Bob Woodward: Obama lacked ‘Plan B’ in debt limit negotiations
An excerpt from an upcoming book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward describes President Obama as being not only painted into a corner by last year’s onerous negotiations with Congress over raising the debt limit, but also, at one point, shut out from the conversation.
In the excerpt published Saturday from The Price Of Politics, Woodward writes that in a July 24, 2011 meeting, both House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid told Obama that they, along with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could resolve the dispute, but that they needed Obama to step aside while they negotiated.
“This was it. Congress was taking over,” Woodward writes. “The leaders were asking the president to leave the meeting he had called in the White House. Fine, Obama said. Talk. Knock yourselves out. There is no pride of authorship here, just do it — if you can.”
Later, Woodward says, Obama told him he “wasn’t concerned about protocol” during the exchange.
The ensuing compromise, Woodward says, would require Obama to deal with the issue again before the upcoming presidential elections, something Obama objected to in a call to Boehner. The next day, following a phone call to Boehner that did not alleviate the situation, Obama met with Reid, who — in an unusual step — left it to his own chief of staff, David Krone to explain the $2.7 trillion debt limit extension the lawmakers had agreed to.
When Obama expressed skepticism over the agreement, saying he didn’t trust Boehner and McConnell, Woodward says, Krone pushed back.
“I am sorry — with all due respect — that we are in this situation that we’re in, but we got handed this football on Friday night,” Krone said. “And I didn’t create this situation. The first thing that baffles me is, from my private-sector experience, the first rule that I’ve always been taught is to have a Plan B. And it is really disheartening that you, that this White House did not have a Plan B.”
After explaining that keeping the debt limit increase from returning to the forefront later would be “the one thing that we need to bring stability to this economy,” Woodward says, Obama apologized for Krone being put in such a situation, after which Reid and Krone rode back to the Capitol together.
“You stood up to him,” said Reid, referring to Obama. “He needed to hear it, and nobody was telling him.”
The book is scheduled to be released on Tuesday.