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The Price of Politics chronicles the inside story of how President Obama and the U.S. Congress tried, and failed, to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability. Woodward pierces the secretive world of Washington policymaking once again, with a close-up story crafted from meeting notes, documents, working papers, and interviews with key players, The Price of Politics chronicles the inside story of how President Obama and the U.S. Congress tried, and failed, to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability. Woodward pierces the secretive world of Washington policymaking once again, with a close-up story crafted from meeting notes, documents, working papers, and interviews with key players, including President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Woodward lays bare the broken relationship between President Obama and the Congress. In a new afterword, What Is Really Happening in Washington’s Economic Wars, Woodward details the further negotiations after Obama’s reelection, when he and Congress faced the fiscal cliff only to end in a perilous stalemate.


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The Price of Politics chronicles the inside story of how President Obama and the U.S. Congress tried, and failed, to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability. Woodward pierces the secretive world of Washington policymaking once again, with a close-up story crafted from meeting notes, documents, working papers, and interviews with key players, The Price of Politics chronicles the inside story of how President Obama and the U.S. Congress tried, and failed, to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability. Woodward pierces the secretive world of Washington policymaking once again, with a close-up story crafted from meeting notes, documents, working papers, and interviews with key players, including President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner. Woodward lays bare the broken relationship between President Obama and the Congress. In a new afterword, What Is Really Happening in Washington’s Economic Wars, Woodward details the further negotiations after Obama’s reelection, when he and Congress faced the fiscal cliff only to end in a perilous stalemate.

30 review for The Price of Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    The Price of Politics is a comprehensive account of DC’s failed budget negotiations in 2011. To his credit, Bob Woodward created a thorough description of the closed door meetings and statements from political leaders about the fiscal-related debate that seized the center of attention a year ago. His work is probably the best historical record to be put forward of these budget dealings, a frustrating episode that yielded little compromise and no long-term solutions. Unfortunately, the book is nea The Price of Politics is a comprehensive account of DC’s failed budget negotiations in 2011. To his credit, Bob Woodward created a thorough description of the closed door meetings and statements from political leaders about the fiscal-related debate that seized the center of attention a year ago. His work is probably the best historical record to be put forward of these budget dealings, a frustrating episode that yielded little compromise and no long-term solutions. Unfortunately, the book is nearly unreadable as a cover to cover narrative – it is insanely boring. None of the personalities, leading or supporting, received much character development or background information. One dimensional portrayals of major political groups and organizations is the norm. The author’s disdain for the Tea Party was obvious. Their motivations and intentions were never explored. Likewise, the liberal left didn’t receive much more of an explanation. The interesting character flaws of the President and senior Republican and Democratic insiders are mere footnotes among the hundreds of pages of exhaustive meeting listings. There is little outside analysis of the issues at stake or the multitude of solutions put forward in the negotiations.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Book

    The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward "The Price of Politics" is an even-handed book about the handling of the economic crisis under the Obama administration. It examines the struggle between President Obama and the U.S. Congress to manage federal spending and tax policy during his tenure. Associate editor at the Washington Post for 41 years and author extraordinaire, Bob Woodward has provided the reader with a forthright, blunt examination of this administration's handling of the economy. This i The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward "The Price of Politics" is an even-handed book about the handling of the economic crisis under the Obama administration. It examines the struggle between President Obama and the U.S. Congress to manage federal spending and tax policy during his tenure. Associate editor at the Washington Post for 41 years and author extraordinaire, Bob Woodward has provided the reader with a forthright, blunt examination of this administration's handling of the economy. This insightful 448-page book is composed of forty unnamed chapters. Positives: 1. Excellent prose, great insight from an accomplished author of Woodward's caliber. 2. Cast of characters provided, masterful ability to narrate the interactions between all the players. One thing that stands out about this over books of this ilk is the ability of Woodward to capture not only the issues regarding policy but the human element. The emotions, the ups and downs, the inner workings of dealing with complicated issues that have a direct impact on American lives and their own political careers. 3. Timely political topic in the hands of an accomplished author with access. He treats the subject matter with utmost respect. 4. A forthright, even-handed book that takes no prisoners. It's about the story; it's about capturing what actually happened and not about inserting oneself into the story. 5. The author's ability to penetrate the political haze and get to the bottom of the stories. The ability to work through all the interviews, notes and observations and make reasonable assessments is a rare skill indeed. 6. The key issues of taxes and entitlement reform in details. Each party makes it clear where they stand. Republicans would not budge on tax increases while Democrats had big issues with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Furthermore, the Republican stance that revenue can be generated via tax reform ala Reagan. 7. The long and I mean long tortuous ways of budget negotiations. Insight into Washington deal making and the importance of leverage. The president's stance of being opposed to a short-term deal. The political implications. 8. The unthinkable prospect of a debt default. The real scoop on raising the debt limit. The debates over the debt ceiling and matters of leverage. The implications. 9. The issue of letting the tax cuts expire and the implications. 10. How legislative deals are usually handled versus how they were actually attempted. 11. The partisan divide from the inside. A look at what drives each party and what drives each player. Also the inner dynamics of party members, Cantor versus Boehner. 12. The practical partisan divide. That is, the issues of contention regarding federal spending and how each party would tackle the problems. The depth of the divide is captured in numbers and sentiments. The art of splitting hairs...spin. 13. Captures the presidential struggle to "dominate" Congress, to give the appearance of having control. 14. The battle of the plans. 15. Links worked like a charm. Well cited. Negatives: 1. The book is very detailed, excruciating so at times which actually lends to its credibility but it's also repetitious. How many times and ways do I have to read that the Democrats won't do hard things on entitlements until the Republicans are willing to raise taxes/revenues? 2. No formal bibliography though to be fair this book was based mainly on interviews, notes and observations. 3. Charts and illustrations would have added value. Mr. Woodward's intent in this was mainly to capture the emotions behind the inner-workings of handling federal spending and tax policy and not to interfere with the narration but this could have been accomplished via appendices. 4. There are forty unnamed chapters which makes it difficult to jump or refer back to a chapter of interest. 5. There are sections of this book that will test the patience of the reader which reflects on the frustrations of dealing with the budgetary process. All the games and the posturing. In summary, this book is an even-handed examination of handling federal spending. Mr. Woodward's ability to relay a story in minute details is impressive and captures the essence of the political struggle from both parties to handle the economy. Where this book excels is relaying the inner workings between the main characters, the back and forth, the prodding, the emotions involved, the incessant amount of meetings, in short the handling of complicated and stressful negotiations. That being said, the book will test your patience. The incessant back and forth over the same issues may tire you out but reflects the budgetary process and the partisan divide. The book will upset you, frustrate you no matter what side of the political aisle you are on but it will provide you with rare insights into the politics of federal spending and tax policy. It's a book that is definitely worth reading with reservations duly noted. Further recommendations: "White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You" by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, "Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget" by David Wessel, "The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future" by Joseph E. Stiglitz, "End This Depression Now!" by Paul Krugman, "Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class" by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (Vintage)" by Jeff Madrick, "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street" by Robert Sheer, "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg, "No, They Can't" by John Stossel, and "The Crash Course" by Chris Martenson.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mary

