REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER, IS INTERVIEWED ON CBS' "60 MINUTES"
DECEMBER 12, 2010
SPEAKERS: REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER
DEBBIE BOEHNER, WIFE OF JOHN BOEHNER
BOB BOEHNER, BROTHER OF JOHN BOEHNER
LESLEY STAHL, CBS CORRESPONDENT
STAHL: John Boehner is about to replace Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House and become the most powerful Republican in the country and third in line to the presidency. He was swept in with the biggest Republican landslide in the House since 1938.
As we set off to meet him we had two questions -- which John Boehner will show up as speaker -- the dealmaker he's been in the past or the more hardline conservative of late who's aligned himself with the Tea Party that helped bring him and his party back into power? And what kind of a relationship will he develop with President Obama?
We met at the Capitol the day after the President announced the new tax deal. When I asked him about the President, he dwelt on their differences.
STAHL: What do you think of him?
J. BOEHNER: I think he's engaging. Certainly smart. Brilliant. But, you know, we come from different backgrounds. And I think our view of the economy is also very different.
STAHL (voice-over): That's for sure. I asked him about the President saying the day before that the Republicans are holding the American people hostage to get tax cuts for the wealthy.
(on camera): He basically called you a hostage-taker.
J. BOEHNER: Excuse me, Mr. President. I thought the election was over. You know, you get a lot of that heated rhetoric during an election. But now it's time to govern.
STAHL: Do you think that his tone will make it more difficult for you to come together as we move forward on issues, or are you just flicking it off?
J. BOEHNER: I -- listen, I've got thick skin. And -- and a lot of words get said here in Washington, you just have to let them run off your back. See -- the -- the president was having a tough day.
STAHL: You're so understanding.
J. BOEHNER: I have a tough day from time to time myself.
STAHL (voice-over): But later in the interview, it became clear that the president's jab about hostage takers had bothered him.
(on camera): There have been moments of disrespect shown to President Obama.
J. BOEHNER: Well, there was some disrespect I would suggest that was shown to me yesterday by the President. STAHL (voice-over): The most powerful Democrat and the now most powerful Republican are sizing each other up. They may have exchanged more words via television than in person. And most of them have been, shall we say, unfriendly.
J. BOEHNER: And look at how this bill was written.
STAHL: Mr. Boehner was the one who urged Republicans in the House to vote as a block...
J. BOEHNER: How long you can't...
STAHL: ... against all of Mr. Obama's initiatives --health care, the stimulus, and on and on. And he escalated the attacks during the campaign.
J. BOEHNER: Your government is out of control. Do you have to accept it?
J. BOEHNER: Do you have to take it?
J. BOEHNER: I know you don't.
STAHL: His strategy of defiance worked. And on election night in his victory speech...
J. BOEHNER: This is a time to roll up our sleeves.
STAHL: ... the public saw something they probably never expected from Mr. Hell No, it was called "the sob heard around the world."
J. BOEHNER: I've spent my whole life chasing the American Dream.
STAHL: We learned two things that night that the speaker-elect is one emotional guy...
J. BOEHNER: I put my -- myself through school working every rotten job there was.
STAHL: ... and that if ever there was an American dream story, up from nothing, it's John Boehner's.
(on camera): Does this look like it looked when you were a kid?
J. BOEHNER: Oh, kinda.
STAHL: Come to the bar and go to work when you...
J. BOEHNER: Kinda.
J. BOEHNER: Yeah.
STAHL (voice-over): He spent his childhood working here at Andy's, his father's bar in Reading, Ohio, a factory town outside Cincinnati.
You worked here from the age of...
J. BOEHNER: I was about 10 years old. We got to be about nine or 10 and we came in on Saturday mornings with dad and mopped the floor. Helped cook breakfast. Clean up the dishes. Wash the windows.
There they are. There they are.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JOHN BOEHNER: Hi.
STAHL: His brothers and sisters all worked at the bar, all eleven of them, most of whom we met that day.
(on camera): Is this the first time since the election?
(UNKNOWN): Most -- mostly, yeah.
(UNKNOWN): For most of us.
STAHL: So now you'll have to -- going to call him Mr. Speaker?
(UNKNOWN): I don't think so.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS OF JOHN BOEHNER: No.
STAHL (voice-over): John's the second oldest...
J. BOEHNER: I was the authoritarian.
STAHL: ... bossy with his three sisters and eight brothers. They lived in a small house with only one bathroom.
(on camera): You had to get along?
J. BOEHNER: Yeah.
B. BOEHNER: Oh, yeah.
J. BOEHNER: There wasn't enough room to not get along.
B. BOEHNER: Yeah.
STAHL: You couldn't fight.
