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. don pelkey

    boy do i agree with the comment made by 106 i am with ya. keep pluging mr president your doing great i am with you

    February 12, 2013 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  2. ggram

    What a nasty and bitter man...besides..he's the one who doesn't have the guts to take on his OWN party...which almost cost him the job of Speaker. Most of us just want him to stop speaking altogether. He also doesn't have the guts to admit the GOP are still spewing sour grapes over LOSING the election. The people have spoken Orange Man...and they support the president and his do what the PEOPLE want.

    February 12, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  3. Jack in Florida

    Boehner doesn't have the courage and the guts to go against that whacko Tea Partiers and the right wing nut jobs.

    February 12, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  4. Julie Labrouste

    Boehner's false assertion was shockingly filthy.

    February 12, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. steve

    For not having "guts" or "courage" , he sure has Boehner's panties in a knot! I would be inclined to say that Boehner is worried that Obama will in fact "stand up " and accomplish something DESPITE the opposition from the radical right.
    Boehner is carving himself out a Newt legacy!
    And look who crawls out of his spidey hole on the day of the State of the Union , old dead eye himself. Not suprisingly, his political pot shots at the President are as badly aimed as his shotgun. Go back to where you were hiding and shut up you bitter, old, has been!
    The republicans disgust me! They accuse Obama of lying. With their legacy in Iraq? The audacity!
    Look back now at the choices they have given us in the last five elections. Dole -Kemp,( Would you trade the Clinton years for them?) Bush -Chaney.( Are YOU/we really better off after that debacle? Really?)
    McCain- PALIN! ( enough said) Romney – Ryan!!! ??? (jokes who will fade into oblivion! )
    That's the best they can come up with ?

    Boehner berates the President and bullys his own people in an effort to prevent any meaningful legislation from being attributed to the President. The republicans are already positioning themselves for the next election at the expense of the American public . Who , btw , rejected them in the last one. Get over it and support this country or shut up and wait your turn to start some more wars and rob the middle class like Cheneys and his puppet did.

    February 12, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  6. Mashed Potato Bulletin

    "courage" and "guts"

    If Obama didn't have guts and courage he couldn't have dealt with the mass level of hatred, obstructionism and vitriol from the Republican Party as whole for the past 4 years. He handled all of the GOP with grace, something his political opponents did NOT deserve.

    Obama is holding his own very well and it's quite clear the Republicans are not dealing with it or their own inadequacies with any form of dignity.

    February 12, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  7. li_lbutte

    Amazing, he is now acusing Obama of all the things the tea party has been doing the last 2 years.

    February 12, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. E. Lee

    Funny, this coming from a buffoon who can't control the tea baggers in his own party. Allows one of the most ignorant Republicans to drag along that spineless Nugent to the State of the Union address, and is the most worthless Speaker ever this country has had to endure. Boehner is and always will be a weak, complete failure as a politician.

    February 12, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  9. Orwell seen it before

    Get with Mitch, he has the plan.

    Stop Obama, make him a two term president.
    It is the most important thing the Republicans can do to protect America.
    Get Akin and Nugent on the gun turrets.
    Emperors Trump and Newt leading the charge on TV.
    Tea baggers sinking teabag assets.

    February 12, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. BobInIrvine

    Typical GOP... projecting their foibles as the President's. This GOP does nothing but complain about things they either do themselves or would love to to themselves, if they had the power.

    February 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Who cares what this gop stooges say ,the country backs president Obama,you lost the elections ,get over it and start working for the country instead of againest it . The gop will never win the white house again ,every body is watching your behavior and the gop is a national joke !!!!!!

    February 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Ben

    Wow. Boehner's totally lost it now. He vows not to work with the President? That's all he has done in the last 4 years. He yells "no compromise" then says that the President won't compromise. Is he crazy or just stupid?

