John Boehner and his slipping grip on members of his own party years before Boehner's resignation late last week.

In a document released on Wednesday in the latest trove of emails from Clinton's tenure as secretary of state, longtime Clinton whisperer Sidney Blumenthal, a liberal writer and activist, characterized Boehner as a "louche," "insecure," and "despised by the younger, more conservative members of the House Republican Conference." Portions of the same email chain were included in previous batches of Clinton emails released by the State Department.

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"They are repelled by his personal behavior," Blumenthal wrote in an email to Clinton dated November 2, 2010. "Boehner is neither feared nor loved. He's a would-be DeLay without the whip," he said, referencing former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Late last week, Boehner, a 13-term Congressman from Ohio, teared up as he announced his impending resignation after five years as House speaker, saying he had wrestled with "turmoil churning for months."

Related: The State Department Just Released Another 6,300 Pages of Hillary Clinton Emails

The announcement came as the embattled speaker confronted increasingly shaky confidence in his leadership by the GOP establishment, especially from members of the Tea Party and other hardline conservatives who have increasingly gained traction and influence in Congress.

While Tea Party conservatives pushed to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding in the federal budget, Boehner sought to moderate the demands and avoid a potential government shutdown for the second time in two years. In the week leading up to his resignation, more than 30 Republican Congressmen threatened to hold a vote of no confidence on Boehner's leadership.

The speech Pope Francis gave to Congress on Thursday about acting for the greater good was the tipping point for his decision, Boehner said.

"My first job as speaker is to protect the institution," Boehner said at a press conference at the Capitol on Friday. "It had become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution."

'Boehner is beholden and somewhat scared of his base. He twitches when they make gestures that might undermine his position.'

On Wednesday, fears of a shutdown were allayed after Congress approved a spending bill just hours before the midnight deadline to finance government through to December 11. Boehner will retire as speaker before the final year-end negotiations to lock down a wide-ranging budget deal.

Blumenthal's email to Clinton — subject line: "election day memo on post-midterms" — outlined a series of GOP strategies allegedly gleaned from "Republican sources and elsewhere."

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The note claims that insiders were aware of Boehner's struggles just a year into his tenure as speaker, and several years before he was prodded to step down.

"He's the one at the end of the lash," Blumenthal wrote of Boehner. "He is careworn and threadbare, banal and hollow, holding nobody's enduring loyalty."

The email also alleged Boehner attempted to "buy the members with campaign contributions and committee assignments, which he has already promised to potentially difficult members."

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"Boehner is beholden and somewhat scared of his base," Blumenthal added. "He twitches when they make gestures that might undermine his position. His impulse is to hand out money."

The email makes a number of other claims, including that Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, has been "raising money hand over fist for the Republicans," allegedly through former Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor.

"The donors are many of the same US donors to Bibi and Likud," Blumenthal wrote of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, adding: "Implications obvious."

Blumenthal also wrote that sources had confirmed that both tiers of the GOP were intent on pursuing an agenda to make President Barack Obama a "one term president," as stated by Republican Majority Senate Leader Mitch McConnell a day before the 2010 midterm elections.

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Blumenthal is known for his colorful insights into political life on Capitol Hill. Clinton has maintained throughout the email releases that his advice has not been solicited, but various responses to his emails suggest it was at least welcomed.

"Thx, as always, for your insights," Clinton wrote to Blumenthal in response to the November 2 email. "I'm on a plane on the way to Papua New Guinea for the next 6 hours so pls email me results as you get them. Needless to say, I'm so distressed over all of this."

Blumenthal sent a large volume of emails between October 2010 and September 2011, including many links to many newspaper and magazine articles. To cite one example, he forwarded a New Yorker article about Republican recipients of Koch Brothers funding with the subject line: "Yes, there is a vast right wing conspiracy."

In another email, titled "The Palestine Papers," Blumenthal referred to former Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann as the "La Pasionaria of the Tea Party," saying she represented "(R-Fringe)."

The latest collection of Clinton emails, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed by VICE News, contained more than 6,300 pages. A federal judge has ordered the government to release some 35,000 emails found in her private email server over the course of several months, with the final batch expected in January, just a couple of weeks before the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields

Sidney Blumenthal email to Hillary Clinton on John Boehner