Why Obama Doesn't Want It With Boehner

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A feud between the President Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner is brewing.


It began when Boehner said financial reform was like "killing an ant with a nuclear weapon." The Democratic message machine immediately pounced, and Boehner was criticized from all corners.

Obama got involved, mocking Boehner at a town-hall event in Wisconsin without actually mentioning his name.

"This is the same financial crisis that led to the loss of nearly 8 million jobs," Obama said. "He can't be that out of touch with the struggles of American families."

Boehner fired back at a press conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, calling Obama a whiner.

"For someone who asked to be held to a higher standard, President Obama spends an awful lot of time making excuses and whining about others," the minority leader said. "The American people want leadership from this White House and not childish partisanship."

Democrats think they have the edge in this one, as financial reform is popular, and Washington Post/ABC polling has shown that Obama has a 52% to 35% approval advantage over congressional Republicans in handling it.

But, despite Obama's popularity edge, there is a big drawback in getting into a protracted back-and-forth with the House minority leader: it puts Obama and Boehner on the same level.

This presumably is why Obama didn't say Boehner's name during the town-hall in Wisconsin. He wanted to keep is criticism of Republicans general, widely applied to the party, rather than granting a name and face to his enemy.

As minority leader, Boehner sits in lower standing than the president. Everyone in America knows who Barack Obama is. Not everyone knows who the House minority leader is. On top of that, Boehner is not taken very seriously by Democrats; this is true of many, many prominent GOP figures, but they enjoy laughing at Boehner, ridiculing him as if he's insignificant and untethered from reality, motivated solely by his own political greed. That's what they think of him.

While it may feel good at first to see the president to criticize him, Democrats probably wouldn't enjoy a protracted spat between Boehner and Obama. At some point, they would ask, why address his criticisms? At the same time, Boehner gets more publicity, has far less to lose, and would be cheered by Republicans for "taking on" the powerful president as a courageous and principled underdog.

It's the same reason Jay-Z doesn't want to get into it with The Game. At some point, it's better to brush your shoulders off and move on.
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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