The Corner

Context

A week ago, I sat down with House Republican Leader John Boehner in his Capitol office. We had a conversation about the upcoming health-care vote and how it’d play come November. When I asked him about the political consequences for pro-life Democrats, he predicted that a yea vote wouldn’t be forgotten by voters, and used a neighboring Ohio congressman to make his point: 

Boehner says there will be major political consequences for pro-life Democrats who break from the Stupak bloc. “Take [Rep.] Steve Driehaus, for example,” he says. “He may be a dead man. He can’t go home to the west side of Cincinnati. The Catholics will run him out of town.”

The words were a bit strong, to be sure, but Boehner was, without question, talking politics, not violence. Since the interview ran on National Review Online, it has been cited by many outlets — often unattributed and without context — from Good Morning America to CNN. And there is the problem. Boehner wasn’t talking about Driehaus coming under threat, but how he’ll be a “political dead man.” As you probably know, it’s not some obscure term. A Google search shows 42,900 results for the phrase. In politics, people use it on a daily basis, just like Boehner.

Driehaus, for his part, called the remark “irresponsible” and “wildly out of bounds.” Maybe that’s your take, but in this case, as the one in the room, I think the context matters — especially as these “health-care vote stirs violence” stories continue to pop up, with the above Boehner quote tagged on.

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