Mitt Romney has accused President Barack Obama of being in over his head as president, and Bob Woodward’s reporting in his new book reveals Obama has “gaps” in his leadership and lacked the “stamina” and will to work with Republicans to reach a “grand bargain” last year on spending and debt.
A central point of Obama’s candidacy was that he was going to bridge the partisan divides in Washington to unite “red America” and “blue America.” But in his new book, The Price of Politics, Woodward reports that Obama, unlike other presidents, has been unable — and perhaps even unwilling to try — to work his will on Washington to lead during debt negotiations so serious they were described as “the economic equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
“President Clinton, President Reagan. And if you look at them, you can criticize them for lots of things. They by and large worked their will,” Woodward told ABC News. “On this, President Obama did not.”
Woodward said although Obama’s allies may blame Congressional Republicans for being obstructionists, Obama’s critics will say “it’s the president’s job to figure out how to tear down that brick wall. In this case, he did not.”
“I am not ducking this. I am weighing evidence, and there’s evidence that he got on top of a lot of things, he did a lot of things. And there’s evidence that there are gaps,” he said. “He did not fix this.”
According to Woodward, Obama compared the tension during the debt negotiations to his decision to ultimately give the order to kill Osama bin Laden. And yet, Obama lacked the personal relationships with Republicans in Congress to be an effective leader. And in some cases, Obama did not even bother to try to cultivate new relationships.
The book reveals that the White House did not even have House Speaker John Boehner’s phone number in November of 2010 when Republicans won historic gains in the midterm elections. Obama felt overconfident in his ability to go over Congress and persuade the American people with his speeches. And Obama, who often wanted to spend time at home with his daughters instead of building relationships with Congressional leaders, often told Republicans during negotiations, “Look, I won. I’m in charge here.”
Woodward said Obama’s attitude made “Republicans feel totally isolated and ostracized,” and it was “the beginning of a war.”
Woodward reports that after the “grand bargain” deal fell apart, Congressional leaders put together a short-term agreement without Obama, effectively shutting him out. And this angered Obama, who Woodward said had previously lacked the “stamina” to lead.
“The president was moaning, groaning, whining, demanding, threatening, and desperate. And wow,” Woodward said. “I asked the president about this and he said, ‘Well, you know, anyone who knows me, I don’t moan and groan and get desperate. But he acknowledges he was very angry.”
When asked if the book would provide Romney support in his campaign to persuade Americans Obama is incapable of leading the country, Woodward simply said the book was nothing more than a “legal wiretap.”