The Price of Politics Hardcover – Sep 11 2012
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“A highly detailed dissection of the debt-limit negotiations. … A remarkable achievement. …Woodward, being Woodward, digs deeper and draws more out of the protagonists than anyone else has.” —Jeff Shesol, The Washington Post
"Groundbreaking" —David Gregory, NBC's Meet the Press
"Takes us inside the room once again." —Charlie Rose
"Fabulous book and great reporting." —Norah O'Donnell, CBS This Morning
“Bob Woodward, in characteristic fashion, does his competitors one better by filling in blanks and providing even finer detail.” —Miranda Green, The Daily Beast
"A book everyone is talking about." —Diane Sawyer, ABC
"A very revealing, insightful book." —Sean Hannity, Fox News, "Hannity"
"Required Reading" —Elizabeth Titus, Politico
“Almost every bookshelf in the U.S. capital holds a thin volume called 13 Days, Robert F. Kennedy’s account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Memo to Washington: Make room on those shelves for Bob Woodward’s latest behind-the-scenes book, The Price of Politics, which might as well have been called 44 Days. The centerpiece is a riveting account of the tedious negotiations to reach a ‘grand bargain’ on the federal budget.” —David M. Shirbman, Bloomberg Businessweek
About the Author
Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for forty-four years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for The Washington Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and later for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored twelve #1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He has two daughters, Tali and Diana, and lives in Washington, DC, with his wife, writer Elsa Walsh.See all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
And to them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power." -- Revelation 9:3 (NKJV)
Anyone who wants to understand why the United States is in a fiscal crisis should read this book. It's a carefully documented tale of people putting their own interests ahead of the citizens. There's also enough arrogance, ignorance, shallowness, and incompetence to make anyone seethe about the people in the other party. As an independent voter, I found myself annoyed by both parties.
Those who like to think of the president as an empty suit who gives good speeches will find evidence to support their beliefs. Those who prefer to see Republicans as willing to stop at nothing to hold down taxes for rich people will find what they are looking for, as well.
Are these truly the political heirs of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt? See what you think.
Nice job, Mr. Woodward! Keep up the good work! I can hardly wait to see what you write about the recent election.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Woodward's writing is what I would call reportorial. He takes care to avoid coloring sentences with unnecessary and potentially misleading adjectives. Description is kept to a minimum in the narrative. As a result, the reader must rely on the dialog and recollections of the subjects, some of whom express themselves better than others. I found it helpful to pause at various dates and think about what I was doing at the time and what I recalled about the issues and people involved.
For example, I realized I had developed a strong negative impression of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. I was surprised that he seemed more reasonable and less ideological in the book. Similarly, I was surprised and impressed with Joe Biden's role. In the popular media, he has been relegated to "class clown" status.
Other take-aways: Congress is all about politics and little about policy. Also, we don't have a do-nothing Congress. These men and women are working very hard. But accomplishment is the prize and there is very little of that to go around. And nobody works longer or harder than the staffs of these elected officials.
Woodward's reputation and singular access in the halls of power provide his readers with important, actionable insights. The story is harrowing. The serious national issues continue to fester. Many of the people in "The Price of Politics" are up for reelection and your vote may change after reading it.
"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.
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. In many ways this book provides a character study of the two main characters of this book: President Obama and Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Woodward did a remarkable job of being as fair as possible and in several instances acknowledged where the accounts may have differed. The main players don't come out smelling like roses either; there are many thorns along the way.
4. President Obama's shortcomings particularly dealing with the business community and the failings of congressional Republicans.
5. Timely political topic in the hands of an accomplished author with access. He treats the subject matter with utmost respect.
6. 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.
7. 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 and fair assessments is a rare skill indeed.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. The issue of letting the tax cuts expire and the implications.
12. How legislative deals are usually handled versus how they were actually attempted.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. Captures the presidential struggle to "dominate" Congress, to give the appearance of having control.
16. The battle of the plans.
17. The failure of the supercommittee...the result of ideological rigidity.
18. Links worked like a charm. Well cited.
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, it's really about the political dynamics of negotiation. 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: "Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget" by David Wessel, "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You" by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, "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, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else" by David Cay Johnston, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" by Robert B. Reich, "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 and "The Crash Course" by Chris Martenson. All these books have been reviewed by yours truly, check for my tag, "Book Shark Review".
The book provides a blow by blow event of the budget and debt negotiations between Congress and the President in 2011. You learn about the various motivations and pressures that motivated each party and the White House. This description of events is much like a sporting event. This side offers this, the other side offers that and so on and so on. The down side of this method is you miss some of the big picture of events. You won't be able to see the forest through the trees kind of situation.
