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  1. #1
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    Default "The Price of Politics" - Penetrating Glimpse Into Last Summer's Debt Ceiling Debacle

    Bob Woodward (aka, the man who broke Watergate) is coming out with a new book on last summer's debt ceiling debacle in five days.

    I hadn't really thought about that whole fiasco for a long time, until literally yesterday, when I mentioned in a discussion with a friend on facebook how Boehner had been willing to accept, based on the math I'd cobbled together, an agreement of spending-cuts-to-tax-increases at a 3:1 ratio, which is the ratio I believe to be the most amenable to fixing our long-term financial unsustainability (this is the position taken by David Walker, former Comptroller General [basically, chief US accountant] from 1998-2008, and one of the foremost experts on this issue, and I think it's an extremely reasonable one), and realized how much that whole ordeal had already slipped from my mind, and how many of the specific details I'd gathered had already started to recede from my memory (/inferior Si).

    Anyway, it made it that much more timely when, last night, I ran into this article, which offers some amazing glimpses into what went on behind the scenes in one of the most important moments in recent United States history.

    I bought the book last night.

    Bob Woodward Book: Debt Deal Collapse Led to 'Pure Fury' From President Obama

    By RICK KLEIN
    Sept. 05 2012

    An explosive mix of dysfunction, miscommunication, and misunderstandings inside and outside the White House led to the collapse of a historic spending and debt deal that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were on the verge of reaching last summer, according to revelations in author Bob Woodward's latest book.

    The book, "The Price of Politics," on sale Sept. 11, 2012, shows how close the president and the House speaker were to defying Washington odds and establishing a spending framework that included both new revenues and major changes to long-sacred entitlement programs.

    But at a critical juncture, with an agreement tantalizingly close, Obama pressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal -- a miscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he'd already gone.

    The president called three times to speak with Boehner about his latest offer, according to Woodward. But the speaker didn't return the president's phone call for most of an agonizing day, in what Woodward calls a "monumental communications lapse" between two of the most powerful men in the country.

    When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obama lost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a "flash of pure fury" coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obama gripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it.

    "He was spewing coals," Boehner told Woodward, in what is described as a borderline "presidential tirade."

    "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. 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."

    Tune in to "World News with Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline" on Monday September 10, 2012 to see Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with Bob Woodward

    Accounts of the final proposal that led to the deal's collapse continue to differ sharply. The president says he was merely raising the possibility of putting more revenue into the package, while Boehner maintains that the president needed $400 billion more, despite an earlier agreement of no more than $800 billion in total revenue, derived through tax reform.

    Obama and his aides argue that the House speaker backed away from a deal because he couldn't stand the political heat inside his own party – or even, perhaps, get the votes to pass the compromise. They say he took the president's proposal for more revenue as an excuse to pull out of talks altogether.

    "I was pretty angry," the president told Woodward about the breakdown in negotiations. "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."

    The failure of Obama to connect with Boehner was vaguely reminiscent of another phone call late in the evening of Election Day 2010, after it became clear that the Republicans would take control of the House, making Boehner Speaker of the House.

    Nobody in the Obama orbit could even find the soon-to-be-speaker's phone number, Woodward reports. A Democratic Party aide finally secured it through a friend so the president could offer congratulations.

    While questions persist about whether any grand bargain reached by the principals could have actually passed in the Tea Party-dominated Congress, Woodward issues a harsh judgment on White House and congressional leaders for failing to act boldly at a moment of crisis. Particular blame falls on the president.

    "It was increasingly clear that no one was running Washington. That was trouble for everyone, but especially for Obama," Woodward writes.

    [next three pages of article available here]

  2. #2
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    interesting. from the article, it seems like the book discusses more of the drama in the process of coming up with an agreement than the agreements themselves. humm..

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    I think the terms of the negotiation will get enumerated pretty specifically, which, along with all the behind-the-scenes info/drama, is what I'm interested in. Well, that, and seeing how much of a failure Obama seems to have been during the whole ordeal.

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    I read an article about this, this morning.

    I might have to pick this book up.

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    From Politico:

    Bob Woodward book could bolster Republican attack on W.H.

    A forthcoming book could give new ammunition to Republican hawks eager to blame the Obama administration for looming, across-the-board cuts to the defense budget.

    The book “The Price of Politics,” by Washington Post Associate Editor Bob Woodward, makes it clear the idea for the draconian spending cuts originated in the White House – and not in Congress.

    According to the book, excerpts of which were obtained by POLITICO ahead of the Sept. 11 release, President Barack Obama’s top deputies believed the prospect of massive defense cuts would compel Republicans to agree to a deficit-cutting grand bargain.

    Then-OMB Director Jack Lew, now the White House chief of staff, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors pitched the idea to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Woodward writes. Under the deal, which Republicans accepted after several rounds of bargaining, the federal debt ceiling was raised — staving off a potential financial crisis.

    Called sequestration, the automatic budget cuts would reduce federal spending by roughly $1 trillion over the next decade, with half the savings taken from national security programs. Despite agreeing that sequestration is bad policy, since all accounts are reduced by an equal amount with no strategy, Republicans and Democrats have been unable to reach a deal to avert the cuts, which take effect Jan. 2.

    Instead, the two sides have been locked in a vicious blame game.

    “This book makes clear that the president put his own political interests ahead of our national security,” said Kevin Smith, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

    “House Republicans have passed a plan to protect our troops by replacing the sequester with common-sense spending cuts and reforms,” Smith told POLITICO. “It’s long past time for the president to show some leadership and present a concrete plan to do the same.”

    Democrats have also accused Republicans of being responsible for the looming cuts to military spending, which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said would have a “catastrophic” effect on national security. “It’d be like shooting ourselves in the head,” he has said.

    The White House on Thursday declined a request for comment. But administration officials have acknowledged all along that sequestration was meant to be so terrible to prompt lawmakers to compromise and avoid it. Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, told the House Armed Services Committee last month it was intended as a “forcing function.”

    And the excerpts from Woodward’s book may give only a portion of the story. At a House Budget Committee hearing in February, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, said Republicans could have opted for revenue increases instead of Pentagon cuts.

    “In designing the sequester, the offer was made to our Republican colleagues to say, instead of having these particular defense cuts as part of sequester, we can get rid of a lot of special interest tax loopholes,” Van Hollen said. “They chose to put the defense cuts on the table.”

    In his book, Woodward describes the behind-the-scenes haggling last year that laid the groundwork for sequestration.

    Administration officials “had finally decided to propose using language from the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction law as the model for the trigger,” Woodward explains. “It would require a sequester with half the cuts from defense, and the other half from domestic programs. There would be no chance Republicans would want to pull the trigger and allow the sequester to force massive cuts to defense.”

    More than a year later, Congress finds itself in almost exactly the same position: gridlocked, unable to work out a sensible solution to a looming crisis.

    For his part, the president has placed the blame squarely on Congress.

    “Sequestration is basically a bargain that Congress made with itself,” Obama said in an interview last month with an NBC TV affiliate in San Diego. “There is no reason why these additional military cuts should go through, as long as Congress does its job.”

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    Interesting article. I may get the kindle edition of the book.

    The impression I got was that although Boehner is quoted a lot, Obama is not. If this impression is correct, either Obama did not talk much the Woodward or that Woodward decided not to include Obama's statements. But I wont know till I read the actual book. (Sept. 11th release date. Interesting choice.)

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