For those who have been watching episodes of House of Cards you know that what started Francis Underwood’s ( Kevin Spacy) vendetta against the president was being passed over for Secretary of State. One of the first things he did was smear the Secretary designate with an old editorial. One the designate did not even write. He had some help from a reporter with a fictional Washington newspaper. It was fictional, and maybe a little simplistic, but a good illustration of how a chorus of sound bites can drive a story. The smear itself was e relatively insignificant. Much like the full time nonstop conservative smear machine. So it goes with Bob Woodward. Bob takes something, a tiny morsel of a sound bite. Then with the help of all the conservative blogs, far Right radio and Fox News make that sound bite sound like the Chicago mob-dictator-monsters at the White House have decided to wage a war on the freedom of the press ( ironic considering conservatives consider all news just a matter of opinion via the conservative media doctrine of Rupert Murdoch). Most of the time when these fake scandals occur regarding a Democrat, wait a minute, and the other shoe, the one that contains the truth, will drop. Bob Woodward, with the shrill echo of every drooling conservative, said that White House aide Gene Sperling threatened him with this frightening re-frame in an e-mail, “I think you will regret staking out that claim. ” It sounds make for a good soundbite to use. The very kind the Francis Underwoods of the Washington Beltway and the conservative media love. Though unlike the teevee, some of us do not and will not let soundbites be used unanswered by the Underwoods. Politico got a hold of Woodward’s e-mail exchange and in the context of the exchange that soundbite, that juicy gotcha goes down the toilet with the rest of conservative bile and lunacy, Bob Woodward Has Now Picked the Most and Least Important Fights With a POTUS
At this point, you’re asking, “Why is Conor telling us about this banal give-and-take between a reporter and a nameless aide?” Well, dear reader, on the basis of that email, Woodward is now running around claiming that he was being threatened by the White House. “I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you’re going to regret doing something that you believe in,” he told CNN. Elsewhere he added, “Suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years’ — or 10 years’ — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this. You know, tremble, tremble.”
[ ]…UPDATE: Politico says it has the allegedly threatening email, and it makes Woodward’s account of events look even more dubious.
White House aide Gene Sperling:
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.
The rest at Politico, with what it says 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.
Your move, Bob Woodward. Hint: Follow the drones. ( all emphasis mine)
So this is Woodward’s response to what he said on CNN was a serious threat against him as an upstanding member of the constitutionally protested press. We have seen confrontations between the press and people in the public eye – politicians, judges, celebrities and private citizens. The press gets a fair share of shouting matches, epitaphs, hurt feelings. It goes with the territory. Politicians get into heated exchanges with each other. Dick Cheney dropping the F-bomb with go down in infamy. Now we have Woodward, a Washington insider. Someone who has has been granted special access to presidents ever since those heady Watergate days. He has a new book to sell. He is churning up the waters as much as possible, not because his feelings were hurt, but because he is the MAN. He gets what he wants and whoever is in the White House is supposed to hand it all over with proper deference to someone who sees himself as the legendary Superman of journalism. I’m not saying Woodward and everything he has ever written is evil. I wish it were that simple. It is aggravating that he is capable of doing good work, yet, with age and living so many years in the Beltway bubble he has made the cliched mistake of beginning to see himself as the infallible legend. At that same Atlantic link Conor also gets into Woodwards very specific military tactics-foreign policy advice. Now we all know that if Woodward were being so bombastically arrogant against one specific aircraft carrier that Bob thought should be some place that Bush did not, the nutbars of the conservative media would be yelling for his head o a plate. I did find a conservative columnist at the yellow rag Daily Caller who writes, Bob Woodward trolled us (and we got played)
Make no mistake. This was no accident. As Politico reported last night,
“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.’”
But today, things look different. P0litico has posted the exclusive email from Gene Sperling to Woodward. It begins, “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today.”
(Frightening, I know!)
Sperling’s email eventually does say, “I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.” But this is clearly not a veiled threat of retaliation, but rather a warning that the reporter was about to get the story wrong.
