Skip to comments.Behind the Curtain: Woodward at war
Posted on 02/27/2013 5:35:33 PM PST by Third Person
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekends Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obamas account of how sequestration came about - and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide yelled at me for about a half hour, Woodward told us in an hour-long interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washingtons powerful have spilled their secrets.
Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today, the official typed. Youre focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. I think you will regret staking out that claim.
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. Youll regret. Come on, he said. I think if Obama himself saw the way theyre dealing with some of this, he would say, Whoa, we dont tell any reporter youre going to regret challenging us.
They have to be willing to live in the world where theyre challenged, Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. Ive tangled with lots of these people. But suppose theres a young reporter whos only had a couple of years or 10 years experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, Youre going to regret this. You know, tremble, tremble. I dont think its the way to operate. The White House declined to comment for this story.
Woodward first in The Price of Politics, his bestseller on the failed quest for a grand budget bargain, and later with his opinion piece in The Post makes plain that sequestration was an idea crafted by the White House. Obama personally approved the plan and later signed it into law. Woodward was right, several congressional officials involved in the talks told us.
And that contention has made Woodward, once Public Enemy Number One to a generation of Republicans, the unlikely darling of the right wing. Conservatives suddenly swoon over him, with his stepped-up appearances on Fox News and starring role in GOP press releases. And while White House officials are certainly within their rights to yell at any journalist, including Bob Woodward, this very public battle with a Washington legend has become a major distraction at a pivotal moment for the president.
The feud also feeds a larger narrative because, like many others, Woodward thinks this is a very thin-skinned White House that does not like being challenged on the facts. He said that explains the senior aides in-your-face email. I think when they get their rear end in a crack here, they become defensive, he said. This could be a huge issue if the economy takes a hit. And people are going to go back and say exactly what happened and who did it and so forth.
The Woodward reporting has caused the White House spin machine to sputter at a crucial time. The president was running around the country, campaign-style, warning that Republicans were at fault for the massive cuts set to hit Friday. What Obama never says: it was his own staff that proposed sequestration, and the tax hikes he now proposes aimed at replacing half of the cuts were never part of that very specific plan.
The White House instead has, with great success, fudged the facts. The administration has convinced a majority of the country that Republicans are more to blame by emphasizing that Republicans voted for the plan. Which they did after Obama conceived it.
The truth is that Obama and Republicans supported it because everyone believed it was a such a stupid idea that the grown-ups in Washington would never actually let it happen. They thought Obama and Congress would come up with a grand bargain on spending, entitlement cuts and tax increases, instead of allowing the sequestration ax to fall. They were wrong.
So the blame game is full swing and Woodward is smack in the middle of it. The Obama White House is out to discredit him. Behind the scenes, Obama allies are spreading word that the Woodward book broadly and his reporting on sequestration specifically are misleading because Republicans, especially House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, were so clearly among the chief sources.
It is no secret on Capitol Hill that Cantor and his staff cooperated extensively with Woodward. It is fairly obvious as you breeze through the opening chapters of the book. But we have talked with many Democrats and Republicans who cooperated with the book. And all of them say that while they might dispute some of the broader analytical points Woodward makes, the play-by-play is basically spot on.
Watching and now having interviewed Woodward, it is easy to see why White House officials get worked about him. He clearly is skeptical of Obamas approach to the job. Im not sure he fully understands the power he has, Woodward said. He sees that the power is the public megaphone going around to these campaign-like events, which is real, but the audience he needs to deal with is on this issue of the sequester and these budget issues is John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.
Woodward also said that based on his reporting for the book, Obama deserves more of the blame for scuttling the grand bargain of 2011 that would have put sequestration to rest long ago. He changed the deal and it blew up, Woodward said. I mean, you look at the facts, and even by the White House accounts by his aides, he was making a last-minute change.
Woodward thinks there is still a grand bargain to be had between Obama and Boehner, with tax reform as a huge component. Sit down and work through this, he said. I can see exactly how you come up with a deal that would dispose of lots of things. Woodward, who helped bring down one presidency and has written instant history on every one since, added: Color me a little baffled. I dont understand this White House. Do you?
Odungo will call for a beer summit to smooth things out with Woodward. ODUNGO NEEDS THE MEDIA!
An article on Politico does not indicate the “media is on Woodward’s side.” Call me when this unprecedented WH threat against a reporter is covered on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, NY Times, WP, LA Times....
Appears Woodward is exceptional in his unique defiance of White House thugs.
The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy. Woodward is only looking out for himself - there is no noble purpose at play here. I’m enjoying the attention he is placing on Øbongo but that doesn’t mean that I’d ever turn my back on the worm.
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How could you NOT expect them to issue these reckless threats...?
GayMuzzie killed over 300 Mexicans IN F&F and NO ONE ASKED QUESTIONS..!
Same thang with Bengazi --4th ESTATE FEELS LIKE IT'S THE **ESTABLISHMENT**
There has been a steady EMBOLDENING machine at work here. FOR YEARS. And it's MEDIA DRIVEN.
I wonder if Tim Robbins still feels that “chill wind,” he was crying about during the Bush administration...
President Obama, this week.
A message sent?
Absolutely right! Woodward is a self-absorbed hustler, just another DC limousine queen. It just happens to be that he's got his facts straight, not that he's purposely doing Republicans any favors.
Woodward is a liberal with a smidgen of personal integrity. On the other hand, Obama is reminding of Mao, tell me when he declares a Great Leap Forward. Let’s see, didn’t he say Forward was his campaign slogan this last “election”.
The media has been spurned by the WH on a number of occasions recently and they’re looking for a little payback. The Woodward/ White House skirmish provides an excellent opportunity for the normally compliant media to stick it 0bama. How far will they take it? Who knows...
That's the problem with the Obama White House. Those folks are NEVER challenged by the media! They don't think they SHOULD be!
And make no mistake about it, Bobby is a worm.......
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! *wipes eyes* HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
“Those folks are NEVER challenged by the media.”
If the media was as much in the tank for conservatives
as they are, in fact, for liberals and liberal political policies
then many of us on the right would be alarmed. You and I
know that all political power needs to be challenged and
questioned constantly. The old “comfort the afflicted and
afflict the comfortable” is in order here. We wonder what
ever happened to the old ‘Fourth Estate’ concept of the
media and we wonder when, if ever, just one respected
liberal elder statesman of the media will stand up and
say ‘enough is enough’. I’m not going to hold my breathe
waiting and I’m sure you won’t either.
Yep, he’s got books to sell, but not to me.