John Podesta on Monday criticized President Obama’s comment labeling his political opponents as “enemies” during an interview with a Spanish-speaking radio station last week.
“That was a poor choice of words,” Podesta said on CNBC.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, who is likely to become House Speaker if Republicans take control of the House on Tuesday, plans to make Obama’s “enemies” comment a centerpiece of his final campaign speech Monday night, Politico reported.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a president in the White House who referred to Americans who disagree with him as ‘our enemies.’ Think about that,” Boehner will say. “When Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush used the word ‘enemy,’ they reserved it for global terrorists and foreign dictators — enemies of the United States.”
The head of the Center for American Progress’s remark came after he had argued at length that Obama has tried to work with Republicans.
“What people want is for both sides to try to work together. One of the things that I think has been frustrating for the president … he wanted to try to bridge that divide but that clearly hasn’t been possible given the poisonous atmosphere in Washington right now,” Podesta said.
But CNBC’s Rebecca Quick brought up the president’s “enemies” comment, which he made last Monday in an interview with Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo of Univision Radio.
“If Latinos sit out the election instead of saying, we’re going to punish our enemies and we’re going to reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us, if they don’t see that kind of upsurge in voting in this election, then I think it’s going to be harder — and that’s why I think it’s so important that people focus on voting on November 2,” Obama said.
Quick challenged Podesta: “Isn’t some of that poison — it has to start from the top, and you have to lead by example, not get dragged down with wherever the negative campaigning is coming from?”
Podesta concurred: “I agree with that. That was a poor choice of words.”
Podesta said that at “the end of the day President Obama has been a guy who during the course of his career has tried to bridge gaps and tried to find center ground.”
“I think he’ll come away from this election trying to do it again.”
As for the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections, Podesta said he agreed that Democrats are in for big losses.
“I think I’ll have the covers over my head in bed tomorrow night,” he joked.