The Price of Politics

The Price of Politics

3.7 55
by Bob Woodward, Boyd Gaines

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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. It spans the three and a half tumultuous years beginning just before Obama’s inauguration in early 2009 and lasting through the summer of 2012.

Woodward pierces

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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. It spans the three and a half tumultuous years beginning just before Obama’s inauguration in early 2009 and lasting through the summer of 2012.

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.

At the center of The Price of Politics is a high-stakes personal and political struggle between the president and the speaker. The Price of Politics takes the reader through the electric 44 days during the summer of 2011 with day-by-day, often hour-by-hour, accounts as the two attempt a “grand bargain” to cut entitlement spending and increase tax revenue.

As they struggled through the most intense moments of the crisis, each contended with powerful conflicts in his own party. At the prospect of serious budget cuts, Obama told Woodward, “Our friends on the left would howl and act as if we had dismantled the New Deal.” In the House, Boehner was looking over his shoulder, worrying that his second-in-command, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, was undermining him in concert with extreme conservative House members and others with ties to the anti-tax Tea Party. At the same time, Boehner described the president as “moaning and groaning and whining and demanding. Threatening. He was pretty desperate.”

The Price of Politics shows why the grand bargain was never reached, and how the president, the speaker and the Congress settled for stopgap measures that delayed any serious deficit reduction until 2013.

With extensive documentation and firsthand accounts, Woodward reveals how the broken relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill drove the U.S. economy to the edge of the fiscal cliff, where it remains.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Audio
Woodward critically examines the recent economic challenges that the nation has faced and limns the political shift from a rhetoric of togetherness to one of confrontation as Congress and the president have worked to resolve the debt crisis. Woodward zeroes in on the middle of 2011 and political battles that occurred as government officials struggled to prevent a massive shutdown. As he did in his previous examinations of the Bush administration, Woodward pulls no punches here and provides a fascinating history and analysis. Narrator Boyd Gaines boasts a commanding voice that proves suitable for the important issues covered. His deep, slightly raspy voice and deliberate narration will grab the listener’s attention from the very start. But despite strong prose and a great performance, this abridged audio edition is likely to disappoint. Listeners may find themselves confused and struggling to keep up without some of the more important excised sections. A Simon & Schuster hardcover. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“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

Kirkus Reviews
A reconstruction of how Republican brinkmanship threatened to bring down the global economy by forcing a U.S. debt default. Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post editor Woodward (Obama's Wars, 2010, etc.) chronicles how Republicans used a previously routine vote on increasing the debt ceiling to blackmail President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Emboldened by their midterm victory in 2010, the Republicans aimed to force the president to accept major cuts to the budget and entitlements while holding the line on taxes. In explaining this display of brinkmanship, Woodward explains that for the U.S. president, default was not an option and could in fact bring down the entire global economy. The action takes place in the summer of 2011, beginning with a failed attempt by the White House to craft a workable deal in negotiations with House Speaker John Boehner. When these negotiations collapsed, the entire political leadership of both parties was brought in, leading to recriminations on all sides. The debt ceiling was raised but at the cost of a January fiscal cliffhanger. Although the author faults both Boehner and the president for their "fixed partisan convictions and dogmas," his main purpose appears to be to discredit Obama. He compares him unfavorably to former Presidents Reagan and Clinton, both of whom handled similar crises. Although admitting that "Obama was handed a miserable, faltering economy and faced a recalcitrant Republican opposition," Woodward faults him for being both arrogant and inept at building political consensus. An occasionally intriguing look into political grappling at the highest level but mostly an exercise in excruciating detail, most of which boils down to trivial political gossip.

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Audio
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5.34(w) x 5.62(h) x 0.78(d)

Read an Excerpt


The lavish dinner at the Capital Hilton Hotel in downtown Washington on the evening of Saturday, March 11, 2006, was about the last place you would expect to find him. But there was Barack Obama, age 44, the junior senator from Illinois for only the last 14 months, in formal white-tie with tails and very much at ease in the crowd of 600. His trademark smile, broad and infectious, dominated his face as I met him for the first time.

We were at the annual Gridiron Club dinner—a rite of passage for national political figures such as Obama. The crowd included President George W. Bush and most of the major politicians in Washington. It was one of Senator Obama’s maiden voyages into the unsavory belly of the Washington beast. Bush was to speak for the Republicans, and Obama had been selected to speak for the Democrats.

Founded in 1885, the Gridiron—named because its motto was to “singe but not burn”—had the reputation of being an old-school event of in-jokes, skits and music that seemed more fitted to a bygone era.

“You’re from Wheaton, Illinois,” Obama said to me, referring, unprompted, to the small town where I was raised in the late 1940s and ’50s. Wheaton, 25 miles west of Chicago, is home to Wheaton College, best known for its alumnus evangelist Billy Graham, whose influence permeated the town.

