Boehner: Politics President Obama is running on 'almost un-American'
January 24th, 2012
12:54 PM ET
11 years ago

Boehner: Politics President Obama is running on 'almost un-American'

Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday forcefully denounced the Democrats' campaign theme that they are for the middle class and Republicans are for the wealthy – saying the politics the president is running on are "almost un-American."

"This is a president who said I'm not going to be a divider, I'm going to be a uniter, and running on the politics of division and envy is – to me it's almost un-American," said Boehner.

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Speaking to a small group of reporters in his Capitol office ahead of the president's State of the Union address, Boehner said Democrats have been trying to push the same middle class versus wealthy theme for "eighty years" and suggested it won't work for President Obama.

"He can run, he can hide, make all the noise he wants – but it's going to be a referendum on his policies, and they haven't worked," said Boehner.

Boehner backed up his comments and philosophy with a quote from the late President John F. Kennedy, saying "a rising tide lifts all boats" – a phrase often used to suggest that, when the general economy is good, everyone benefits.

The House speaker accused President Obama of being "AWOL since Labor Day" and said the two men haven't spoken since December 23rd – over a month ago.

"They've been in full campaign mode since then and I expect tonight we'll see more of the same," said Boehner, who also said the State of the Union speech was "written by the campaign."

Still, he said he hopes the president produces an "olive branch" to Republicans in his address to Congress.

"I've made clear to my members, while we have big disagreements about the kind of policies that are best for the country, our job still is to find common ground on behalf of the American people," he said.

Boehner hit a growing, coordinated theme from Republicans about President Obama – that he acts as though he is not responsible for the current economy – but he is.

"The president would like people to believe tonight this is his first year in the White House, it's as though he's taking the place of Rip Van Winkle and forgetting the fact that he's been president for 3 years. The first two years he had a Democratic Congress who gave him everything he wanted and the fact is his policies have not only not helped the economy, they've made it worse."

Boehner insisted the goal is to "work with the president, especially on the issue of jobs," and said the only thing on the Democrats' agenda is extending the payroll tax cut for one year.

Boehner on the GOP presidential race

On the subject of Mitt Romney's just-released taxes, Boehner noted that Romney seemingly paid what was legally due.

Pressed whether Romney's income and his 14 percent tax rate would work against him with voters, Boehner took a different view, saying he thought Romney having paid three million dollars in taxes "would strike most people as a lot of money."

Though Boehner served as a Gingrich lieutenant when Gingrich was Speaker of the House, he insisted he was going to "stay out" of the GOP primary fight because he knows all the men still running.

He would only say the primary process will "produce a good candidate and I expect to support him."

Some Republican editorial writers are still calling for someone new to enter the GOP race. Boehner said he could only see that happening if one of the candidates running now fails to get enough delegates to win.

Does he think that could happen? "I don't know," Boehner replied.

While he suggested the primary season has been a good one, Boehner also complained of too many debates and too long a process calling it "not the most efficient way to select a candidate."

"My point is this has been a very long grueling process, and it probably prevents good people from making a decision to run," said Boehner.

Still, pointing to the Democrats lengthy, contentious 2008 primary season, which resulted in the election of President Obama, Boehner does not think a drawn out primary will hurt the Republican nominee.

"I'm not concerned about how long the primary process has been nor am I concerned about how long it lasts," said Boehner.

Boehner on his relationship with President Obama

The House Speaker, who said last year he barely knew the president, now says the two have a relationship that's "actually pretty good."

"You'd be surprised, we banter back and forth," he said.

When pressed on what appeared to be a contradiction - that he claims to have a good relationship with a president he hasn't spoken to in a month, Boehner insisted they have a good personal dynamic, but their working relationship was "unproductive."

The two men spent a lot of time negotiating over the past year - especially on an ill-fated debt ceiling deal.

Boehner was biting when it came to the President's negotiating skills.

"It was like negotiating with someone who never negotiated anything," said Boehner, "at some point someone has to say 'yes.'"

The Speaker said the two men "come from two different planets" when it comes to their philosophies.

"We understand each other well. We speak a different language. I can never get him to say 'yes,'" he said.

Boehner on the House Republicans

The House speaker's first year in the job marked some difficult moments trying to corral his members to find compromise – especially on issues of spending.

What did he learn?

Boehner said he made clear to House Republicans at their retreat last week not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

He said he told them "when they push for too much they actually get less than what they would have gotten."

When asked of the members got it, Boehner replied with a smile, "some got it, some probably didn't."

Also see:

Gingrich close to 'money bomb' goal

Gingrich lands Fred Thompson endorsement

New year, old fights in Congress

Filed under: 2012 • John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Didn't Hitler also get elected on a hate filled campaign???

    January 24, 2012 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  2. Andrew

    wasn't Bush the one who called himself a uniter?
    either way, it's pretty hard to unite people when the other party goes against EVERYTHING you say, even if it is something they used to want.

    January 24, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. DaveC

    Every time this guy opens his mouth he subtracts from the sum total of human knowledge.

    January 24, 2012 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. glyder

    his policies are un american?yeah but so are most of the policies from both parties.

    January 24, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    I don't understand... Why isn't he out there talking up his greatest achievement... OBAMACARE??? Oh yeah, 60% of America want it repealed. I guess Obama has united America in at least one sense, they want his greatest achievement thrown out the window!

