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. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "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 policies of division and envy is – to me it's almost un-American," said Boehner.
    Go have another drink Bonehead.

    January 24, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  2. john

    American Politics is the ART OF COMPROMISE. The Republicans have failed miserably and John Boehner should be embarrassed with his failure in leadership. He is the EMBARRASSING American.

    January 24, 2012 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. Sean

    No Boehner, what's un-American is putting your party's desires ahead of the needs of the American people during an economic crisis. I've voted Republican plenty of times, but the past few years have seen the GOP pursuing the most self-serving, machiavellian agenda to undercut every positive effort made by our President that I've ever had the displeasure of witnessing. Boehner and his ilk should be ashamed of themselves.

    January 24, 2012 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "It was like negotiating with someone who never negotiated anything," said Boehner, "at some point someone has to say 'yes.'"
    So, why didn't you?

    January 24, 2012 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Gary Street - Truth and nothing but the Truth forgot something...the truth. The 60% against the health care only exists among the radical tea-party supporters. The majority of actual Americans have found this program helpful to the average American
    So we can expect Obama and all the Democrats running to highlight what a great achievement Obamacare has been for America right? If it is so great and everybody wants it, then it would be a sure ticket to re-election, right?? Somehow, I haven't seen all those ads.... Hmmm.... I wonder why??? Because what I stated is TRUE. The reversal of Obamacare will propel the Republican candidate to victory in November.

    January 24, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "We understand each other well. We speak a different language. I can never get him to say 'yes,'" he said.
    As in yes "yes'm!" perhaps?
    You mean he wasn't caving in to your terrorist-like demands? Holding his own? Not as naive as you wanted, expected, or hoped for?
    President was in there fighting for us, the middle-class?
    We should use your testimonial as part of his re-election campaign!
    Thanks Bonehead!

    January 24, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  7. jamarsu

    What? and this guy has the nerve to sit behind the President tonight at the SOTU address? He should be banned from the House. It's NOT class warfare. It's the truth. The Repukes grovel to the rich.

    January 24, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. Taran

    @Truth and Nothing but, hmmmmmm, makes sense.

    January 24, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    I'll reiterate:
    The President didn't have to say A WORD.
    He gave you enough room and rope to hang yourselves......and you did quite publicly might I add.
    Your jig is UP!!!
    Peek-a-boo!! WE SEE YOU!

    January 24, 2012 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. Jeremy Slater

    Is there any independent out there who can listen to Boehner's description of President Obama and not laugh? I've read his past comments about budget negotiations "Everything is on the table" "We are ready to make painful compromises to move this forward", only to be followed by an endless list of things which are "off the table". Most of the independent economists I've read have agreed that any significant deficit reduction can only be accomplished through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. The only spending cuts I've heard the Republicans agree to are from discretionary spending on programs they dislike for political reasons ("defund Planned Parenthood"), funding for projects in any congressional district but their own, and Social Security/Medicare. Cuts to the last will primarily affect the middle class and below, but somehow it is the Democrats who are engaging in class warfare. Tax increases are off limits. Cuts to defense spending are off limits. By the time both sides arrive at the table, the Republicans seem to have removed everything from the table that would constitute the slightest compromise. I know from speaking with friends who are liberal democrats that they would agree to signficant cuts in social welfare programs if the other side would compromise on tax increases and defense spending cuts. So I'm waiting to hear from the Speaker a specific list of real compromises he and his party would be willing to make in the name of getting the necessary work of governing accomplished. Name even one.

    January 24, 2012 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Taran

    @mama four obama, Bo ner probably did not say yes because, saying yes to everything obama wanted would have caused to much damage to the country. His job has been to minimize the damage as much as possible. I read from another poster somewhere that, "any improvement in the past three years has been in spite of the democrats policies, rather than because of them." or something like that. I have to agree for the most part with that statement.

