Woodward: Obama Altered the Debt Deal then Flew into "Fury" When Boehner Said No

A new book by Bob Woodward, set to be released next week, backs up the earlier reporting with regard to the behind the scenes wrangling over the debt deal. Woodward confirms the grand bargain was killed by Obama's demand for more revenue after he and Boehner had already reached a framework for agreement. Woodward also reveals, for the first time, the President's rage over Boehner's refusal to go along with the demand:

at one critical juncture, with an agreement tantalizingly close, Obama pressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal -- a miscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he'd already gone.

The president called three times to speak with Boehner about his latest offer, according to Woodward. But the speaker didn't return the president's phone call for most of an agonizing day, in what Woodward calls a "monumental communications lapse" between two of the most powerful men in the country.

When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obama lost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a "flash of pure fury" coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obama gripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it.

"He was spewing coals," Boehner told Woodward, in what is described as a borderline "presidential tirade."

In March the Washington Post offered a deep dive into the negotiations which provides more insight than the ABC article (though presumably less than Woodward's book). The story contradicts claims by Democrats who placed the blame for the failure of the "grand bargain" on Speaker Boehner:

Obama and his advisers have cast the collapse of the talks as a Republican failure. Boehner, unable to deliver, stepped away from the deal, simple as that.

But interviews with most of the central players in those talks — some of whom were granted anonymity to speak about the secret negotiations — as well as a review of meeting notes, e-mails and the negotiating proposals that changed hands, offer a more complicated picture of the collapse. Obama, nervous about how to defend the emerging agreement to his own Democratic base, upped the ante in a way that made it more difficult for Boehner — already facing long odds — to sell it to his party. Eventually, the president tried to put the original framework back in play, but by then it was too late. The moment of making history had passed.

That's a summary from the first page of the Post story. If you read the details you'll find that Obama and Boehner reached a framework for a deal that almost certainly would have avoided the downgrade. Republicans were making concessions in the process, as were Democrats. Then Obama decided to "up the ante" by demanding more taxes. The negotiations quickly deteriorated with Obama eventually claiming he'd been "left at the altar" and Boehner saying negotiating with the White House was like "dealing with a bowl of Jell-o."


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