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John Boehner likes Jeb Bush for president (but, shhh, don't tell Barbara Bush) (+video)

House Speaker John Boehner (R) said he isn't endorsing former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, but he'd sure 'make a great president.' He also told 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno why he went along with the government shutdown last fall.

By Staff writer / January 24, 2014

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 16, 2014.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

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Washington

Who’s got the tougher job: President Obama or the speaker of the House, Republican John Boehner of Ohio?

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Staff writer

Francine Kiefer is the congressional correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor, which she joined in 1980. She has a long journalistic history in Washington, most recently as the Monitor’s commentary editor and an editorial writer, and before that as White House correspondent – covering the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

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US House Speaker John Boehner talks about 2014 and 2016 on NBC's 'Tonight Show' Thursday night.

It’s clear from his interview with Jay Leno, aired Thursday on "The Tonight Show," that Speaker Boehner sees the White House as the worst of the two places to be. Asked if he’d ever run for president, Boehner immediately answered no.

It’d just be too tough on his personal habits. “Listen, I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass,” he explained. Both activities contribute to his famous tan – also a topic of discussion. “You know, I do drink red wine. I smoke cigarettes. And I'm not giving that up to be the president of the United States."

The studio audience applauded.

But Boehner had a suggestion for who might occupy the Oval Office in 2016. How about Jeb Bush? Not that he’s endorsing the former Republican governor of Florida. (Who would want to cross the Bush matriarch, Barbara, who has laid down the line: No more Bushes in the White House?) "I'm not endorsing anyone,” Boehner told Mr. Leno, adding, “Jeb Bush is my friend and I frankly think he'd make a great president."

Chris Christie and his problems with Bridge-gate? It doesn’t appear that the New Jersey governor, a GOP presidential favorite up until now, knew anything about it, the speaker said. Then he added: “This is not going to go away anytime soon.”

As for the job of speaker, Boehner made it out to be no picnic, either. Leno asked him about Republican infighting – whether it’s the worst he’s ever seen on Capitol Hill.

“Oh no, it’s – well, maybe it is,” he said. “Probably. Yeah, probably.” As the audience laughed, Boehner added, “It’s bad.” But, he qualified, “the funny thing about the so-called infighting is that we agree on all the goals. We think Obamacare is bad for the country. We think we shouldn’t spend more than we bring in. We think the president is ignoring the law.” The fight is over tactics, he said.

He acknowledged that, “yep,” the Republicans were to blame for the partial government shutdown in October over the Affordable Care Act. He candidly laid out that this wasn’t his idea. In the end, though, he felt he had to go along with it.

“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,’ ” Boehner said. But other Republicans insisted on going ahead. “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.… So I said, ‘You want to fight this fight? I’ll go fight the fight with you.’ ”

Yes, it’s not easy being John Boehner. The speaker joked about how tough it is to be a public figure with a name no one knows how to pronounce. “It's hard running for office when people can't say your name. You know, my name looks like Beener, Bonner, Boner.”

For the record. It’s BAY-ner. 

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