UNDERSTANDING BOEHNER’S LACK OF UNDERSTANDING…. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) didn’t have a whole lot to say at the health care summit yesterday, but when the topic at hand was mandates in the system, the GOP leader took his turn at the mic. Boehner brushed past the subject, and instead asked a few rhetorical questions.

“Mr. President, I told you the day after — maybe it was the day you were sworn in as president — I would never say anything outside of the room that I wouldn’t say inside the room. I’ve been patient. I’ve listened to the debate that’s gone on here.

“But why can’t we agree on those insurance reforms that we’ve talked about? Why can’t we come to an agreement on purchasing across state lines? And why can’t we do something about the biggest cost driver, which is medical malpractice and the defensive medicine that doctors practice?”

It’s important to keep the larger context in mind. Boehner’s comments came fairly late in the day, which means policymakers had already discussed, in considerable detail, exactly why Democrats and Republicans disagree on insurance reform, across state lines, and medical malpractice. In other words, Boehner wasn’t posing these questions in an opening statement, hoping to lay the groundwork for additional discussion; he was posing questions that everyone in the room already knew the answers to.

As Jon Chait noted, “It’s like he wasn’t even there. Does he not understand what the other side is saying? Does he not care at all? It’s not that he’s provided an answer to Obama’s arguments that I disagree with. He’s just totally unable to acknowledge or engage at any level with the arguments presented. You’re debating a brick wall.”

I suppose the extended debate over the nature of Republicans’ arguments — are folks like Boehner actually dumb or are they just pathologically dishonest — will never really end. But hearing Boehner’s bizarre presentation and ridiculous questions was one of the day’s more frustrating, head-shaking moments. He emphasized that he’d “listened to the debate that’s gone on here,” which couldn’t really be true — if he’d listened he wouldn’t have asked the questions — unless Boehner simply lacked the intellectual wherewithal to keep up.

It was also around that time when I remembered that John Boehner may very well be the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in just 11 months — at which point I broke out in a cold sweat.

For what it’s worth, the president patiently waited for Boehner to finish, before explaining to the GOP leader, “[E]very so often, we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn’t drive us to an agreement on issues.”

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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.