This pioneering journalist has apparently been ominously threatened by the White House for daring to disagree with them. It must have been a harrowing experience. Last night he complained to his fellow stenographers, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, about living under this horrifying intimidation:
Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade [from a White House official] 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. “You’re 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. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”
Woodward has called the president guilty of “madness” and of moving the goal-posts by suggesting that the threat of the sequester was designed to facilitate a grand bargain – tax hikes, entitlement and defense cuts combined with tax reform. But that was the point of the sequester; it was a deadly instrument designed to force both parties to compromise – one on taxes, the other on spending cuts. Woodward’s op-ed was untrue, it seems to me, plainly untrue. More to the point he accused the president of madness, even though he has offered a compromise that includes cuts to Medicare as serious as those in Bowles-Simpson, while the Republicans insist on only spending cuts.
Yes, the sequester idea originated with Jack Lew in the Obama administration but was quickly embraced by the GOP and became a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, after the brinksmanship of the debt ceiling battle in 2011. Odd, isn’t it, that Woodward did not, to my knowledge, describe the GOP’s successful and completely unnecessary downgrade of this country’s credit rating as “madness.”
Still the accusation of a threat against Woodward was troubling enough that I was eager to see it substantiated. And here – in the midst of a heated but completely conventional back-and-forth between source and journalist – it is:
I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about 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.
This is what Woodward was claiming was a chilling threat to press freedom! I mean, seriously. What exactly is the threat? This is the final email Woodward sent to Sperling:
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.
Does this read like a man writing to someone threatening him with anything? He even says: “I for one welcome a little heat.” He describes Sperling’s “threat” as “personal advice” as a friend, which it plainly was. Then he goes whining to CNN and Politico that he is victim of government threats for his reporting. That’s a lie, and Woodward has now been exposed as a liar.
Excuse me, but given his reputation as a journalist, that is “madness.”