When Woodward tells of being warned he would “regret” challenging Obama, it sounds ominous. But if Politico’s reporting today is correct, it seems much more innocuous than that.
As that new e-mail ripples through the internets and sinks into the brain cavities of conservative bloggers like Breitbart and Drudge, the tide will likely turn to Woodward used us, we got played by the liberal media. So another day in which conservative ethics, or lack of, hangs them by their own petard. More here, Woodward’s Dubious Intimidation Claim Trumpeted By Right-Wing Echo Chamber. And this piece gets more into the lie that matters, the on going efforts by the far Right to blame President Obama for the sequester they voted for, Sequester Blame Game, Conservatives Ignore Obama’s Long-Standing Offer To Avert Sequestration With Revenue And Cuts
Fox News hosts cited a widely criticized Bob Woodward column to falsely claim President Obama’s proposal to avert looming government spending cuts — known as sequestration — “moved the goalposts” because it offsets some of the cuts with new revenue. In fact, the administration’s proposal to avert the sequestration has always included a balanced deficit reduction plan that included additional revenues.
…White House: “President Will Demand That The Committee Pursue A Balanced Deficit Reduction Package … With Revenue-Raising Tax Reform.” A 2011 fact sheet produced by the White House after an agreement to reduce deficits was first reached in mid-2011 described how the sequestration was intended as an “enforcement mechanism” to ensure deficit reduction of $1.2 trillion in the event that Congress failed to agree on a plan to reduce the deficit by at least an equivalent amount. The fact sheet makes clear that the president was committed to reducing the deficit in part by generating additional revenue. From the fact sheet’s section on the debt deal’s mechanics:
Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts.
The Deal Sets the Stage for Balanced Deficit Reduction, Consistent with the President’s Values: The deal is designed to achieve balanced deficit reduction, consistent with the values the President articulated in his April Fiscal Framework. The discretionary savings are spread between both domestic and defense spending. And the President will demand that the Committee pursue a balanced deficit reduction package, where any entitlement reforms are coupled with revenue-raising tax reform that asks for the most fortunate Americans to sacrifice. [WhiteHouse.gov, via Business Insider, 7/31/11]
As others have already noted, note the key words – deficit reduction, balanced deficit reduction. There is no passage that says the sequester will consist entirely of spending cuts that will be decided by conservatives.
E.J. Dionne makes a good point. Let the voting began on the sequester. If conservatives have the votes they’ll get what they want. If not maybe Democrats can put together enough votes. But let the voting start. This is especially pointed at the Senate and Mad Turtle Mitch McConnell (R-KY) who has never been fond of democracy, Ending the permanent crisis
In the Senate, ditch the unconstitutional abuse of the filibuster and let a plan pass by simple-majority vote. Misuse of the filibuster is a central cause of Washington’s contorted policymaking. Let’s end the permanent budget crisis by governing ourselves though the majorities that every sane democracy uses.
The air of establishment Washington is filled with talk that Obama must “lead.” But Obama cannot force the House Republican majority to act if it doesn’t want to. He is (fortunately) not a dictator.
What Obama can do is expose the cause of this madness, which is the dysfunction of the Republican Party.
Journalists don’t like saying this because it sounds partisan. But the truth is the truth, whether it sounds partisan or not.
And a staunch conservative has succinctly explained why this problem really is a Republican problem. In an admirably candid interview Monday with Ezra Klein on MSNBC, Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger, said the new tea party Republicans in the House don’t want their leadership to sit down with Obama to talk because “they have their doubts about the ability of Republicans to negotiate any better situation.”
If Obama is the anti-Christ/Chicago thug/ the reincarnation of Stalin and Hitler rolled into one, why can’t he do something as simple as get Republicans to vote on legislation. One would think an all powerful dictator could stop Mitch from stopping any and all legislation and judicial appointments simply by putting his feet up on is desk and saying nah, don’t like that. That is not even one iota of an exaggeration. We just had an election, Republicans lost. The people decided what they wanted – Mitch and his posse are the ones acting like thugs.