Nearly a decade ago, congressional Republicans tried to create a debt-ceiling crisis, and then-President Barack Obama and his team drew a hard line against the GOP's radical tactics.
Dan Pfeiffer, a senior aide to Obama, said in 2013 that the White House "is for cutting spending. We're for reforming our tax code, for reforming entitlements. What we're not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest."
Republicans were livid. Sure, they were threatening to crash the economy on purpose. And sure, they said they were prepared to deliberately hurt millions of families unless their far-right demands were met to their satisfaction. And sure, Republican leaders explicitly touted the value of taking American "hostages." But, they added, just because GOP lawmakers were engaged in dangerous political violence hardly justified comparing them to terrorists.
It was a reminder that in American politics, certain insults are common, but attacking a foe as a "terrorist" is an exceedingly incendiary move. It's against this backdrop that former House Speaker John Boehner sat down with CBS News' John Dickerson to talk about the Ohio Republican's new book.
It's a poison that Boehner says affects both parties, but is further along in his own. Dickerson said, "You call some of these members political terrorists." Boehner replied, "Oh, yeah, Jim Jordan especially, my colleague from Ohio. I just never saw a guy who spent more time tearing things apart, never building anything, never putting anything together."
In the interview that CBS aired yesterday, Boehner added, in reference to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), "I don't beat anybody up, it's not really my style, except that jerk. Perfect symbol, you know, of getting elected, make a lotta noise, draw a lot of attention to yourself, raise a lotta money, which means you're gonna go make more noise, raise more money."
I'm mindful of the commercial circumstances. There may not have been much of a market for a book written by an unaccomplished former House Speaker, six years after his retirement, so the more provocative his rhetoric in the book, the more likely it is to generate attention and sales.
To that end, Boehner, free to speak his mind, is comfortable using labels such as "morons" to describe some of his own former GOP members, and accusing Donald Trump of having "incited" a "bloody insurrection" on Jan. 6.
But evidently, that wasn't quite enough, and so Boehner also relied on phrasing such as "political terrorists." Whereas some Democrats have used similar framing, especially in response to Republicans engaging in acts of political violence, those criticisms have been used broadly to criticize party-wide efforts.
Boehner, meanwhile, is now comfortable describing specific individuals as "political terrorists."
To appreciate the distance between the Republican Party's old guard and its radical contemporaries, look no further than the rhetoric from the GOP's former House Speaker.