That blow by blow routine does get a little boring through the first part of it. Stick with it, the ending makes it all worth the work. I think a reader will gain a lot through the book. That is where your eyes will open through the collective story.
You will learn about the various personalities on both sides via what they did and a little through what they say in the book. I think you will learn things about people that the media and PR consultants miss. This side of them will shock you and not sit with your preset ideas.
You will also leave the book feeling a bit depressed. The book will make you re-look at those events of 2011. You will have to make your own analysis. Bob is sort of weak on that description. You realize how close we all came to disaster back then. The news then made it seem like everyone involved wanted the 11th hour deal for theatrics. The book makes you realize that deal was by luck, not by intent.
Through the book you will think we are in trouble. The book makes it very clear how difficult the budget situation is. Both sides were unable to come to a deal due to several political reasons. It is like democracy may have come to an end. It seems each party's collective pride prevents us from coming to a collective deal.
I found there were two big things that jumped out of the book. One was the description of the White House and President Obama. Bob Woodward's own words said "It seems no one is in charge". Any reader will pick that up when you read it. It seems that policy was all over the map. Points were changing all the time. For example in the book after the President gets a deal with the Speaker he calls back and ups the stakes. That killed a deal. The other fact is how the nature of the budget problem evolves around various sacred cows of medicare, social security, and other programs. That was all that the negotiators talked about. That is where all of the money is. People tend to talk about about the easy things like parties in Vegas but that isn't where the money is. The big issues is what is tying up the country and seem not to be able to be fixed.
At a January 2009 meeting with Republican congressional leaders, President Obama told Eric Cantor, "I can go it alone... but I want to come together. Look at the polls. The polls are pretty good for me right now... Elections have consequences... And Eric, I won... So on that, I trump you." (Pg. 14) About the 2009 stimulus bill, Woodward notes that "whenever any Republican tried to make changes, [Chief of Staff Rahm] Emanuel's response was... 'We have the votes. F__k 'em.' This was the bulldozing that Obama had promised to avoid." (Pg. 16)
He notes, "What really surprised Cantor, though, was how badly the White House had played what should have been a winning hand... he had unified and energized the losers. Not only had he missed the opportunity to get the Republicans into the boat with him, he had actually pushed them away. The failure was one of human relations. There had been no sincere contact, no inclusiveness, no real listening." (Pg. 22) But after the 2010 midterm elections, he observes, "But when you need friends, it's too late to make them... The tables had turned. They had the votes." (Pg. 61)
Later, he interprets Paul Ryan's reaction to an Obama speech: "This was what he called 'game-on demagoguery.' Ryan's worst suspicions about the president were realized: Obama wasn't just phoning it in for [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid, he really believed this stuff... Ryan felt betrayed. He'd expected an olive branch. What he got was the finger." (Pg. 104, 106) Woodward records, "Obama's inner circle knew that ... a large number of Boehner's rank and file---the extreme Tea Partiers---were dangerously irresponsible... 'I have some sympathy for him.' the president repeated. 'You see how crazy these people are.... His motivation is pure... He just can't control the forces in his caucus now.'" (Pg. 135)
Woodward concludes, "The debt limit crisis was a time of peril for the United States... you cannot help but conclude that neither President Obama nor Speaker Boehner handled it particularly well... Rather than fixing the problem, they postponed it... President Obama was handed a miserable, faltering economy and faced a recalcitrant Republican opposition. But presidents work their will... Obama has not... Americans are now left with a still struggling economy in the midst of a presidential election. It is a world of the status quo, only worse." (Pg. 378-380)
Primarily critical of the Obama administration, although sometimes also of the Republican leadership, this is a detailed (sometimes TOO much so) account that will be of interest to political junkies overwhere.
Woodward claims to have spared readers from the "mind-numbing written offers and counteroffers" (p. 378), but the book still reads very tediously at times. The same basic pattern is repeated each chapter: a meeting-by-meeting, phone call-by-phone call account is given of the negotiations and then the chapter will close with backward-looking reflections from later conducted interviews with either Obama or Boehner. The result is either a work of artistic genius (the reader's exhaustion mirrors that experienced by the debt ceiling negotiators) or the product of an unwillingness to fit this episode into a broader perspective (Woodward mentions Reagan, Clinton, and other past W.H.-Congress showdowns only in passing).
The lasting impressions from the book are the individual portraits of Obama, Boehner, Cantor, Reid, and Biden. How these individiuals think and act became much more interesting than the sometimes monotonous retelling of events. Those who are rabidly interested in politics will love the entire book, but other readers will at least enjoy the up close and personal interactions of our current political leaders.
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