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. Dave

    John, you are not telling us anything we don't already know.

    February 12, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Anti-boomer

    Not surprised...Republicans are holding on to what they have left ...All they have to do is thank the man from Crawford Texas ...

    February 12, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  3. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    I'd like to see Boehner put up with the crap President Obama has had to cope with. Strike that. I really don't care to see Johnny cry. It's not a ... well ... a very manly sight to behold.

    February 12, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. Smeagel4T

    Boehner lacks the "guts" and "courage" to go against the legalized bribery he receives from industries and corporations. This is the same Boehner who lacked the "guts" and "courage" to NOT pass out tobacco industry lobbyist checks on the actual floor of the House in his early days. Mr. Boehner, please demonstrate a little "guts" and "courage" and start cutting all the corporate welfare you're handing out, and particularly all the pork flowing through the Pentagon bureaucracy to the military-industrial complex welfare queen corporations. Please start showing a little "guts" and "courage" to stand against the industries and corporations that persistently legally bribe you to do their bidding.

    February 12, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. heywood

    Call me crazy, but lets not blame either party individually, they both are absolutely pathetic equally. Gridlock???? Reagan had a democratic controlled congress and he got things done, Clinton had a republican congress, but he got things done. Bohner reid pelosi and cantor are all worthless. This fight isent over the good of America, its about each party individually Tjis country is done, very sad..

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

    I don't know when I've seen the truth twisted quite so much as Mr. Boehner is doing here. But, the voters know the real truth and spewing this type of hatred is certainly no way to try and reach compromise. But, Boehner knew that before he spoke. He thinks throwing down the gauntlet is making him sound tough. It is only making him sound desperate.

    February 12, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Larry L

    "Foreplay"? What an astounding lack of class!

    February 12, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. Lisa P.

    "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.

    Isn't that supposed to be Speaker Boehner's job? He's as much as saying that conservatives have no answer to Liberalism and that the Republicans are so politically and ideologically weak that in essence all they can do is hide behind President Obama's skirt. And he wonders why he gets the short end every time (like, what, twice?) he negotiates with the President? Gee, I wonder why that might be...

    I doubt Speaker Boehner is going to be much happier with regular order. It seems to me he's been doing nothing but avoid it for the last four years. It only took the President two years to figure that out - now the Speaker has no place left to hide lets see if he's finally ready to step up and do some work.

    February 12, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. Expat American

    Guts and Courage hasn't been seen from the GOP since 2000.

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

    i've learned from these nut case that you always accuse your opponent for the same thing you yourself is doing

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

    obama has not a bone in his body he can do nothing more than flop over at the waist and bow down to world leaders because he is spineless as a jelly-fish!!!!!!!!!

    February 12, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. REGinAZ

    The problem once again is the lack of responsible bipartisan cooperation and even of honest compromise, that then simply creates gridlock: as one article stated, "The sequester was supported by both the White House and Congress as a way to encourage lawmakers to find common ground. Instead, they have been mired in a stalemate, unable to find an equitable solution for both sides".  The problem is once again clearly demonstrated by the irresponsible and defensive excuses offered to attack and defensively rationalize instead of reach out.  They accuse each other and so often they criticize for faults which are exactly their own, as if to distract from their own inadequacies by faulting the other side, like Boehner saying "Obama doesn't have the guts" to solve the problem, as if he does to buck his own base with a balanced approach that includes more than just minimal revenue increases.  It sure would be nice to ever get money out of politics, get rid of career politicians and have better control over lobbyists in order to have conscientious and responsible representatives honestly representing the people, the majority.

    February 12, 2013 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. smackinfact

    lets all cry for obammie and him being whimpy

    February 12, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. Sargon

    So he's effectively calling the President a "chicken."

    From what I remember in grade school, the people who would do that were either bullies or loudmouths. Either way, I think the shoe fits.

    February 12, 2013 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Richard Miller

    More courageous words from a cry baby drunk!

    February 12, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. Woman In California

    The republican party has sank so low even the bottom of the sea would be too high for them right now.

    What an outright, disrespectful, low-class statement this is. It is statements such as these, that make intelligent republicans ashamed of having ever associated themselves with the [r] party. Right now, Boehner probably feels his remarks reflect the true feeling of the TP, but what he fails to realize is they reflect him as well. Make no mistake, these are well thought out, nasty, racist comments intended to demean the president and remind him that THEY feel he is out of his place, and that – that place should be opening THEIR car doors and cleaning THEIR WhiteHouse. They are a vile, contemptible, unqualified group of bigots who belong outdoors in the streets and out of our government and congress forever.

    February 12, 2013 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. ultralance12

    Did Boehner just try and call out Obama for not having the "guts" to take on the liberal wing of his party? Oh the irony. It is thick.

    February 12, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. Toni Smith

    Boehner is such a hypocrite, just like the rest of the TeePee-ers and Republicans. This whole nasty crew met while the 2008 Presidential Inauguration was going on and voted, unanimously, to block President Obama at every term - to give POTUS nothing, which meant that the rest of the USA got nothing too. Voters: please, PLEASE dump this whole load of whiny blocking sludge into the trashcan of obscurity in 2014. PLEASE!

    February 12, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  19. Marlene

    EEEWWWWW!!! Now there are two words I never want to see together again "Boehner" and "foreplay"

    February 12, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. Derek

    I agree with some spending cuts. How about cutting subsidies to oil companies when they're making record billions in profits?

    February 12, 2013 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  21. bear

    Speaker Boehner, to Quote Joe Wilson, You lie.

    February 12, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  22. rs

    Mr. Boehner- The President stands up to you and your Republican nonsense. Enough said.

    February 12, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. zeb

    Is this the pot calling the kettle "orange"? Guess he must have been looking in the mirror and fantasizing about him being President? Is the only thing that makes sense to me – why else would he talk about "no guts"? Way to self-analyze, John!

    February 12, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. pkrbkr

    Excuse me, Republicans! You are showing yourselves again to be the "stupid" party! President Obama IS the president, you lost, the American people are behind him, and you'd do yourselves and all of us a favor to get on with the work you were elected to do, quit being obstructionists!

    February 12, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. John Henson

    Talk about someone who doesn't have the courage to face his own people, that's Boehner! The speaker has shown on more occasions than anyone can count how to cave in to the Tea Party, the ultraconservatives or just about anybody ON COMMAND!

    February 12, 2013 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17