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CBS's Stahl Worries 'Mr. Hell No' John Boehner Will Be A 'Hardline Conservative' Speaker

Introducing her interview with presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner on Sunday's 60 Minutes, CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl proclaimed: "...which John Boehner will show up as speaker, the deal-maker 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?"

Stahl noted how Boehner and President Obama "may have exchanged more words via television than in person. And most of them have been, shall we say, unfriendly." She lamented how Boehner "was the one who urged Republicans in the House to vote as a block....Against all of Mr. Obama's initiatives - health care, the stimulus, and on and on." She added that "he escalated the attacks during the campaign" and later dubbed him "Mr. Hell No."

Earlier, Stahl wondered: "What kind of a relationship will he [Boehner] develop with President Obama?" She disappointedly noted how Boehner "dwelled on their differences." Stahl asked about Obama's comments "that the Republicans are holding the American people hostage to get tax cuts for the wealthy" and described how that "jab" had "bothered" Boehner. She argued: "There have been moments of disrespect shown to President Obama." Boehner replied: "Well, there was some disrespect, I would suggest, that was shown to me yesterday by the President."

Later in the interview, Stahl grilled Boehner on his willingness to compromise: "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." A clip was played of Obama declaring that Boehner "can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower." Boehner explained: "We have to govern. That's what we were elected to do." Stahl asserted: "But governing means compromising."

Boehner responded: "I made it clear - I am not going to compromise on my principles." Stahl could be heard gasping at that statement. Boehner continued: "Nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people." Moments later, he explained: "When you say the word 'compromise' 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 concluded: "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." She noted how Boehner "said the new Congress will have to deal with [the debt limit] as adults to keep the federal government from defaulting." She then wondered if he would "play the adult card" with House Republicans on the issue.

On the topic of the national debt, Stahl asked: "You think the deficit is a major problem, don't you?...Was the tax deal, in your opinion, worth the $900 billion added to the deficit? Was it worth it, in your mind?" Boehner pointed out: "Washington does not have a revenue problem; Washington has a spending problem." Stahl pressed: "But I'm asking you a simple question. Was it worth - what you got - was it worth it, in light of the $900 billion?"

Midway through the interview, Stahl observed: "Newt Gingrich was quoted in the paper, saying that you should look at the mistakes he made and learn lessons from that." Boehner explained that he already had. Stahl requested: "Give us a hint of the mistakes that you're going to avoid."

Here is a transcript of relevant portions of the December 12 interview:

7:30PM ET

LESLEY 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 deal-maker 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 dwelled on their differences. What do you think of him?

JOHN 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: 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. He basically called you a hostage-taker.

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?

BOEHNER: I - listen, I've got thick skin. And a lot of words get said here in Washington. You just have to let them run off your back. The President was having a tough day.

STAHL: You're so understanding.

BOEHNER: I have a tough day, from time to time, myself.

STAHL: But later in the interview, it became clear that the President's jab about hostage takers had bothered him. There have been moments of disrespect shown to President Obama.

BOEHNER: Well, there was some disrespect, I would suggest, that was shown to me yesterday by the President.

STAHL: 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.

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.

BOEHNER: Hell, no, 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.

BOEHNER: Your government is out of control. Do you have to accept it?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: Do you have to take it?

CROWD: No.

BOEHNER: Hell, no, you don't!

STAHL: His strategy of defiance worked. And on election night, in his victory speech-

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 'round the world.'

...

STAHL: 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.

BARACK OBAMA: Once John Boehner's sworn in as speaker, then he's going to have responsibilities to govern. You can't just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower.

BOEHNER: We have to govern. That's what we were elected to do.

STAHL: But governing means compromising.

BOEHNER: It means working together.

STAHL: It also means compromising.

BOEHNER: It means finding common ground.

STAHL: Okay, is that compromising?

BOEHNER: I made it clear - I am not going to compromise on my principles-

[STAHL GASPS]

BOEHNER: Nor am I going to compromise the will of the American people.

STAHL: You're saying, 'I want common ground, but I'm not going to compromise.' I don't understand that. I really don't.

BOEHNER: When you say the word 'compromise'-

STAHL: Yeah.

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: I reminded him that his goal had been to get all the Bush tax cuts made permanent. So you did compromise.

BOEHNER: We found common ground.

STAHL: Why won't you say - you're afraid of the word.

BOEHNER: I reject the word.

STAHL: 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. Are you going to play the adult card with your caucus if they disagree with you?

BOEHNER: Probably.

STAHL: Sounds like-

BOEHNER: I'll have my moments, I'm sure.

STAHL: But it's sounds like a putdown, it sounds like they're children.

BOEHNER: No, no.

STAHL: And you're going to have to treat them as children.

BOEHNER: No. And 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 major problem, don't you?

BOEHNER: I do.

STAHL: Was the tax deal, in your opinion, worth the $900 billion added to the deficit? Was it worth it, in your mind?

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?

BOEHNER: I think it will - I think it's worth it. I think it will create jobs and help our economy.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.