Sometime in the late 1990s, House Speaker John Boehner, then chairman of the House GOP Conference, shared with me one of his top political rules of thumb during a cigarette break in the Speaker's Lobby just off the House floor.
Explaining why Republicans had been unusually mum during a debate the Democrats were in the process of losing, Boehner said, "Never attack your opponent when he's in the process of committing suicide."
It made a lot of sense at the time, but it clearly won't be the guiding principle in the 2012 presidential campaign, which is shaping up to be quite a nasty affair. After Republicans committed multiple rhetorical blunders on women's health issues recently, President Obama had a rubbing-it-in fest when he addressed a group of several hundred politically active women on Friday. The GOP's position against requiring coverage of contraception in health plans was especially "illuminating," Obama told the Women's Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C. "It was like being in a time machine," he quipped.
"We've got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can't be trusted to make your own decisions. They're pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don't want one," Obama said, adding, in a reference to a comment by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett: "If you don't like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can 'Close your eyes.' It's appalling, it's offensive, and it's out of touch."