Bob Woodward, who’s best known as being part of the fearless team of investigative journalists who took down the Nixon administration, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Politico that he received threats from the White House. From Reuters:
Journalist Bob Woodward on Wednesday said a senior White House official told him he would “regret” taking issue in recent days with President Barack Obama’s version of how across-the-board budget cuts came to be.
Woodward, who challenged the White House account in an article on Sunday, said a “very senior” White House official sent him an email in which, “It was said very clearly, ‘You will regret doing this.’”
The “threat” apparently came after Woodward criticized the President’s handling of the sequestration that is set to take effect on Friday. Woodward also called it “a kind of madness” that the President is citing the sequestration as a reason for not sending an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf (personally, I think taking jobs, food and unemployment from people who need them is a kind of madness, but that’s just me).
As it turns out, there is a lot less to this story than it seems. The actual email from the White House source, economic advisor Gene Sperling, read more like a friendly apology than a threat. Here’s an excerpt from the Huffington Post:
I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. 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 … My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
Woodward’s own response should put to rest any thoughts that he interpreted the softly written note as a threat:
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.
One of the latest right-wing talking points is that the Obama administration bullies the media. It began with a story in Politico in which they accuse the President of bypassing traditional news in favor of manageable sources of information, such as social networking.
The Huffington Post argues that it’s the media, not the White House, who’s to blame for the fact that the media no longer covers hard-hitting stories.
But all the focus on Obama’s machinations overlooks two points. First, many presidents have tried to go around the White House press corps, from FDR’s fireside chats to Richard Nixon’s creation of the White House Office of Media Affairs, which increased focus on regional press. And second, the press corps does not need an invitation, or even access, to cover the president with the kind of bracing toughness that is called for.
In fact, it makes sense for the White House to try to go around the press corps. And the press will be more relevant to the extent it is substantively adversarial toward the executive branch (and of course to the other branches). Some observers believe an excessively deferential media is the real story, not Obama’s supposed manipulation skills.
As you may recall, because of the media’s reluctance to ask the tough questions, we invaded a country that never caused us any harm. Bob Woodward played no small part in the deception, as stated by his former colleague at the Washington Post, Lorraine Adams:
I worked with him in passing at the newsroom, actually I worked with him on a few stories so I knew him better than that. I think he practices access journalism, which is different from what I did at the Post. [I] would talk to the people who have no power and who are affected by the people in power, and that gives a much more useful picture of the way policy affects the human soul.
Woodward, who started as a reporter who did that, who knocked on doors and talked to people on the ground, became a celebrity. In becoming a celebrity, he invariably saw it as a much better deal for him, in terms of making money, to talk to other celebrities inside Washington: presidents, their chiefs of staff, vice presidents, their chiefs of staff. We have learned that Deep Throat was an FBI official, not an agent, an official. He was on, what we call, the 7th Floor.
I think Woodward’s capitulation to interviewing people in limousines, as opposed to people on the subway, is something I feel is partly responsible for the fact that we ended up in Iraq. Because so many reporters, Judith Miller is the most egregious of them, spoke to Scooter Libby and some other higher officials, and never spoke to intelligence people on the ground. They swallowed wholesale Colin Powell at the U.N., and [ultimately] their limousine reporting meant that 100,000 Iraqis lost their lives.
In fact, Woodward was nothing but complimentary about the George W. Bush administration’s ability to spin the media and he rightly blames himself for not seeing through the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ ruse.
Here’s the video:
So what happened to the once great journalist? Woodward was always the more conservative part of the team, Woodward and Bernstein. While he wasn’t exactly in the tank for the Bush administration, he certainly painted a more flattering picture of the younger Bush’s arrogance while not seeming to understand President Obama’s deliberateness.
Woodward also comes across as somewhat war hawkish, as evidenced by his reaction to the aircraft carrier.
But perhaps it boils down to something much simpler. Woodward is an old school journalist who is watching his relevancy pass. The Obama administration is the first to embrace new media. Woodward and most of his colleagues stopped asking crucial questions during the Bush administration and now they’re busy licking their own self-inflicted wounds. One doesn’t regain journalistic integrity by blaming their subject and crying about a phantom email. One regains journalistic integrity by being a journalist – not by having a dull axe to grind.
|Wendy Gittleson grew up in a political family. Her passion is for social justice and fairness. She is the Senior Editor for Addicting Info. She lives in a union household. In her rare downtime, you’ll find her hiking or exploring the shoreline with her dogs. Follow her on her Facebook page or on Twitter, @wendygittleson|