Boehner Strikes a Pose

Per Mike Allen, Minority Leader John Boehner plans to lacerate President Obama for referring to Republican candidates as "enemies," a phrase that presidents are only supposed to use in times of war to refer to actual enemies of the state. A far cry from the man who promised to bridge divisions and heal Washington.  

Boehner won't refer to the Republican candidates who have cast aspersions on Democratic members of Congress or American Muslims or other Americans as "enemies," as Fifth Columnists, during this campaign. There are plenty of places to debate who dropped the E .... word ... first in 2010. (Did Bill Clinton privately refer to his Republican impeachment posse as enemies? You betcha. Did Karl Rove try to subtly cast Democrats as against us in the 2002 and 2004 campaigns? Of course.)

From Boehner's planned remarks:
   
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as 'our enemies.' Think about that. He actually used that word. When Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush used the word 'enemy,' they reserved it for global terrorists and foreign dictators -- enemies of the United States. Enemies of freedom. Enemies of our country. Today, sadly, we have president who uses the word 'enemy' for fellow Americans -- fellow citizens. He uses it for people who disagree with his agenda of bigger government -- people speaking out for a smaller, more accountable government that respects freedom and allows small businesses to create jobs. Mr. President, there's a word for people who have the audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution, and the values of limited government that made our country great. We don't call them 'enemies.' We call them 'patriots.'"
1. Obama's word choice may have been poor, but his intent was obviously much less calumnious than Boehner would have us believe. Nevertheless, Boehner's tone tells us something: he is preparing to be the friendly, cigar-smoking back-slapper that he's known to be. But he's also going to be an aggressive Speaker-to-be SOB who may be confrontational with President Obama off the bat. 

2. Boehner's first task as leader of the majority in the House will be to avoid a leadership challenge or even hints of one. The best way to do that is to adopt the language of the Tea Party insurgency: constitutionalism, limited government and freedom, etc. It will also help for him to pick a big symbolic fight with Democrats and the President early on. At some point, he is going to have to disappoint the Tea Partiers in his conference if he wants to pass legislation, so the earlier he establishes his credibility with them, the better.
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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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