BOEHNER (SORT OF) REJECTS ‘SOCIALIST’ TALK…. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) appeared on “Meet the Press” yesterday, and argued that Americans are “scared to death” of the Democrats’ domestic agenda. He noted, in particular, “the Treasury Department said” a cap-and-trade system “will cost the average family $1,700 per year.” Boehner was, of course, blatantly lying.

Following up, host David Gregory asked whether Americans are “scared” in part because of over-the-top nonsense from the likes of RNC Chairman Michael Steele. “[D]on’t they get even more scared when you got the head of the Republican Party sending out an e-mail that, you know, to challenge the president and Democratic leaders for a ‘socialist power grab?’” Gregory asked. “I mean, is that appropriate conversation? Is this, did you really think the president’s a socialist?”

Boehner initially hedged, saying, “Listen, when you begin to look at how much they want to grow government, you can call it whatever you want.” Gregory pressed further, asking, “Do you think the president’s a socialist?” The Minority Leader said, “No,” as if the question itself was foolish.

Gregory added, “OK, but the head of the Republican Party is, is calling him that.” Boehner replied, “Well, listen, I didn’t call him that and I’m not going to call him that.”

What a delightful breakthrough for our civil discourse. A member of the congressional leadership is willing, on national television, to reject the idea that the president of the United States is a “socialist.” The bar for reasonable GOP rhetoric has fallen so low, this seems like a real leap forward.

If only Boehner meant it. Amanda Terkel reminds us that earlier this year, Boehner stood before a large right-wing audience and argued, “[T]he stimulus, the omnibus, the budget — it’s all one big down payment on a new American socialist experiment…. All of these bills seek to replace our economic freedom with the whims and mandates of politicians and bureaucrats.”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.