    January 24, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. drdiane50

    Does Boehner expect ANYONE to take his comments seriously? He is SO wrong on so many levels. Yes, a rising tide can lift all boats – but does anyone see a rising tide here? It's only rising for the already very rich – and Boehner would make those people even richer. Cause, ya know, they don't have enough money and they ARE , after all, the job creators...which explains why so many jobs have been created since the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. As for the economy being worse – c'mon people, this is patently untrue, yet the Republicans keep on repeating it. Only those who are living under a rock can't see the hypocrisy of these guys. Boehner can't say yes to anything that would actually be good for the middle class or the working class – the rigid far right of his party won't allow it.

    January 24, 2012 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  13. Stephen in VA

    Oh, hey, Boehner! I completely forgot you existed there with all the circus acts going on in your party's primary spectacular. ...and you have the nerve to complain about the President disappearing? At least he's giving a speech tonight. You're, what, sniping for sound bytes on CNN? Way to be a go-get-'em leader.

    Oh, and if you haven't noticed, Representative Boehner, people in Newt's camp have been crediting HIM for the balanced budget under Clinton. Keep in mind that if they get away with that, then by the same logic the current debt issue we have is YOUR fault. Gotta watch where that good ole' logic leads....

    January 24, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  14. Darrell

    Truth and Nothing But the Truth....your truth meter has expired.

    January 24, 2012 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  15. EDDIE

    Just more Obama bashing.I read the article And he say's the Presidents policies are almost un american.Ok which policies and exactly how are they hurting America? They can spit out a headline but then there's no substance after that.Wait I think I just descibed the republican party.A whole lo tof nothing.

    January 24, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  16. Phil in KC

    Huh?! No one has been as divisive as the Republicans. And, after a statement like that, I don't know how he expects the President to work with him at all. The problem with the Republicans is that it's their way or the highway. To them, compromise means 'do it my way'. If it were me, I'd tell the Republicans they'd better elect a new speaker, because the one they have is now persona non grata at the White House.

    January 24, 2012 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. Joi Gibson

    What is un-American is to purposely obstruct a sitting president simply because you do not like the man who is president. What is un-American is obstruction even if it causes gridlock to the point of our credit rating being downgraded and then blame the president. What is un-American is holding the middle class hostage so the uber-rich can get even lower tax rates. What is un-American is calling President Obama un-American. Shame on you John Boehner.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012?

    January 24, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. Dave

    You can sure tell it's getting to be election season. The GOP would question George Washington's patriotism if they thought it would get them votes. Of course, their knuckle-dragging, brainless base eats it right up. Some things never change...

    January 24, 2012 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. sonny chapman

    Un-American ? Who gets to make that call ? You & your Repub. buddies who don't pay taxes, whose kids never fight in the wars you love so much, but you call yourselves PATRIOT ! Disgusting ! Jesus hated hypocrites, Matthew 23.

    January 24, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  20. Ferret out the B.S.

    It is clearly evident that Speaker Boehner only sees things his way, he and his caucus are incapable of compromising and doing what is good for all the people in this country. They want an ultra conservative theocracy that only serves a very few. You sir are the un-American not the president!

    January 24, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. Beverly - NYC

    The Repub,s let Grover Norquist and the Koch brother use them like puppets and it's Obama fault. Surprised Boehner could say this BS with a straight face. Where are the jobs you promised with your big win in 2010 ? Keep appealing to your low IQ 20% base, the rest of us have your number. Fox watchers are slow but even they will come to the realization that they have been hoodwinked by Republican promises.

    January 24, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. David in Houston

    Someone please wake me when the GOP starts giving a damn about the middle class...Zzzzzz.

    January 24, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  23. Republican who supports President Obama

    Just because the President is not a Republican this guy calls him and his agenda unAmerican. What!!!!!! What the freak is going on in Washington. The speaker of the house should be held accountable for saying such stupid remarks. I would like to see him removed from his position and have a replacement who will work with the administration rather than cry about it all day. The term of President is 4 years – get over it.

    January 24, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  24. VA VERY Ex Republican

    yes he is a uniter. he united 99% of the nation who pay 30% in taxes against the 1% of the nation the GOP united behind who pay 14% or less in taxes. I want my money back from the IRS. why should I finance the rich.

    January 24, 2012 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  25. FactCheck

    Oh yeah, 60% of America want it repealed.

    I always wondered where bagger came up with nonsense like this. I guess facts don't have any place in your corner.

    January 24, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
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