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The Price of Politics

af Bob Woodward

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
345872,147 (3.26)7
"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.… (mere)

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This book started out in the four star category, but ended up at a three for me. Woodward relates in (sometimes excrutiating) detail the fight to raise the debt limit in 2011. Really, when I say detail, I mean detail. He knows what people said and when they said it. To his credit, he doesn't do a whole lot of interpreting. The reader can draw their own conclusions as to who was right and who was wrong and who was to blame for the entire fiasco.
I am not going to share my conclusions on the matter - - only to say here that in my mind, the very experienced Senate and House leaders brought the most to the table in terms of actually solving the problem at hand. But there were many, many people who undermined both the efforts of the President and those of the Congressional leadership . . .and perhaps it is the fault of the leadership that they couldn't reel in their sides. It certainly wasn't for a lack of effort on the parts of Obama and Boehner. If it were just those two guys calling the shots, there would have been a deal that would have been better for the country overall. Not that they didn't have their own interests. Obama wanted a solution that would last past election day. Boehner wanted no revenue increases without masking them as tax reform (somewhat understandably as he had no chance of selling the very adamant Tea Party contingency on them, and their votes were needed).

If you love politics and political intrigue, you'll find this book pretty engaging. But after awhile, you kind want to smack everyone silly. It's pretty darn dysfunctional. Frighteningly so actually. We are lucky they figured out anything at all because seriously we could be in a huge prolonged depression right now had they not raised the debt ceiling. Honestly, I was in a bit of a depression after reading the book. It's only ONE example of how our government solves problems, and let's just say, it was incredibly unimpressive.

I appreciated Woodward's writing style overall - - I was captivated. But there were some components of the deal that could have been explained a bit better by him to assist the reader. I was an economics major, but some of the ideas that were put forth just didn't seem totally clear to me in terms of how they were actually going to work. But I did admire how he stayed pretty impartial and showed all the differing perspectives of the major players.

Definitely a worthwhile read . . .but realize it is 300 pages focused on a very narrow topic. You have to be interested. ( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
Woodward’s book, "The Price of Politics", looks back at Obama’s Presidency, and specifically at his difficult relations with the Republicans in Congress when dealing with the fiscal crisis as his first term drew to an end.

Basically, Obama and the GOP continued the game of "kick-the-can" with the fiscal crisis. They couldn't get their teams united to make a deal, even when they were on the edge of a breakthrough. Tea Party members of the GOP wouldn't hear of anything interpreted as a spending increase, and the Republicans wouldn’t agree to allow the Bush tax cuts expire on the richest 5%. Obama and the Democrats remained protective of America’s poor and needy, and wouldn't hear of cutting entitlement spending further without some movement on revenue increases. So they put temporary measures in place, and left the crisis hang over our heads for another day.

With the need to raise the debt limit facing us again later this year, Woodward's book provides a good background and understanding of the past and current fiscal crisis, and the spending caps and sequestration put in place by the Budget Control act of 2011.

The fighting and disagreements between the President and the Republican Congressional leadership was painful then and painful to read about it again today. But I understood a little better what some of the political bantering was all about, and about the Democrats complaints about Republican intransigence, and about the GOP complaints about Obama as a leader and negotiator. I also learned a little more about the danger of defaulting on our public debt, and the folly of those in Congress who stood ready to allow it to happen.

The politics of the situation isn’t fun to read about. In 2011, the President was fighting for the less affluent as well as to maintain his presidency, while the Republicans were trying to ensure Obama didn't get a second term, and determined to prevent any revenue / tax increases. I anticipate facing another equally ugly fight coming up this year, compounded by the 2016 Political Primaries and the hard lines various candidates may be expected to adopt.
( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
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 stem publiusdb | Aug 22, 2013 |
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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.

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