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154 of 172 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Political Dynamics of Negotiation, September 12, 2012
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This review is from: The Price of Politics (Hardcover)
The Price of Politics by Bob Woodward

"The Price of Politics" is an even-handed book about the handling of the economic crisis under the Obama administration. It examines the struggle between President Obama and the U.S. Congress to manage federal spending and tax policy during his tenure. Associate editor at the Washington Post for 41 years and author extraordinaire, Bob Woodward has provided the reader with a forthright, blunt examination of this administration's handling of the economy. This insightful 448-page book is composed of forty unnamed chapters.

1. Excellent prose, great insight from an accomplished author of Woodward's caliber.
2. Cast of characters provided, masterful ability to narrate the interactions between all the players. One thing that stands out about this over books of this ilk is the ability of Woodward to capture not only the issues regarding policy but the human element. The emotions, the ups and downs, the inner workings of dealing with complicated issues that have a direct impact on American lives and their own political careers.
3. In many ways this book provides a character study of the two main characters of this book: President Obama and Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Woodward did a remarkable job of being as fair as possible and in several instances acknowledged where the accounts may have differed. The main players don't come out smelling like roses either; there are many thorns along the way.
4. President Obama's shortcomings particularly dealing with the business community and the failings of congressional Republicans.
5. Timely political topic in the hands of an accomplished author with access. He treats the subject matter with utmost respect.
6. A forthright, even-handed book that takes no prisoners. It's about the story; it's about capturing what actually happened and not about inserting oneself into the story.
7. The author's ability to penetrate the political haze and get to the bottom of the stories. The ability to work through all the interviews, notes and observations and make reasonable and fair assessments is a rare skill indeed.
8. The key issues of taxes and entitlement reform in details. Each party makes it clear where they stand. Republicans would not budge on tax increases while Democrats had big issues with cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Furthermore, the Republican stance that revenue can be generated via tax reform ala Reagan.
9. The long and I mean long tortuous ways of budget negotiations. Insight into Washington deal making and the importance of leverage. The president's stance of being opposed to a short-term deal. The political implications.
10. The unthinkable prospect of a debt default. The real scoop on raising the debt limit. The debates over the debt ceiling and matters of leverage. The implications.
11. The issue of letting the tax cuts expire and the implications.
12. How legislative deals are usually handled versus how they were actually attempted.
13. The partisan divide from the inside. A look at what drives each party and what drives each player. Also the inner dynamics of party members, Cantor versus Boehner.
14. The practical partisan divide. That is, the issues of contention regarding federal spending and how each party would tackle the problems. The depth of the divide is captured in numbers and sentiments. The art of splitting hairs...spin.
15. Captures the presidential struggle to "dominate" Congress, to give the appearance of having control.
16. The battle of the plans.
17. The failure of the supercommittee...the result of ideological rigidity.
18. Links worked like a charm. Well cited.

1. The book is very detailed, excruciating so at times which actually lends to its credibility but it's also repetitious. How many times and ways do I have to read that the Democrats won't do hard things on entitlements until the Republicans are willing to raise taxes/revenues?
2. No formal bibliography though to be fair this book was based mainly on interviews, notes and observations.
3. Charts and illustrations would have added value. Mr. Woodward's intent in this was mainly to capture the emotions behind the inner-workings of handling federal spending and tax policy and not to interfere with the narration but this could have been accomplished via appendices.
4. There are forty unnamed chapters which makes it difficult to jump or refer back to a chapter of interest.
5. There are sections of this book that will test the patience of the reader which reflects on the frustrations of dealing with the budgetary process. All the games and the posturing.

In summary, this book is an even-handed examination of handling federal spending. Mr. Woodward's ability to relay a story in minute details is impressive and captures the essence of the political struggle from both parties to handle the economy. Where this book excels is relaying the inner workings between the main characters, the back and forth, the prodding, the emotions involved, the incessant amount of meetings, in short the handling of complicated and stressful negotiations, it's really about the political dynamics of negotiation. That being said, the book will test your patience. The incessant back and forth over the same issues may tire you out but reflects the budgetary process and the partisan divide. The book will upset you, frustrate you no matter what side of the political aisle you are on but it will provide you with rare insights into the politics of federal spending and tax policy. It's a book that is definitely worth reading with reservations duly noted.

Further recommendations: "Red Ink: Inside the High-Stakes Politics of the Federal Budget" by David Wessel, "The Benefit and The Burden: Tax Reform-Why We Need It and What It Will Take" by Bruce Bartlett, "White House Burning: The Founding Fathers, Our National Debt, and Why It Matters to You" by Simon Johnson and James Kwak, "End This Depression Now!" by Paul Krugman, "Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer--and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class" by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson, "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich - and Cheat Everybody Else" by David Cay Johnston, "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" by Robert B. Reich, "Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and the Decline of America, 1970 to the Present (Vintage)" by Jeff Madrick, "The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street" by Robert Sheer, "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg and "The Crash Course" by Chris Martenson. All these books have been reviewed by yours truly, check for my tag, "Book Shark Review".
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 16, 2012 10:42:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 16, 2012 10:46:07 AM PDT
Thanks, J. Gomez, this was a very helpful review. It sounds like a fascinating book, but from your description of the detail maybe one that takes a couple of days to read and fully understand....doesn't sound like it's going to be high in praise of either party.

Posted on Oct 29, 2012 3:29:24 PM PDT
SallyMJ says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 11:30:45 AM PDT
Book Shark says:
Hi Sally,

First of all, thank you for commenting. I prefer to be detailed but I understand your complaint. I have a structure I follow and provide a summary review right after the negatives. People that follow my reviews have my structure down. Criticism well taken. I will work harder at getting the points. Perhaps I should move the summary upfront and consolidate with introduction.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 26, 2013 5:33:05 AM PST
Hi J. Gomez,
I liked your review and based on it I plan to purchase and read the book. I thought the detail was great.

Posted on Feb 27, 2013 8:20:45 PM PST
G. McKenzie says:
Excellent review - thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2013 1:25:55 AM PST
Dusty Rhodes says:
I have the book, haven't finished it, and based on your comments, will take another look at it. Not an economist, so its a big of a slug. Nice overview and thanks for additional refrences. Onto the sequester. It's one crisis after another, the American citizens are getting to feel like too much crying wolf.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 12:10:17 AM PST
Deiter says:
Thanks for the review. If I want an in-depth review of the book, I read the whole review. If I want, I can just scan it. I can also opt to ignore it. It is my choice what and how I read. It is your choice (in cooperation with amazon) how long or short or detailed it is, and whether it is about the book, the author, the seller, the delivery, the honesty of the offer, other reviews, etc.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 7:42:58 AM PST
Mark says:
Thanks, I appreciated the length, depth, and detail of your review. I'm buying it with eyes open thanks to you. Bottom line is this is an important book. Thanks for your time.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 8:37:33 PM PST
Dusty Rhodes says:
J. Stalling: A timely revisit. Bob Woodward got in a heap of trouble from the White House this week, due to criticizing the Obama administration for the sequester. Any thoughts? I think its great a person of his stature is in this type of communication and we're prevy too it. Too muc politiking and not enough action. Thanks.

Posted on Mar 1, 2013 8:40:41 PM PST
Dusty Rhodes says:
During the campaign, there was a real blogosphere happening on the book review for "The Amateaur". I'd love to join another such discussion. That was fueld by the Uber Palen Right, with myself and a new e-friend being the voice of sanity vis a vis fiscal conservative liberals. I'd like to be on a centrist liberal ongoing discussion. Any connections, I'd be grateful. This would be a perfect site imho.
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