    This book is amazing; it makes you feel like you are a fly on the wall during the stimulus bill deliberations. Bob Woodward has a way of describing the action as if you are in the room. This is amazing so far. Combine arrogance and inexperience and you have a recipe for disaster which is exactly what we have in the White House right now. An arrogant liberal progressive that knows he's right no matter how wrong he is. Wrong for the country and wrong for the economy and no one has the hutzpah to te This book is amazing; it makes you feel like you are a fly on the wall during the stimulus bill deliberations. Bob Woodward has a way of describing the action as if you are in the room. This is amazing so far. Combine arrogance and inexperience and you have a recipe for disaster which is exactly what we have in the White House right now. An arrogant liberal progressive that knows he's right no matter how wrong he is. Wrong for the country and wrong for the economy and no one has the hutzpah to tell him that the Emperor has no clothes.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I've never really been one to purchase books on modern day politics, but I stumbled upon mention of The Price of Politics (TPoP) in a Wall Street Journal article and decided to give it a try. In this book, we obtain a picture of the first three years of the Obama Presidency, including the Obamacare and Debt Ceiling negotiations. What Mr. Woodward has accomplished here is a highly readable work that should be reviewed by any American voter who wants a picture of our current political atmosphere-- I've never really been one to purchase books on modern day politics, but I stumbled upon mention of The Price of Politics (TPoP) in a Wall Street Journal article and decided to give it a try. In this book, we obtain a picture of the first three years of the Obama Presidency, including the Obamacare and Debt Ceiling negotiations. What Mr. Woodward has accomplished here is a highly readable work that should be reviewed by any American voter who wants a picture of our current political atmosphere-- without the campaign spin. Bob Woodward is generally considered to be a highly detailed political journalist of above average integrity. Both of these characteristics are shown throughout TPoP. Mr. Woodward does not show any noticeable bias toward one particular person or party. For a non-affiliated voter like myself, that is a major selling point. TPoP shows us the nitty gritty detail of negotiations within Washington, and gives readers an idea of how complex the process really is. The amount of give and take between opposing sides of a negotiation is mind-boggling, and readers have a front row seat to the negotiations, staff conversations, and closed door meetings that make up this give-and-take. There is so much detail here, the book begins to drag during the middle third. The last third of the book does a great job picking up the pace, and readers feel the pressure of the fiscal crisis negotiations. One very surprising fact to me was how much Congressional leaders like each other, by and large. I am used to the soundbites on the news and didn't realize how little of the story these snippets actually tell. If one goes by the one-liners we often hear, Democrats and Republicans mix like gasoline and fire. Instead, I can picture Congress in a similar way that I picture my office: Most of us get along, even if we sometimes have very different opinions. There are a few crazy people most stay away from, and the majority of workers just want to go home and see their families at the end of a long day. During TPoP, we are introduced to many political figures we know already, and several who are unknown by most voters who live beyond the Beltway. At this point, I am going to give a brief rundown on some of the major individuals in this book and how TPoP changed my opinion on them. President Obama: Down slightly I came away from reading with a lesser view of the President. Even though we start with the Senator Obama telling dirty jokes to major players in Washington at a dinner, he was generally portrayed as I pictured him: a decent man who aspires to something great but who doesn't quite understand how to bring people together. Mr. Obama compiled a team who he felt could help him accomplish quite a bit during his time in the Oval Office. Unfortunately, some of these team members did more harm than good. In addition, the President often made Congress feel like they were a nuisance and did not develop the support system of "Congressional Envoys" (for lack of a better term) that Presidents Regan and Clinton did. The President genuinely wanted bipartisanship and thought he could attain it through force of personality alone. Ultimately, his poor decisions showed a lack of leadership that lead to major sniping between both Congress and the President, and Republicans and Democrats. Speaker Boehner: Up slightly All I knew of Speaker Boehner was what I had heard on the news... basically that he was an obstructionist who disliked the President and who refused to help him. This was not the case, but I can see why it was reported this way. Mr. Boehner genuinely worked hard with the President to achieve a Big Deal that would slow down the accumulation of debt. He often had to fight the Tea Party within his ranks to do it, and only walked away from a deal with the President after Mr. Obama asked for an additional $400 Billion worth of revenue (tax increases) at the last second not once, but twice. Moving from $400 Billion to $800 was as far as Mr. Boehner could bring his party... but the President wanted to go from $800 Billion to $1.2 Trillion after the majority of the deal was done. It was a poor move on the President's part and forced the Speaker to cancel negotiations. Still, Mr. Boehner tried to get a deal done and negotiated in good faith throughout: as Mr. Obama agreed to in an interview with the author. He doesn't deserve the demonization he has received in the press. Vice President Biden: Up moderately From start to finish, the Vice President was a Godsend to the President. I had always thought Mr. Biden was sort of a goof, but throughout the book the VP shows keen political instincts and a major drive to get deals done. He was shown to be a powerful negotiator who reached out to Republicans (Senator McConnell, most often) and tried to find bipartisan ways to get bills passed. He understood the political ramifications of actions and kept a good attitude throughout. Representative Paul Ryan: Up slightly Rep. Ryan was portrayed as a fiscal savant who knew the numbers backwards and forwards, and understood what it would take to get national debt under control. He was on the Simpson-Bowles Commission and was justifiably irate when he was asked to sit in the front row of a Presidential speech... only to listen to President Obama rip his ideas mercilessly. This was a major misunderstanding (the President had no idea Mr. Ryan would be there) but it was one misstep that caused the current rift between the President and Republican opposition. Rahm Emanuel: Down significantly Mr. Emanuel was a key reason why relations with Republicans are so bad. After Mr. Obama genuinely reached out to Republicans and tried to craft bipartisan healthcare legislation, Mr. Emanuel promptly ignored all their ideas and focused on the Democratic ones. When Mr. Obama questioned his methods, Mr. Emanuel assured the President that he would get Republican votes no matter what. As a result, what could have been comprehensive bipartisan healthcare legislation turned into what is known as Obamacare. The President was very disappointed when Mr. Emanuel’s predictions of Republican support no matter what, did not materialize (no Republicans voted for Obamacare). When staffers suggested the Republicans might not like what Mr. Emanuel was doing he responded with a curt, "We have the votes, fuck 'em." While Mr. Emanuel was not responsible for crafting the final bill, he set the tone in the White House with his expletive filled rampages and damaged how Republicans viewed the President. He also helped set off the outrage that resulted in the Tea Party... a movement that has hardly done the President any favors so far. Senator Mitch McConnell: Down slightly Senator McConnell was shown to be somewhat difficult to deal with at times, but he had a tremendously good relationship with Vice President Biden (who was known in the White House as "The McConnell Whisperer). I also learned the entirety of his most famous quote was not, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president," as is often quoted by the media. What McConnell actually said was: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president. If President Obama does a Clintonian backflip, if he’s willing to meet us halfway on some of the biggest issues, it’s not inappropriate for us to do business with him. It is possible the president’s advisers will tell him he has to do something to get right with the public on his levels of spending and lowering the national debt. If he were to heed that advice, he would, I imagine, find more support among our conference than he would among some in the Senate in his own party. I don’t want the president to fail; I want him to change." This expanded quote leads me to believe he doesn't have negative motivation for his stances against the President. I also think the last line of that quote explains how the majority of Republicans really view Mr. Obama. Representative Nancy Pelosi: Up Moderately Ms. Pelosi is shown to be a woman who was quite partisan, but willing to work tirelessly for her cause. I do not always agree with her, but it was hard not to admire the way she doggedly worked to secure votes when the President asked for it. She also gave one of the most surprising revelations of the book, carefully suggesting to President Obama, in essence, that President Bush was better at the job than Mr. Obama is! She eventually went on to tell Mr. Obama that she "loves George Bush" and she "sent him flowers for his birthday." When taken in conjunction with her actions at the beginning of the book (the President called her office when she was working on Obamacare to give an inspirational speech to lawmakers who were present, but she put him on mute and the Democrats in the office ignored his speech while they continued working), it seems evident that Ms. Pelosi eventually grew to respect the President and work hard for him, even if she felt he wasn't living up to the hype. Staffer Jack Lew: Down Significantly Mr. Lew was the other reason why the President's relations with Republicans are so poor right now. He spearheaded the debt ceiling negotiations with the President and would regularly go on rants about why Republicans were always wrong and why Democrats were always right. He regularly demanded Republicans give up their principles while refusing to touch any Democratic ones. Mr. Lew was exactly the wrong person to bring in to heal the Congressional relationship. He was the man who, "didn't know how to get to Yes" in a negotiation and regularly gave the President bad advice on what he should demand from Speaker Boehner. The Tea Party House Republicans: Down Moderately Honestly, I don't have much of a problem with the Tea Party and find common ground with them on a few issues. However, there comes a point when sticking to an ideology is damaging to the nation, and you need to give a little to make something happen. I appreciate their desire to lower taxes, but using the Debt ceiling to do it damaged Speaker Boehner's negotiating position. A slightly more moderate stance would have allowed the Speaker to reform parts of the tax code and add stability to the world's financial markets. There were dozens more people I could comment on, but these were the ones that stuck out most a few days after I finished the book. The fact that I recall so much about each person is a testament to Mr. Woodward's writing style and the enormity of the issues they were dealing with. In conclusion, I found TPoP to be worth the price of admission. There was a lot to admire about how the book was presented, even if it dragged at times, and I reached an understanding on how things work in Washington that I didn't have before I read this book. Recommended for anyone with an interest in politics, or anyone who wants an objective view of how things work in our nation's capital.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Phillip

    It was "okay." I always take his books for what they are worth -- well-sourced political gossip. They may be 100% true or not. Overall, it bogs down in the last 1/3 because it is just back-and-forth negotiations between President Obama and congressional leaders. I got a bit lost in some of the financial minutiae because it's not my forte (I'm not a Medicaid expert by any means ... I always get lost in talk of "provider payments"). President Obama comes across as having a disorganized White House It was "okay." I always take his books for what they are worth -- well-sourced political gossip. They may be 100% true or not. Overall, it bogs down in the last 1/3 because it is just back-and-forth negotiations between President Obama and congressional leaders. I got a bit lost in some of the financial minutiae because it's not my forte (I'm not a Medicaid expert by any means ... I always get lost in talk of "provider payments"). President Obama comes across as having a disorganized White House and having very weak congressional outreach as compared to his two predecessors, Clinton and Bush. Other than that, I don't think any of the players come across as any worse than any of the others (Reid, Boehner, Pelosi, Cantor, McConnell). I think Vice President Biden comes across as a dealmaker, in a loose sense. He seems to be the best person who can talk with both parties (both political parties and both houses of Congress). I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone unless they are really interested in the financial crisis and/or in Congressional/presidential leadership.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Frank Stein

