Before we leave the “fiscal cliff” altogether, remember that this interaction happened.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner (Associated Press / Jacquelyn Martin)
As reported in Politico by John Bresnahan, Carrie Budoff Brown, Manu Raju and Jake Sherman:
House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday.
It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal.
“Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present.
Reid, a bit startled, replied: “What are you talking about?”
Boehner repeated: “Go f— yourself.”
There is nothing like being forced to repeat a withering insult that you have just leveled at someone after he responds, “What are you talking about?”
The one thing I miss about pre-Internet life, though, is the euphemistic contortions that reporting this sort of typical statement used to demand. “The speaker of the House told the Senate majority leader that he hoped he would take more pleasure than usual in his own company.” “The speaker of the House urged the Senate majority leader to go consummate his acquaintanceship with himself, in no uncertain terms. The Senate majority leader responded by asking to know what this was regarding.” “Today the speaker of the House made an anatomically impossible request of the Senate majority leader.”
Of course, we know what he said either way.
Political insults have always been with us. This is one of the canonical examples. As overall interactions go, this one lacks some of the creativity and flair of bygone days
(“Mr. Wilkes, I don’t know whether you’ll die on the gallows or of the pox!” “T
hat depends, my lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.”) But it still gets the job done.
Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".