Bob Woodward’s ‘White House Threatened Me’ Grandstanding
Bob Woodward once again has Washington abuzz with a White House scoop. This one is BS.
Bob Woodward’s charge that the White House threatened him for writing a column pointing out that the sequester was their idea has everyone talking. Woodward naturally has a heightened sensibility about such things from his days breaking the Watergate story. But it’s an absurd story that doesn’t pass even simple scrutiny.
POLITICO‘s Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei (“Exclusive: The Woodward, Sperling emails revealed“) have the email exchange between Woodward and Gene Sperling, director of Obama’s National Economic Council:
From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013
I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.
But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. [Emphasis mine-JJ] There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
Contra Joe Scarborough and most of the conservative blogosphrere, it strikes me as patently obvious, even as someone who thinks Woodward’s interpretation of the administration role in the sequester is exactly right, that Sperling is simply trying to persuade Woodward that he’s missing the forest for the trees. And, indeed, Sperling’s right. (Yes that seems contradictory. See Sunday’s post, “The Sequester, Moving Goalposts, and the 2012 Elections” for a more thorough discussion.)
Sperling’s email is respectful, even overly deferential, and clearly seeking to explain the White House’s version of events. Which, frankly, is obviously correct and has been my understanding of the nature of the sequester from the very beginning of the standoff. Woodward rightly points out that it was the White House that came up with the sequester as a device. It’s worth pointing that out, considering that the White House is (rather successfully) portraying it as something that was 100 percent Republican in origin. But it was always the case that 1) the sequester was intended to be so onerous to both Democrats and Republicans that they’d have no choice but to compromise to avoid the self-imposed disaster and 2) that the administration wanted tax hikes (er, revenues) as part of that deal. Always. It was the whole point.
Furthermore, Woodward’s initial reply certainly reads to me like he understood Sterling’s intent:
From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob [Again, emphases all mine – JJ]
So, sometime between responding to Sperling Saturday and generating this story Wednesday, Woodward went from thinking the pushback was a “welcome” part of “a serious discussion” and that the “regret” warning was “welcome” and “personal advice” to crying “they threatened me” and “it’s like Nixon all over again.” It’s nonsensical grandstanding from someone who’s been taking heat from White Houses for over four decades.
The nature of email communication, as most of us have learned over the years, is such that it’s subject to misinterpretation. It lacks some interpersonal cues that we get in face-to-face interactions. So, I’d like to give Woodward the benefit of the doubt here.
But there’s a clue beyond the words themselves that strikes me as rather powerful: Sterling put this “threat” in an email to Bob Woodward. I don’t know Gene Sperling from Adam. For all I know, he’s the kind of jerk who tries to use his position of power to intimidate reporters. (I have no reason to think he is, mind you; I’m just saying those people exist and it’s not inconceivable Sterling is among their number.) But he’s also a pretty bright guy who’s been around the block a few times. Do you really think he’d be dumb enough to email a threat to Bob Stinkin’ Woodward?
UPDATE: John Lee Hooker weighs in with some pertinent thoughts.
UPDATE II: Ron Fournier, a longtime AP political reporter now with National Journal, testifies from personal experience that some senior Obama White House officials do engage in intimidation of reporters. He files this under the headline “Why Bob Woodward’s Fight With The White House Matters to You,” but doesn’t offer any insights that change my mind on this particular brouhaha.
Nothing says “intimidation” like apologizing for raising your voice three times in one email.
I think I see some psychology in play. After the second Obama win, many moderate conservatives did “what’s wrong with the party” essays, and “what the party should do” messages.
The party didn’t listen though, and many of those moderate Republicans just can’t stand to be out in the cold.
And so, they increasingly make emotional attacks on the left.
It reconnects them.
It appears to me that Woodward is suffering from early onset alzheimer’s/dementia.
Somewhere else I read an opinion that he is a great collecter of facts…and a terrible analyst.
In either case you are seeing the sunset of a career that started brilliantly.
Also, im not sure what his angle is, but going by his response email, how does he deserve the benefit of the doubt? We might not know why hes grandstanding, but its clear that thats what he is doing.