    Another great glimpse inside Washington politics by the doyen of Washington journalists. This time Woodward focuses on the labyrinthine debates over raising the debt-ceiling in 2011. The first takeaway here is that Obama doesn't come off well. Woodward starts the book with an anecdote from a Washington Gridiron press dinner that seems to show Obama at his slickest and most substanceless, and that tone carries throughout. Not that anyone comes off like a saint, but Obama seems largely like a well- Another great glimpse inside Washington politics by the doyen of Washington journalists. This time Woodward focuses on the labyrinthine debates over raising the debt-ceiling in 2011. The first takeaway here is that Obama doesn't come off well. Woodward starts the book with an anecdote from a Washington Gridiron press dinner that seems to show Obama at his slickest and most substanceless, and that tone carries throughout. Not that anyone comes off like a saint, but Obama seems largely like a well-intentioned and charismatic naif, who doesn't understand how to run his office or negotiate. Boehner complained after the debt-ceiling negotiations that "Nobody is in charge" at the White House and even Obama's own Rahm Emanuel, the man, Woodward notes, who was supposed to be in charge, screamed earlier that "Our internal process is a fucking debating society." Congressional leaders on both sides rued how they were constantly dragged to the White House for unproductive discussion and debate sessions when most previous congressional negotiations were carried out in small groups or by staff over the phone. It seems as if Obama's sincere hope for understanding through dialogue didn't work well when negotiating trillion dollar deals. Also, as Woodward notes, Rahm's statement about the Republicans in the stimulus debate, including "We've got the votes. Fuck 'em," exemplified the White House's attitudes toward Republicans in Congress, and this didn't serve them well when they captured the House. Obama's team had so little contact with the House Republicans that they didn't even have Boehner's phone number so they could call him after the election and make the traditional congratulations. They had to ask a friend of a friend. Overall, Woodward tries to be even-handed about the ideological background of the debt-ceiling discussion, and he doesn't point fingers as to why it broke down, except to show that there simply was an ideological gulf between the two sides. Still, one takeaway here is that the administration's lack of contact with both Democrats and Republicans in Congress made it difficult to cement a deal. He cites the time when the President called Reid and Pelosi to discuss the stimulus they were writing in 2009, and he speechified so long that they put him on mute so they could get work done. It seems like the President and his staff simply didn't know how to deal with legislators, which is especially odd considering that one of Obama's advantages coming into office was that he spent so much time in legislatures and supposedly knew how to negotiate. Unflattering comparisons between Obama's out-of-touch staff and Clinton or Reagan's congressional liaisons, who were known for prowling the halls to round up every last vote, are legion. In the end, the debt-ceiling deal was achieved only when Boehner, Reid and others left to negotiate on their own. There's plenty of both on and off the record stuff here, as is typical for Woodward books, and obviously he talked to everybody involved. What surprised me more though, and I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else, is that Woodward seems to have gotten written transcripts or even recordings of many meetings between Obama and the Congressional leaders. Example, at one point he quotes Obama saying "and we could use the revenue to offset extension [of the] payroll tax holiday," with the brackets. Now, typically, in writing second-hand reported dialogue one doesn't bother to add prepositions or other bagatelles, because they're reconstructed anyway, but there are a bunch of points where Woodward does so. Even the structure of the dialogues, convoluted and complicated and often filled with non sequitors, seems to indicate that nobody could remember the precise details enough to report them like this. Not to speculate too much, but getting a hold of these transcripts may have even inspired Woodward to delve into the otherwise undramatic world of budget politics. In any case, this book, like so many of his others, and despite the minutiae and tedium, is a must read for understanding how Washington works today. It isn't pretty.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kent

    I finished Bob Woodward's latest book today. “The Price of Politics” was aptly named. I was not disappointed in Woodward. This is the story of the debt ceiling negotiations of the summer of 2011 and the subsequent move to sequestration of huge chunks of spending on both sides of a wall between security and everything else... The creation of the fiscal cliff of January 1, 2013. Of course, it is timed after the November elections. Woodward tells his story from interviews of the players. Often he w I finished Bob Woodward's latest book today. “The Price of Politics” was aptly named. I was not disappointed in Woodward. This is the story of the debt ceiling negotiations of the summer of 2011 and the subsequent move to sequestration of huge chunks of spending on both sides of a wall between security and everything else... The creation of the fiscal cliff of January 1, 2013. Of course, it is timed after the November elections. Woodward tells his story from interviews of the players. Often he will tell what all the people in the room heard in a particular meeting. The result is fascinating, as everyone has a different take. ...And when the President participates, his perspective is surprising revealing as to his focus. In the end, this is the story of a lack of leadership, ego, skewed world views, and politicians who are personally risk averse. Risk averse at the peril of the nation and in conflict with their oath of office. They don't see that, because of uncompromising ideological world view and ego. It makes me want to “throw (all) the bums out” and start anew. It's not that easy...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Adam Mahlum

    Bob Woodward can flat out write. Who knew that a 380 page book about failed number crunching could be such a white knuckle, edge of your seat thriller. The book is about the failed debt ceiling negotiations of 2011 that almost caused America to go over a fiscal cliff. Woodward does a good job of relaying the complexity of the politics and in the process shows how lackluster many of our leaders (including President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner) were at negotiations. Ironically enough, t Bob Woodward can flat out write. Who knew that a 380 page book about failed number crunching could be such a white knuckle, edge of your seat thriller. The book is about the failed debt ceiling negotiations of 2011 that almost caused America to go over a fiscal cliff. Woodward does a good job of relaying the complexity of the politics and in the process shows how lackluster many of our leaders (including President Obama and Speaker of the House Boehner) were at negotiations. Ironically enough, the person with the most impressive role in the process was Joe "the Happy Warrior" Biden. Apparently he was the only person that both sides trusted and could rely on. Nicknamed "the McConnell Whisperer" for his ability to convince Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to work with the White House, Joe Biden--the man that is so gaffe prone in public--nearly saves the budget negotiations on multiple occasions. Who knew? A great book that is well researched and accurate. Highly recommended.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Michael Cohen

    Bob Woodward is the master. The books is terribly great. Every meeting you're in the room listening to each side give their views and slamming the opposition. President Obama comes off very badly, unable to lead Democrats, oblivious to getting what Republicans need for a deal, getting in the way of deals, and generally not being constructive at all. Oddly enough, Joe Biden comes off as an unsung hero as someone who knows how to deal with Republicans. Speaker Boehner comes off as weak and Cantor Bob Woodward is the master. The books is terribly great. Every meeting you're in the room listening to each side give their views and slamming the opposition. President Obama comes off very badly, unable to lead Democrats, oblivious to getting what Republicans need for a deal, getting in the way of deals, and generally not being constructive at all. Oddly enough, Joe Biden comes off as an unsung hero as someone who knows how to deal with Republicans. Speaker Boehner comes off as weak and Cantor principled but not helpful. Finally, Geithner is recognized by all as a truth-teller, someone who is trying to keep the nation from default. Overall, this is fascinating book that says a lot about the gridlock in Washington.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    OK, I have been trying to hold off commenting on this book until I finished. I'm done. As for the book itself, it is a difficult read. The subject is incredibly complex. It went back and forth and back and forth for ages and Woodward retells most of the meetings and details from multiple viewpoints. It makes for an exhausting read. As for the topic, Woodward did elicit a small moment or two of sympathy for Boehner, who he detailed as an old-fashioned Country Club Republican faced with a rather lar OK, I have been trying to hold off commenting on this book until I finished. I'm done. As for the book itself, it is a difficult read. The subject is incredibly complex. It went back and forth and back and forth for ages and Woodward retells most of the meetings and details from multiple viewpoints. It makes for an exhausting read. As for the topic, Woodward did elicit a small moment or two of sympathy for Boehner, who he detailed as an old-fashioned Country Club Republican faced with a rather large faction of green Tea-Partiers with pitch-forks. The sympathy didn't last long. While I can maybe accept the argument that President Obama was inexperienced (really no surprise since he had only spent two years in the Senate before running for President), experience can be had and it seems that it has. The administration was definitely tempered by the fires of Hell over this deal. His biggest area of inexperience was probably in believing that the Republicans could be trusted and would deal honestly and just how great of extortionists they are. The biggest take away is just how contemptible the Republicans are of us, the 47% non-citizens of these United States. Not being willing to accept ANY increase on the nations wealthiest while at the same time demanding drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security completely astounds me. Balancing the budget on the backs of the poor, disabled and the elderly is just completely unfathomable to me, but it clearly shows how much disregard they hold for the average American. I just can't figure out how they can get anyone to keep voting for them (other than that they have a handy propaganda machine in Fox News). They were willing to blackmail the President and hold the nation's economy (if not the worlds) hostage to keep from raising taxes on the wealthy or making and cuts to defense. In the end, Obama and his administration have gained experience, but the Republicans will remain dicks in suits.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew McBurney

