Obama vs. Boehner

By Kathleen Parker
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How worried are Democrats? V-E-R-Y.

Let's take it from the top.

President Obama spent Labor Day reminding Americans that he's the cool one, the "Yes, we can" one, the rolled-up-sleeves one. He never named Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner explicitly, but he clearly was aiming for the man who, if things go as they seem to be going, will be the next speaker of the House.

Speaking to Laborfest in Milwaukee, Obama referred to "the Republican who thinks he's going to take over as speaker . . . I'm just saying, that's his opinion."

His shirt sleeves rolled up as workingman politicos always do, Obama all but said: "Pay no attention to the man with the fake tan."

And, he said: "Somebody out here was yelling, 'Yes, we can.' Remember that was our slogan?" (Yes, we remember.) "Their slogan is 'No, we can't!' Nope! No! No! No!"

Except, oh dear, yes they can. And "no" is a pretty sound position when the nation is careening off a cliff.

Obama's Midwestern jobs push carries a hint of the little boy doing cartwheels to get attention. He has a playlist of favorite songs and he keeps hitting replay in hopes of resurrecting the old magic. It's not working.

Next up: Cleveland, for an economic speech to counter the one Boehner gave last month in which he called on the president to fire his economic team. Even many Democrats share the view that Tim Geithner and Larry Summers should be enjoying a beach somewhere, but Obama apparently prefers to double down. By singling out Boehner, even going to the minority leader's home state, suggests either churlish theater or desperation. The national mood would imply the latter.

As a theatergoer, however, one could hardly ask for better. The Obama emblem of hope and change vs. Boehner, the symbol of "no."

So goes the script. But the men have some things in common. Both are smokers (Obama still sneaks a few) and both like to play golf. Both are cool cats. Why not sit back and enjoy the show?

No one is enjoying Obama's attempt to demonize Boehner more than Boehner. Even this is a replay. The White House seems to relish playing target practice with an enemy du jour and, in the process, elevating its prey. When the administration singled out Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party, no one was more delighted than Limbaugh.

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