John Boehner speech falls victim to latest in spin: the 'prebuttal'

John Boehner, House Republican leader, hadn't even delivered his speech on the economy Tuesday morning before Democrats had attacked with a 'prebuttal' – responding to a news event before it happens.

Mark Duncan/AP
House minority leader John Boehner speaks on jobs and the economy at the City Club of Cleveland Tuesday morning.

By the time House Republican leader John Boehner stood up to speak at the City Club of Cleveland at 8 a.m. (Eastern time) Tuesday, his speech had already been criticized by the Democratic National Committee on Monday during a phone-in press conference, triggered a sarcastic Monday afternoon response to the DNC conference call by a Boehner spokesman, and been the subject of a blog post at 6 a.m. Tuesday by White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer.

And for good measure, on Monday evening the DNC released a video attacking Representative Boehner, saying he had invented the ways of Washington.

It wasn’t so long ago that news events actually occurred before the effort began to spin them for the media.

One reason Boehner’s speech gathered so much attention is that he is the presumptive favorite to become speaker if Republicans take control of the House in November’s elections. Another is that Democrats know the sour state of the US economy is a major drag on their prospects in the midterms. That fact was underscored Tuesday when the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes plunged 27 percent in July to their lowest level in 15 years. That makes it feel especially important to Democrats to counter Boehner’s critique of President Obama’s economic policies.

The headline in Boehner’s speech was a call for the president’s two top economic advisers – Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers – to resign.

“It’s time to put grown-ups in charge,” Boehner said. Boehner also restated his call to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, even those for the wealthiest Americans.

A not-to-be-overlooked reason for all the focus on the Boehner speech is that it is August in Washington, and most political players – including Mr. Obama – are out of town on vacation. That leaves the political operatives here and on duty with time on their hands.

The DNC conference call Monday afternoon featured party vice chairman and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida and Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. Representative Wasserman Schultz charged that Boehner “has not abandoned the previous agenda that got us into the ditch in the first place.”

Kevin Smith, a spokesman for Boehner, sent political reporters an e-mail that said: “By now I’m sure you know that our Democratic friends are all spun up over the economic speech Leader Boehner will deliver tomorrow morning in Cleveland. We thank them for helping promote his speech in advance.”

The White House prebuttal early Tuesday led with the charge that Boehner wanted “a return to the economic policies that turned a [budget] surplus into record deficits and helped create the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

The tactical maneuvering surrounding Boehner’s speech is likely to be forgotten when results from primaries in Arizona, Florida, Alaska, Vermont, and Oklahoma begin coming in Tuesday evening.

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