Author Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, “The Price of Politics,” details fascinating revelations surrounding strained relationships between prominent government figures (even among leaders who belong to the same political parties) and the collapse of a historic debt and spending deal being negotiated by President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner last year.
While the two parties were apparently close to reaching an important deal that would have brought the nation additional, much-needed revenue and massive changes to the country’s entitlement programs, the agreement imploded.
Woodward’s book, which comes out September 11, purportedly uncovered what ABC News calls “an explosive mix of dysfunction, miscommunication, and misunderstandings” both inside and outside of the White House. The situation was apparently so intense as a result of these factors that the historic deal ended up flat-lining, leaving essential issues unresolved and positioning America to continue on a path that some say will end in fiscal chaos.
The key issue that apparently led to the communication breakdown was Obama’s push for extra added taxes, something Boehner wasn’t prepared to give in on. When the deal had progressed along and this disagreement was evident, Obama tried to unsuccessfully reach the House speaker three times. When the president finally spoke with him him later that day and Boehner rejected the deal, the president purportedly became irate.
Woodward’s book claims that Obama had a “flash of pure fury.” Even Boehner admitted to the author that Obama “was spewing coals” in an incident that the book describes as being on the edge of a “presidential tirade.”
Watch an old ABC News report that recaps Obama and Boehner and their search for fiscal agreement:
For those doubting the story, Obama did admit to Woodward that he “was pretty angry” about the breakdown in communication and the subsequent inability to strike a deal.
“There’s no doubt I thought it was profoundly irresponsible, at that stage, not to call me back immediately and let me know what was going on,” Obama said of Boehner’s failure to respond to his initial phone calls.
The congressman was also candid about the situation.
“He was pissed….He wasn’t going to get a damn dime more out of me. He knew how far out on a limb I was,” the speaker told Woodward. “But he was hot. It was clear to me that coming to an agreement with him was not going to happen, and that I had to go to Plan B.”
Plan B, as described by Woodward, led Boehner to cut Obama out from key negotiations. Both parties in Congress, minus Obama, then essentially came together to come up with a plan that would ensure that the nation avoided default.
While Boehner claims that the larger deal failed because the president was seeking additional funds through taxation, the Obama camp apparently believes that the congressman was afraid of backlash from people within his own party. Regardless of who was at fault, Woodward issued a strong condemnation of both parties, but the book apparently takes greater issue with Obama’s failed leadership on the matter.
“It was increasingly clear that no one was running Washington. That was trouble for everyone, but especially for Obama,” the author wrote.
Among the criticisms that both sides threw around to explain why negotiations on important program amendments and spending patterns collapsed, Boehner alleged that the White House is impeded by internal disarray.
“The president was trying to get there. But there was nobody steering the ship underneath him,” he said in an interview with Woodward. “They never had their act together. The president, I think, was ill-served by his team.”
The House speaker went on to say that there was “no process” and that nobody seemed to be in charge. Decision-making, Boehner contends, is an anomaly — one that he can’t solve and a process that seems impossible to nail down.
“The Price of Politics” barely mentions Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and has no real focus or substantive information about the 2012 presidential election — a noteworthy mention, considering the fact that the nation will cast votes in just two, short months.
On Wednesday, The Daily Beast’s Miranda Green outlined the six juiciest details from the new Woodward book. Here are the tidbits she selected: “Obama alienated people with his arrogance,” “Biden was the Republican ‘whisperer,'” “Obama ‘chomped on Nicorette’ during secret meetings with Boehner,” “Ryan said Obama ‘poisoned the well’ by ripping apart his budget plan in his face,” “Cantor and Boehner had awkward tension” and “Obama told Cantor: ‘Don’t call my bluff.”
Obviously, there’s plenty of other meat in the book, particularly when it comes to the odd relationships and the dynamics that existed between Cantor and Boehner and between Obama and Pelosi, to name just two scenarios. As numerous outlets have noted, the book claims that Pelosi would mute Obama on conference calls when he went into lengthy speeches. Again, just one example.
POLITICO has more about these odd dynamics that unfolded during the “debt war”:
“The Price of Politics” tackles Vice President Joe Biden’s role, and highlights his work recruiting Republicans for the fiscal commission. Woodward recounts the relationship Biden built with Cantor, writing that the vice president told Cantor, “You know if I were doing this, I’d do it totally different,” and Cantor replying he would do the same if he were in charge. They agreed that they would be able to make a deal if they were both in power, according to The Daily Beast, who dubbed Biden the Republican “whisperer” of Woodward’s narrative.
Cantor and Boehner, meanwhile, did not get along quite so well, the book reveals. Cantor felt like he was just a pawn in the process, always playing second fiddle, and he completely disagreed with Boehner’s idea that political compromise could solve the crisis. Woodward quotes Rob Nabors, the director of legislative staff at the White House, as joking that “he felt awkward being in the same room with the two of them.”
In the end, the book depicts Obama as having confidence in his abilities to court to American public. However, it shows discontent among some Democratic and Republican leaders, alike, who believe that the president wasn’t prepared with a Plan B of his own.
As ABC News notes, a short-term deal was reached to cut spending and extend the debt ceiling, but at the end of the year, these issues will need to be contended with once more.
(H/T: ABC News)