John Boehner isn't giving up his speakership or the fight to win debt talks against Barack Obama, but he does sounds like a man whose thankless job is starting to take a toll. In an interview in today's The Wall Street Journal, Boehner recounts some of the tense moments from the recent fiscal cliff fight while also giving away some of his strategy for the impending debit ceiling talks.
One key theme running through Boehner's interview — besides his chain smoking — is his obvious frustration with the president over the very definition of what they're fighting about. The Speaker is determined to slash government spending in order to reduce the deficit; the President says there isn't a spending problem at all. (The problem is that health care is too expensive, but Boehner naturally blames that on the President's health care policies.)
There also seems to be a disconnect, with the Speaker and the President both thinking the other is too afraid of his own party. While others briefly worried that Boehner would be overthrown by his own party, the Speaker says Obama is "unwilling to take on the left wing of his own party" and wouldn't even try to sell a compromise to Democrats. Meanwhile, he takes all the guff for not negotiating, saying. "I'm the guy who put revenues on the table the day after the election."
Boehner did confirm that his now infamous "go fuck yourself" comment came in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling him a dictator:
"I was in Ohio, and Harry's on the Senate floor calling me a dictator and all kinds of nasty things. You know, I don't lose my temper. I never do. But I was shocked at what Harry was saying about me. I came back to town. Saw Harry at the White House. And that was when that was said."
And while Boehner doesn't seem to feel he made many strategic mistakes in the fiscal negotiations, he does admit that he wasn't happy with the final bill. Still, going forward Boehner says he retains the edge on the debt ceiling, thanks to the sequester (his "one point of leverage"), which he's more than happy to drop in the President's lap.
But Boehner doesn't seem all that optimistic about the talks over all, because he doesn't think the President sees things his way on the actual issue at stake: debt. He's not going anywhere, after getting re-elected as Speaker, but that also doesn't mean he has to like it — Boehner put it bluntly, as always: "I need this job like I need a hole in the head."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.