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. scott

    Good, call it like it is. Obama will push for the same nothing. Lets sum it up. Gays as Cub Scout leaders, take guns away from sane people, Immigration, Climate change, like we really care. Its the Economy Stupid. That phase should continue to be applied to Obama. Obama clearly lacks leadership in the sense he can not compromise, so gridlock will remain. At least Clinton got stuff done with help from both sides. The only thing that has changed in Washington making it even worse than before is Obama is in town. Just be grateful that the countdown has begun. < 4 yrs now.

    February 12, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. Indeigrl

    Walter Obama started off his new term by insulting Republicans, offering them NO spending cuts, massive new spending (4.6 trillion over 10 years), and demeaning power to raise the debt celling without Congress. Obama couldn't even cut the deal. He went back out on the campaign trail, had to send Joe Biden in to negotiate. We saw snippets of the presidents petulant arrogance in the Romney debates. No doubt that's the Obama Boehner gets behind closed doors, not the Cool Celebrity we see on TV. Unless Obama can work a grand bargain on our catastrophic debt, his legacy is in the dumpster. He's off to a lousy start. Obama lacks the political/negotiation skills to be a good president.

    February 12, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  3. kurtinco

    How can you reach out to a party that continues to say that all of the president's proposals are DOA, or as the new, supposedly latino friendly GOP now says, "Muerto al llegar."

    February 12, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  4. idiotsabound

    @Donna: Really? That's all he does? He hasn't: a)brought the country back from the brink of bankruptcy due to Republican failures? b) brought back respect around the world for the country which was ruined by the last administration? c) improved the economy to the point that the stock market is again near record territory after the destruction caused by the Right and their two illegal, unfunded wars? I could go on, but obviously you are blinded by hatred. THE REAL PROBLEM IN AMERICA TODAY.

    February 12, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. WV Gleeman

    You can continue to paint yourself and the rest of the GOP into a corner Mr. Boehner. Please keep insisting the president must act on the sequester by giving you everything you want even thought there is little to no logic behind that attitude. Please tell all your big contractor buddies how you are going to make this work even though you have no leverage against the president. Oh wait, the plan must be to continue doing anything that might tarnish the image of the democrats and making sure that the idea that liberalism is bad even though some of it is good. You are, once again, failing to appeal to anyone other than the limited audience you have that cannot win you an election. Stay the course sir.

    February 12, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  6. tim

    The office of the pres. should be respected,The pres must earn respect which he hasn't How do you respect a person that lies so much you can't tell when he is not lieing.

    February 12, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. RF

    Can the republicans say anything more stupid?

    February 12, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  8. Facts don't Lie

    Yes it really takes a lot of guts to say that your main goal is to make Obama a one-term president and refuse to meet him on anything he tries to do. Then have the guts to complain that he doesn'twant to work with Republicans. Then gloat and claim in the last negotiations that you got 98% of what you wanted and call that fair and now whine that you're not getting what you want. Face guys LOST..more than likely will ose again in2014 and 2016 and beyond if you remain as Jindal referred to as the "stupid party".

    February 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  9. tibs

    If you support democrats, youre wrong.
    If you support republicans, youre wrong.

    February 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  10. PatheticCNN

    And exactly that is why the left dominated media are reporting Anything to distract from Obama's massive failure as president.

    February 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |

    Y.A.W.N. Boehner, the country rejected the GOP ideology in the 2012 election. Get over yourself. The sequestration will be squarely blamed on the GOP. Oh, and ad hominems aimed at Obama are presently too late now.

    February 12, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. beevee

    The GOP leadership seems to be so racist that they will not tolerate a fairminded president who is not white in the WH even when the majority of the american public thought that he (Obamam) is the right person to be commander-in-chief of this country. Boehner, and the other leaders of the GOP in congress and the senate are political parasites. They won't do any good t help the nation prosper.

    February 12, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |

    And exactly that is why the left dominated media are reporting Anything to distract from Obama's massive failure as president.

    February 12, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |


    . . . and yet you're here posting. Go to to FOX NOISE if you don't like it here. Sour grapes much?

    February 12, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    Indeigrl actually wrote.

