A side-show to the sequester has become the obsession with whose idea it was. Does it really matter? The Budget Control Act was passed with votes from members of both parties including more Republicans in the House than Democrats. Leaders of both parties in both Houses of Congress actively supported it. The president signed it into law.
Nevertheless, Republicans spend more time blaming Obama for the sequester than they do trying to fix it. The day before it goes into effect, Congress went home for a 4-day weekend following a 10-day vacation. They have gone so far as to print up posters calling the Budget Control Act of 2011 “Obamaquester.”
Republicans have an ally in author Bob Woodward who wrote an OP Ed saying the sequester was Obama’s idea. After an advisor to the president took issue with the editorial, Woodward said the White House “threatened” him and he was “uncomfortable” with the alleged threat. Clearly, Woodward wanted sympathy and he wanted to paint the president in the worst possible light.
Maybe book sales are not as brisk as he would like.
Woodward’s “threat” became the story distracting the media, bloggers, and the public away from the serious issue of the sequester itself.
POLITICO obtained the actual e-mail thread and released it Thursday. Reading the
E-mails it appears that the term “threat” was a stretch and borders on literary license.
What Woodward is calling a threat came in an e-mail in which White House advisor Gene Sperling actually apologized to Woodward for “raising his voice” in an earlier phone call. The e-mail was an apology and explanation, not a warning as Woodward implied.
Secondly, Woodward replied telling Sperling no apology was necessary. This is not the response one would expect from a man who felt he was “threatened”.
Courtesy of POLITICO, here is the exact wording of the so-called threat that had Woodward shaking in his boots:
“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 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 bargain 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.”
Here was Woodward’s response:
“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”
Any characterization of Sperling’s statement as a threat by the White House is questionable at best. Woodward’s response at the time made no reference to his feeling threatened. This “reaction” came about later. The question is why? What is Woodward’s motive? What is he trying to do—sell books, set up an advance for a new book? Or is he trying to help Republicans in Congress with their obstructionist agenda?
Only Woodward knows, but this is disappointing behavior by a seasoned author like Woodward.
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