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Woodward is Probably Wrong

Bob Woodward appears to either be mistaken or to have exaggerated when he claimed that a senior White House official – who turns out to have been White House National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling – threatened him in response to Woodward’s statements about the White House handling of the sequester.

With the release of the complete emails today by Politico, it is clear that Sperling was most likely suggesting to Woodward that as a policy matter he is wrong, and that he would for this reason “regret” saying that the White House had “moved the goalposts” by seeking tax increases to replace the sequester.

This doesn’t mitigate the fact that the White House routinely bullies the press in order to suppress speech in a systematic way that is light years beyond what any previous White House I’ve covered has done. This is not, as White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to suggest today, an strong airing of differences of opinion. It is a preconceived attempt to alter reporting that the White House in many cases knows is perfectly legitimate and an effort to intimidate reporters into not doing their job with tough journalism the next time around.

Nor have I seen a rebuttal to a claim by Democrat Lanny Davis that the Washington Times, for which he writes, was also threatened by the White House.

But unless there is more context that I’m not aware of, there does not appear to be a threat implied by Sperling.

Below is the text of the emails:

From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013

Bob:

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.

Gene

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. Best, Bob

Sperling’s apologies may or may not be sincere. Half an hour of screaming seems like a standard White House tactic to get journalists to change their story.

But Sperling, were he threatening Woodward, would probably not have been so incredibly subtle. And Woodward’s response is hardly the outraged protest of someone who thinks he is in danger of retribution.

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21 Responses to Woodward is Probably Wrong

  1. “My bad.” – Gene Sperling

    “My bad”? Seriously? In a communication from a senior White House staffer to a reporter?!?!

    I never know what’s worse with this White House; the pettiness, economic illiteracy, threats, or outright lies. This, though, tells me where they come from.

    Immaturity.

    These people are ALL Peter Pans! They’ve been coddled and cuddled, spoiled and petted thier whole lives, and NEVER had to grow up! THAT’s why they all act and talk like sullen teenagers! ITS MENTALLY WHAT THEY ARE!

    Geez, someone throw in some DVDs and video games, and let the adults sort the mess out! If anyone can find one, that is…

    • Yes, I agree. The “my bad” colloquialism (or “my bus” as the saying has morphed into here in SC), is an unfortunate phrase that has been overused and is way past its shelf life.
      It is particularly irritating to hear it used in business conversations. But to hear it used in official correspondence is impossibly embarrassing and ignorant. It points to an inferior mind.
      The very usage of it by Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward makes me think that what Gene was really saying was “sorry Bob, but too “f’ing” bad if you don’t like it.

  2. Threat or not….was Woodward wrong that Obama moved the goalposts on sequestration? No. So how could he regret being “wrong” on that fact…when in reality that is what Obama has definitely done?

  3. I disagree. I read the apology as this: if you claim that the POTUS moved the goalposts you’re going to regret it. Period. He then tries to explain how the sequester part that included revenues was “an accepted part of the understanding” (true Washington double-speak meaning anything I say is true) but was never written into the legislation. .
    So, MrWoodward was right.
    The only apology was for raising his voice in a conversation with MrWoodward.

    • I’d like nothing better than to agree srdem but the “as a friend” sways me. “staking out that claim” is, to me, just an expression. Plus, Woodward’s congenial reply is not the wording I’d choose if I were responding to someone who threatened me.

      Just my $.02

    • I agree with your read of the email, srdem. Mr. Sperling’s ‘I’m telling this to you as a friend’ qualifier makes it even more ominous in my opinion. The way I read it – if Sperling wasn’t a friend of Mr. Woodward’s he wouldn’t care if the regime destroyed his career and reputation, which they are in the process of doing as I type.

  4. At first breaking of the story (before the email was published) my thoughts were that maybe Woodward would actually get angry enough to really spill the beans on this administration. Oh, what could I have been thinking? It was just a lover’s spat.

  5. Woodward seems to have discredited his own allegations with his reply to the email. Either that or he was just seriously sucking up to Sperling which makes no sense since Woodward claimed he was abused. I don’t really doubt that Woodward was abused, just that he failed to make the case.

  6. A number of years ago the agency that I was going for at the time had “sensitivity training” for all of its employees. The point that was hammered home was that harassment was not from the point of view of the speaker or writer, but was from the point of view of the receiver.

    Case in point. If I tell Ms. Jones that she looks lovely in her dress, she can take this in several ways. One, as a compliment, and nothing more – no harassment. Two, as a denigration of how she dresses normally – borderline harassment. Three, as an unwanted sexual advance – harassment.

    If Woodward PERCEIVED the comment as a threat, real or otherwise, it is a threat. It matters not what Sperling’s INTENT was, but rather what Woodward gleaned from the comment.

    This administration bills itself as the best and brightest America has, yet it has no understanding of what the realities of the world are, nor what the rules of law are. Had Sperling made the comment to a subordinate, or a peer, there could very well be an investigation as to what transpired, and whether it was an indication of potential work place violence.

    I, for one, am glad that Woodward and Davis have brought these matters to the public’s attention. Whether anyone, other than conservatives, actually listens and takes note of the administration’s behavior is another matter.

    • Spot on, Shofar. As a former federal employee, I can promise you the first time I yelled at or threatened one of our customers – the American people – it would have been my last day on the job. The current crop of political hacks who are working for this regime see nothing wrong with abusing anyone who questions the edicts of their dear leader. In my opinion, there is a full court press to destroy Mr. Woodward’s reputation and career. For what reason? He had the nerve to tell the truth and expose Obama’s lies.

      “I’m just not sure that what we’re dealing with here is a ‘you’re gonna have a dead horse in your bed tomorrow morning’ kind of threat from the Regime to Bob Woodward. I don’t think that’s what we’re dealing with. I do think the White House is gonna take care of Woodward with a death panel down the road. That’s how they’re gonna deal with this.” -Rush

  7. “…should rethink your comments….might regret your claim:…” Perhaps not a threat but a chink in the false claim of openness and transparency. Add to that Lanny Davis and Fourier and perhaps we are seeing a small opening of what could be a Pandora’s box.

    And the left’s response to Woodward is standard kill the turncoat RIGHT WING messenger. And David Plouffe came off as an idiot,

    And maybe good reporters like Sheryl Atkisson will be more forthcoming about the obstacles in their paths.

    Perhaps and hopefully slowly slowly more and more people will see that this boy emperor has no clothes.

  8. As we all know, “tone” of a conversation makes the conversation. That’s when the threat was given. The email tries to smooth over the 30 min rage of Sperling. When I worked at the WH, Sperling was a dweeb. Years later, Sperling is still a dweeb.

  9. Obama and his goons have a ‘win at any cost’ mentality and a rich history of smearing his opponents. Remember Jack Ryan in IL? A threat is a threat, be it physical or political and these thugs play for keeps. IT WAS A THREAT.