    Walter Obama started off his new term by insulting Republicans, offering them NO spending cuts, massive new spending (4.6 trillion over 10 years), and demeaning power to raise the debt celling without Congress.
    Not only are you wrong, but you are way off message. The correct and current talking point, as per Mitch McConnell on the floor of the Senate as recently as yesterday afternoon, is that Pres. Obama has yet to submit ANYTHING. So how can anything that you have written about what Pres. Obama offered to Republicans could possibly be true when the Congressional leaders are complaining that he has submitted nothing.

    "Nice try, but we gotcha."

    February 12, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. Larry L

    @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.
    With the Republicans in the Senate blocking every initiative with filibusters and the Minority Leader pledging to make defeat of the President his main goal. McConnell made a proposal to the Senate Leader and it was accepted for a vote. He then filibustered his own proposal. Republicans have rendered the Senate useless with nearly four times the previous record for use of the filibuster. They are performing domestic political terrorism against our form of government.

    Tea Party members in the House continue holding America hostage to support Grover Norquist pledges and a right-wing agenda. They never send a bill forward without attaching toxic riders about "personhood" or covertly trying to kill unrelated programs. They appear willing to trash our economy to satisfy the radical right-wing fringe groups supporting their campaigns. What do you recommend?

    February 12, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  16. ST

    Does Boehner have guts and courage to control his tears? He cries more than he does his job.

    February 12, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  17. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    KMA Boo-Hoo.

    February 12, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  18. Thomas

    sigh......another 4 years of disfunction in Washington.

    February 12, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  19. John

    How can this orange face clown "Booner" say the President don't have guts? He can't control his own nut cases in the House.

    February 12, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  20. Reggie from LA

    Yeah, Mr Boehner, you might have something there. I was disgusted that he caved on tax breaks to your handlers and cronies. I thought he should have shown more "spine". Then I realized it wasn't about me. The decisions that he made were about a nation (the poor and middle at least) that needed Boehner's band of bandits to vote on some critical issues that helped us. He had the courage to stand against the GOP AND his own and risk not getting re-elected. He bravely elected to withdraw troops from 2 wars (fools) and to take a stand against "barrel suckers" (translates as gun nuts). Our President is no coward. He's one of the good guys. Are you one of the good guys Mr Speaker? Are you?

    February 12, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. RR

    This is why the GOPs will lose big in 2014. They can't be constructive and they are always name calling. Please Mr. Speaker, you are a bully with no spine. Now go cry in a corner.

    February 12, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Democrat68

    President Obama had to clean up what Mr. George "DUMB" Bush mess up while he was in office for 8 yrs. The Republican is only for themselves only. The poor people can never be able to get ahead because thanks to John Boeehner. When President Bill Clinton got out of office, he stated to Mr. George "DUMB" Bush that the USA is debt free. It took Mr> George "DUMB" Bush to mess the economy up in 1 second. Mr. Boehner the other DUMB person needs to read his BIBLE and understand it. No he doesnt have the GUTS and COURAGE to do the right thing for the middle working class people who is trying to survive in the doggy doggy world of the USA. John Boehner is a complete idiot. I will watched the State of the Union to see him sit right there in his chair and not crack a smile just like a red neck from the back woods of Mississippi. Mr. President you are doing a good job. Continue to SHAKE THE HATERS OFF U. The Repulican Party is a 911 JOKE.

    February 12, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Boehner won't try to large deals because he can't get the "teapublicans" to understand that the large deal they are getting is the best for the country now. He can't get his own caucus to fall in line with what he is doing. Boehner needs to have his (and his caucus) eyes fully open to understand the need to constantly deal with both sides of the ledger. That means doing the hard work to cut spending in a responsible way and raising enough revenue to cover most, if not all, of what is spent now. Let us see what Boehner wants to cut and why because I don't think that he and his side of the isle really know what they want to cut and how it would affect everyone else.

    February 12, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  24. Ryno

    "Lacks guts and courage"... doesn't that also PERFECTLY describe Boehner and his handling of the Tea Party Extremists? As the old cliche says... "Don't throw stones if you live in a glass house".

    February 12, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  25. Bill in Florida

    When the GOP wins the White House - even when losing the popular vote, as Dub ya did in 2000 - they always claim to have a "mandate" and push their uber-right policy through Congress. But when Dems win the White House - even when by 120 electoral votes and nearly 5 million popular votes - then the GOP expects the President to meet them two-thirds of the way to the right. Bizarre, but oh so typical of the GOP.

    February 12, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
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