This clearly shows that Woodward is out of his element in today’s beltway. I’m assuming in the past Woodward would have been able to create his own narrative, given his supposed credibility, but with today’s instant media, his distortions and deceptions have been undermined with lightning speed.
I can’t imagine he is still going to go on Hannity tonight and push this “intimidation” line. Not if he wants to retain any shred of respect.
You know, a guy with about 13 years of Catholic education could get the idea that access is as important to the party of the first part as control is to the party of the second part. Thankfully, the country is in the best of hands.
Well, Woodward could never possibly be mistaken about anything, so any implication would naturally come across as a threat, rather than a remonstration…
No, but Drudge’s audience is dumb enough to believe it and that’s all that matters.
Frankly, if Woodward truly believes that Sperling’s email is a thgreat… then that calls into question his ability as an analyst and interpreter of facts . Maybe he should stick to reporting-collecting facts-and leave the analysis to others.
I think that this whole “threat” thing has backfired on him, permanently damaging his reputation as a journalist. Of course, its also made him an instant hero on the right.
Its interesting that as you move away from the truth,you are embraced by the right, so long as you prove useful to right wing objectives.
Proven daily by commenters here.
@stonetools: This threat/email business seems to indicate that The Terminator, uhh Gene Sperling is right. Woodward will probably regret shredding his own reputation.
Woodward is going to appear on Hanity to present his side of the story-that’s all you need to know.
Woodward will probably regret shredding his own reputation.
Is that a threat?!
The question you should be asking; is why the Director of the NEC is involved in this brouhaha?
The origin of the “Sequester” is fundamentally a political discussion.
The question you should be asking; is why the Director of the NEC is involved in this brouhaha?
Gene B. Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy? Yeah, why the hell is he involved in economic policy? That’s outrageous!
like woodward’s always been some champion of the right? sucks when he criticizes your man doesn’t it…..it’s called “reporting”, it used to be a respected profession. wonder how the initial phone call went if he’s gushing apologies like that?!
Ummm… because it was a *political* strategy that both (a) has economic consequences, and (b) was introduced as a political act in order to resolve short term and long term economic issues?
It’s all quite pacey, isn’t it. We now have other reporters coming out with stories of threats. Not, it seems, black hood threats but perhaps their are real journalists in DC after all. Best of all, you can’t really discuss Woodward’s threat assertion without discussing his correct assertion that Obama was the one who wanted sequester in the first place.
You know, this could rise to the level that the populace outside the beltway actually pay attention to the sequester.
I mean really, we’ve DHS or, even INS officials conducting foreign policy without so much as a FYI call to the White House. Plus, funding for disbanded agencies to be seriously impacted. Plus, a chance teachers in West Virginia will be relocated next fall. The horror, the horror.
Uh… Is that a lesser known local colloquialism?
The naivete astounds. I’ve seen intententional exculpatory emails exchanges in my day, but this one is one for the ages…………….
@JKB: What other reporters? Name one. Or did you just look at the Drudge headline and not bother to see that it was whiny loser and corporate shll Lanny Davis — a lobbyist, not a journalist — who was screaming about the terrifying threats he had to endure?
Honestly, if you can’t even be bothered to click the link on the headline, why do you think anyone else would care?
Relax Bob, it’s not like the Administration sends out drones to kill American citizens on its Enemies List.
Youre a smart dude, so you should be smart enough to recognize this as a misrepresentation. No one WANTED the sequester, and you konow that. Not to mention the fact that everyone involved signed off on it. EVERYONE owns the sequester. Dont be obtuse.
Oh, youre just a jerk. Got it.
Add to that how he behaved yestereday in the various hyperventilating interviews he gave; here’s the way he spun the e-mail to CNN:
I think it’s pretty clear now he was being intentionally misleading. So the only real question is why he’s gone from dispassionate chronicler to bitter, partisan interlocutor.
Morning Joe got pnk3d again and took you with him. Why do you watch it? Science channel has some good stuff on in the morning.
Could be time for Woodward to think about retiring, as this sequence of events does not reflect highly on him. First there’s the nonsense about Obama moving the goal posts trying to replace the sequester, then he makes a laughable claim about being threatened by the White House over his previous nonsense and decides to defend himself on Hannity?
American citizens on its Enemies Listterrorists.
