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. An Observer

    Boehner is complaining about the President lacking "guts and courage". This is laughable because Boehners spine is made of jelly. He doesn't have the courage to stand up to the radical elements of his own caucus. This drunk doesn't have the "guts and courage" to break his own alcohol addiction. He is a real piece of work!

    February 12, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  2. Pete

    Boehner,the president lacks guts and courage and just who the hell are you,you half baked Ohio bartender that's the main problem with America because your arrogence again has overshadowed your ignorence now again made public..Time to call it a night Boehner and think about handing in your resignation you treasonistic clown!!He's done more for America against you and your bullfaced boy McConnell than all you republicans have done in half a century for these people of America and till you recognise it you should be far smarter to keep your moronic ,selfserving mouth shut!!Remember bud your time will come at midterms and you'll be shown the door as well as the majority of your republicans obstructioniststs than something progressive will be done with America whether you like it or not!!

    February 12, 2013 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  3. Pete

    Boehner go back to the bar in Ohio your father raised you in and climb back into that bottle of vodka you've been nursing for years and to you posters that are republican as well as ignorent he's just an angry alcoholic that's looking for something for an excuse to tie one on,a real mean drunk,you can see his liver going already,right Boehner!!

    February 12, 2013 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  4. Pete

    Pres.Obama can have his speech and can laugh for 4 more years..Republicans just are sore losers aren't they!!

    February 12, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  5. Mike Texoma

    Everytime we get close to a deal, John Boehner either runs away, as he ran away from the $4 trillion deal and as he is now doing with the sequester, or shoots off his mouth like he just did. You would think CNN would clip this windbag's wings and quit giving him a big platform for mischief.

    February 12, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  6. Maria Rivera-Carvalho

    Empty name calling Mr. Boehner? How crass and base and yet, so new Republican. You are an embarassment to the party and the country. You obstruct and sabotage and then accuse the president of causing this mess? Fortunaltely, you are doing very well in "building" your own political demise.

    February 12, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  7. DanW

    Hmmm, Boehner casting the stone? If I understand it, Boehner and his House crew will all profess to be against violence against women, but their conservative principles prevent them from actually passing a law against it. Sort of like they don't believe that people should be shot with firearms, but they don't want to pass laws to lessen the deaths. And these guys say that Obama lacks guts and courage, while they hold the power to prevent unnecessary violence and death and do NOTHING, on PRINCIPLE? Bah.

    February 12, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  8. jerrylax

    read Bob Woodward's book for info on the 2011 sequester. Obama was a mess, lied and manipulated both parties and was even ask to leave a meeting so they could get down to the business of the country. The guy (obama) is way over his head...never have we had such a mess. If the press reported as they should we would run this fraud out of the country on a rail!

    February 12, 2013 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  9. Rickapolis

    What a complete and total embarrassment Boehner is. The republicans oppose the president at every turn and then act as if he is to blame. No wonder the country is such a mess. Why can't these men get a touch of honor and resign. They are disgraceful.

    February 12, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  10. Jo

    Or maybe Obama simply disagrees with Boehner about what needs to be done, rather than lacking the courage to do it?

    February 12, 2013 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  11. Name Abe

    Ba,ba,ba that's all I hear the president saying, same ol same ol same ol

    February 12, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  12. No Labels

    It will take courage to make the hard decisions necessary to solve our nation's problems. We must support an honest discussion between our leaders. Support the Problem Solvers in Congress that are working to make these tough decisions. Help us Change the way Washington works by joining our movement at #fixnotfight

    February 12, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  13. The REAL TRUTH...

    @CryBabies – Lets get real here, sure we had a couple unfunded wars but don't forget the housing crisis was a major reason for the great recession.
    Sure, let's DO get REAL here... we DID have a couple of unfunded wars... to the tune of some $3+ TRILLION. Then there was the massive increases in Defense Spending, Medicare Part D, the Republican driven TARP bailout for "banks too big too fail", a budget surplus in 2000 and a $1.47 TRILLION Deficit in 2008, 700,000+ jobs dissappearing in Jan 2009, and.... need I go on??
    This is hardly the fault of the so-called liberals you are railing on... it's the same old GOP story... repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth. It would appear that some 46% of the country have bought into it already. The dumbing down of the red-state electorate continues unabated...

    February 12, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  14. matken

    Cry me a river, John.

    February 12, 2013 10:29 pm at 10:29 pm |
  15. Thinker

    Coming from John Boehner, who never met a bar he didn't like, and of course Lindsey Graham, who never met a closet he wouldn't hide in, so please spare me your compaints about the president. Spineless republicans are the ones holding up progress in this country.

    February 12, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  16. thinking Texan

    @Ancient Texan

    sit back and enjoy it, like a former repub governor used to say.
    this will be like a constitutional amendment on training wheels.

    The defense dept is going to get a crew cut. Forget those $500 hammers. Those pork barrel projects supporting republican business men, gone.

    February 12, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  17. Tom in Illinois

    The Gop has all the guts and courage.they started two wars that the middle class fought for them and made them huge profits.They shipped 10 million middle class jobs to China and Asia.It takes big balls to ruin the economy of the country that you live in.Thank-you GOP,one of your aircraft carriers will soon be put into mothballs,because the middle class can no longer afford to keep at sea,because of the loss of taxes.Try living on $8.00 an hour.

    February 12, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  18. simonbb8

    P.S – News Flash! You're not the President – you're supposed to be part of a holistic representation of Americans – Start acting like you're part of the solution and stop being part of the problem. Enough Said!

    February 12, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  19. cbr

    Speaker Boehner certainly made his point tonight. He chose to sit on his hands through most of the State of the Union speech. In my lifetime I have watched Speakers who sat behind the President as he gave his State of the Union Speech. The better speakers knew how to show appreciation without necessarily supporting the President's views. They knew how to be supportive even thought it was clear that those in their party would not vote these ideas into law. Once again we saw partisanship which is the dividing factor in our government. Speaker Boehner needs to learn to work with both parties. He needs to work with leader of both parties. Most of all he needs to learn to work with members of his own party and the TEA Party.

    February 12, 2013 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  20. DB

    A preposterous accusation coming from a Speaker whose own caucus walks all over him. Boehner knows better than anybody that the paralysis of Congress is because he can't get his own caucus to vote for the compromises he negotiates.

    February 12, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  21. Joe M.

    Boehner should go back to pushing a mop. Its what he knows best.

    February 12, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  22. Liz the First

    Obama 'lacks courage and guts' is republicanspeak for 'he won't do everything exactly our way. it's about time this obstructionist traitor learned that the American people elected Obama to do things HIS way! watching Boner at the state of the union address tonight was nauseating. he didn't even try to disguise his hatred of this good man who's done everything he can in the face of intractible, mindless opposition to heal this country. when will the American people wise up enough to stop putting people who hate government IN government?

    February 12, 2013 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  23. cantilever

    So Obama lacks both guts and courage, does he? How did he manage to achieve that? Two tasks at once, like playing Beethoven while in the bath. Both guts and courage is impossible. Who taught how to multi-task?

    February 12, 2013 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  24. Fletcher

    Actually John Obama doesn't have a dance partner to negotiate needs.

    February 12, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  25. Pathologist

    What was that figure next to the VicePresident. It had human form, but I couldn't quite determine if it was alive or just sitting there as a prop...
    A prop for what? The GOP or the TeaMisery? Couldn't quite make it out...
    Sure lots of wrinkles on that pseudo face. I wonder, if that was supposed to be the "face of the GOP", couldn't they have given it some make up, some smile lines or so?
    Really bad choice, reeeel bad.

    February 12, 2013 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
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