    I would really like to give this book a better review. It was based on dozens of interviews of the participants, is well-written, and reveals certain facts that haven't really come out before -- at least, not in a way that presents them as part of a whole picture. The treatment of both Democrats and Republicans seems even-handed, and I even find my respect increasing for several of the Republicans, including Representatives Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, and Speaker Boehner, who came out of the debt I would really like to give this book a better review. It was based on dozens of interviews of the participants, is well-written, and reveals certain facts that haven't really come out before -- at least, not in a way that presents them as part of a whole picture. The treatment of both Democrats and Republicans seems even-handed, and I even find my respect increasing for several of the Republicans, including Representatives Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, and Speaker Boehner, who came out of the debt-ceiling crisis in a very bad light. However, there is a lot of context missing. Even though the book aims to present a whole picture of politics through 2009-2012, much is missing, or given short shrift. Perhaps it was assumed many of the details of health care and budget negotiations would make people's eyes glaze over. Those that are presented are sufficient to help the reader follow along on the main issues, but not enough to fully understand the origins of all the numbers. On the other hand, the book isn't aimed at policy wonks. Absent too is the greater context of increasing partisan bitterness and craziness (such as the prominent Republican Birthers who were trying to hammer the issue during this time, while President Obama was expected to negotiate with their leaders); and there are only hints of failings of leadership rather than a deeper analysis of how it affects our modern politics (there are occasional references to statements or actions by Representative Pelosi that suggest a lack of leadership skills). The Price of Politics is fascinating, informative, but it's not All the President's Men, or the Final Days. That would have gotten it more stars from me.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Benni

    You've probably heard about the comparisons between lawmaking and sausage making. If you think you've got the stomach to handle it, this book sheds light on how deals get made (or not made) on Capitol Hill. Woodward details the negotiations during the debt crisis of 2011, and how we barely managed to avert default. While there's a 2-3 page commentary at the conclusion of the book and a few observations throughout, this book is mostly fact-driven; thankfully, this isn't another liberal or conserv You've probably heard about the comparisons between lawmaking and sausage making. If you think you've got the stomach to handle it, this book sheds light on how deals get made (or not made) on Capitol Hill. Woodward details the negotiations during the debt crisis of 2011, and how we barely managed to avert default. While there's a 2-3 page commentary at the conclusion of the book and a few observations throughout, this book is mostly fact-driven; thankfully, this isn't another liberal or conservative pundit rant. Some information was already public, but mostly Woodward conducted his own interviews. His interviewees also provided him documentation to support their accounts. Where the interviewees contradicted each other, Woodward presents everyone's differing accounts. Woodward notes that Republicans and Democrats cooperated in equal amounts, and that rings true. The thesis of this book is that the White House and Congress "tried, and failed to restore the American economy and set it on a course to fiscal stability." And it certainly wasn't for lack of trying--for months, those involved had many sleepless nights and no days off (not even July 4). Most, if not all, had good intentions. But good intentions didn't get things done. This book is a sobering look at American politics.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bobbi

    Woodward does a surprisingly evenhanded assessment of the current administration and Congress during the recent debt ceiling crisis. I've read many of his other books and always felt his bias was obvious. Not in this book. He seems extremely concerned by the lack of leadership, the arrogance and the Chicago style politics that was being practiced by the White House. On the other hand, he also seems surprised by the lack of leadership from some in the House and Senate, while noting that many of t Woodward does a surprisingly evenhanded assessment of the current administration and Congress during the recent debt ceiling crisis. I've read many of his other books and always felt his bias was obvious. Not in this book. He seems extremely concerned by the lack of leadership, the arrogance and the Chicago style politics that was being practiced by the White House. On the other hand, he also seems surprised by the lack of leadership from some in the House and Senate, while noting that many of them have gotten a bad picture painted of them in the public's mind. I am not a numbers person and some of the financial minutiae simply lost me. But, most importantly it was driven home to me, that our government is only made up of men and women that are subject to each and every human failing possible. Jointly, they are all failing us in a crucial way. We need a government that is going to do what is necessary to save our country and our way of life. The people we elect need to be more concerned about our country than about their own respective fiefdoms and their legacies. They all need to get over themselves and get serious about the financial crises facing us.....not only for us but for all the future generations to come. Very glad I read this book and seriously hope many more do.

  14. 4 out of 5

    DougInNC

    This is the civics textbook for our time! Every voter who wants to understand how Washington is working (or is not) should definitely read this Bob Woodward compilation centered around the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011 as well as the personalities and procedures in play. Detailed and name-dropping, it brings you into the crazy world where D.C. debates policy and funding as though they really matter (yes, they truly do!) then acts (must act?) according to the vote tallies they can muster from This is the civics textbook for our time! Every voter who wants to understand how Washington is working (or is not) should definitely read this Bob Woodward compilation centered around the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011 as well as the personalities and procedures in play. Detailed and name-dropping, it brings you into the crazy world where D.C. debates policy and funding as though they really matter (yes, they truly do!) then acts (must act?) according to the vote tallies they can muster from an ill-informed congress, and the vote tallies they might see in the next election cycle. Our politicians in Washington face a difficult challenge, both from circumstance and from complexities of our own making as this country has evolved. I found it fascinating to get behind the cameras and see what is, apparently, happening when the pols are not in front of the media. It's not always pretty in either view, but I feel like Woodward has captured the more accurate representation of reality.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Edgar

    Based on 18 months of reporting, Woodward's 17th book The Price of Politics is an intimate, documented examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition over three and one half years. Drawn from memos, contemporaneous meeting notes, emails and in-depth interviews with the central players, The Price of Politics addresses the key i Based on 18 months of reporting, Woodward's 17th book The Price of Politics is an intimate, documented examination of how President Obama and the highest profile Republican and Democratic leaders in the United States Congress attempted to restore the American economy and improve the federal government’s fiscal condition over three and one half years. Drawn from memos, contemporaneous meeting notes, emails and in-depth interviews with the central players, The Price of Politics addresses the key issue of the presidential and congressional campaigns: the condition of the American economy and how and why we got there. Providing verbatim, day-by-day, even hour-by-hour accounts, the book shows what really happened, what drove the debates, negotiations and struggles that define, and will continue to define, the American future.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    What I learned most from this book was how Washington operates, specifically the interaction between the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. I didn't realize how much compromise is necessary to get much done. I also got a much better feel for both sides of major political differences in regards to entitlements, defense, and fiscal spending. I was surprised by how engrossing the book was. Some reviews called it boring and slow. I found it quite the opposite. I was worried tha What I learned most from this book was how Washington operates, specifically the interaction between the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. I didn't realize how much compromise is necessary to get much done. I also got a much better feel for both sides of major political differences in regards to entitlements, defense, and fiscal spending. I was surprised by how engrossing the book was. Some reviews called it boring and slow. I found it quite the opposite. I was worried that there would be quite a bit of political slant. But in my naivete, I'm unable to tell which way Woodward leans. It seemed balanced to me and I was able to much better understand both sides. Page Turner: 7/10 Honest: 8/10 Cerebral: 7/10 Uplifting: 6/10

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian Eshleman

    Be warned, "price" of politics is not a metaphor. Financial figures play much stronger part in this book than do personalities.