Now that he has shown himself to be an utter buffoon (again) and everyone but his new wingnut buddies are laughing at him for his “threat” claim, I’ll bet Woodward is regretting staking out that claim!
And yet, here you are taking time out of your busy day to comment on my comment. Why would I think anyone else would care?
Have you read the Cantor New Yorker profile? Cantor (and his staff) were supposedly Woodward’s main source for much of his book, but in the profile Cantor reveals, through his bragging, that Woodward’s analysis was completely off:
I choose to watch “Morning Joe” in the morning because it is the best tv I can watch while working out (limited channel options at the gym). I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in months watching Scarborough get all indignant about Poor Ole Bob Woodward’s fee-fees. Then, his panel, led by Odious Mark, all agreed that journalism really was under particular threat from this White House.
Um, no, guys, the threat comes from the internet. Thanks for playing – try using your access better in future.
What’s also funny about the sudden Conservative embrace of Woodward is that they seem to be missing how this all came out of him advocating for Obama to ignore aspects of the US Constitution and separation of powers.
What Woodward is essentially saying, why won’t the president just ignore a law passed by Congress. For more on this, see Dave Wiegel’s excellent post.
What in bloody hell ever gave you that idea?
Now your getting the hang of it.
I agree with this. Having been the only one involved in the 30 minute conversation leading to this email, it would seem that he would be in the position to better interpret it.
You might have a point, but the post phonecall correspondence does nothing to back that up.
There is no there there.
Come to think of it, I can’t see RR saying that. I mean, Iran-Contra.
I bet this is like the NRA ad JKB supported even after being shown it was factually wrong…no other reporters,…just JKB telling lies.
Ummmmm…. Wasn’t Gene Sperling involved in that phone conversation too? Or was Woodward just talking to himself?
@JKB: Well, there’s “care,” as in worrying that the Obama administration is threatening reporters, which is what you seem to want, and then there’s “care” as in laughing at dopes gullible and lazy enough to fall for this crap time after time.
This is true. Please tell us, then, why Woodward chose to say the threat came in the email and not in the phone conversation?
Here’s tissue paper for that creamy stuff in the corner of your mouths, Obama apologists. When you have to resort to castigating Lanny Davis you know insanity has triumphed.
It’s amusing. You believe if you close your eyes and stamp your foot the truth won’t still be out there.
“When you have to resort to castigating Lanny Davis you know insanity has triumphed”
Lanny Davis has, for at least the last decade, seemed to be a so-called liberal who can be counted on to oppose everything liberals stand for, very publicly and before a right-wing audience. Other examples of this include Pat Caddell and Alan Colmes. A decade ago I would have included Dick Morris, but not even Fox can fool people into thinking he’s liberal any more.
Hah. Fournier & Davis. Next it’ll be Schoun & Caddell.
You’re more entertaining as a Master of The Universe. Best to go back to that troll identity as you sound even dumber outside that sphere (hadn’t thought it possible)
After Woodwardgate, I’m afraid I can’t just accept Fourier’s characterization of those emails. Show me the emails.
I will regret posting this comment.
No one in print journalism rivals Bob Woodward in self-importance (maybe Thomas Friedman, but that’s another story). I think Bob is still embarrassed about the Bush hagiography he penned after the 9/11 attacks.
I castigated Lanny Davis a dozen times today and that was before I had even heard what he had said this time. He’s a hack who defends dictators, strongmen, and coups.
As for Ron “Keep Up the Fight” Fournier, the quote that led him to “burn” his White House relationship was ‘“Get off your high horse and assess the facts, Ron.” And he asks his source to call him from that point on instead of e-mailing- if what he’s stated is true, shouldn’t he want the opposite?
That doesn’t seem like a threat, but …
When looking at any media information, this is a very good thing to keep in mind.
You just can’t get away from your Obama/blow job fetish, can you?
What’s the over/under on how long JKB will cling to “Woodwardgate”?
And now Ron Fournier. Who next??
Back on your knees, people. You, too, anjin-san. The kindergarten mechanism of thumbs up and down seems to have been a disastrous decision. All sense of reality seems to have left this once great blogsite.
Freud would have a field day with Drew. That’s, what, 32 fellatio references in a row? He seems more than a bit obsessed with genitalia to mouth contact.
