Boehner Chides Obama over "Enemies"

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks on jobs and the economy at the City Club of Cleveland, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010. AP

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks on jobs and the economy at the City Club of Cleveland, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2010.
AP

Updated: 5:30 PM ET

It's been a good old-fashioned gun fight, sans guns, an almost no-holds barred MMA (mixed martial arts) battle with $4 billion in campaign funds to blast some outrageous images and rhetoric at voters. Now that the shouting is nearly over, voters will finally have their say. It's likely the the GOP will have a sweeping victory in the House, according to most polls, and Ohio Rep. John Boehner is poised to become speaker of the House.

Boehner has been a point of the spear for the GOP's fight to block the Democratic agenda, take back the House and Senate, and take on President Obama. Tonight, he is expected to deliver a speech in which he paints Mr. Obama as bitterly partisan, viewing the GOP as "enemies" based on a remark he made to Univision radio.

"If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, 'We're gonna punish our enemies, and we're gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us' -- if they don't see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election -- then I think it's going to be harder. And that's why I think it's so important that people focus on voting on November 2nd."

Following are Boehner's prepared remarks for a rally in Cincinnati on the eve of the election:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as 'our enemies.' Think about that. He actually used that word. When Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush used the word 'enemy,' they reserved it for global terrorists and foreign dictators -- enemies of the United States. Enemies of freedom. Enemies of our country. Today, sadly, we have president who uses the word 'enemy' for fellow Americans -- fellow citizens. He uses it for people who disagree with his agenda of bigger government -- people speaking out for a smaller, more accountable government that respects freedom and allows small businesses to create jobs. Mr. President, there's a word for people who have the audacity to speak up in defense of freedom, the Constitution, and the values of limited government that made our country great. We don't call them 'enemies.' We call them 'patriots.'"

Based on midterm election rhetoric and ads, Mr. Obama is not exactly considered a friend or even "frenemy" to the GOP. However, "foe" or "opponent" would have been a better choice of words for his remarks to Latino voters.

Speaking at a rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, this weekend, Boehner said he would be more of a uniter, not a divider following the election.

"Understand this: if we are lucky enough to be in the majority in the U.S. House and I am lucky enough to be the next speaker of the House, it's going to be different, and not just different than it is today under Democrat control, but different than when Republicans last had the chance to govern in Washington, D.C." 

The difference, Boehner said, is having "Americans come together and have an adult conversation with each other about the serious challenges that our country faces."

If the GOP and Boehner are successful tomorrow, behind closed doors they will talk about vanquishing the opponent...or enemy. But they no longer will be able to blame Mr. Obama and his party for all that has angered the American voters.

Update: 5:30 PM ET

Mr. Obama addressed his "enemies" comment in an interview today with talk radio host Michael Baisden (see below). He said that he should have used the word, "opponents," rather than "enemies." According to his language parsing, presumably some Republicans candidates are "opponents," not "enemies," of provisions, such as comprehensive immigration reform. Understood?

"And you know, it's interesting right now, there was a -- I had a conversation with a Hispanic radio outlet, Univision, and during the course of that conversation, one of the things that I had to say to the Latino community, which is frustrated that we haven't seen progress on immigration reform, was that they can't sit out of this election. There were arguments being made that because Democrats hadn't gotten this done, that Latinos should vote against Democrats or just sit out the election."

"And I said, well, you can't punish your friends when -- the folks who've been supporting it. Now, I did also say if you're going to punish somebody, punish your enemies, and I probably should have used the word, "opponents" instead of enemies. Now the Republicans are saying that I'm calling them enemies. What I'm saying is you're an opponent of this particular provision, comprehensive immigration reform, which is something very different."

"But the key issue here is that if you are supportive of comprehensive immigration reform, if you are supportive of health care reform, if you are supportive of making sure that credit card companies are treating us fairly, making sure that banks are properly regulated so they don't end up getting taxpayer bailouts -- if you support those things, then you've got to support those who helped to put those provisions into law. And you've got to make sure that those who are opposed to that legislation, that they get a clear message that they shouldn't be standing in the way of the progress, but rather we should be moving this country forward."

  • Dan Farber On Twitter»

    Dan has more than 20 years of journalism experience. He has served as editor in chief of CBSNews.com, CNET News, ZDNet, PC Week, and MacWeek.

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