Former Speaker John Boehner laid into fellow Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, labeling him the devil incarnate
Washington (AFP) - Former US House speaker John Boehner has let fly with a stunning critique of fellow Republican and 2016 presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, labeling him the devil incarnate.
"Lucifer in the flesh" is how the ever-blunt Republican heavyweight -- who stepped down as speaker last year -- described the Texas senator, who is struggling to block billionaire Donald Trump's march to the Republican presidential nomination, according to the Stanford Daily newspaper.
"I have Democrat friends and Republican friends," Boehner said. "I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."
In an audio recording of the stunning remarks played on a loop on US television Thursday, Boehner is heard to add about Cruz: "Over my dead body will he be president."
Boehner's comments were made at a public talk late Wednesday at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
Asked for his reaction on Thursday while campaigning in Indiana, Cruz sniffed that Boehner "allowed his inner Trump to come out."
Cruz is widely seen as one of the more intransigent members of Congress, and critics on both sides of the aisle blame him for triggering a 16-day federal government shutdown in late 2013.
"When John Boehner calls me Lucifer, he's not directing that at me. He's directing that at you," he said, alluding to his conservative supporters.
"What Boehner is angry with me for is standing with the American people, is energizing and encouraging House conservatives to stand with the American people and actually honor the commitments we have made," he said.
For his part, Boehner rarely held back during his tenure as the top lawmaker in Congress when frustrated or dissatisfied -- especially on the subject of gridlock in Washington.
He revealed during the Stanford interview that he is "texting buddies" with Trump and has played golf with the brash billionaire for years.
Apparently feeling even more liberated since leaving office, he is taking aim at the senator who is seen as one of the chief instigators of gridlock on Capitol Hill and arguably one of the least popular members of Congress.
Many of Cruz's enemies -- including some from his own Republican Party -- were quick to line up with Boehner in showing their disdain for the ambitious Texas lawmaker who has done little to endear himself to fellow lawmakers.
Charlie Dent, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, said that as far as he was concerned, Boehner's description of Cruz was just about right.
"All I can say is somebody should contact Lucifer for comment -- he may be upset about these remarks," he told MSNBC.
New York Republican lawmaker Peter King was even more cutting.
"I fully agree with John Boehner," he said. "And maybe he gives Lucifer a bad name comparing him to Ted Cruz."
Many Republicans will refuse to back him, even when faced with what many feel is the unpalatable alternative of getting Donald Trump as their presidential nominee, Dent said.
"I got to tell you, Ted Cruz created these problems," he said.
"You reap what you sow. And that's part of the problem with this 'Never Trump' movement is that they really have to get behind an acceptable alternative," he said. "And Ted Cruz is frankly not an acceptable alternative."