Boehner in Boise: ‘Whale of a fight’ line widely cited

House Speaker John Boehner’s comments about leveraging the necessity to raise the U.S. debt ceiling to win entitlement reform have been frequently republished and scrolled across television screens this week.

Among those citing the Idaho Statesman’s coverage of Boehner’s remarks at Monday’s fundraiser for GOP Congressman Mike Simpson are the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.

Said Boehner: “I’ve made it clear that we’re not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.

“The president doesn’t think this is fair, thinks I’m being difficult to deal with. But I’ll say this: It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process to produce more change than what it would produce if left to its own devices. We’re going to have a whale of a fight.”

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell spent the first 15 minutes of Tuesday night’s edition of “The Last Word,” reading Boehner’s quotes and flashing a “Whale of a Fight” logo featuring Boehner and President Obama, both looking grim.

O’Donnell, a liberal commentator, marveled at Boehner making Boise a stop on his 35-day bus tour on behalf of GOP House candidates. “Idaho is the Vatican of Republicanism!” O’Donnell shouts. “His campaign energy is being used up in Idaho now fighting against an even crazier Republican than the incumbent!”

Simpson raised more than $95,000 at the Boise Center, with 430 attending a $50 lunch and 36 at a round table for high-dollar contributors. Simpson, who most Idahoans consider entirely sane, is facing tea party challenger Bryan Smith. Simpson hasn’t had a close race since his first contest in 1998.

Appearing on O’Donnell’s show was Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who wrote in a Wednesday column that a battle over raising the debt ceiling could mean “a financial crisis of epic proportions.”

“None of the safe outcomes are likely,” writes Klein. “None of them even look particularly plausible, at least right now. And that’s scary.”

More amusing coverage came from the left-wing Huffington Post, where political reporter Arthur Delaney likens Boehner to Captain Ahab losing all in his quest to slay “Moby Dick.”

“I think there’s a real John Boehner-Captain Ahab thing going on here,” says Delaney in a video accompanying an online story. Delaney allows that he’s an English major and highly recommends an annotated version of “Moby Dick.” (BONUS QUESTION FOR COMMENT: I put the over/under on Delaney’s age at 28. What’s your guess?)

My review of the stories quoting Boehner suggests the left was more interested than the right.

For example, a New York Times editorial Wednesday dinged Boehner, saying, “Instead of reminding lawmakers that they are obligated to pay for the debts they voted to incur, he is once again waving the dull saber of default.”

Other liberal outlets picking up the story include The New Republic, Talking Points Memo and The Atlantic.

But conservatives also took notice, including John Hinderaker, whose Powerline post is titled, “The Democratic Party Lies for Money.” Hinderaker includes a cartoon of a donkey in a police lineup holding a “LIAR” sign.

Hinderaker unearthed a wildly inaccurate fundraising email from the Democratic Congressional  Campaign Committee, alleging Boehner is “actually threatening President Obama with this appalling choice: either agree to dismantle Medicare and Social Security — OR risk the full faith and credit of the United States.”

Hinderaker correctly pointed out that’s not what Boehner said. Rather, he was talking about leveraging the debt ceiling to accomplish reforms that sensible Democrats and Republicans have long acknowledged are necessary. To repeat Boehner’s words: “we’re not going to increase the debt limit without cuts and reforms that are greater than the increase in the debt limit.”

The story also was picked up by the Inside-the-Beltway troika of The Hill, Roll Call and Politico.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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