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The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward

The Price of Politics (edition 2012)

by Bob Woodward

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221776,306 (3.31)7
Title:The Price of Politics
Authors:Bob Woodward
Info:Simon & Schuster (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 448 pages
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The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
and mildly interesting text that does an excellent job illustrating the complex interplay of accountability, compromise and constraints that tend to get taken for granted when we think about governing. ( )
  _praxis_ | Mar 4, 2018 |
The book is well written and researched which you would expect from this author. The author does a convincing job of demonstrating the politics and lack of functioning in Washington and nothing like a crisis, the debt ceiling debate, brings out the worst in politics and politicians. The lack of cohesiveness and teamwork in Washington will make many readers sick.

I thought the author did a good job at being objective in the writing of the book. I did not feel he leaned one way or the other, politically speaking. He made both sides of the aisle look bad. I expected him to paint the story with a liberal brush.

One thumb up. ( )
  branjohb | Sep 30, 2015 |
Several people have asked me about the Bob Woodward kerfuffle.

(I know. The irony. Congressional leaders and the President spend two years negotiating how to deal with the debt, can't agree on a solution, resolve to on a 2% across the board cut called "sequestration" that almost no one understands--or represents accurately if they do--and people want to talk about a 'he said/she said' moment in American politics. Let's be honest--it's a lot closer to the school yard politics than the intricate and complex workings of the federal budget).

I just finished reading Woodward's The Price of Politics, a history of this specific issue and how we got to this point. With that in mind, here are my two-bits.

The long and short of it is this: when President Obama couldn't get Congressional Republicans in 2011 to agree to raise the debt limit and enact a tax hike to cover the increased debt, his staff--specifically Jack Lew and Rob Nabors--went to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and suggested sequester as a triggering mechanism. If a deal was not worked out by a certain date (March 1, 2013), then automatic cuts would happen. Reid liked the idea so much that he bent over in his chair and put his head between his legs like he was going to vomit. Seriously. (If my sarcasm it isn't picking up, know that Reid was not a fan...)

No one thought it would fail. It was so bad that the other side will have to compromise, everyone thought. Neither Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress and the President in the White House--assumed that no one would let sequestration happen. Because the cuts were disproportionately high on defense spending, Democrats thought that Republicans would never let sequestration happen. And Republicans thought that there was no way that the President would allow such broad, across-the-board cuts happen, either.

They we're all of them deceived, if just by their own hubris.

So who is right? Woodward? Or the White House?

The simple answer is that, in a sense, both are right.

First, Woodward is correct that it was a White House, and by extension the President's, idea to propose sequestration as a trigger if no agreement was reached.

Second, if we look only at the unknowable intentions of the President instead of what he actually did, then he is also correct--he never really intended sequester to happen without some kind of agreement on the budget. In other words, he looked at the consequences of sequester, thought that it would be so bad on the Republicans that Republicans would rather agree to tax hikes than sequester, and said--"Let's do it.

If it's easier to visualize, here's how the Republican spin machine puts it...not entirely inaccurately.

If reading The Price of Politics it doesn't disabuse you of any trust you have in our elected officials ability to compromise, I don't know what will.

The Price of Politics inexhaustibly details the negotiations over the summer of 2011 leading up to the debt crisis in early August of that year. They began long before we heard about them in the press--months in advance, in fact--and included more than a few meetings between Vice President Biden, Rep. Eric Cantor, White House staff, Senators Kyl, Reid, Baucus, and McConnell, House Minority Leader Pelosi, and, at the center of it, President Obama and Speaker Boehner.

Most of them end up looking inexperienced and unskilled in negotiation especially the President, his staff, and, to some extent, Speaker Boehner. And why? Because both sides fail to listen to the other and throughout remain entrenched in partisan dogmas that prevent them from finding compromise. Crucial negotiations and conversations repeatedly took place over the phone or after media leaks, with offers from each side repeatedly ignoring what the other had told them was an unfeasible option for them. Republicans would not settle for a bargain that did not rein in entitlement spending and Democrats would not agree to cuts to Medicare or Medicaid. Democrats would not do a deal that didn't include tax hikes and the end of the Bush tax cuts, but Republicans were unwilling to allow any new tax revenues except through tax reform.

Neither side would shift to a middle ground.

Early in the book, Woodward talks about the philosophy of the first White House Chief of Staff under President Obama, Rahm Emanuel. "F@ them! We have the votes." With it, Democrats shoved healthcare reform through Congress rough shod and in spite of public opinion opposing it. When Republicans took back the House, the Obama White House never really learned how to compromise, but merely seemed to think that compromise meant talking with their opponents about what the White House insisted they do. No surprise, then, that Republicans could never really find a common ground with the White House. As Republicans often complained after being given yet another proposal that ignored their needs, "How are you, the White House, supposed to know what's good for Republicans?"

Surprisingly, one of the few people who came across as the most flexible and able to make a deal was Vice President Biden. A character I have often thought of as a blowhard, gaff-prone Democratic operative often proved to be the person who could work with Republicans to find a feasible solution. Woodward often referred to him as a "McConnell whisperer" because of his relationship with the Senate Minority Leader and his ability to negotiate.

In the end though, as Woodward puts it, never has so much effort been made for so little result. The President won in being able to put off any more negotiation until after his reelection, and we ended up with a status quo result. Federal spending and revenues were left at the same place as before and on March 1--today--automatic across the board cuts amounting to 2% of the budget will go into effect at 11:59 PM.

What are our elected officials doing about it? Jetting across the country wasting valuable time telling the American people that it's the other sides' fault. No wonder no one trusts politicians. ( )
1 vote publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
This is a well researched, full account of the 2011 budget negotiations between President Obama and Congress. Lots of information about the meetings that occurred over that time and the deliberations between the big players along with their staffs.

It is nice to hear that some of these folks actually do occasionally try to do the right thing. The book made everyone look bad though--which makes sense because everyone dropped the ball. Very interesting...yet very depressing book.
1 vote walterqchocobo | Apr 8, 2013 |
the behind the scenes of politics which does not make it any more palatable ( )
1 vote lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
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Two weeks before their inauguration, President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden headed to Capitol Hill to meet with Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate.
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"This book examines the struggle between President Obama and the United States Congress to manage federal spending and tax policy for the three and one half years between 2009 and the summer of 2012. More than half the book focuses on the intense 44-day crisis in June and July 2011 when the United States came to the brink of a potentially catastrophic default on its debt."--Note to readers.… (more)

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