  18. 4 out of 5

    thewanderingjew

    The book begins with a description of a dinner speech by then Senator Barack Obama, at a “right of passage” dinner for politicians, in 2006. In a self-deprecating manner, the handsome, smiling man delivers a speech essentially describing himself as an “empty suit”. The media and the politicians immediately fall in love. This love affair continues through his Presidential campaign in 2008, essentially helping elect this naïve and inexperienced “empty suit”, to the highest office in the land. This The book begins with a description of a dinner speech by then Senator Barack Obama, at a “right of passage” dinner for politicians, in 2006. In a self-deprecating manner, the handsome, smiling man delivers a speech essentially describing himself as an “empty suit”. The media and the politicians immediately fall in love. This love affair continues through his Presidential campaign in 2008, essentially helping elect this naïve and inexperienced “empty suit”, to the highest office in the land. This love affair has continued today. The government is truly broken. Woodward takes us to meeting after meeting in the White House and halls of Congress and we witness a complete breakdown of our political system. Each group vies for position and power, putting one or another on the offensive so the work of the moment is never accomplished in a timely fashion but is maneuvered into position for the future benefit of the party or the elected official, be it a Senator, Representative or even the President. I think dysfunction is a rather benign description of what is taking place. Disastrous is a more accurate description. When Obama moved into the White House, he brought with him inexperienced advisors and created a rather chaotic environment in which foul language and rising tempers were the norm. He brought Chicago politics into the White House and with it the demise of the gentlemanly way business used to be done. It may not have always worked, but it was civilized and things did get accomplished. Although Obama remained above the fray most of the time, protected by his cohorts, civility was often in short supply elsewhere in his White House. Trust between the different negotiators disappeared from the picture, and an all too eager media, acting on leaks that were put out to gain political advantage rather than solve the problem, was happy to stir the mix and create issues where sometimes there were none, essentially, causing the failure in the system to become even broader. When Obama’s economic consultants came to him with budget recommendations for 2010, they were filled with gimmicks, their word, rather than actual fixes for the problems, and Obama went along with it thinking it was a game so he might as well play along. Orszag, Summers and Geithner, were scholars, ill prepared to play any political game, but they sure were prepared to play the games that would pull the wool over the eyes of the public, in the interest of the party, rather than all of the people. Every action, they and others took, was designed with a political motive at its heart, rather than a humanitarian or economic driver. Their methods escalated the divisions between the parties and caused more strife than necessary in the negotiations for the budget and all other issues. The widespread theme seemed to be my way or the highway and Obama believed in his omnipotence and ability to prevail. Obama’s administration was not the transparent administration he had claimed it would be; it was an administration of obfuscation, misdirection and propaganda dissemination. Obama doesn’t reach out, he acts alone, seems to play all ends against the middle and is overly confident in his own power. Neither he nor any member of his team could accept failure, so they artfully and expertly created artificial successes. They were all playing a game of tit for tat, each trying to take advantage of the other. The GOP couldn’t do much on the tax front even though it was necessary, because their constituency and party would not abide any major changes that would increase taxes. The Progressives would not move on entitlement spending, even though they knew that it was the major cause of the problems, because their constituency and party would loudly object. Obama and his advisers often presented one face to one group, and another to the next, depending on their particular agenda, so the idea of trusting what was said or offered as a plan, quickly evaporated into thin air. If they abused the truth and were so adept at spinning a story to protect themselves and the party, what could be believed? Who was the real Barack Obama? It was impossible to know who was in charge! There was simply too much in fighting and back stabbing. The GOP could not fight that kind of a machine. They were blindsided by the very nature of the fight. It was very underhanded, and it was a new game they had not played before in such a manipulative way. Who committed the greatest sins in all the conversations about health care, deficit reduction, the debt ceiling, budget discussions, entitlement and tax reform, is simply not important. What is important is that the system broke down because of these new tactics and it ceased to operate properly any longer. Compromise meant pulling the wool over the other guy’s eyes in order to get the upper hand. When using words as weapons, the message often became garbled. Hardliners blocked progress, and the hypocrites said whatever they wanted to achieve their own ends. The larger picture got compromised in petty party politics. They were all winging it because the playing field had altered and the GOP did not have the new rules. No one seemed to be doing what was expected of them, since no one knew what to do! There were power plays between the chiefs of staff, between Pelosi and Reid and Obama, Obama and Boehner, Cantor and Boehner, Lew and Geithner, Orszag and Summers, etc. Everyone wanted something, but it seemed that whatever the Democrats offered, to further the process, they quickly took off the table the next day, therefore raising the bar and setting the process back. When agreements were reached, both parties had to devise manipulative deceptive ways to present it, to please their cohorts. Party hacks that disagreed with the plans, manipulated from the inside, and leaks were given to the media to throw in a monkey wrench. No wonder nothing got done. Obama had brought change to the White House but it did not seem to be working out that well because of the gutter politics that also came with him. Our representatives have lost their perspective. Instead of working to solve the problems of the people, they work to create stopgap measures simply to postpone the inevitable failure of their negotiations and preserve and secure their own positions and the positions of the party they represent, for the moment, and for future elections. President Obama often says one thing and means another, playing with his words, saying what the person he is addressing wants to hear and then going on to say something else, about the same issue, to someone else, telling them what they want to hear. He covers all his bases and straddles the fence, trying to please everyone and as a result, pleases none of the people negotiating. The picture painted of him and his staff by the media is vastly different than the one painted by Woodward. Yes, he is cool and calm, most times, yes he can lose his temper and his anger is palpable, yes he is impressed with his own power and confident that he can save the day like a superhero, but now, he cannot do this, he needs the cooperation of the rest of the government. He is not a despot. His associates are all power hungry. They maneuver all the players on the board without real honesty and communication. No one seems to really say what is on their minds. There is no give and take. All the players are positioned to get as much as they can, rather than to solve the problem at hand. I am not saying that Congress is better, but the White House is in charge and is in the position of the utmost power and the one at the risk of abusing it the most. If the blame game and damage control have become the most important jobs of our government officials, is it any wonder we are no longer working to the best of our ability? The infighting is distracting and destructive, the constant leaks are threatening the process, the rumors running around the White House and the Congress intimidate the parties involved and there is a rush to judgment which is often incorrect and nonconstructive, the media fans the flames and rather than cover the reality, they cover sound bites for ratings, sound bites that are not beneficial, nor are they moving the country into a better position, but instead, the media is bullying each and all, waiting for gotcha moments, not waiting to keep the public better informed, as they did once upon a time. The negotiations were really about only a few things of which two were revenue and entitlements. After the health care bill conundrum was jammed through in a very unorthodox manner, the fiscal cliff facing America loomed larger. The Democrats were concerned about taking money from the rich and giving it away to the poor, with entitlements and at higher rates of taxation for the rich (but who gets to define rich?), and the Republicans were concerned about making sure the people who work hard for their money, taking all the risks in business, can keep the bulk of it. They were not opposed to revenue, regarding tax reform, but their idea of paying one’s fair share, meant not only for the very rich. They believed everyone needed skin in the game to have a stake in it and care about the outcome while the Democrats were enamored with the idea of redistribution because it bought them a larger constituency and more votes. Who is opposed to getting something for nothing? Once these ill gotten gains are received, who will give them back? They have a very clever and successful approach for garnering votes, but it may very well destroy the country as we know it, or rather, as we used to know it. The Democrats have more control over their party; they vote more as a block and can be counted on, even when they disagree with the plan. The Republicans are defined as being in disarray because they do not have that consistency, and yet, I think I would rather have a representative who thinks for himself and is not a rubber stamp, especially when there is disagreement. It is important to come to a consensus, though, on policy, and the GOP is having a tougher time. They represent a different constituency. Most of their voters are not in favor of a nanny state with socialist principles, but they are the ones being asked to kick in for those who do believe in that. It is a conundrum, perhaps a challenge that cannot be met. All the negotiators seem to be concerned with grabbing the spotlight first, protecting their bosses, and winning, not necessarily solving the problems. Woodward highlights certain people as sincere in their desire to solve the problems, as well as those that were constantly throwing in a monkey wrench to derail the process. Part of the problem, to me, seemed to be that these elected officials delegated too much responsibility to others, so they were never fully aware of the entire process, and by its very nature, the process kept them blindsided anyway, so it was really important for them to be fully informed. They relied on others to explain the procedure which was fine, but then they didn’t involve themselves in the whole process completely, so they were inclined to go off in tangential directions, making incorrect assumptions and completely derailing whatever progress had been made. Sadly, honesty was not a component of this process, or this really would not have been the case. No one wanted to put anything on paper, no one wanted to commit and give the other party any advantage, so the game goes round and round in circles and there is never any safe exit point. The President either delegates too much or seems to take on too much, assuming he has more power than he does, and therefore he comes into conflict with the other branches of the government, but his administration is adept at finding ways around all obstacles. Their ranks are, after all, filled with many lawyers and professorial types who do not know how to work the halls of Congress or the government, but they do know how to get around corners and contest the ways we normally operate. They know how to create success from failure and seem to be doing a good job of it. The book is repetitive by the very nature of the dysfunction we witness, but it is very easy to read. It clearly illustrated that nothing much ever seems to really get done. Infighting, backstabbing, backroom deals, clandestine meetings, each working against the efforts of the other, is a recipe for failure. There is enough blame to go all around, but the consensus is that the atmosphere in this White House has changed with this Presidency. There is a presumption of too much power in certain places, even rising to the very pinnacle. There is a sense of arrogance and perhaps, even thuggery, at times. Foul language and bad tempers seem to be the mainstay of many of the participants. The sense of the give and take of the old days is no longer in evidence. Rather, the sense of omnipotence is pervasive, (which may have germinated at the time that Obama first uttered the words, “I won” and then continued to threaten to go it alone), and although one would surely hope that at some point these officials would wake up and stop considering political advantage and power, and instead, consider the future of the country and the American people, we seem to continue our fast slide into oblivion and lowered credit ratings.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel (Attack of the Books!) Burton

    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 an 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. "[email protected] 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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Monnie

