Boehner Would “Talk About” Stepping Down for DeLay

Newly elected House Majority Leader John Boehner was cagey this morning when asked by Meet the PRess host Tim Russert if he’d step aside for Tom DeLay if the former Leader were acquitted of the charges he’s facing in Texas. Judd Legum provides the transcript:

RUSSERT: If he [DeLay] is acquitted and chooses to come back to Washington and wants to become Majority Leader again, would you step aside?

BOEHNER: I’m sure we would talk about it. Tom and I have a different approach.

RUSSERT: You would talk about it?

BOEHNER: Tom and I have a different approaches. But I think what’s going on in Texas with tom DeLay is unfortunate, unfair, and highly partisan. And that’s why I gave him that money out of my PAC to help him pay for his tremendous legal fees.

RUSSERT: But if he’s acquitted and decided to come back to Washington and reclaim the Majority Leader position, you would consider it?

BOEHNER: He stepped down as Majority Leader. He vacated his seat. We had an election and I won. But I like Tom Delay. He’s been a great leader for our party. He’s a friend of mine. And we’re going to continue to work closely together.

RUSSERT: But you would step aside for him?

BOEHNER: I said we would talk about it.

Judd’s take: “Meet the new boss. Placeholder for the old boss.” That’s probably reading too much into it. Boehner is likely just being polite about a former boss who is quite unlikely to re-emerge as a contender for the leadership even if he is acquitted.

Still, I’d much preferred for Boehner to have flat out stated that, while he believes the criminal process is being used against DeLay for partisan political purposes, the former Leader had nonetheless taken the party in the wrong direction with the K-Street Project and that he had no intention of turning the party back over to him without a fight. I understand why he felt constrained not to say that, of course, but it would have been refreshing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.