Here is the cool debate that's happening in Washington right now. At the height of tensions over the government shutdown, did a Republican say something super mean to President Obama? We don't know! But probably not? But maybe!
The rumored "dis" was reported by Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois. On Sunday, Durbin posted a message on Facebook explaining why Obama didn't work harder to placate Republicans.
[I]n a "negotiation" meeting with the president, one GOP House Leader told the president: "I cannot even stand to look at you."
What are the chances of an honest conversation with someone who has just said something so disrespectful?
Whaaaaaaat. That's some serious fifth-grade level nastiness right there. That is the sort of thing that furious women in movies from the 1950s would say during horrible fights with their boyfriends while stamping their feet. Did this GOP House Leader also say, "You are the living end?" Only Durbin knows for sure! Or someone does, anyway. Durbin didn't say who told him that or if he overheard it; it's not clear whether or not the senator was present at any such meetings.
Boehner's office: Durbin "should disclose who told him this account of events, retract his reckless allegation immediately, and apologize."— E McMorris-Santoro (@EvanMcSan) October 23, 2013
The GOP House leaders, obviously concerned about looking like dorks, quickly responded. There are four of them: Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Whip Kevin McCarthy, and caucus chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Boehner and Cantor's offices both denied having said any such thing; the Speaker's spokeman called on Durbin to apologize and so on. It seems unlikely it was McCarthy or McMorris Rodgers, unless it was one of those littler-guy-in-the-back-also-talks-smack-but-does-so-kinda-quietly-so-he-isn't-heard sort of things.
We're inclined to believe Boehner's assertion, by the way, in part because 1) he told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go fuck himself in the White House in January and then 2) didn't deny doing it. Seems unlikely that Boehner would use the f-word with Reid and then say something so nerdy and docile Obama, but who knows, what with politics these days!
During his press conference on Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney denied that anyone said that mean thing to Obama.
Carney: I looked into this and spoke with somebody who was in that meeting — and it did not happen.
Reporter: Did the White House speak to Senator Durbin about this?
Carney: I don't know. My understanding is that, again, from participants in the meeting that that didn't happen.
The solution is simple. Put the Republican leaders in a room and videotape them as Obama stands in front of them. If all of them can, in fact, look at the president, Durbin is wrong. If one can't, the Democrats win politics forever and Obama gets to make everything Socialist.
Update, 5:00 p.m.:
Durbin spokesperson Max Gleischman said, “Senator Durbin stands by his comments.” http://t.co/p3IgNkClBQ— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) October 23, 2013
No word on whether or not they're going to take our suggestion on a solution.
Update, Thursday: The culprit may have been found! The Huffington Post reports that Senate Majority Leader told Democratic senators last week that Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, chairman of the House Rules Committee, uttered the fateful phrase.
The two senators who spoke to HuffPost did not hear the Republican make the remark, but said a top White House aide who was present later told Senate Democratic leaders that the lawmaker who said he couldn't stand to look at the president was Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Rules Committee. (The senators requested anonymity to talk about it; neither of them are Durbin.)
Sessions is a member of the galaxy of House Republican leaders; we apologize for omitting him from our list above.