    I hate politics. There, I've said it. A registered Republican (following in the footsteps of my late parents) much of my life, I switched to Democrat several years ago simply because I wanted to vote for a friend in the primary election who was running for office in the city where I lived at the time. Since then, I stayed that way - but only because in this neck of the woods, primary elections aren't much fun since hardly anybody ever runs on the Republican ticket. In any event, however, at no ti I hate politics. There, I've said it. A registered Republican (following in the footsteps of my late parents) much of my life, I switched to Democrat several years ago simply because I wanted to vote for a friend in the primary election who was running for office in the city where I lived at the time. Since then, I stayed that way - but only because in this neck of the woods, primary elections aren't much fun since hardly anybody ever runs on the Republican ticket. In any event, however, at no time have I voted anything close to a party line. I abhor backroom deals, TV ads in which candidates call opponents everything short of "Jane, you ignorant slut," seemingly endless (and totally unwanted) telemarketing calls and, most of all, the absolutely appalling amount of money that's spent on trying to win votes. My views can be chalked up in part to intentional naivete; I really want to think my vote counts for something, and that when candidates take stands on issues important to me, they'll stay the course no matter what. I really, really don't want to believe that the real deals happen behind the scenes and out of the public's view - or that once in office, my candidates of choice can and will turn against me if it seems the best way to make their colleagues happy. Now that I've cleared that up, I do - at least once in a while - enjoy reading about the world of politics from behind the scenes. No doubt that comes from an educational background in and love of psychology; learning not only what humans do but why has been almost a lifelong interest. Mind you, I don't care to hear it from an autobiographical perspective - a book on Bill Clinton by Bill Clinton doesn't have a whole lot of appeal because, well, he's going to tell it like he wants to tell it, not necessarily like it really was. So the few times the urge to delve into the workings of government hits, I've picked books more from an historic or journalistic angle; I've read and enjoyed, for instance, at least a couple of Theodore H. White's "Making of a President" books. When I had an opportunity to get my hands on a copy of Bob Woodward's The Price of Politics, then, I jumped at the chance. While some may say he's got an ax to grind (these days, it seems when anyone reads, hears or sees opinions that differ from their own, it's all the "liberal media's" fault), it's crystal clear, as evidenced by the extensive index and cross-referencing that's linked to his sources, that Woodward and his team have done a monumental amount of research and fact-checking to make it as accurate as possible. Starting to read the book a mere four days before the 2012 presidential election, I knew full well that the winner would be history before I could finish it. Not likely, then, that it would sway me from my conviction that my vote would go to the one I considered to be the lesser of two evils. In retrospect, I'm thinking maybe I should have read it earlier. As one friend who read the book before me pointed out, President Obama isn't portrayed in a very positive light. That's much to my disappointment, not necessarily because of my political leanings, but because I'd always considered him to be, as my sweet mother might have said, "such a nice young man." But would reading it beforehand have caused me to change my vote? Absolutely not, especially since a number of other powerful Washington players named, quoted and interviewed in this book don't come off smelling like roses either. And as I indicated before, it's the issues that count to me, not the person who espouses them. What does come through loud and clear, though, is that instead of following through on his pledge to bring differing factions together during the 2008 campaign, Obama early on earned a reputation of saying one thing to one person, something else to another and something entirely different to the public. Worse, he appeared to not really be serious about his pledge to be a negotiator and peace-maker, rather adopting the approach of then-White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, current Mayor of Chicago, which reportedly was, "We have the votes. F*** 'em." That changed, of course, when Republicans won control of the House and had the power to slow down, if not outright kill, whatever the President Obama and his advisers wanted to put forth. Much of the book focuses on the budget development process, the nuts-and-bolts of which are way over my head (although I get the general idea). Here, everybody looks bad, from the President to Congressional leaders to their strategic advisers; all of them seem much more focused on the next Presidential election (read: delaying all the tough decisions until after that happens or putting up roadblocks just because the ideas came from the opposing side). Some quotes are telling, as this one regarding the difficulty of reaching agreement on the budget: "Obama was admitting that he was constrained. He would have to make a worse deal than he would normally accept. The Republicans knew it, and they knew he knew that they knew it. This gave them extraordinary power. So they were pushing their agenda to its outer limits...And how much could he [Obama] allow the Republicans to push before defections from the Democratic side scuttled any chance of a deal? There were Democrats who would rather have the political fight than get a deal." There's an inordinate amount of time spent on the budget development process to stave off the country's financial default, and as I said earlier, it's clear as mud to me. But according to the book, few Congresspeople - especially those among the Tea Party contingent - had a clue either just how serious the issue was and is to the future of the United States. After reading the book, I came to a few conclusions - most of them troubling. First and foremost is that the budget problems remain serious and unresolved - and I have little confidence that the same stalemate won't continue ad nauseam for the next four years. Government checks and balances are a Martha Stewart good thing, but not when they're used for the purpose of holding the other guy hostage rather than what's best for the country. And while I realize that give-and-take negotiations are what makes the Washington world go 'round, it's upsetting to realize that a lion's share of the real deals take place in meetings among people who don't hold an elected office. Oh yes, did I mention that I hate politics?

  21. 5 out of 5

    Holly Morrow

    Woodward’s new book is his usual fly-on-the-wall insider account, this time about the Obama administration’s deliberations with Congress over the stimulus, Obamacare, and most centrally, the debt-ceiling fiasco. I would not be surprised if this ends up being taught in PoliSci 101 classes – it’s a very, very detailed look at the way sausage is made in Washington, and the total dysfunction that our system has fallen into. Who comes out looking good in this book? Noone. Actually – I take that back Woodward’s new book is his usual fly-on-the-wall insider account, this time about the Obama administration’s deliberations with Congress over the stimulus, Obamacare, and most centrally, the debt-ceiling fiasco. I would not be surprised if this ends up being taught in PoliSci 101 classes – it’s a very, very detailed look at the way sausage is made in Washington, and the total dysfunction that our system has fallen into. Who comes out looking good in this book? Noone. Actually – I take that back – oddly, Joe Biden does. I finally understand his role in the Administration. Joey B is an old school Washington type, which I mean here as a compliment. Not hyper-partisan, hes a deal-maker and compromiser, who, rather than getting locked into fixed ideological positions, is looking for the mutually-agreeable solution where the pain and the benefits are equally distributed. Within the White House, he is called “the McConnell whisperer,” and amazingly, he and Cantor had a great and very constructive working relationship through these negotiations. Actually, the whole book got me thinking about how unhelpful the current vogue for “outsiders” who “hate Washington” is – what Washington needs is people who love Washington. We’ve now had two Presidents (Bush and Obama) who disdain politics and consider it beneath them, and I think the country is worse for it. I was thinking about this during Clinton’s DNC speech as well – there is a man who loves politics, enjoys it. And you get better outcomes with people like that, because those are the people who relish rolling up their sleeves and getting things done, not just spewing talking points and feeling good about their ideological purity. Anyway, back to “The Price of Politics” – the main characters are Obama, Biden, Boehner, Cantor, Pelosi, Reid, and the White House team negotiating the debt ceiling deal. The entire problem boils down to one thing – Rs and Ds aren’t coming to these negotiations thinking about what needs to be done, whats the right solution, whats good for the country. They’re thinking about their fixed positions (Rs = no taxes, ever), their bases (Ds = don’t touch Medicare), and who is going to come out looking like a winner. And that’s not even including some of the other cats and dogs in Congress – the guys with defense contractors in their district who won’t agree to defense cuts, the guys from farm states who see nothing wrong with bloated agriculture subsidies, the wingnuts who think that default would be “cleansing” for the country. Another thing the book makes clear – in today’s context, you cant be both an anti-tax ideologue AND a deficit hawk. You can be one but not the other. And because they cant do everything (a grand bargain), they don’t do anything. So, for example, while Ds identify billions in Medicare cuts theyd be willing to make, they wont enact them until Rs agree to tax increases. Part of me understands this – you don’t unilaterally disarm and give up leverage in a negotiation, but part of me says – if it’s the right thing to do, do it! Don’t worry about what the other side is doing! This was known at the time, but Boehner and Obama came 98% of the way to a really good deal over the debt ceiling crisis – basically entitlement cuts for tax increases. The deal was on the table, and the country would be better if it had gone through. A big part of the problem was how disconnected both men were from their parties – Boehner (another old school, cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking country club pol) doesn’t have the support of the rabid Tea Party wing of the House Republicans, and Obama doesn’t even bother consulting with Reid and Pelosi for the most part. And hell hath no fury like a snubbed Congressman! One of the interesting things is how cordial and for the most part constructive the negotiations were. Which gets at another problem - these guys leave a meeting where they’re chumming around and trading scalps, and then hold press conferences where they disembowel one another – and it makes their constituents and the less senior members of Congress who aren’t prvy to the negotiations more hateful, more partisan, and less willing to compromise and to understand that compromise is a necessary and not shameful part of governing in a country that is basically divided down the middle. Particularly for Tea Party republicans, a deal that satisfies both sides, or hurts equally, isn’t enough – they want Obama humiliated, destroyed. Well, we all know how it turns out – Simpson-Bowles isn’t adopted, the Boehner/Obama deal falls apart, the Super Committee whiffs, and we end up with sequestration looming over our heads, and the promise of another debacle the next time the debt ceiling gets increased. Oh, and the deficit continues its merry march upwards. In other words, America gets screwed! You will have to wade through some complex and extremely detailed minutiae on the budget to get through this book, but “The Price of Politics,” I have to admit, is a really, really good and informative look at how things get done (or don’t) in Washington.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Bob Woodward's books give you an inside look to the day to day operations within our government. There are always fascinating, but you never feel better about your country after reading one of his books. I always believed that teen-aged girls were the cattiest group in our culture...I now know they are the second cattiest group in our culture...politicians have taken over the lead. "I can go it alone." "The polls are pretty good for me right now." "Elections have consequences. And, Eric, I won." Bob Woodward's books give you an inside look to the day to day operations within our government. There are always fascinating, but you never feel better about your country after reading one of his books. I always believed that teen-aged girls were the cattiest group in our culture...I now know they are the second cattiest group in our culture...politicians have taken over the lead. "I can go it alone." "The polls are pretty good for me right now." "Elections have consequences. And, Eric, I won." "I can sway the American people.".......President Obama "We have the votes. F*** 'em." too many quotes with the same language to write about....Rahm Emanual "Boehner still has not called back." The President made three phone calls to the Speaker, it took Boehner more than 24 hours to return the call. There was a conference call betweet Boehner, President Obama and two of his staff members. Four individuals...same phone call...the result...four different versions of what transpired in that phone call. The Price of Politics centers on the debt ceiling crisis. The first two years of the Obama administration are contained in the first 80 pages..the rest of the book takes the reader through the negotiations and plans to deal with the debt ceiling crisis. In fact, most of the book takes place in the three weeks prior to the "negotiated plan". It can be tedious at times to read, but I think the book helps to detail why no one gets along. There are some funny parts...Larry Summers described President Obama as a fiscal conservative and a blue dog democrat....uhhh...cannot even comment, but I did laugh. Who are the heroes? Paul Ryan extended the olive branch many times and the olive branch was accepted by the President. On January 29, 2010, the President praised parts of Ryan's budget plan proposal. On April 13th, the President trashed the entire proposal and everything it stood for. The President says he did not know Ryan was there and did not mean to embarrass him to such a degree...Paul Ryan was in the front row....Paul Ryan showed no emotion while all the cameras were focused on him...he left the event angry, but did not outwardly show it or say a word. Ryan demonstrated extreme constaint. Suprisingly, Joe Biden has an active role in the negotiation processes...never would have thought that...the only time we see Joe Biden in the media is when he is making some stupid comment. Joe Biden knows the ins and outs of the Congress....he knows the people...and he is willing to find common ground. Eric Cantor is one of the hardest working individuals in Washington...he and Boehner do not have a close relationship...because Boehner does not communicate well. Harry Reid has a mind of his own. He and Mitch McConnell actually get along and Reid does not always tote the party line if he believes there is a better way....Nancy Pelosi does what she is told to do. These are my opionions, just like the infamous Obama-Boehner phone call, but I am sure anyone who reads this book will come away with their own thoughts.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sagar Jethani