It’s ok, man. Say what you will about commentors here, no one (except you) has ever used sexual preference as a pretext to insult. You are in a safe place here. You can come out with your true colors.
Wow, talk about projection Drew!
On the upside, now thanks to Obama your last excuse for being a keyboard commando is gone!
Don’t blame me because everyone here thinks you are a joke. You did that all by yourself. Now run along and consol yourself with the thought that anyone who questions you is an insect.
Fournier??? And an anonymous source???
Why didn’t you just link to Drudge or Malkin?
If that’s your idea of Journalism it explains why you can’t recognize NRA lies when you see them.
Next you’ll point to Lanny Davis.\
And besides…you said…”reporters”…plural.
Where are the others?
What a schmoe.
No.wait…that’s an insult to schmoes.
So you’re telling me the White House objected to supposedly objective reporters spewing nonsense about moving the goalposts for the sequester? If Fournier and Woodward want to be fabulists, they can do so, but no one should take their complaints seriously.
I agree this whole bruhaha is wildly, though predictibly, overblown, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Bob Woodward appears to be just a really, really great friend.
YES! BOW DOWN TO YOUR BETTERS, ALL YOU PEONS! He whose intellect is 2nd in size only to his great tumescent bank account!
Drew, you do realize that whatever your selling? Nobody’s buying.
You commenting on reality… The only thing funnier than that is the 3 Stooges… Which kind of makes sense when one realizes that everything you know came out of a 3 Stooges episode.
Heh, a careful reader might even be able to find “emotional attacks on the left” in this very thread!
Here’s what hasn’t “left:” you. Why are you here? Can’t you do yourself privately? If you can’t do yourself without an audience, maybe you could try a mirror?
Woodward probably didn’t read the email all that carefully, but when an aide to the President says “you’ll regret this” that carries a lot of weight.
What I object to is the immediate jump on by conservative media. Why hasn’t conservative media had BW as a commentator or any liberal as commentator (who didn’t get shouted down).
I also object to the smarmy comments by WH aides saying that BW was “Put smarmy quote here.” This is all about the sequester and that a reporter dared to contradict the “Story” the WH puts out there. The WH conceived the sequester but blames the R’s for it? What is this Jedi Politics for the press? “I didn’t come up with the sequester. These are not the Democrats you are looking for. You will write that it’s all the R’s fault.”
I’d just like all the politicians to put their big boy pants on and get with it. (Apologies to Congresswomen and Female Senators.)
in all fairness the “threat” was to limit “access” to the wh, not like some violent bs we seem to be getting into- and “access” has been an underlying issue with the wh press for quite a while- when they whine about it with a democrat in the house….just deal with it. .
i enjoy how you all turn on reporters who say even the least negative thing about obamas camp.
they eat their own!
Except true the fact that that’s not what’s going on here. At all. Try again.
This just doesn’t seem like a good discussion of the media without sd or jenos talking about the chattering classes. Also I have never seen so many on the right rabidly side with the evil leftist media. Perhaps because it involves a critique of Obama they will embrace wholeheartedly. It will only be a matter of days before BW criticizes someone on the right and he can go back to being persona nongrata again.
Bottom line is that no politician or political aide, whether from the White House or Podunk County, should be telling any media representative what to write or what not to write and threaten them in any manner, no matter how vague that treat is. Period.
You mean this Lanny Davis?
When you are sticking up for Lanny Davis, you’ve hit rock bottom.
@Ed in NJ: “This clearly shows that Woodward is out of his element in today’s beltway. I’m assuming in the past Woodward would have been able to create his own narrative, given his supposed credibility, but with today’s instant media, his distortions and deceptions have been undermined with lightning speed.”
I think that he’s been living on Watergate for the past decade, at least, if not the last twenty years.
@Ed in NJ: “I can’t imagine he is still going to go on Hannity tonight and push this “intimidation” line. Not if he wants to retain any shred of respect.”
If there’s one thing that’s not deniable now, it’s that members of the Village can say anything pleasing to the Village and keep their respect.
@Coop: Oh, please. A politician says something vaguely nasty and a reporter runs for the hills?
C’mon, I get better threats from the library about overdue books.
Your still not getting the point.
