Boehner: the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'
February 12th, 2013
11:58 AM ET
5 years ago

Boehner: the president lacks 'guts' and 'courage'

Washington (CNN) - In personal and biting terms, House Speaker John Boehner argued that President Obama's failure to find agreement with Republicans is a result of his lack of
"courage" and "guts" to do what it takes.

"To do the kind of heavy lifting that needs to be done, I don't think he's got the guts to go do it," Boehner told a group of television reporters and anchors in a breakfast ahead of the president's State of the Union address.

Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV and follow online at or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at

He even doubled down on that accusation, when pressed.

"He doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party. I'm sorry but it's just clear as a bell to me," said Boehner.

Boehner repeatedly talked about the president's "liberal" agenda he laid out in his inaugural address, suggesting it is a signal that the president's focus for the next two years will not be reaching across the aisle, but helping Democrats retake control of the House.

"I think he'd love to have Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as majority leader for his last two years in office. Go back to the inaugural address. He knows that all of that liberal agenda he laid out, he knows none of that is going to happen as long as we have a majority in the House," said Boehner.

IMMIGRATION: "How about a little foreplay?"

The speaker offered mostly pessimism about striking any kind of compromise, whether on tax reform or the debt and deficit issue that tends to force the White House and Congress into crisis mode every few months. But he did sound optimistic about ongoing bipartisan immigration reform talks in both chambers.

He said he is reluctant to dive into specifics about the divisive issue for fear of messing things up.

In fact, when asked about whether he would support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, Boehner responded with straight forward and saltiness he is often known for.

"Woah, woah slow down. How about a little foreplay," said a smiling Boehner, prompting some surprised and nervous laughter from reporters, and some red faces among Boehner aides.

Just like on economic issues, Boehner questioned the president's seriousness about getting something done on immigration.

"These bipartisan efforts in the House and Senate are the best shot we have at dealing with a big problem the thing I'm most concerned about is the president getting in the way. Sometimes I think he'd rather have an issue than have a solution," said Boehner.


Though Speaker Boehner said he certainly doesn't want the sequester – nearly $100 billion in deep cuts across the government to kick in on March 1, he also dug in deeply on the way around it: spending cuts and not new revenue, as Democrats are demanding.

"The president has gotten his revenue," was a line Boehner used nearly half a dozen times when talking about the sequester.

He also repeatedly threw the ball in Democrats court to find a way out of what he called "the president's sequester," arguing the House voted last year on a bill to replace the mandatory spending cuts, which were designed to go deep enough and cause enough pain for force Congress to act on broad deficit reduction.

When asked whether the cuts will kick in, Boehner responded "nobody knows."

Boehner: "I've gotten burned"

Speaker Boehner reiterated his vow to no longer try to negotiate wide ranging deals with the president, and instead work through "regular order" – let each body works its will, find compromise, and then send a bill to the president.

"I've tried repeatedly to come to agreement with the president. Every time I've gotten burned," said Boehner.

Later, Boehner said "I've tried over the last two years non stop working with the president, working with the president, never got there."

Boehner's hold on his speakership

Though Boehner had a rough ride, especially at the end of 2012, he said "I certainly plan to be here for a while."

"I have a job to do and I intend on doing it. I have no plans to leave. Period."

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • House • Immigration • John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. Jeff G

    If Boehner had guts and courage, he'd have put the Tea Party zealots in their place last year and we wouldn't be having the sequestration discussion right now.

    February 12, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  2. For what it's worth

    Boenher calling the president gutless? The man who couldn't and wouldn't stand up to the extreme right wing nuts and let our nations credit fall ? Boehner is a proven gutless drunk who cowers and whimpers when the tea party makes ridiculousness demands.

    February 12, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  3. Guest

    The truth is ugly pres. obama, you are a part of the problem vice a part of the solution.

    February 12, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. J Russ

    kinda correct...........what's he done but carry on Bush's agenda?

    February 12, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. Martha in CF

    If I were you, Boehner, comments like that will get you no place. I wish that Obama would put Executive Orders on everything that he wants put through. The republicans are killing this country and he is too stupid to know it.
    Show them your 'GUTS and COURAGE', OBAMA!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 12, 2013 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  6. Republican supporter of President Obama

    Where is your spine when it comes to the TEA party and the NRA Boenher?

    February 12, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    Criticism of Barack Obama has been at a new low. The attacks are no longer political attacks about policy. They're personal, which speaks volumes about the person making the attack. It says they dislike the man more than they dislke the policy. Now, that's personal.

    February 12, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  8. Donna

    All Obama does is campaign, now going on for 5 years, and likely 3 more. Campaigning and bloviating doesn't take guts and courage. And neither does playing Santa Claus.

    February 12, 2013 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. just askin

    Martha in CF
    I wish that Obama would put Executive Orders on everything that he wants put through.
    so you are advocating for a leftist dictatorship as our new form of government? wow.

    February 12, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Name WOW

    In "street " terms he just called the President a Punk!! The thought of how people disrespect him is disgusting. You dont have to agree with someone in order to respect them.

    February 12, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  11. Walter Adams

    Insulting the man with whom you need to negotiate isn't too smart of a tactic. Plus, whatever happened to respecting the office of President of the United States? Boehner epitomizes what is wrong with Washington.

    February 12, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. mdn

    Perhaps the Speaker should remind himself who won the most recent presidential election and by how much. If he is concerned about what the American people want that would be a start.

    February 12, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  13. Linda

    Boehner has been burned? His non-leadership tactics has burned the citizens of the US and he is submissive only to the 'stupid party'.

    February 12, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. Curt

    Boehner is a joke. He does not have the guts and courage to control his own members. Of course Obama wants to control the house and the senate, what President wouldn't ? Sad state of affairs in Washington, I've never seen so much disrespect for a President who's actually trying to do whats best for the country and not cave in to the special interest groups who pay off candidates with campaign money to do what they want done. Really is time for a three party system where something might actually get done.

    February 12, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  15. critical thinking

    This President is most comfortable creating issues, it's his way of avoiding a solution.


    February 12, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. doug

    talk about the pot calling the kettle black...Mr. Speaker, you are as worthless as they come!

    February 12, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  17. freedom

    No guts, no glory.

    February 12, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  18. Bohnersks

    Hello pot, this is kettle.....the tea party is calling.

    February 12, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. Pete in Guilford

    So the guy who says he's not going to negotiate anymore with President Obama accuses the president of not being willing to negotiate and compromise. True Republican logic.

    February 12, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  20. Darw1n

    Well, Boehner certainly doesn't lack repetition and redundancy.

    February 12, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  21. Ferathka

    Sounds like the pot calling the kettle black. Boehner is the gutless one. He can't even control his own members. He is the one being controlled by the Treasonous right in his own party.

    February 12, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  22. wgf

    Boehner is a lost soul. It's just sad.

    February 12, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. enoc

    Obama is no leader,. at all he sucks when 2nd term is over you will see his record and the lack of results.then you all can cry.

    February 12, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  24. Malory Archer

    Not caving to the ridiculous demands of a mortally wounded dinosaur is a pretty good indication that President Obama has more "courage" and "guts" in his little finger than the entire body politic. Keep up the good work Mr. President!

    February 12, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  25. just sayin

    Walter Adams
    Insulting the man with whom you need to negotiate isn't too smart of a tactic.
    obama has never negotiated in good faith, never.

    Plus, whatever happened to respecting the office of President of the United States? Boehner epitomizes what is wrong with Washington.
    obama has shown the republicans no respect and thus gets none in return. respect is earned. obama has done nothing to earn respect.

    February 12, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
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