    In "The Price of Politics", Bob Woodward presents a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations which precipitated the debt ceiling crisis of 2011. Woodward shows how the image of an unreasonable Republican caucus led by the Tea Party does not accurately describe why negotiations fell apart. Even figures as deeply partisan as Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are shown as figures willing to work in partnership with the administration-- if only behind closed doors, away from the cameras. The reason the In "The Price of Politics", Bob Woodward presents a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations which precipitated the debt ceiling crisis of 2011. Woodward shows how the image of an unreasonable Republican caucus led by the Tea Party does not accurately describe why negotiations fell apart. Even figures as deeply partisan as Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell are shown as figures willing to work in partnership with the administration-- if only behind closed doors, away from the cameras. The reason the economy nearly fell off the fiscal cliff was because of a lack of leadership from the Obama White House. Unversed with the realities of managing complex negotiations, Obama assumed that his endless rounds of private meetings with John Boehner, accompanied with copious amounts of Merlot, cigarettes, and Nicorette, would generate sufficient bonhomie to enable fruitful dialogue. When it came to the crucial moments of actually hashing-out a deal, however, the president offloaded the work to staffers, who were not empowered to make decisions. Members of both the Republican and Democratic sides have gone on record to attest to the dysfunctional nature of the White House. Woodward shows how the much-observed conflict between Obama and the Tea Party was really a politically-expedient cover story to mask a deeper divide: that between Obama and Congress. The gulf which separated Obama from the likes of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, and Eric Cantor was comparable to the one which separated him from his own party leaders on the Hill-- chiefly Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. Pelosi and Reid were deeply disappointed in Obama's amateur performance as president, and took pains to pointedly express their dissatisfaction. Historians will one day portray Obama as Technocrat-in-Chief: someone who delights in philosophical debates about policy, while delegating the actual work of hashing out agreements down the political food chain. His presidency is defined by his insecurities, which have led him to make disastrous appointments, including Timothy Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, and Larry Summers. These yes-men shadow-managed Obama in a manner reminiscent of Ronald Reagan's political lieutenants. The conclusion reached by Woodward are succinct: "It is a fact that President Obama was handed a miserable, faltering economy and faced a recalcitrant Republican opposition. But presidents work their will-- or should work their will-- on the important matters of national business. There is occasional discussion in this book about Presidents Reagan and Clinton, what they did or would have done. Open as both are to serious criticism, they nonetheless largely worked their will. Obama has not."

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    An even handed account of the less that satisfactory workings of the White House and Congress dealing with economic and debt problems during the Obama term. I was left with the impression that there was failure on both sides, White House and Congress. But the buck stops at the Oval Office. Obama promised bipartisanship, but then let the Democrat leadership in Congress bulldoze through the stimulus bill and ObamaCare ignoring all input from the Republicans. Regarding the $800 billion stimulus bil An even handed account of the less that satisfactory workings of the White House and Congress dealing with economic and debt problems during the Obama term. I was left with the impression that there was failure on both sides, White House and Congress. But the buck stops at the Oval Office. Obama promised bipartisanship, but then let the Democrat leadership in Congress bulldoze through the stimulus bill and ObamaCare ignoring all input from the Republicans. Regarding the $800 billion stimulus bill: “The bill was drafted by the Democrats and whenever any Republican tried to make changes, Emanuel's response was, more often that not, 'We have the votes, F--- 'em.'” The one Republican, Joseph Cao, who had stated his intent to vote for the bill, changed his mind when he learned that his district would only get 20% of the funds of the average district. All 177 House Republicans voted against it. Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM was representative of business leaders who were largely ignored by the administration. “Palmisano believed the Obama White House had a bigger problem. Obama had no chief operating officer, no COO to implement decisions. He had people like Emanual whose primary focus was Congress. And Obama had Valerie Jarrett and David Axelrod but they were advisers, and in Palmisano's view 'political hacks' and 'B or C players' who did not know how to get serious about fixing problems and following through. There was no implementer. Thus the country was adrift and was not serious about its most fixable problem – becoming and staying competitive.” Boehner, speaking about the White House, after the failure to reach a grand deal: “There was no outreach when we were in the minority. These is no outreach in a majority. You look at both Bush administrations, Clinton's administration, they had a congressional affairs team that was plugged in keeping people up to date. No outreach. Go talk to the Democrats. Because they get treated the same way. There's no outreach. The place [White House] is dysfunctional. I don't know whether it's him or it's him versus his staff or whoever's calling the shots. You've got a bunch of people down there, well-meaning people, who have never done anything. Never run anything. Organizational structure. When you don't know what you don't know, it gets you in big trouble.” Obama, concerning the failure to reach a grand deal with Speaker Boehner, ever ready to blame someone else: “I could have done a deal with Bob Dole. I could have even done a deal with Newt Gingrich.” They had more control of their caucus.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Scott Zuke

    It's a book about fiscal negotiations, so yes, it gets tedious even with Woodward's characteristically easy to read style. Nevertheless, it's an important read for anyone gearing up for the Fiscal Cliff negotiations. The main reason to recommend this book is to gain insight into the key players in Congress and at the White House, especially since the main cast was virtually unchanged by the 2012 Election. Boehner and Cantor especially come off more sympathetically than they did in most media acc It's a book about fiscal negotiations, so yes, it gets tedious even with Woodward's characteristically easy to read style. Nevertheless, it's an important read for anyone gearing up for the Fiscal Cliff negotiations. The main reason to recommend this book is to gain insight into the key players in Congress and at the White House, especially since the main cast was virtually unchanged by the 2012 Election. Boehner and Cantor especially come off more sympathetically than they did in most media accounts at the time. Yes, they frequently lied about their activities to the public, but at least this in-depth account gives them a chance to explain their strategies and the limitations of their positions in the negotiation process. A key player always standing off screen is the group of freshman Tea Party congressmen in the House who, despite the shortcomings displayed by Obama and Boehner, are the real culprit in the debacle. The book's title refers to the political restraints that kept Congress and the White House from coming to an agreement that accomplished much of anything of value to the American people. Woodward does his best to show the impossibility of navigating around each side's redlines, but he refrains from passing judgement on whether those redlines were sensible to begin with. To me, it all comes down to the fact that raising the debt ceiling is a routine procedure that does not, in and of itself, increase the nation's debt. So it's wrong to conclude that this showdown was unavoidable. It was a crisis consciously--and recklessly--chosen by the extreme right wing of the Republican party, and so the bulk of the blame must rest on their shoulders. And lest one make the error of thinking the GOP was simply fighting for its principles, not just political advantage, this quote, repeated a couple times in different formulations, stands out as a sickening explanation for why none of this was allowed to be resolved earlier, and why we're already staring down the Fiscal Cliff before President Obama even begins his second term: "…There were very prominent Republicans in the caucus who told me—to my face—that the view in the caucus was that getting a deal with me would ensure my reelection. Very reliable and prominent Republicans say to me, the view among many in our caucus is if we give you a deal, you have taken a major issue away from us. You are seen as the bipartisan leader, and you are a lock for reelection." -President Obama

