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, Obamapressed Boehner for additional taxes as part of a final deal — amiscalculation, in retrospect, given how far the House speaker felt he’dalready gone.
The president called three times to speak with Boehner about his latestoffer, according to Woodward. But the speaker didn’t return thepresident’s phone call for most of an agonizing day, in what Woodwardcalls a “monumental communications lapse” between two of the mostpowerful men in the country.
When Boehner finally did call back, he jettisoned the entire deal. Obamalost his famous cool, according to Woodward, with a “flash of purefury” coming from the president; one staffer in the room said Obamagripped the phone so tightly he thought he would break it.
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 aRepublican failure. Boehner, unable to deliver, stepped away from thedeal, simple as that.
But interviews with most of the centralplayers in those talks — some of whom were granted anonymity to speakabout the secret negotiations — as well as a review of meeting notes,e-mails and the negotiating proposals that changed hands, offer a morecomplicated picture of the collapse. Obama, nervous about how to defendthe emerging agreement to his own Democratic base, upped the ante in away that made it more difficult for Boehner — already facing long odds –to sell it to his party. Eventually, the president tried to put theoriginal framework back in play, but by then it was too late. The momentof 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.”