J. BOEHNER: It wasn't like you could go hide in another room somewhere.
B. BOEHNER: We didn't think it was a -- unusual that we had 12.
J. BOEHNER: Well, the only different between six or seven or 12 is that the chaos lasts longer.
STAHL: How many days a week did you go to church? Did you go to mass?
J. BOEHNER: Every morning.
STAHL: Every morning?
J. BOEHNER: Every morning.
STAHL (voice-over): The Boehners were John Kennedy Democrats, but in the 1970s when he bought a small business and made millions in plastics he was shocked at how taxes ate up so much of it, and converted to his new political religion Reagan Republicanism.
J. BOEHNER: Mr. Speaker, my colleagues arrived today...
STAHL: In Congress, he was part of the Republican leadership until then-Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced out. Then, as he put it, he clawed and plotted his way back to becoming speaker.
(on camera): On election night, what made you sad, what -- what got to you that night?
J. BOEHNER: I was talking, trying to talk about the fact that I've been chasing the American Dream my whole career. There're some -- some things that are real -- very difficult to talk about -- family, kids. I can't go to a school anymore. I used to go to a lot of schools. And you see all these little kids running around. Can't talk about it.
J. BOEHNER: Making sure that these kids have a shot at the American Dream, like I did. It's important.
STAHL (voice-over): Turns out his colleagues in Congress are familiar with his waterworks. He even chokes up over legislation.
J. BOEHNER: And I think at the top of our list is providing for the safety and the security of the American people.
STAHL (on camera): Remember when Ed Muskie cried?
J. BOEHNER: Oh yeah.
STAHL: That wasn't good.
J. BOEHNER: Wasn't good. That's all right.
J. BOEHNER: Listen...
STAHL: ... are you trying not to? J. BOEHNER: No. What you see is what you get. I'm -- I know who I am. I'm comfortable in my own skin. And everybody who knows me knows that I get emotional about certain things.
STAHL (voice-over): So what kind of speaker will he be?
(on camera): Newt Gingrich was quoted in the paper saying that you should look at the mistakes he made and learn lessons from that. Will you...
J. BOEHNER: I have.
STAHL: You have?
J. BOEHNER: I have.
STAHL: Give us a hint of -- of the mistakes that you're going to avoid.
J. BOEHNER: Well, first and foremost, this is not going to be about me. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: We are going to keep...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STAHL (voice-over): Gingrich was flamboyant; Boehner is restrained. Gingrich was an ideologue. As a former businessman, Boehner's more of an establishment Republican.
During the campaign, he was lampooned in ads for playing too much golf with lobbyists. But he also has a record of reaching across the aisle to work on legislation with the Democrats.
(on camera): Ted Kennedy. People are going to be surprised to find out that you and Ted Kennedy were good friends.
J. BOEHNER: We were really good friends.
STAHL: Tell us about that.
J. BOEHNER: He may have been this big liberal lion publicly; privately, he was -- he's a regular guy. You could work with him. Work things out.
STAHL (voice-over): The question now is whether he can work things out with the President?
At his news conference on Tuesday, Mr. Obama threw out a challenge...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Once John Boehner's sworn in as the speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You -- you can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
J. BOEHNER: We have to govern. That's what we were elected to do.
STAHL (on camera): But governing means a -- compromising.
J. BOEHNER: It means working together. It means find...
STAHL: It also means compromising.
J. BOEHNER: It means finding common ground.
STAHL: OK, is that compromising?
J. BOEHNER: I made clear I am not going to compromise on -- on my principles, nor am I going to compromise...
STAHL: What are you saying?
J. BOEHNER: ... the will of the American people.
STAHL: And you're saying I want common ground, but I'm not going to compromise. I don't understand that. I really don't.
J. BOEHNER: When you say the -- when you say the word "compromise"...
J. BOEHNER: ... a lot of Americans look up and go, "Uh-oh, they're going to sell me out." And so finding common ground I think makes more sense.
STAHL (voice-over): I reminded him that his goal had been to get all the Bush tax cuts made permanent.
(on camera): So you did compromise?
J. BOEHNER: I've -- we found common ground.
STAHL: Why won't you say -- you're afraid of the word.
J. BOEHNER: I reject the word.
STAHL (voice-over): One reason is because half of his new members are Tea Partiers who think compromise is a dirty word, even when it comes to raising the national debt limit, which Mr. Boehner has said the new Congress will have to deal with as adults to keep the federal government from defaulting.
