The Wall Street Journal has a detailed reconstruction of what was really being said in the room as President Obama and John Boehner negotiated over the so-called fiscal cliff.
Here a few excerpts. To see the whole article, Rupert requires you to pay him.
A review of the negotiations, based on interviews with a dozen aides and lawmakers, suggests the problems lay in Mr. Boehner’s inability to coax his rank-and-file to support a deal that raises taxes on higher-income Americans. Another factor was what Republicans saw as President Obama’s unwillingness to bend when a deal was in sight, jamming the speaker with a deal his party couldn’t swallow.[...]http://online.wsj.com/...
Mr. Obama repeatedly lost patience with the speaker as negotiations faltered. In an Oval Office meeting last week, he told Mr. Boehner that if the sides didn’t reach agreement, he would use his inaugural address and his State of the Union speech to tell the country the Republicans were at fault.
At one point, according to notes taken by a participant, Mr. Boehner told the president, “I put $800 billion [in tax revenue] on the table. What do I get for that?”
“You get nothing,” the president said. “I get that for free.”[...]
Mr. Obama insisted on raising tax rates for those with household income above $250,000. The House GOP wanted significant spending cuts and fundamental changes to Medicare and other entitlement programs in exchange for new tax revenue.
The president repeatedly reminded Mr. Boehner of the election results: “You’re asking me to accept Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Why would I do that?” At another point, the speaker noted his GOP majority would also return next year.[...]
On Dec. 13, Mr. Boehner went to the White House at the president’s request, joking he was going to the woodshed.
The president told him he could choose one of two doors. The first represented a big deal. If Mr. Boehner chose it, the president said, the country and financial markets would cheer. Door No. 2 represented a spike in interest rates and a global recession.
Mr. Boehner said he wanted a deal along the lines of what the two men had negotiated in the summer of 2011 in a fight over raising the debt ceiling. “You missed your opportunity on that,” the president told him.
Notably, the actual tone of the talk in the meetings is quite different from the "cordial" descriptions we hear in the media.
Also, the caricature that we find in other places, of a spineless President Obama unaware of his election mandate, is nowhere to be found in the negotiating room.