“I’ll bet you didn’t carry Wheaton,” I said confidently, referring to his Senate race 16 months earlier. A bastion of Midwestern conservatism and country-club Republicans, Wheaton was the most Republican town in the country in the 1950s, or at least regarded itself that way.

“I carried DuPage County by 60 percent!” Obama responded, beaming that incandescent smile. Wheaton is the county seat of DuPage.

I said that seemed utterly impossible. That couldn’t be the Wheaton or DuPage I had known.

Obama continued to smile me down. The certainty on his face was deep, giving me pause. Suddenly, I remembered that Obama’s opponent for the Senate seat had been Alan Keyes, the conservative black Republican gadfly. Keyes had substituted at the last minute for the first Republican nominee, who withdrew from the race when divorce and child custody records revealed that he had taken his wife to sex clubs in New York, New Orleans and Paris.

“Well, everyone who runs for office should have Alan Keyes as their opponent,” I said, trying to hold my ground.

Obama smiled some more—almost mirthful, yet unrevealing. The conversation turned to Illinois politics, and Obama ticked off the areas where he had strong support—Chicago, the labor unions—and weak support, downstate and the farm areas. He defined the categories skillfully, expanding on the state’s interest groups and voting blocs. He made it clear he knew where he had work to do.

He sounded like a graceful old-fashioned pol. Though he had carried DuPage by 60 percent, he had won 70 percent of the statewide vote.

His wife, Michelle, stood by his side in a stunning gown. But the focus and the questions from people crowded around were all directed at the dazzling new star.

• • •

When he appeared at the podium several hours later, Obama stood perfectly erect, projecting radiant confidence.

“This is a true story,” he said.1 “A friend sent me a clip about a new study by a psychologist at the University of Scotland who says sex before a public speaking engagement actually enhances your oratorical power. I showed this clip to Michelle, before we arrived here tonight. She looked it over, handed it back and said, ‘Do the best you can!’ ”

The laughter ignited instantly.

“This appearance is really the capstone of an incredible 18 months,” he said, citing the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, cover of Newsweek, a best-selling autobiography, Dreams from My Father, a Grammy award for reading the audiobook. “Really what else is there to do? Well, I guess . . . I could pass a law or something.”

The self-deprecation played well.

Referring to Senator John McCain’s positive treatment by the press up to that point, Obama said, “Some of my colleagues call John a prima donna. Me? I call him a role model. Think of it as affirmative action. Why should the white guys be the only ones who are overhyped?”

The self-awareness played smooth.

Noting the speculation that the 2008 presidential campaign could come down to McCain, a maverick Republican, versus Senator Hillary Clinton, he said, “People don’t realize how much John and Hillary have in common. They’re both very smart. Both very hardworking. And they’re both hated by the Republicans!”

This played bipartisan.

Obama turned toward President Bush, who was on the stage nearby. “The president was so excited about Tom Friedman’s book The World Is Flat. As soon as he saw the title, he said, ‘You see, I was right!’ ”

The joke played confident.

“I want to thank you for all the generous advance coverage you’ve given me in anticipation of a successful career. When I actually do something, we’ll let you know.”

The audience clapped and hooted in delight.

After dinner the buzz was like a chain reaction. Not only could this young Obama tell a joke on himself, with the required self-effacement, but he had remarkable communications skills. An editor at The Washington Post once said that journalists only write two stories: Oh, the horror of it all, and Oh, the wonder of it all. Obama was the wonder of it all that night and he basked in the attention he had captured. Rarely have I seen anyone manage the moment so well. He had frankly and forthrightly trumpeted his lack of accomplishment, and the roomful of egos ate it up. But if he had done nothing much so far, why was he there? Why the buzz? The approbation? What exactly was being measured?

It was the dramatic impact he was having on his audience. The triumph was the effect.

Twenty-five years earlier in 1981, I had attended a Gridiron dinner where the speaker for the Democrats was Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the bookish intellectual who had served in prominent posts in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Moynihan, then 53, made some good jokes, but his theme was serious: what it means to be a Democrat. The soul of the party was to fight for equality and the little guy, he said. The party cared for the underdogs in America, the voiceless, powerless and those who got stepped on. It was a defining speech, and the buzz afterward was that Moynihan was going to be president. He wasn’t, of course. That was then, this was now.

Obama had not once mentioned the party or high purpose. His speech, instead, was about Obama, his inexperience, and, in the full paradox of the moment, what he had not done.

Two and a half years later, he was president-elect of the United States.