The White House has it’s propaganda machine, and it’s up to the Journalists to fact check and report those facts as facts, or disprove them as not facts. Any Administration, whether it be the White house, or some local county administration should not go around “threatening” the Journalist if they do not like what that Journalist has to say, no matter how slight the threat is, it’s still a “threat”, a tactic of intimidation and an attempt at manipulation.
I find it rather disturbing that the Administration in our Our White House would stoop to attempting to manipulate the Media in any way. ANY Administration. Credibility, Integrity and Respect have flown right out the window, both with the Administration and with the Media. For the Administration by the actions of a “High Ranking Official” that yells and screams and threatens the Media (no matter how veiled or vague or minor…) because it goes against the Administration’s agenda or point of view, and for the Media who just laps up and spews out the Administration’s propaganda without doing any fact checking at all.
It’s a pretty sad state of affairs…
Why are you trying to downplay what happened to Bob Woodward. He has 10 times more credibility than anyone in the Obama Adm. or Obama himself. Bob Woodward is the most respected member of the media whereas Obama has a long history of lies, and ignoring the constitution. So he is certainly capable of trying to destroy anyone who makes that public. The tide is turning against this would be dictator! So don’t even try to convince us otherwise! He was DISBARRED for lying in 1993. Moochelle was also disbarred for fraud. Ck. it out…….it is easy to prove.
You are definitely an Obama lover………it no longer plays well with the public. He will be impeached, we all hope. Economically, the man is illiterate. He has lost all credibility. THANKS to Bob Woodward for reporting the truth.
Did someone leave your cage door open by mistake?
It strikes me that threats in DC speak are quite different than your average barroom brawl… at the very least more subtle.
And let’s face it…. the claims of grandstanding are a poor cover for the real story here… that Woodward caught the White House lying. As Derek Hunter sugegsts:
> There was a distinct change in tone from the White House this week on
> what sequestration would mean. In little more than a week we went from
> roving bands of teacherless children wandering darkened streets filled
> with uninspected rancid meat, illegal aliens and pre-convicted felons
> released because of lack of funds setting fires there aren’t enough
> firefighters to extinguish to not a “cliff” but a possible gradual
> “tumble downward.” That’s on the order of the difference between
> ordering a ham sandwich and getting a foot massage.
> What caused this change? Two things. The Washington Post’s Bob
> Woodward’s spam filter seemingly malfunctioned, blocking White House
> talking points and forcing him to tell the truth about the sequester’s
> origin, and Republican leadership took pills to address their low
> Woodward’s piece left no ambiguity as to who introduced the concept and
> insisted upon adoption of sequestration as part of a deal to raise the
> debt ceiling. Within days Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric
> Cantor decided they wanted to keep their titles and thus would bend no
> more to the will of a relentless demagogue.
> Woodward immediately took a beating from his fellow journalists that
> makes being “jumped out” of a gang feel like afternoon tea. Conversely,
> Boehner and Cantor had only to do nothing, at which they excel, to force
> the president’s hand.
> The scare tactics the White House tried to employ proved as successful
> as their attempts to employ Americans.
> The wheels came off this strategy when it became clear these “cuts” were
> going to happen. They’d oversold and Armageddon would under-deliver.
> The panicked selling of the Mad Max world reached such extreme levels
> that Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., predicted 170 million jobs, roughly
> 30 million more jobs than exist in the country, would be lost. Shaving
> what amounts to a rounding error off the rate of increase in yearly
> government spending was so bad not only would we lose every job we have,
> sequestration would create 30 million more jobs just to lose them too.
> Snake oil salesmen were blushing in their graves.
> Waters made a gaffe, but the absurdity of it didn’t dwarf the absurdity
> of the President’s claims; it fit in like a Legos snap together – like
> it belonged there.
> The American people are busy and tend not to pay attention to government
> actions, but they do see a steady stream of reports of government waste,
> expensive parties and all manner of waste that makes its way to lunch
> break conversation. The idea of a minor decrease in the amount of
> increase in government spending causing end-times is laughable to
> everyone who has more IQ points than teeth.
> That common-sense intelligence was the Achilles heel for President
> Obama’s failed messaging.
And would not have happened, absent the efforts of Woodward.