Some details are emerging from Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward’s new book about the 2011 battle between President Obama and congressional Republicans over the budget, taxes and deficit reduction.
From the Post, about a key moment in July 2011, as a possible government shutdown loomed:
“Obama succeeded in getting Boehner to tentatively agree to as much as $800 billion in new revenue, a major concession, only to surprise the speaker with a request for an additional $400 billion as their negotiations neared the final stages. Unable to muster support among his lieutenants for such a proposal, Boehner ducked the president’s phone calls before pulling out of the talks for good.
“Obama reacted angrily to Boehner’s refusal to take his calls, according to Woodward, telling the speaker when they talked next: ‘That’s not a reason to cut off the conversation. I asked you to consider it. And you never got back to me.’
” ‘He was spewing coals,’ Boehner told Woodward in the interview.”
“An explosive mix of dysfunction, miscommunication, and misunderstandings inside and outside the White House led to the collapse of a historic spending and debt deal that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were on the verge of reaching last summer, according to revelations in author Bob Woodward’s latest book. …
“Obama and his aides argue that the House speaker backed away from a deal because he couldn’t stand the political heat inside his own party — or even, perhaps, get the votes to pass the compromise. They say he took the president’s proposal for more revenue as an excuse to pull out of talks altogether.
” ‘I was pretty angry,’ the president told Woodward about the breakdown in negotiations. “There’s no doubt I thought it was profoundly irresponsible, at that stage, not to call me back immediately and let me know what was going on.’ “
The Post adds that:
“In his final chapter, Woodward faults both Obama and Boehner for their handling of the fiscal crisis, concluding that ‘neither was able to transcend their fixed partisan convictions and dogmas. Rather than fixing the problem, they postponed it. . . . When they met resistance from other leaders in their parties, they did not stand their ground.’
“He has tougher words for Obama. ‘It is a fact that President Obama was handed a miserable, faltering economy and faced a recalcitrant Republican opposition,’ he writes. ‘But presidents work their will — or should work their will — on important matters of national business. . . . Obama has not.’ “
Woodward’s book will be excerpted in the Post and on its website this Sunday. It goes on sale Tuesday.