Bob Woodward of Watergate and All the President’s Men fame has not done his credibility any favors with his latest drama over a white house email.
On Wednesday, Woodward, who is now an associate editor for the Washington Post, appeared on CNN and suggested to Wolf Blitzer that he felt threatened and intimidated by an email from a “high level” source in the White House, because the email included the words “you will regret”. But even with nudging from Blitzer, Woodward refused to say who sent the email.
“It was said very clearly: ‘you will regret doing this,’” Woodward told Blitzer. “I’m not going to say [who], a very senior person. It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you’re going to regret doing something you believe in.”
What caused the brush up?
According to a report in The Hill, Woodward has been throwing sequester barbs at the White House and got particularly freewheeling with the facts in an Op/Ed he wrote last weekend in which he accused the Obama administration of “moving the goal posts”. In Woodward’s view, the administration did not indicate that new revenue should be part of the spending cuts aka sequester deal, although a balanced approach has been hammered by the president on every fiscal issue. He also called Obama’s handling of the sequester situation as “madness.”
So, why did Woodward think his allegations and intrigue brought up on CNN would remain a secret and go unanswered by the White House? After hours of media spin based on the one-sided and out of context statements by Woodward, the White House released a full copy of the email exchange between him and his unnamed high level source; Gene Sperling, the director of President Obama’s National Economic Council.
The full email transcript between Woodward and Sperling:
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. 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.
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.
Jay Carney said in a Thursday press conference that Sperling’s email to Woodward was “incredibly respectful.”
“I think you cannot read those emails and come away with the impression that Gene was threatening anybody,” concluded Carney.
Nonetheless, Fox News and conservative blog breitbart.com wasted no time in trying to boost Woodward’s claims of White House threats by dredging up a past complaint about communications from the administration.
Bob Woodward has been criticized in the past for exaggerations and using too many unnamed sources, but this latest bit of drama was surprising and quite unworthy of his reputation.