    February 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. KD

    The weakest speaker of the house in history who has no control over his own party, calls the President out for not having guts and courage. Let's analyze what he is really saying. The President doesn't have the guts or courage to take food and medicine away from the weakest of our society, the retired elderly, disabled veterans and civilians and the poorest of the poor. Now anyone in politics would say that is the easiest group to take away from but he refuses to. On the other hand Boehner wants to protect the wealthiest people and corporations so they don't have to pay the same percentage of taxes as the middle class, in fact they don't even pay the same percentage of taxes as the elderly do on their social security payments. It would take guts and courage to take on those groups, but he refuses to and continues to pick on the smallest kid on the block. Some courage Mr Boehner.

    February 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  14. Middle O' the Road

    The President lacks courage" and "guts" to do what it takes.

    This coming from Boehner - man of liquid courage and rot gut.

    February 12, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    "I've tried repeatedly to come to agreement with the president. Every time I've gotten burned," said Boehner.
    The fact of the matter is that it has been his own raucus caucus that's burned him. For example, he worked out that grand bargain with Pres. Obama in the summer of 2011, only to have his own caucus reject it in favor of sequestration.

    So yeah, he's gotten burned quite badly for working with Pres. Obama. But, he has no one to blame but his own failed leadership as SotH.

    February 12, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Peace

    Is Boehner coming from "a liquid lunch" or what?

    February 12, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. bailee

    In reality, no matter how John Boehner "tries", he has the Tea Party Caucus to deal with every step of the way, and they simply will NOT support him. Quite frankly, I really don't think Boehner will do one thing to move this country forward in bi-partisanship!! Like ALL Republicans and the Tea Party, they will not compromise for this President! After ALL . . . they have to keep their mantra going . . . to make President Barack Obama a ONE TERM President . . . even though he won the election and is now in his second term! The real truth is the Republican Party does not like this President because of his race! That was clear to me from day one of the first term election!! Sad state of affairs when we haven't gotten past the color of one's skin in this Country in over 50 years!

    February 12, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. v_mag

    Crybaby Boehner says the President lacks courage and guts? Boehner gets his courage from a bottle, and he doesn't have the guts to deal with the teabaggers in his own party. I've never had less respect for a human being than I have for Boehner.

    February 12, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Ken in MD

    It doesn't take guts to screw over the poor and elderly, like Boehner's party wants to do. And why is it Obama should stand up against the Liberal side of the Democratic party when Boehner isn't willing to stand up against the Conservative side of his to get the job done?

    February 12, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. V

    "Woah, woah slow down. How about a little foreplay," said a smiling Boehner"
    Because the Republicans plan to keep screwing the American Public . . .

    February 12, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  21. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Well,the gop says it my way or the highway and the American voter said the highway ,the gop fools are braindead along with their right wing voters!!!!clueless ??????

    February 12, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  22. George Washington

    Boehner gets burned every time he enters his tanning booth.... I just wish the voters in his district would burn him with the votes for his opponent. He is one of the worst speakers in history, his flip flopping, promise breaking ways are almost as bad and his enemy Nancy.....

    February 12, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Mikey

    This is rich, coming from someone who has shown almost zero backbone in dealing with the right wing wackos in his own party. It's his own lack of courage that blew the budget deal a year ago. Perhaps he can just go off somewhere and have a good cry.

    February 12, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Dan5404

    What a hypocrite! He sold out any values he ever may have had to the ultra-right and the politically ignorant Tea Party House clique, which is largely responsible for blocking any kind of bi-partisanship. He has been totally useless in Congress, as has the Tea Party. The GOP has a 19% approval rating mostly because of this long-term obstruction and adherence to the same old destructive policies that have cost them dearly. The big losers are majority of the American people, who want a bipartisan approach of spending cuts and revenue. It's like the GOP has learned nothing from their failures, but insteasd double down on minority partisanship.

    February 12, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  25. Ted

    How can Boehner claim he's "gotten burned every time" when he famously said he got 98% of what he wanted in a previous agreement with the President?

    February 12, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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