A little perspective for you.
The best Speaker in history was Tom Reed. Czar Reed, 1890s. Must have weighed 300 pounds, and smart as a whip – in a debate he could cut you down with a single sentence, quicker than his good friend Mark Twain. When Reed became Speaker, the House was total chaos. The Democrats were in the minority, and they stopped the whole House dead with a thing called the disappearing quorum. Reed needed a quorum to vote on anything, so the Democrats would just tell the clerk to list them absent, even though they were sitting right there. So Reed called a vote one day, and the Democrats tried to list themselves absent. Reed told the clerk to list them present anyway. The Democrats started screaming at him. Reed said something like “McCreary, I am ruling that you’re present. Are you going to stand right in front of me and tell me you’re not standing there?”
Then the Democrats tried to run out of the building, but Reed locked the doors. One old codger managed to kick his way through the door and run away. Then they tried to hide under their desks, but Reed could still see them. Then they tried rulebook tricks to block the vote. Took three days but Reed beat them. New rules, the Reed Rules. When the Democrats took over the House, they got rid of the Reed Rules. But Reed was still there, and he always managed to get his Republicans out of the building before a big vote, so the Democrats were forced to admit they were wrong, and they put the Reed Rules back. Since then, the House has run much more smoothly….until Boehner.
There are those who argue that Henry Clay was the best Speaker. Although Clay did make the position a very powerful one, he mostly did it in aid of his real goal, unnecessary wars with England. That, and using the power of his position to help his own banks.
A good nominee for second best Speaker was Nicholas Longworth, 1920s. Like Reed he was a Republican, but he listened to the Democrats. Longworth even set up a thing called the “Board of Education”, which was actually an alcohol-fueled poker game in a tiny room in the Capitol, for both Republicans and Democrats. While they were drinking and playing, they also settled pretty much all the nation’s business by figuring out the legislation that needed to get through the House. They invited young members to take a look at them and see how they handled poker and whiskey, and they occasionally invited key political players from outside the House. Harry Truman was with them when got the call that FDR had died. Two other members of the “Board” also became speakers who did great service to their country, Jack Garner and Sam Rayburn, both of whom learned plenty from Longworth. The point being that Longworth could talk easily to both parties and get things done, something which was at least theoretically the standard….until Boehner.
Boehner, as of tonight, can’t even unite his own GOP caucus to get their own bill passed on the floor. Even though they have a majority. And his inability to lead even the Republicans in the House, is going to destroy the economy. His party’s obstructive efforts on things like budgets and the debt have already cost almost a million jobs, and now even a short default will cost more than two million more jobs. For my money, he is our worst Speaker ever, even worse than Newt.