Gov. Ned Lamont spoke with former Speaker of the House John Boehner about his new memoir, “On the House,” in a Zoom conversation hosted by independent bookstore RJ Julia Booksellers of Madison on Friday.
The two politicians discussed political polarization, and Boehner shared thoughts and memories of working with President Barack Obama, President Joe Biden, Sen. Ted Cruz, and more. A member of the Republican Party, Boehner served in Congress from 1991 to 2015, and as Speaker for the last four years of his tenure. In a nod to Boehner’s book cover, and well-known love of Merlot, Lamont joined the morning book talk with a wine glass full of pomegranate juice.
While Boehner lamented how Democrats and Republicans have drifted farther apart on policy and politics, Lamont shared his optimism about bipartisanship on the state level.
“Here in Connecticut, polarized and divided, but I think a little bit over the course of this last year with COVID, we began rowing in the same direction,” Lamont said. “I got sued about wearing masks and stuff, but that was a minority. I think Republicans were pretty helpful on the table. I’m a Democrat, but we were working in the same direction, and yesterday we passed a bipartisan budget, which doesn’t happen every day.”
Lamont also asked Boehner for advice on how best to work with legislators.
“When you play a lot of team sports, you understand you have to rely on your partner, you have to support your teammate,” Boehner said. “I think running the state government is the same thing. If I was the governor, I’d have very close relationships with both houses of the legislature, both parties, where they have a clear idea of what you’re trying to accomplish and you have a clear idea of what their challenges or desires are.”
Boehner also weighed in on Lamont’s push to legalize recreational marijuana in Connecticut. The former Speaker strongly opposed legalization during his time in Congress, but in 2018, he joined the board of a cannabis company and now supports states moving to legalize.
In response to an audience question about his thoughts on the issue, Boehner said his opinions have evolved, particularly due to conversations with veterans who use the drug to help with PTSD or pain. He also said he expected Connecticut to move in a similar direction as neighboring states.
“I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of where Connecticut’s going, and what the views of people in Connecticut are — but not like the Governor — so I’m sure he and the legislature will figure it out,” Boehner said.
In response, Lamont said he was sure he would figure it out, but shared his surprise at the lack of significant bipartisan support for the proposal.
“I am surprised in this sense, in the old days the Republican party was a little more libertarian, get the government off our backs, out of our private lives, and you’d think this would be the type of issue where they might say, get the government out of our lives, this is a decision privately we can make ourselves,” Lamont said.