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. CTYank

    What a projectionist! Take all his foibles & failings, and project them on the Pres.

    Hey John, we see through it. 'Bout time you and your gang got some work done. Finally. You know, a work break.

    February 12, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  2. Roger

    Wait. The man who bends over for Grover is calling someone else a coward?

    That's hilarious!

    February 12, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  3. Diane

    These words, whether true or not, are unprofessional, repugnant and not befitting any Speaker of the House. To reference the President of the United States in this manner IN PUBLIC is disrespectful of the President and is basically trash talk and a childish playground epithet worthy of a school child. Where is civility, honor and respect? Despite one's views. Certainly not in the Speaker of the House.

    February 12, 2013 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  4. Richard

    Boo hoo hoo! He has thwarted the president every time the country needed the congress to act repsonsibile. He should get out his hankerchief and lend it to me, I'm getting misty eyed. They should call Him Mrs speaker. He sure ain't no Tom DeLay! Grow some cahones and get your troops in line to help the country not just the rich in this country!

    February 12, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  5. Tom

    Come on Boehner... cry some more for us. You have not a clue what courage and guts looks like. You arent fooling anyone.... except other neocons.

    February 12, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Lando

    Looks who's talking...the guy who cannot stand up against his own tea party...thick faced loser

    February 12, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Willl

    What an ignorant remark from the man that can not stand up to his own Party and the Tea Rethuglicans who are blocking the Acts Against Women renewal And you wonder why women dont vote for you.

    February 12, 2013 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  8. don

    Just the opposite, he won, you lost. Suck it up GOP, you are done, and at the rate you are going and the stupid things you say and do, you will NEVER be in power again. What that type of talk coming from losers, who would want to work with you? You lost!!!! If you caved in to you, THEN he would lack guts.

    February 12, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. Pat

    More proof that the only good Republican is a dead one.

    February 12, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  10. june curik

    Boehner is poster child for no guts as far as im concerned

    February 12, 2013 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  11. BBear

    Today the Spkr. of the U.S. House of Representatives embarassed himself and the traditions of the body which he leads. I will not forget his words when I vote in November 2014.

    February 12, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  12. Norm Nelson

    Mr Obstruction the man without a solution, just don't let Obama succeed, that is Boehner's bottomline, as the economy starts to return, Americans want gun control, the President wants deficit reduction, and new immigration laws, Boehner can't figure out what to say or what to cut so he just keeps dragging on with no progress will Obama offers solutions, he offers walls

    February 12, 2013 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  13. PushingBack

    Boehner, I hope Obama runs you and your pathetic party out of town over the next four years. As far as I'm concerned, anything he does at this point to make you look even more like fools is fine with me!

    February 12, 2013 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  14. RomneyWho

    This guy Boehner is a Zero. The weakest speaker of the house ever. No power of influence. Basically, he is like the town drunk. That's all Boehner hear's, are the whispers from the pink elephants that only he can sees in the room. 😦

    February 12, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. rs


    Obamabots truly are a frightening bunch. By all means do not try to match Obama's pretty speeches with effective action. Just demonize, name call and act like quasi-intellectuals that could make a utopia if everyone who disagreed would just shut up and act like good little sheeple

    Uhhh, Bud- did you read your screed before sending? Yeah- from the party of the Birther- that's rich.

    February 12, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  16. Samsara

    This is the same man who in a few hours is going to stand at the rostrum of the House and say it is his distinct honor to introduce the President. What a bone head.

    February 12, 2013 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  17. BD70

    Boehner said he got 85% of everything he wanted in the sequester. I also remember Boehner saying he and Obama came to a deal several times. The next thing I know the deals iare off...per Boehner after he talked to the House Reps. So to me it looks like the tea party beat him up ....not much Obama can do about that.

    February 12, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. Hawk in Texas

    Sounds like bohner is trying to make excuses for his own failures. in my book it is him that has no balls. he has let the tea party nuts and the far rabid right nuter him. come 2014 i doubt seriously that there will be many tea partyist and republicans around. the republicans have allready said that they would block anything Obama wants.

    February 12, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  19. David

    Just because he doesn't want to cut and/or privatize social security and Medicare doesn't make him a coward it makes him in step with the general public.

    February 12, 2013 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  20. mjw

    They are trying all they can to deny the POTUS the power of his office. John Boehner has proven more and more to be an idiot. Listen to him speak and you want to weep yourself. How did he get this far to be so ignorant. You can see where his mind is..."foreplay" that is the most inteligent word that came to mind? GOD HELP US!!! No wonder they hate the President.

    He said he got 98% of what he wanted in 2011, so who was he negotiating with? Absolute idiot or drunk!!! I understand that alcoholics don't remember much of what they say.

    February 12, 2013 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  21. Baje

    This is guy is a piece of work. Since he cannot get the POTUS to do what he wants he decided he will insult him and maybe, just maybe that might get the job done.

    February 12, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. anne112

    Boehner is a gutless wimp sporting a rotisserie-chicken spray tan.

    February 12, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  23. LK

    In the words of a Republican- You LIE!!!

    February 12, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. Sally

    No, Mr. Boehner, YOU lack the guts to increase revenues. Sorry you feel you can't afford to lose special-interest monies over the better interests of our country. Go cry some more.

    February 12, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  25. ghostriter

    The president has worked with republicans...or at least tried to. Heck, the AHA was supposed to be single payer. He went against the far left folks and settled on a republican idea. ON taxes in 2010, he extended the Bush cuts. In the sequester deal in 2011. On payroll taxes in 2012.

    Republicans, on the other hand, have blocked everything they could...including appointments of key agencies. Record number of filibusters, while house republicans passed a record number of useless bills.

    February 12, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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