A Pointed Lesson on Talking Points

Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, on "Face the Nation," Sept. 12, 2010.
House Republican Leader John Boehner did a rare thing on this broadcast last week - he got off the talking points.

I asked him about extending the Bush tax cuts that expire this year. Boehner gave me the GOP line: We should extend those cuts for all Americans, rich and poor.

Democrats want to extend the cuts only to those making less than $250,000 a year.

And when I pressed Boehner, he carefully said that was just bad policy. BUT if it came down to tax cuts only for the lower- and middle-income groups or no tax cuts at all, he said he would reluctantly vote for just the lower- and middle-income cuts.

That was big news across the country, and it set off a thunderbolt of reaction in both parties.

By mid-afternoon the White House acknowledged Boehner's change in position, but added in a written press release: "Time will tell if his actions will be anything but continued support for the failed policies that got us into this mess."

Blame it on a long memory, but I can remember when the first move by a president like Lyndon Johnson or maybe a smart aide in the Eisenhower White House would not have been a snarky press release.

I'm guessing LBJ would have been on the phone to Boehner in five minutes after seeing him on TV, saying something like, "If you're serious, why don't you come over here quietly and we'll try to work out something good for both of us and the folks out there?"

Call me a romantic, but I believe that might have happened.

As we saw, no chance it could happen today.

And we're right back to the partisan war. Too bad, really.

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    Bob Schieffer is a CBS News political contributor and former anchor of "Face The Nation," which he moderated for 24 years before retiring in 2015.