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The Price of Politics 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 55 reviews.
Nikkadaem More than 1 year ago
On the brink or an economic crisis that would have affected the global economy. How many people actually knew that this was an economic Cuban Missile Crisis. A total systemic failure to cooperate and last minute posturing almost sent us into a financial tail spin. how could President Obama suddenly make an 11th hour demand for more money? How could the Republic Leadership simply not return a phone call to even say "no". I hope that more people read this book and demand that congress resolve the budget next year. Otherwise, none of us will be able to afford to purchase the sequel to this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well detailed book that provides insight into an account that is being replayed today. Echoes the observation that Washington is more characterized by style than substance and that brinksmanship is important than bipartisnship governance. Details are a bit numbing and hard to really digest in the page by page, meeting by meeting description, but the macro overview perspective provided is captivating. Worth reading to learn about 'players' pivotal to the transpiring events you 'never heard of'. Joe Biden was a particularly riveting player to read about. He is a figure of gravitas and significance that the headlines don't capture and appreciate.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bob Woodward makes you feel like you are sitting at the negotiating table with many of the key players in the book. He has tremendous sources, which the President even cited in an interview with Bob for "Obama's War" in which he said something to the affect that BW had better sources then the President. The negotiations are very intriguing and give you some insight into the key differences between the messaging war which went on simultaneous to the negotiations. It could be dry with all the different numbers going back and forth if you are not into that but overall a great book. It certainly revealed that Obama is no Bill Clinton and I think Biden could have hammered out a deal better despite being perceived as inept.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While dry reading in some places. It seems to be a fair and balanced look at what happened behind the scenes. Neither side is spared and both are equally pilloried by this work. It should be requirec reading for every American regardless of party affiliation.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is similar to others Bob Woodward has written in that it gives you an inside glimpse into the world of Washington that we as ordinary citizens are not able to see. As usual Bobs' sources are right in the middle of the action. It gives you the various positions of the President as well as the leaders of both Houses of Congress. I thought the one thing that stood out was the current dysfunction of our elected leaders. It show's the rigidity of both sides and thus a deal on the deficit and our long term deficit issues was not able to be reached. I'm surprised the book and it's contents has not been mentioned in this years Presidential Election. Like all of Bobs' previous books this one was extraordinarily researched and is very interesting for both Political Junkies as well as we the people.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is amazing that Woodward can get the information that is in the book. It is extremely detailed, often with hour by hour and day by day developments with who said what. If you are interested in the political process in Washington, it is a must read. With our current president and current Congress, it made me wonder how anything gets done but also showed why the balance of power is so important.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a student at WVU and Woodwards book is very detailed and informative. I plan to use this book for a research paper.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Insightful and frustrating, Woodward paints a detailed and vivid portrait of our country's ever-worsening fiscal crisis. The numbers are mind-numbing, so much so that it's almost forgiveable that ultimately nothing was resolved. Almost.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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shoesan More than 1 year ago
Bob Woodward has done an excellent job capturing and reporting the inside discussions that have gone on in Washington since the Obama administration has continuously bumped heads with the other-minded congress (especially House under Boehner's leadership. There is enough depth in the book to help me understand and in some ways begin to empathize with the diverse values and beliefs of the different interests and agendas of our political leadership. Great read that moves pretty fast although frustratingly slow given the huge dis-function of the two party system voters are stuck with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Outofthenormtv More than 1 year ago
All hatchets aside, truth and perception are usually miles apart, but Mr. Woodward hits it right on with little emotion as usual. Obama truly is the most dangerous perso in the world and will lie without reservation. Unfortunately, the Republicans will sit in the dark with their hands folded, while we pay the bill for both wekenesses. I agree that the women of Obama should be next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is another excellent impartial written book by Bob Woodward on a subject of intense interest to every U.S. citizen. That subject deals with Congressional leadership’s failure to act reasonably in a non-partisan manner to seek common ground on reaching resolution for solving the nation’s budget deficit and national debt problems. In a non bias written rendering of events Mr. Woodward shows the human pettiness, the political posturing for party gain and how politicians are more concern with political survival then with profile of courage to do what is proper for the nation’s citizens to settle outstanding differences to reach common ground. At times, as a U.S. voter, I find our political leaders’ behavior appalling, disgusting and nauseating. Events in Washington by our political leaders seem less about governing on what is best for the electorate, and more on political posturing for self-aggrandizement. Jerry D, Alexandria, LA
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very bad don't recomened it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good and informative read. Sadly, here we sit Dec 2012 and its the same argument except President Obama wants even higher taxes and removal of the debt limit. Scary part of the book is how even the Democrats admit Pesident Obama was completly lost on how Congress works his first two years.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. Bob Woodward lays out the players and the issues clearly. This is a must read post the 2012 election as the issues and players remain the same. Great book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JIMSETAUKET More than 1 year ago
Reads like a text book and becomes dry and tedious