  26. 5 out of 5

    T Fool

    Going into this, one has friends and foes. Journalism seeks hot topics for shock value, for story value. They write to their constituencies. This is not that. The meat of this is economics, budgeting, international financial trust, big money. Much that I simply don't know. All that is being handled by USA decision-makers within its Constitutional political system. That system I know fairly well. What has to hit a reader expecting either economic analysis or mano-a-mano political grit is somethin Going into this, one has friends and foes. Journalism seeks hot topics for shock value, for story value. They write to their constituencies. This is not that. The meat of this is economics, budgeting, international financial trust, big money. Much that I simply don't know. All that is being handled by USA decision-makers within its Constitutional political system. That system I know fairly well. What has to hit a reader expecting either economic analysis or mano-a-mano political grit is something entirely different. The POP shows that over a period of -- I don't know -- maybe a year, key people meet, people who do know these things and who have the obligation to conclude deals. True, because of party affiliation, branch of government, and leadership placement, those deals don't come easily. As a matter of fact, agreement over the US debt ceiling in 2011 and budgetary issues and 'triggers' -- that agreement -- only clumsily hobbles onto signed paper. And, basically, the end result puts off any real decision concerning expenditures and where American budgetary priorities should be. The magnificence of this book (I did it on audio) comes not with the political 'thrill' or with an insider view of major figures, but with the realization that everyone involved was actually doing what he or she was supposed to be doing. That every one of the figures -- even the ones you are prepared to dislike -- was aiming to do the right thing. Perhaps that's tragedy. A collision of 'right doing' in a 'right system' that balances power and prevents dictatorial fiat. The system -- as it plays out -- cancels one interest against the other, leaving nothing but stasis. And failure. Read this with a desire to watch character. At many, many points, there seem to be accommodating gestures that should work, trust building between particular players. They all seem to know that 'in the room' good faith might yield good result. Once out, however, broader constituencies -- either a room or two away, a Congressional House two blocks distant, in a newsroom across town, or thousands of mob-howling miles away -- yell 'no quarter'. There's a point when determination becomes bullheadedness, when principle falls second to political tactics, when aim subverts possible victory, when personal ambition sours good sense. Woodward shows this happening. It's not the ideas that endanger our project. It's human frailty.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    I was going to give this book just 4 stars because the middle 3rd of it seemed to get a little redundant and repetitive. I have realized however that that is a perfect microcosm of the problem this book so expertly describes: political inertia. This book really runs the gamut of adjectives: fascinating, discouraging, mesmerizing, infuriating, but mostly it is just amazing. Woodward literally makes you a fly on the wall to discussions at the highest levels of power. People are always clamoring fo I was going to give this book just 4 stars because the middle 3rd of it seemed to get a little redundant and repetitive. I have realized however that that is a perfect microcosm of the problem this book so expertly describes: political inertia. This book really runs the gamut of adjectives: fascinating, discouraging, mesmerizing, infuriating, but mostly it is just amazing. Woodward literally makes you a fly on the wall to discussions at the highest levels of power. People are always clamoring for more transparency in government. Well, here it is. And it is not pretty. I am not naive to the extreme partisanship of Washington DC, but I will admit to being startled at the lengths to which both sides are willing to go to not give even the appearance of a political victory to the other side. I don't think most Americans know (I certainly didn't) just how close we came to defaulting on our debt and how totally catastrophic the consequences would have been. Sickeningly, if we had defaulted it would have been solely because of politics. According to Woodward we actually got to a point where there was only $5 Billion dollars left in the treasury (not even enough to fund 1/2 a day). What's so alarming is how members of both sides were willing to go down with the ship instead of compromise. One other thing I learned is that I will never trust another press conference again. It is amazing how these guys can say one thing behind closed doors and then immediately call a press conference and say the opposite. What's even more amazing is that this is totally expected and accepted because they have a mutual understanding that they can't say anything publicly that would contradict their party dogma. What's even more amazing than that is that we, the citizenry, don't seem to care that we're being treated like idiots. I'm starting to ramble, so I will end before I go full Unabomber, but this is a very thought provoking book. A must read for anyone interested in understanding how the sausage is made in Washington DC.

  28. 4 out of 5

    John Harms

    When reading this book, you sort of get the feeling that Bob Woodward is continually in the process of researching and writing a book about politics. It is as though he picks a random thirty-six month span of time and then works to craft those events into a narrative. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the in-depth reporting on events and Woodward's unsparing criticism where he deems it necessary. Most of all, I enjoyed Woodward's character descriptions of the key players in th When reading this book, you sort of get the feeling that Bob Woodward is continually in the process of researching and writing a book about politics. It is as though he picks a random thirty-six month span of time and then works to craft those events into a narrative. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book because of the in-depth reporting on events and Woodward's unsparing criticism where he deems it necessary. Most of all, I enjoyed Woodward's character descriptions of the key players in the Administration and Congress. These descriptions go beyond the the usual campaign narratives promulgated in the media to capture the subtleties and oddities that humanize our leaders and help to explain their actions. For a poltiical junky, this book was very entertaining because of Woodward's capacity to interweave current events reporting with tidbits of Washington gossip and "inside" knowledge. This mix gives the reader the allusion of "pulling back the curtain" and getting an unadulterated look at the people and events that drive our political and policy decision making processes. I rate the book a solid three because of the lack of an overarching theme or message that brings all the events together. The book is fantastic when viewed as an "official record" of the events surrounding the debt-ceiling debacle in the summer of 2011. Unfortunately, it fails to draw many insights or lessons from the events that unfolded (other than the idea that Obama needs to do a better job of engaging with Congress, which is nearing common knowledge in the political sphere). I recommend this book to political junkies who want to better understand the complex relationship and history between the Obama White House and Congress that will surely shape events in the 113th Congress.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Don

    : transparency, no media to check, resignation due to lack of informed voters vs what’s in it for me, 20+ year congressional jobs not as founders envisioned, Cantor limit spending and small business focus, Keynesian spending of 30’s vs cuts, Emmanuel-we have the votes f…em, buying votes for HB1, blue dogs limit spending, Conrad bickers for self vs country, ear marks of Reid, extending unemployment discouraged people, unelected commission of Simpson, CEO’s 47 pages for less regs taxes spending de : transparency, no media to check, resignation due to lack of informed voters vs what’s in it for me, 20+ year congressional jobs not as founders envisioned, Cantor limit spending and small business focus, Keynesian spending of 30’s vs cuts, Emmanuel-we have the votes f…em, buying votes for HB1, blue dogs limit spending, Conrad bickers for self vs country, ear marks of Reid, extending unemployment discouraged people, unelected commission of Simpson, CEO’s 47 pages for less regs taxes spending deficits vs no listen teleprompter and media in room thus no trust, too many unknowns with lack of experience, no med malpractice reform, dems as politburo finality, Ryan studies budget yet media circus, unprecedented media set-up to promote, no middle road-outright dishonesty, no Reagan-O’Neil comparison, progressive is regressive or repetitive of historically failed policies, Boehner and Obama lacked foundation of trust to negotiate, sickening irresponsibility with people’s money, piling debt on kids, no virtues or humility, recession of 37 after similar 4 years of excessive spending, stated Obama inconsistencies, corruption in programs as negotiable verses wrongs to be corrected now, Pelosi desire to retain party differences rather than mutual benefits, Reid desire to use debt issue to gain other wants, Dems lack of negotiation to avoid default, Obama choice to change message to public via lies verses changing policy, Dems introducing sequestration scheme, dems say politics drove crisis, Boehner 8th most conservative, Obama lack of structural leadership, don’t know what you don’t know, debt limit dilemma due to lack of spending control.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jay Connor

    I finished this book just before the election. Having read most of Woodward's books beginning with "All the President's Men," it is fairly easy to deconstruct how he gets to the last page. His style is kinda TMZ meets Face the Nation. You are often as caught up in identifying his sources as you are in the main story. Going all the way back to Deep Throat, once you can identify the source you can identify the motivation. Said another way, Woodward is as concerned about keeping his sources talking I finished this book just before the election. Having read most of Woodward's books beginning with "All the President's Men," it is fairly easy to deconstruct how he gets to the last page. His style is kinda TMZ meets Face the Nation. You are often as caught up in identifying his sources as you are in the main story. Going all the way back to Deep Throat, once you can identify the source you can identify the motivation. Said another way, Woodward is as concerned about keeping his sources talking as he is about clarifying the actions of the prime movers. In fact, Woodward wants his sources to shine so that he can develop more sources for future stories. In this way, it is clear that Eric Cantor, the Republican House Majority Leader, is a major source for Woodward's background. No other way to explain the reverence paid to an egocentric backstabbing, obstructionist. This book is a great primer for the Fiscal Cliff discussions dominating the news out of Washington this late 2012. It's not pretty. And there is no high road. Even the more rationale, balanced argument being made by Obama is undercut by his inability to truly LEAD. After four years, Obama has continued to envision a future around how we should feel and not what we should do. Without a path, feeling is inert. It is not enough to decry Republican asymmetry. One is compelled to believe that a different leader wouldn't be so hostage to those guys who don't play fair. Obama is the best we have but he doesn't seem destined to the pantheon of greatness.

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