WASHINGTON -- If there's one thing that gets under House Speaker John Boehner's skin, it's being called the E-word. Boehner tries to maintain a calm public demeanor, and after almost a quarter-century in politics, he has pretty much heard it all. But it hurts when people describe him with that 13-letter expletive that conservatives use to describe out-of-touch Washington Republicans: “Establishment.”

“During my years when I voted, I had the eighth most conservative voting record in the Congress, Boehner told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference on Thursday. "And it does pain me to be described as spineless or a squish,” he said. “I’ll tell you what pains me the most, when they describe me as the establishment. Now, I’m the most anti-establishment speaker we’ve ever had.”

Webster's dictionary defines "establishment" as a group of political leaders who form a ruling class. As the top dog in the House and the highest-ranking constitutional Republican, Boehner would seem to be the definition of the word.

But "establishment” is the new “liberal” -- a term that became so politically toxic that Democrats ran from it. (The left has come to embrace “progressive” instead.) Boehner didn’t offer a definition of what he thinks “establishment” is. But he did try to make the case that the term doesn't apply to him. 

“Who was the guy who got rid of earmarks? Me. Who is the guy who believes in regular order? Me. Who believes in allowing more members to participate in the process from both sides of the aisle? Me.

“I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin,” Boehner concluded. But that tanned exterior turns out to be thinner than it looks.