Bob Woodward Book Shows Obama Was Unprepared to Tackle the National Debt


A new book by journalist Bob Woodward called The Price of Politics was released on Tuesday and with it a look at the national debt since President Obama took office. The book is meant to take a behind-the-scenes look at developments and negotiations which took place in the summer of 2011, as the country was close to default over the federal debt ceiling. The Price of Politics is essential reading for an inside understanding of the talks which went on regarding the debt ceiling.

A Washington Post review points out that outside of the Republican presidential primary debates, no discussion on entitlement spending cuts has brought about this much excitement. The review also notes that while the information in the book is not anything new, it is recent history. The book details conversations which Woodward had with those on the inside. In a scene from the book , Obama and House Speaker John Boehner smoked a cigarette and the president chewed Nicorette gum. Boehner saw the moment as emblematic of their differences, while Obama saw it as emblematic of their common ground, both of which seem to pull the other in opposite directions.

Some of the details of the book pinpoint exact examples of when the administration was caught unprepared. An example of this can be seen after the 2010 midterm elections, when Boehner won the position of Speaker of the House. Woodward notes that the president was to make a congratulatory call to Boehner, only no one in the White House had a number for him. Woodward points towards Obama as possibly too confident in regards to negotiations and character. For example, the book quotes Obama as saying “John Boehner is like a Republican State Senator. He’s a golf playing, cigarette-smoking, country-club Republican who’s there to make deals. He’s very familiar to me.” 

Others were quick to warn Obama about underestimating the influence which the GOP can have, particularly that of negotiations with Boehner. The book paints Obama as a president who is sure of himself, yet also somewhat tentative in terms of forming relationships with members of Congress from either side (Republican or Democrat).

Everyone will have a different view on this book. For journalists and reporters who have reported on the matter, the story told in the book is one heard before but with a new voice; that voice is Bob Woodward. The book threatens to hurt Obama’s re-election campaign, especially after a successful convention, by showing that the president was not able to finish the deal in way that would effectively reduce the national debt.