President Barack Obama credits Congressional Republicans for Washington’s partisanship and gridlock, but a new book by Bob Woodward, The Price of Politics, reveals Obama may be the one who poisoned the well and now regrets it.
According to ABC News, Obama told Woodward the tone of his speech at George Washington University in April of 2011, which he used to denounce Paul Ryan’s budget before meeting or discussing it with Ryan, was “a mistake.”
Obama told Woodward he had not been aware Ryan would be in the audience during the speech when he ripped apart the budget. Ryan attended the speech after he was invited by White House aides. Obama said then that Ryan’s budget was neither “serious” nor “courageous” and “deeply pessimistic.”
“I might have modified some of it so that we would leave more negotiations open, because I do think that they felt like we were trying to embarrass him,” Obama told Woodward. “We made a mistake.”
“The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America,” Obama said then. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
“There’s nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don’t have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.”
After Obama’s speech, Ryan, infuriated, rushed out the door and later said he had come to the speech hoping for an “olive branch” but instead heard what was “a partisan broadside from our campaigner-in-chief.” Ryan said he found the timing of the speech, which came days before the House would pass Ryan’s budget, “probably more than a coincidence.”
According to Woodward, Ryan felt “genuinely ripped” and thought Obama was engaging in a “game-on demagoguery” and partisanship, showing he was unwilling to work with Republicans. Ryan told Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling immediately after the speech, “I can’t believe you poisoned the well like that.”
At a news conference after Obama’s speech then, Ryan expressed similar sentiments to those described in Woodward’s book.
“I was excited when we got invited to attend his speech today,” Ryan said after Obama’s speech then. “I thought the president’s invitation…was an olive branch. Instead, what we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to address our country’s fiscal challenges.”
Photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP