Bashing Boehner: Game on
Can President Obama convince America that John Boehner is bad for America?
It escaped no one's notice this week that the president is suddenly running against the putative speaker of the House. And let's face it: he badly needs an opponent.
(By the way, who was that fired-up guy in shirtsleeves in Ohio and Wisconsin this week? The Obama of 2008 seemed to be back, leaving some Democrats wondering why he put his passion in a blind trust these past 19 months.)
Now there's one flaw in the plan: I bet the number of Americans who know who Boehner is is smaller than the number who know Obama is a Christian.
In short, Boehner is no Newt Gingrich. (Or even Nancy Pelosi, the right's favorite pinata.) He's a low-key man with a perpetual tan and a fondness for the word "no." Turning him into a bogeyman isn't going to be easy.
Also, I hope Mitch McConnell isn't offended.
Some have argued that the POTUS is "punching down" by going after the Ohio congressman. But Obama faces a difficult media narrative. He has been running against public dissatisfaction, conservative opposition and liberal frustration with an anemic economy chained to his leg. His "Republicans drove the car into the ditch" wasn't resonating. Even his successes--such as health-care reform--had turned into liabilities.
By mentioning "Mr. Boehner" eight times in his Ohio speech, the president has given the media a new story line. Why does Boehner want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the rich, why is Boehner opposing business tax cuts, and on and on.
That also elevates the Ohio Republican for the inevitable pushback, but that's politics. Obama needs a foil.
The White House and the Democrats grumble that the GOP doesn't have much of a plan, that Republicans are merely running on the anti-Obama ticket. Which ought to be a familiar tactic, since the Dems ran on the anti-Bush ticket in 2006 and 2008.
If you hear the president keep on mentioning the minority leader, you'll know the White House thinks the Boehner plan is working. Maybe most Americans will even learn how to pronounce his name.
At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum says the frequent mentions of Boehner in Ohio "suggests something interesting: was this just because Boehner is a local boy who happened to have given a speech in Cleveland a few weeks before? Or is this part of a broader strategy to nationalize the election around Boehner's neck? I don't think this would change the course of the election or anything, but if it's the latter I'll bet it's a good idea.
"Boehner is well tanned and has a great TV voice, but he comes across (to me, anyway) as robotic and evasive, sort of a junior grade Mitt Romney. If Democrats put Boehner front and center ('Do you trust this man to be Speaker of the House?') it might damage the Republican brand a bit. He's not their best spokesman...
"Given the de facto parliamentarization1 of our political system, making sure the public knows who the opposition leader is might be better politics than in the past."
At NBC's First Read, Chuck Todd and friends say:
"The question has now become: Why elevate Boehner? A reasonable response: Why not? As our own NBC/WSJ poll showed, nearly six in 10 respondents believe that Republicans will have different economic ideas than Bush's if they take control of Congress. So Democrats might as well define Boehner. What else do they have to run on at this point? The White House needs an opponent. Our poll shows Bush might not be an effective opponent anymore, so they need someone they can run against."
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter says Obama should challenge Boehner to a series of debates. Yes, really.
And what would Speaker Boehner do?
"Republicans recognize they won't be able to do any broad governing even if they take back the House; they'd hold just one chamber of Congress, or at most one branch of government, if they also win the Senate," says Politico. "So officials familiar with the early discussions say they've centered on undoing key parts of the Obama agenda and repositioning Republicans as the party of fiscal responsibility heading into 2012 -- a mantle the GOP surrendered during the big-spending George W. Bush years.
"The plans presently under discussion include defunding some parts of the new health care law and delaying implementation of others, withholding some of the unspent stimulus funds and using the oversight power of Republican-led committees to investigate the Obama administration."
They could certainly gear up the investigative machinery, but for everything else, it takes two-thirds to override a veto.
Footnote: Boehner will be on with Bob Schieffer Sunday on "Face the Nation."
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