Bob Woodward Book Critical of Obama's Leadership

"The Price of Politics" says president lacked "stamina" and criticizes Boehner.
3:00 | 09/10/12

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Transcript for Bob Woodward Book Critical of Obama's Leadership
And up next an abc news exclusive. We all know that there was a time when the nation stood on the brink of a financial crisis, one that could potentially trigger a global depression. Well, the new prus in congress had threatened to let america default on its debt unless there were budget cuts. The president tried to broker a deal. The deal blew up. Well, now there is a new book, "the price of politics." It is buy bob woodward, legendary journalist who tells us about the human drama behind one of the most intense moments in history and the clock was ticking down. Headlines for you. That is getting closer to closer. Default, default. Default has all these -- the pressur on and a didline is right around the corner. Reporter: Bob woodward takes you behind the closed doors in his new book. The stakes could not be higher. You talk about it as the financial equivalent of the cuban missile crisis. So serious they couldn't tell the world how bad it was. Reporter:30 days until a possible global financial meltdown. The president calls house speaker john boehner to the white house. To try to negotiate a deal that will outflank tea party opposition. One point of the meeting -- Reporter: For the first time you're hearing tapes of john boehner and then the president two separate interviews talking to woodward about this crossroads of history. All you need to know about the differences between the president and myself is that I'm sitting here smoking a cigarette drinking merlot, and I look across the table and here is the president of the united states drinking iced tea and chomping on nicorette. . Did you offer him a cigarette? I did not. I did not. He -- nor did he ask for one. By that time I quit smoking but, you know, I was making sure he had an ashtray, you know, you know, he had a sip of wine so I'm feeling fairly optimistic. Reporter: As days go by a blizzard of paper between two, counternumbers and looks close, a combination of tax cuts and government programs and tax increases. A magic formula. So what happens? Well, 12 days before the deadline, the president makes a phone call to boehner asking for still more revenue, $400 billion. Was it a question or was it a demand? It blows the deal sky high and in the end, it comes down to he said/he said. I want to be very emphatic here, at no point did I say, john, take it or leave it. His position is he was not saying, I have to have it, he was saying, I want you to consider it. No, no, no, no. Hold on. No, no, no, no, no. I need $400 billion more revenue. I need. Reporter: Boehner is livid and worried about the fractious rebels in the tea party. He refuses to return the president's three phone calls over 19 hours. This time, boehner says the president erupts. He was spewing coals. Oh, he was pissed. He was pissed. He wasn't going to get a damn dime for it. He knew how far out on a limb i was. You told him? Oh, yeah, oh, but he was hot. I was pretty angry. He told me you were spewing coals. Spewing? Coals. Other words, you were a furnace. Well, look, I -- there's no doubt that I thought it was profoundly irresponsible. Reporter: So the deal is off and now it's 11 days till possible default, a crisis so grave, someone in the white house actually suggests the kind of yard sale of government properties. Somebody said, well, can we sell national parks? Can we sell -- and the treasury secretary says, it won't work. We won't get enough money. Reporter: And there's another problem, the president has to deal with the two young guns of the republican party operating behind the scenes, house majority lear eric cantor and the man called the intellectual heart of the tea party, now vice presidential nominee congressman paul ryan, and there's a history and the president gave a speech attacking ryan's plan -- nothing serious or courageous about this plan. Reporter: He said he didn't know someone at the white house had invited ryan to sit there right in the front row. In making that mistake, as ryan said they poisoned the well. I'm very disappointed in the president. Reporter: Even the president admits it was a mistake. By the way, accidentally calls ryan jack. I was not aware when I gave that speech that jack ryan was going to be sitting right there. Yeah, we made a mistake. Reporter: Do you really think in this tensely polarized world that schmoozing and charming and calling and spending the night with your feet up changes the course of history? Yes, ma'am. It -- it not necessarily changed the course of history, but opens the door to changing the course of history, that human relations matter. Reporter: So with three days to go, who saves the situation? It's the old guard, vice president biden and senate minority leader mitchell McCONNELL. I thought it was a good meeting. The united states of america will not for the first time in our history default on its obligations. Reporter: With just 27 hours TO GO, THE BIDEN/McCONNELL Framework evolves into a deal which essentially postpones hard decisions until after the election. Really say in the book, nobody was in charge. In washington. Reporter: And is that a failure of leadership. Some people are going to say he was fighting a brick wall, the republicans in the house and the republicans in congress. Others will say, if the president's job to figure out how to tier down that brick wall. In this case, he did not. Is that the president's fault? Well, my conclusion is, presidents clinton, president reagan and if you look at them and criticize them for lots of things, they by and large work well. And he did not. On this president obama did not. But here in an election year there are going to be people who say you're delivering some ammunition to his opposition. I am not delivering ammunition. I am trying to describe what happened. I also me the point that speaker boehner was responsible. Close the book with the thought that the result of all of this was the status quo only worse.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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