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. MacGeek

    So, he doesn't have the "courage" to basically turn over onto his stomach and let the Republicans have their way with him. Nice spin, Mr. Bohner.

    February 12, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  2. Brandon

    Boehner added, "We need firm leadership and stiff resolve, just the way you like it."

    Basically, under Republican leadership, everyone's F%cked.

    February 12, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  3. Wilson

    I see the looters, moochers, gullible and evil, are out in full force today.

    February 12, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. Pritch

    Well you know you hit a nerve when the crazy hate left starts attacking you. what none of you liberal losers want to admit is that Boehner is right. 5 or so years from now when a Democrat says the same thing you will all be huffing and puffing about the statement being true. Hypocrits all of you.

    February 12, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    Republicans are talking like fools nd idiots.

    February 12, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |

    Such talk.

    February 12, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  7. ghostriter

    The folks accusing democrats of being lemmings are also the party that has kicked out folks like Collin Powell and Christie for daring to agree with Obama on anything (against republican policy these days) and now sitting on a civil war to see who is more conservative.

    Makes sense.

    February 12, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  8. Fed UP

    The president has tried to work with Republicans for the past fours to no avail. The new strategy is to take control of both houses of Congress and move forward to serve the needs of the people.

    February 12, 2013 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  9. emw

    President Obama may have no guts or courage but he must have gigantic testicles to act like he is the Supreme Ruler of the United States.

    February 12, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  10. marc

    It takes guts and courage to turn away from those maniacs. I think this president has more cajones than any president Ive seen in my 78 years of life. What they didnt count on was the adversity that Obama had endured before adulthood, the bigotry and bullying of being bi racial. This made him strong and he is well trained in how to turn off and turn away from adversity. I wouldnt give John Boehner one inch on any issue. He's powerless and he resents that the republican mardi gras was shot to pieces. This country has changed for the better and we will never go back to what it was.

    February 12, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  11. mlblogscbgoldsmith

    In one singe day Speaker Boehner went from calling President Obama a "coward" to now suggesting "foreplay" which suggests to me that its been more than 4 hours since he took those blue diamond shaped pills and he may want to stop talking and contact his physician?

    February 12, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  12. USwatcher

    Message to Boehner...a stuck pig will squeal sir...are a disgrace to our country.

    February 12, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  13. jamesnyc

    I wonder if either party will grow a spine and revise the 14th amendment or reinstate Glass-Steagall. I'm not holding my breath. Both parties are cowards in these issues.

    February 12, 2013 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  14. boungiorno

    truth hurts doesn't it?

    February 12, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  15. rs

    Boehner reinforces just how out-of-touch and out-to-lunch the GOPreally is- and why we're all better of for not voting for these self-deluding fools.

    February 12, 2013 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. rs


    I see the looters, moochers, gullible and evil, are out in full force today.
    Indeed, I didn't think there were that many fools like Boehner!

    February 12, 2013 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  17. rosaadriana

    The President got his revenue? Hardly. You guys already got more cuts. So where does that leave us? We need more revenue AND cuts.

    February 12, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  18. boungiorno

    truth hurts doesn't it

    February 12, 2013 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  19. Sametestsameresults

    I think it is soo funny that Boehner says the President wont stand up to the far left. The far left thinks he is going too far right with the stance he is taking now. This is how out of touch the average republican tea party worshiper is, they wouldnt know where the middle is if it jumped up and bit them.

    February 12, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  20. rob

    President Obama signed the Sequester into law because he could not negotiate in good faith with the duly elected House of Representatives. The dems ploy was to threaten the nations security with huge defense reductione to blackmail the Republicans to fold to the Dems huge spending and taxing plans. I think Boehner and the republicans should call his bluff. The President has the responcibility for national defense and it will be up to him to recomend the areas to CUT in the Military if the sequester goes into effect. Let him do that while they figure where to CUT the domestic side as well.

    Hold your ground Boehner, it doesn't matter what the lousey liberal mediia say they are wholey owned by the far left in this country anyway. The American people will thank you for your courage in saving our country.

    February 12, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Boehner wants foreplay? We all knows what happens next.

    February 12, 2013 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. pkfops

    Sounds like they want to lose in 2014 & 2016 too.

    February 12, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  23. John

    Boehner, plenty of folks believe your brain is parked right next to where your guts end. They're right.

    February 12, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  24. WachetAuf

    Fear is the number one motivating device of the primitive human animal. The appeal, is not to the reasoning cerebral cortex, but to the lizard brain in all of us. Nothing is new on the face of the earth since the dawn of time in human animal behavior. Make them fear that we are going to be toppled like Greece. Make them fear that Obama is a "socialist". Make the fear that if we tax the rich one more dollar that our "free market economy" will go into a tailspin. And it goes on and on and on. "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." MacBeth.

    February 12, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  25. John

    @rob-"Hold your ground Boehner, it doesn't matter what the lousey liberal mediia say they are wholey owned by the far left in this country anyway."
    Rupert? Did you read this Rupert? Better sell your media holdings NOW Rupert.

    February 12, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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