(on camera): Are you going to play the adult card with your caucus if they disagree with you?
J. BOEHNER: Probably.
STAHL: Sounds like it...
J. BOEHNER: I'll have my moments, I'm sure.
STAHL: But it sounds like a put-down. Sounds like they're children. And you're going to have to...
J. BOEHNER: No, no. It's...
STAHL: ... treat them as children.
J. BOEHNER: No. I think we're on a pretty short leash. If we don't deliver what the American people are demanding, they'll throw us out of here in a heartbeat.
STAHL: But, obviously, you think the deficit is a -- is a major problem, don't you?
J. BOEHNER: I do.
STAHL: Was the tax deal, in your opinion, worth the nine hundred billion dollars added to the deficit, was it worth it in your mind?
J. BOEHNER: Washington does not have a revenue problem. Washington has a spending problem.
STAHL: But I'm asking you a simple question. Was it worth what you got? Was it worth it in light of the $900 billion?
J. BOEHNER: I think it will. I think it's worth it. I think it will create jobs and help our economy.
STAHL: You said you're going to bring up a spending cutting measure...
J. BOEHNER: Every week.
STAHL: Every week?
J. BOEHNER: Every week.
STAHL: What's your first one going to be?
J. BOEHNER: Well, how about we start with cutting Congress? I'm going to cut my budget, my leadership budget 5 percent. I'm going to cut all the leadership budgets by 5 percent. I'm going to cut every committee's budget by 5 percent. And every member is going to see a 5 percent reduction in their allowance. All together that's $25 million, $30 million, and it likely would be one of the first votes we cast.
STAHL: OK, but you admit that's not very much money.
J. BOEHNER: We've got to start somewhere. And we're going to start there.
STAHL (voice-over): And what about building a relationship with the president? They do have several things in common.
(on camera): You play golf. President plays golf. You've never played together, right?
J. BOEHNER: No.
STAHL: How come?
J. BOEHNER: I don't know. Usually what happens is the president invites you.
STAHL: And you're a much better golfer than he is, right?
J. BOEHNER: He understands that.
... and that's why he hasn't invited you?
J. BOEHNER: No, I don't know. But listen, playing golf with someone is a great way to really get to know someone. You start trying to hit that little white ball. You can't be somebody that you're not because all of you shows up.
STAHL: So is this a hint? Are you saying, "Come on, Mr. President. Let's go get to know each other."
J. BOEHNER: We've talked about it. We've talked about it a number of times.
J. BOEHNER: It just hasn't happened, yet.
STAHL (voice-over): The president teased Boehner about something else they share...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: After all we have a lot in common. He is a person of color...
PETER GREENBERG, CBS TRAVEL EDITOR: ... although not a color that appears in the natural world. (END VIDEO CLIP)
STAHL (voice-over): Debbie Boehner, his wife of 37 years, says he's had dark skin as long as she's known him.
J. BOEHNER: Listen, I've never been in a tanning salon in my life. I've never used a tanning product in my life.
STAHL (on camera): So you never move to Washington?
D. BOEHNER: Um-mm.
STAHL (voice-over): Mrs. Boehner stayed home in Ohio with their two daughters, Tricia and Lindsay, through his 20 years in Congress. I asked them how they met.
J. BOEHNER: Oh, that was really romantic.
STAHL (on camera): Was it? What was it?
J. BOEHNER: I was emptying her garbage can one morning.
STAHL: What? What? What?
J. BOEHNER: When I was a working -- when I was a janitor.
STAHL (voice-over): He was working nights to pay for college, which took him seven years to finish.
(on camera): So what do you think about him being speaker of the House? Has it hit you?
D. BOEHNER: No. It sure hasn't. Real proud of him. He'll do -- he'll do a good job. I'm real proud of him.
STAHL: You know what's happening over here?
D. BOEHNER: Oh, yeah.
J. BOEHNER: No, no, my nose is running.
D. BOEHNER: That wasn't a nose running.
STAHL: No it's not. What set you off that time because she's proud of you? He cries all the time?
D. BOEHNER: No.
D. BOEHNER: No, but he's going through an emotional period, too. I mean, this isn't, you know -- as you said this is not an ordinary job. Whoever would have thought that he'd be in this position? He was a janitor on the night shift when I met him.
(LAUGHTER) He's come a long way.
STAHL: Somebody who's go -- gone from mopping this floor...
D. BOEHNER: Mm-Hm.
STAHL: ... to being speaker of the House.
D. BOEHNER: Yeah, doesn't happen every day.
Dec 13, 2010 12:23 ET
Source: CQ Transcriptions
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