In recent weeks, we've seen high-profile Republicans struggle with the meaning of some basic words. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) doesn't know what "compromise" means; Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) doesn't know what "hypocrisy" means; Indiana's Richard Mourdock doesn't know what "bipartisan" means; and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doesn't seem to know what "divisive" means.
Yesterday, however, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested he doesn't know what "threaten" means.
NBC News asked Boehner about his intention to hold the nation hostage again next year when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling. "Whoa, I'm not threatening default."
I don't mean to sound picky, but when you effectively argue, "Give me what I want or I'll push the country to default," that's what "threatening default" means. The Speaker is playing a strange semantics game in which he's declared he'll refuse to raise the debt limit, deliberately trash the full faith and credit of the United States, and push the nation into default, on purpose, unless Democrats cave to his demands.
Now he's also saying, "I'm not threatening default." It seems Boehner (a) doesn't understand his own strategy; (b) doesn't want to tell the truth; or (c) doesn't understand what "threaten" means.
For his part, President Obama met with congressional leaders yesterday, explaining that he's not going to play this game again, and 2013 won't offer a sequel to 2011.
Over the last 72 years -- before 2011 -- Congress raised the debt ceiling 89 times, and in each instance, policymakers resisted the urge to hold America hostage. As far as Obama is concerned, the Republican-created crisis last year was an aberration that will not be repeated.
GOP leaders obviously believe the opposite, setting the stage for an extraordinary game of chicken next year, if Obama's still the president and Boehner's still the Speaker.
Postscript: In the above clip, you'll notice that Boehner also asked for the president's debt-reduction plan. Obama's proposal for $4 trillion on debt reduction has been online for months, and it's actually far more effective and more detailed than anything the Speaker's caucus has prepared on the same issue.