COLUMBUS - House Republican leader John Boehner has used a vulgar expression to refer to Democrat Barack Obama and his voting record in the Illinois legislature.
While campaigning for Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Wednesday, Mr. Boehner told a small crowd at a bar in the college town of Oxford that failing to vote "yes" or "no" on an issue meant a lawmaker was a "chickenshit."
The Ohio congressman said the last thing the country needs is to have a "chicken" in the White House.
Boehner spokesman Jessica Towhey confirmed the remarks yesterday, but said the congressman wasn't calling Mr. Obama the vulgar term. "The point that Boehner was making was that Barack Obama has consistently avoided making tough decisions and taking tough votes, and voters need to know that," she said.
The remarks, first reported in The Miami Student, the Miami University college newspaper, alluded to Mr. Obama voting "present" 129 times as a state lawmaker.
"In Congress we have a red button, a green button, and a yellow button, all right. Green means 'yes,' red means 'no,' and yellow means you're a chickenshit," Mr. Boehner said at the event. "And the last thing we need in the White House, in the Oval Office, behind that big desk, is some chicken who wants to push this yellow button."
In the Illinois General Assembly, "present" votes are common and used for more than avoiding a difficult choice.
At times lawmakers vote "present" when they have a conflict of interest. In other cases, they do it to register opposition to a procedural decision or to signal that they support a bill's goal, but feel the legislation is flawed. In Mr. Obama's case, the 129 "present" votes amounted to about 3.5 percent of the votes he cast in nearly eight years as a state senator.
During his talk, Mr. Boehner also disparaged Mr. Obama's work as a community organizer.
Obama spokesman Tom Reynolds called Mr. Boehner's words an angry attack. "It's sad that John McCain and his supporters are closing their campaign with increasingly angry, desperate, false attacks instead of offering up a single thing John McCain would do differently on the economy than George Bush," he said.