WaPo: Will Boehner Be Dumped by 'Feverish' Tea Party Hotheads?

Sunday’s Washington Post Magazine features House Speaker John Boehner on the cover, and next to his face are the words "While the SPEAKER battles against the Democrats, is his BIGGEST THREAT from his own party?" (All the words are capitalized, actually, but "Speaker" and "biggest threat" are much larger.)

Post reporter Michael Leahy spent several pages wondering if the "Young Guns" directly under Boehner will eventually overtake him if he’s not "feverish" enough for the conservative base. It’s accurate, even positive, to cast new House members as "feisty" and "aggressive," but beware those Tea Party hotheads when they’re "feverish" – metaphorically, not medically, of course:

The House has a freshman class of 87 GOP members, whose most impassioned supporters — outspoken conservatives and tea party loyalists who have long voiced suspicions about Boehner’s passion for their causes — are poised to rebel against any deep compromises that Boehner might make on hot-button fiscal issues. The new members know they ignore those feverish supporters at their peril.

Has the Washington Post ever used the words "feverish liberal" in a sentence? Leahy played up how vulnerable Boehner was, which is not exactly how the Post portrayed Nancy Pelosi:

How Boehner navigates these tripwires in the next few months, trying to finesse Democrats and his party’s fervent conservatives, will likely determine the fate of his speakership. Any serious miscalculation might incite a challenge from a key lieutenant or insurgent, a possibility keenly understood by close friends of Boehner’s, who remember his stunning loss of a party leadership position during the ’90s.

Notice how Democrats are merely "Democrats" while conservatives are "fervent"? Boehner had been a top lieutenant to Newt the Conservative Tornado:

In 1994, Georgia Rep. Newt Gingrich, the party’s new ideological whirlwind, asked the young congressman for help drafting a Gingrich-inspired conservative manifesto, the "Contract With America," a platform on which Republicans hoped to seize control of the House.

Boehner might be abandoned before the conservatives commit political hara-kiri:

The ranks of the dissidents have steadily grown. Several freshmen have joined Ohio congressman Jim Jordan and other prominent figures on the Republican Study Committee — a House caucus dedicated to steep cuts — to steadfastly pressure Boehner. Even ordinarily diplomatic Republican members see no upside in pretending they will necessarily follow Boehner’s lead. "Some of us would fight it out rather than accept a deal ..." says Patrick McHenry of North Carolina. "I think that Boehner understands that line between getting a deal and fighting it out. ... We’re not going to walk off the cliff just because the person in front of us is walking off the cliff."

But then, Leahy and many reporters start to sort of like Boehner the more he looks to "feverish" conservatives like Bob Dole:

Boehner sometimes blurs work with play. "John’s just always had this ability to relax and make everything look just so darn easy, even in tough times," Armey says.

[Eric] Cantor typically works 14-to-16-hour days. "If Cantor has a drink with you," one longtime comrade jokes, "he’s probably coming with a printed agenda."

By the very end of the story, a Post Magazine reader might begin to think he’s been duped into this theory that Boehner is incredibly vulnerable to being dumped. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a second-term representative heavily quoted in the story, concludes "Anybody who’s underestimated him has already paid for it."  

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis