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. Crystal

    Says the guy who can't even control his own party.

    February 12, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Chooch0253

    The only thing Republicans in office have done for over 4 years is obstruct and oppose. End of story. Boneheads comments are simply more of the same ignorant rhetoric we have listened to since Jan 2009.

    February 12, 2013 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  3. cbp

    Speaker Boehner has let us all hear his version of what happened over the last two years. I believe he thinks we all slept through it and do not remember anything about it. Well, Mr. Boehner, we were here and we did watch as you pandered to the very Conservative members of your party. Your leadership skills were not evident and you could not get people to work together. In fact, I really do not believe you tried.

    You had to cancel some votes because members of your party were not rallying behind you. The TEA Party faction would not compromise and cooperate with the Democrats. Please don't tell us how you go burned by the President when in reality you got burned by members of your own party. Even Eric Cantor, your Majority Whip. did not agree with you.

    Now you are "mad as hell" and you would have us believe that you were willing to work with the President and the Democrats. I think you need to try this again. We had an election in November and the GOP did not win. President Obama was re-elected. In polls, Congress had its worst rating ever. It is time to move off the dime and get to work. Instead of complaining try working with others and try to get your party to join you. We are waiting but we are not being patient. Now is the time to act. Now is the time to get Congress moving after two years of sitting on their hands.

    February 12, 2013 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  4. Dave

    More Republican projection. Which is accusing your opponent of your own behavior/traits, "projecting" your own behavior on someone else. It's one of many common defense mechanisms. Denial is their favorite, it's just not viable in this specific situation.

    February 12, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. Laura518

    Keep it up, Boehner. Talking about the president this way isn't helpful to you. You wonder why most people in this country hold your party is so low regard. Show some respect. You can disagree without calling names.

    February 12, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  6. 1608

    This man is FUNNY.

    February 12, 2013 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  7. Mary

    I am starting to believe these guys are imbedded in our government for the PURPOSE of "taking it down"..

    February 12, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  8. Aries 86

    Ugh, this man is disgusting!!! I don't trust him even for a second. Go ahead Boney go cry to mommy, because Obama just never lets you have your wittle way.

    February 12, 2013 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  9. Name

    Mr Boehner. It is YOU sir. You don't have the guts or the courage to go against the tea party. You are a big joke.
    The Rs got their talking points this week fir st once again First Cheney now you! It won't work try as they may. What a farce.

    February 12, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  10. plain&simple

    Boehner has been neutered by his own party and is bitter ....he can't blame himself or his party..only Obama! Being out smarted at every turn ,made to look bad by his own inability to negotiate and govern. When the Speaker learns how to lead,maybe then he could have a meaningful discussion with the president.

    February 12, 2013 07:02 pm at 7:02 pm |
  11. ariveria

    you are kidding. in the first term we kept watching the president giving away the ranch to cut a deal with the republicans. instead we got boner saying he would do everything possible to make obama a one term president.

    several leading conservatives are now leading a chorus saying if they can tank the economy it will destroy obama legacy.

    when boner can stand up to the birthers and other anti american forces in his party he can talk

    February 12, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  12. Cam Spurgeon

    2014 is coming. Even Many Republicans have to be sick of this. People will take the GOP down, also the far far left. Come to the middle folks and save this country from the wackos. Graham has flipped his lid. Even McCain is pulling back from that slease..Watch when he tals etc. He is starting to bounce from side to side like limbaugh.

    February 12, 2013 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  13. M Houston

    John Boehner's talking about a lack of courage and guts??? The President's lack of guts??? Boehner
    needs to take a look in the mirror (or the GOP caucus) to see what REAL gutlessness and cowardice
    looks like!!!

    February 12, 2013 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  14. John K

    How does this guy have any type of popular following? Oh wait he doesn't.

    February 12, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  15. JOE B

    Why is Boehner telling the press that Obama lacks guts and courage? Obviously he doesn't have the courage to voice his opinion directly to Obama. Instead he has to do an end around and tell the press. It frustrates me to no end that leaders of the major political act like babies.

    February 12, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  16. Bob

    I guess Republicans think name calling and personal attacks are the best way to deal with difficult issues. Perhaps this explains why they are slowly fading away.

    February 12, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  17. steve

    "I think he'd love to have Nancy Pelosi as speaker and Harry Reid as majority leader for his last two years in office."
    At the rate Republicans are going, Obama may get his wish.

    February 12, 2013 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  18. Glory

    John Boehner can't keep the Tea Party members in line. They stiff arm him every time. President Obama has offered many ideas, policies, and budget solutions. The problem is that the Republican party rejects every single one of them.
    No compromise or settlements are possible when theri is complete inflexibility on the part of Boehner and the GOP.
    Remember Congress is the branch of government that passes the SPENDING bills, not the President. Get a clue to how the government works Tea Party. The Congress is and has beeen irresponsible for many years, as was the unpaid for wars overseas. That's why their is deficit. Git and courage are two things neither Boehner nor the GOP has.
    Too bad they don't care about the American people – especially the Middle Class.

    February 12, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  19. ED FL

    Lots of comments and information.One thing seems to be missing ,names ,real names like Cantor your shadow Boehner. Even he is using you in hopes you might quit like you did in the Navy and ERIC will then take over your positon. GOP's New moniker could be GOOFY OLD PARTY.what a poor group of GOP'ERS.

    February 12, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  20. solowd

    "He doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his own party"

    Man, Republicans will whine about ANYTHING. How is this not a good thing for conservatives?

    February 12, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  21. Georgie

    Boehner says the President doesn't have the courage to take on the liberal side of his party!? Uuuhhmmm, ...Boner!, ...That's really kind of stupid!, ...Really! Kind of like "The Pot calling the Kettle Black!!!," ...LMAO!!!!

    February 12, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  22. Jim g

    Boehner wouldn't know what real guts are. He has never taken on his right wing. He has backed off of deals he brokered because the Pea Tardy didn't like them. To call someone else gutless when he has done nothing to lead his party forward is hilarious. Every time he has the chance to accomplish something he backs off or cries. That is a real tough man. Being emotional is okay but being a coward and then saying someone else is gutless is as stupid as DC gets. Maybe Obama thinks his ideas are better than the rights, since he did win the election based on his stance versus the Republican Party's. Apparently more real Americans trust Obama and the Democrats a little more than the Republican alternative, and a lot more than the Pea Tardy. Do the American people a favor John, man up and resign because you do not have a clue, but if you don't work for a cure, you are the problem.

    February 12, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  23. Vicki

    President Obama has all the guts needed to stand against every horrible thing the GOP tries to force the House to come up with. Our country is recovering but not the least bit because of anything the republicans wanted. They only want the wealthy to have it easy. They want everyone else to get nothing at all. Boehner is a cry baby and he can't even come up with anything in the House to help the country. They do spend more time off than they are ever there. When there they do nothing. Now the Senate does all the work for the idiots in the House.

    February 12, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  24. SecrtSqurl

    Just another attempt of the Republican party to make itself extinct.

    February 12, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. Smeagel4T

    I liked Boehner's "guts" and "courage" to pass out tobacco lobbyist checks on the actual floor of the House in his early days. Now if only he could summon some "guts" and "courage" to stop handling out all the corporate welfare - particularly all the pork flowing through the Pentagon bureaucracy to the military-industrial complex welfare queen corporations.

    February 12, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
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