The souring of the Obama-Boehner relationship

at 07:56 AM ET, 09/20/2011

Less than two months ago, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were in secret conversations about a so-called “grand bargain” to address the country’s debt problems.


President Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress inside the chamber of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hil in Washington earlier this month. ( REUTERS/Larry Downing)
Today the two men are engaged in an increasingly vitriolic public feud — a remarkable transformation that has mirrored the growing partisanship around the economy and debt and raised doubts about the government’s ability to solve the nation’s big problems.

While both sides insist there is nothing personal to the increasingly antagonistic relationship between the two, their public comments tell a very different story.

In his deficit reduction speech on Monday, Obama described Boehner’s insistence that tax increases not be included in any legislation produced by the super committee as “not smart” and “not right.”

Obama also took the opportunity to take a shot at Boehner over the breakdown of debt-ceiling negotiations this summer; “Unfortunately the speaker walked away from a balanced package,” Obama said.

Boehner was similarly uncharitable in his comments after Obama’s speech today. “I don’t think I would describe class warfare as leadership,” he told Fox Business Network on Monday. “Giving the federal government more money would be like giving a cocaine addict more cocaine,” Boehner added in a speech in Cincinnati. Um, wow.

Boehner elaborated a bit on his relationship with Obama following the jobs speech he delivered last week at the Economic Club of Washington.

“While we have a good relationship, sometimes the conversations that we have would be like two groups of people from two different planets who barely understand each other,” Boehner said. “And I don’t mean it in a derogatory way, but there’s a reason why you’d have two major political parties with big disagreements.”

It is, of course, not terribly surprising that a president and House speaker of different parties don’t see eye-to-eye. While the relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill is cited as an example of “how things used to be,” there are far more examples in history of a president and a speaker being at daggers-drawn.

And that goes double when the political atmosphere is as polarized as the one in which Obama and Boehner are currently operating is. The base of both parties view any sort of compromise as capitulation and with positioning in advance of the 2012 election already begun in earnest, it makes political sense for both men to stake out the ground they are currently occupying.

But it’s also telling that two men who, by their nature, seem drawn to compromise — a look at their records before ascending to their current perches bears that out — have moved so far away from one another in such a short period of time.

It seems, in retrospect, that the collapse of the grand bargain and the dueling, angry press conferences in its immediate aftermath were a genuine breaking point between the two men — creating a can’t-put-the-genie-back-in-the-bottle type of moment.

Time will tell whether the lingering ill will from that moment can be put aside as the deadline for the debt-reduction “supercommittee” to find a way forward on addressing the debt crisis looms. At the moment, however, pessimism seems warranted.

DCCC outraised NRCC in August: The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee outraised its GOP counterpart in August, $3.6 million to $3 million.

The DCCC has raised slightly more money than the National Republican Congressional Committee this year, despite Republicans being in the majority.

The NRCC remains on slightly better financial footing, though, with $11.7 million cash on hand and $2.5 million in debt, versus the DCCC’s $7.8 million in cash and $3.3 million in debt.

Heller up six on Berkley in GOP poll: A poll from Republican pollster Glen Bolger shows appointed Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) leading Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) by six points.

Bolger’s poll, which was conducted for the Retail Association of Nevada, shows Heller at 48 percent and Berkley at 42 percent.

As Nevada political guru Jon Ralston notes, the poll shows Heller leading Berkley by 17 points in Reno-based Washoe County, where the GOP did really well in a special election last week.

A Heller poll on July showed him up four, while a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee poll from June showed Berkley up five.

Bruning has early lead in Nebraska Senate race: Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning holds an early lead in his state’s GOP Senate primary, but nearly half of voters are undecided, according a poll from a Democratic pollster.

The poll by Lake Research Partners for a group opposed to the construction of an oil pipeline showed Bruning at 29 percent, followed by state Treasurer Don Stenberg at 12 percent and state Sen. Deb Fischer at 8 percent. Forty-six percent were undecided.

Bruning said in July that his personal polling showed him with 50 percent of the vote and well ahead. Since then, though he has suffered from some tough press, including questions being raised about a house he bought with business executives whom he had issued a favorable ruling for.

The poll shows Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D-Neb.) approval rating is at 46 percent — a relatively high number for the seldom-polled senator. No general election matchups were released, though, so we don’t know if Nelson has done anything about his underdog status.

Fixbits:

Rick Perry’s latest book isn’t the only one his opponents can mine for opposition research.

The latest Gallup numbers show Perry holding a 31 percent to 24 percent lead on Mitt Romney, but Romney continues to do better against Obama.

Perry will hold a press conference today on Israel policy — a topical and key moment for Perry, who some have seen as confused on foreign policy.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) approval rating hits a new high after Hurricane Irene.

Newt Gingrich will launch a new “Contract with America.”

Herman Cain will address the National Press Club on Oct. 31.

Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) crashes a Perry fundraiser.

Ronald Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan (R), says he is considering running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Rep. Tim Johnson (R-Ill.) gets an opponent in his difficult new district.

Must-reads:

Republicans Sought Clean-Energy Money for Home States” — Eric Lipton, New York Times

Senior Dems not rushing Rep. Giffords” — Josh Lederman, The Hill

West Virginia election could be a bellwether” — Hoppy Kercheval, Charleston Daily Mail

Read more on PostPolitics.com

Women felt left out in Obama administration

Boehner on Obama debt plan: ‘I don’t think I would describe class warfare as leadership’

Fact checking Obama’s Rose Garden statement on taxes and spending

 
Read what others are saying