Obama, Boehner carve out special relationship

As I write this post, the nation is on the verge of defaulting on its financial obligations.

The negotiations have boiled down to two men: the president of the United States and the speaker of the House of Representatives.

How has their relationship developed over the years? Has it helped or hindered the negotiations? Frontline, the acclaimed PBS documentary series, has reported extensively on President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner and has painted a complex picture of the two men at the center of this ongoing financial struggle.


They’ve been to the brink together before. They’ve taken the nation on harrowing rides to fiscal cataclysm. Frontline’s examination of their relationship, titled “Cliffhanger,” aired initially this past February. It’s worth a look once again as we head toward the next fiscal crisis.

At issue, of course, is how the United States should increase its debt ceiling, or boost the amount of money it can borrow to pay its bills. Failure to pay those bills would result on default, the first such occurrence in U.S. history. It’s either going to bring a small hiccup or it will result in economic collapse, depending on whose opinions you believe.

Obama and Boehner have played golf together, they’ve sat down in closed rooms to negotiate tough deals together, they’ve spoken alternately with kindness and scorn about each other. Are they friends after hours in the manner of, say, President Ronald Reagan and Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill?

Frontline picks their relationship apart and puts it back together.


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