    January 24, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Obama is a redical leftist FIRST. Being an American is much further down the list.

    January 24, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  7. Dixie Independent voter

    Who are the Republicans that are going to work with Obama on jobs? Unless there has been a complete turn around, they aren't in the House.

    January 24, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  8. Greg in Arkansas

    "he hopes the president produces an "olive branch" to Republicans in his address to Congress."????
    The republicans need a "hickory switch" in the wood shed for the way they have behaved these past few years by obstructing EVERYTHING in their effort to make sure "Obama is a one term president".....while the rest of America suffers......

    January 24, 2012 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  9. simp

    What a loser. Saying the President is dividing the country is just a big fat lie!! It's the idiot republicians that won't let this President pass anything, they want President Obama to fail and they are constatly lying to the american people. I can't wait until President Obama wipes the floor with big head newt or romney this fall.

    January 24, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    What is truly un-American is GOP obstruction.

    January 24, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota

    Speaker Boehner represents all that is wrong within the Republican party. Just saying.

    January 24, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Jack

    In other words we, the working class, should admire the wealthy because they will embrace us lovingly and take care of us when times are bad and they are making millions but have our well-being at heart. Uhuh. Got it.

    January 24, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  13. Voice of Reason

    And yet you use loopholes, filibusters and obstructionism to get your way – how American is that, Mr Boehner?

    The House 'leadership' over the last year or so has been a complete and utter failure. This filibustering fiasco has lead to more gridlock than gravitas. More silliness than solutions. The GOP promised the world, then failed to deliver a pebble. I hope you have good retirement plans, Mr Boehner – you're about to need them.

    January 24, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |

    Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    Where are the jobs, Boehner?

    January 24, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  15. chill

    John, if he unites 99% against 1%, that's pretty good. And not all the 1% disagree with him either. The Robber Barons were not All-Americans to most people. And did you sleep through the first two years? Are you forgetting the filibuster everything, never say yes, deating Obama is more improtant than the good of the country GOP Senators? If you guys were ever fully honest for ten minutes, it would be a revelation.

    January 24, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. anagram_kid

    Jut to recap – per Speaker Boehner, being divisive is bad. He then goes on to make a very divisive statement. How long until Roget’s adds Republican as a synonym for hypocrite?
    Obama 2012

    January 24, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. Rudy NYC

    "House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday forcefully denounced the Democrats' campaign theme that they are for the middle class and Republicans are for the wealthy – saying the policies the president is running on are "almost un-American.""
    Seeing how you can count on one hand how seldom the phrase "middle class" has been used by the Republican candidates and Republican politicians, and then compare that to how many times they use the phrase "job creators" [because trickle down is no longer politically correct] it is the only conclusion that you can draw. Seeing how all of their tax plans are biased in favor of the wealthy in this country, it is the only conclusion that you can draw. Seeing how they demonize the core of the middle class, union employees, it is the only conclusion that you can draw. This isn't rocket science.

    January 24, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  18. Tyler Durden

    "He's a divider." "He's un-American." You know what they say, Boehner, when you point one finger at someone else yu have three of your fingers pointng back at yourself...

    January 24, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. Marie MD

    Can somebody please tell bo ner to go back in hibernation? Can this man get any more ridiculous? Your party of hell no was the one who ran on JOBS!!!! Remember? That's right you mind is not the same as it used to be with all that drinking.
    The President wants to unite the country but with ignorant people like you in congress and your tea bagging friends holding on to your cojones you can't do anything. BTW the president, any president, does not create jobs. Thanks for reminding us yet again, how absolutely stupid you are!!!!

    January 24, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. rs

    Mr. Boehner- holding American jobs, and the economy hostage for tax cuts for the super-rich, for cutting regulations that affect human health, and imposing radical right social mores on America is not just un-American, or "treasonous", they are terrorist acts.

    January 24, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. jbreezy

    truth is congress refuses to compromise at every turn. the economy would be further along if republicans would do their job.most of the presidents policies have worked all gop has done is water them down.why does the pres. have to bend over backwards for them to say no? why do they not respect the office of the potus?my guess is bc hes black and no blackman should fix what they broke.

    January 24, 2012 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  22. Voice of Reason

    ...said the man who uses 30-second pro-forma sessions of congress to keep the gridlock going. One thing i will say for Mr Boehner, it takes a lotta balls to say that the President is UnAmerican when you are doing everything in your power to be unamerican yourself.

    I would have expected this kind of hypocrisy from Gingrich, I guess Boehner is cut from the same cloth.

    January 24, 2012 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  23. Bill

    Boehner is a loser. He also will not be speaker after Nov. 2012.

    January 24, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. Rudy NYC

    Truth wrote:

    Didn't Hitler also get elected on a hate filled campaign???
    I think you're correct. Must be where Republicans like Gingrich get their inspiration. Must be where Republicans like Santorum and Perry get their inspiration. It appears that boiling hatred is what has motivated the conservative base in this election cycle. Not the middle class. Not the foreclosure problem. Nothing except hatred, gloom, doom, and destruction.

    January 24, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. Independent Voters

    Boehner need to be not elected. Boehner let the tea party tell him what to do and it destroying our country.
    Boehner will not be elected we need president Obama 4 more years.

    January 24, 2012 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
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