Feb 28, 2013 No Comments ›› Jake Hammer
Excerpted from MEDIAITE: When a senior White House official resorts to threatening such a respected figure in journalism like Bob Woodward, all members of the journalism community–right/left/center–should find it unsettling.
If he or anyone in media can’t do his or her job without attempting to be intimidated by a government official, we’re in deep trouble.
Sure, the “threat” isn’t something out of the Paulie Walnuts playbook, but what appears to be a disagreement between two longtime major players inside the Beltway. The “regret” comment followed senior White House aide Gene Sperling’s petulant 30-minute temper tantrum to Woodward about getting it wrong on the President coming up with the idea of sequester.
Of course, the reporter spent months compiling material for his unflappable best-selling book, The Price of Politics, which includes in-depth interviews with everyone from John Boehner to President Obama to every major player involved in the failed 2011 Fiscal Cliff negotiations, but no matter. Woodward won’t have to take the bus to work to avoid ever starting his car again. And unless he decides to take a trip to Yemen and happens to land on a certain kill list, the 69-year-old icon should be physically fine.
So with the hyperbolic stuff out of the way, in the case of the President’s word vs. Woodward’s notes on the sequester, I’m still going with the guy Bob Schieffer called “the best reporter of our time.” No one has been trusted enough to be granted the level of access he’s been afforded. According the New York Times book review, “No reporter has more talent for getting Washington’s inside story and telling it cogently.”
Woodward is unlike, say, his Washington Post counterpart Ezra Klein, who moonlights as an MSNBC host when he isn’t challenging Mr. Woodward on the very facts he compiled from interviews and minutes for his book.
Klein is being used here as an example in an effort to highlight the differences between a writer/cable news host, who presides over programming that largely depends on myopic opinion, noise and presenting an argument that fits a general narrative of a network, and a seasoned reporter not looking to become a TV star on an ideological program.
Klein is a rising star at MSNBC—was once even rumored to be getting his own show—because he follows the rules of advocacy journalism without fail. Woodward, conversely, is a reporter without an agenda to advance or narrative to conform to. He has no cable show. He’s isn’t even a contributor on any network. He can be found on CNN, Fox or MSNBC with centrist, conservative or liberal hosts at any time, but only as a guest. Never raises his voice, never makes blind guesses on what may be going on with a particular situation.
Instead, he reports based on meticulous detail around the topic at hand via interviews he’s done with people closest to the situation and recordings of meetings behind closed doors. It’s what used to be called reporting. And he gains access to such sensitive discussions because he’s trusted by members of both sides of the aisle.
Twelve #1 Best-Sellers and multiple Pulitzers back up all of these accolades.
So when Woodward challenges the President on “moving the goal posts” on the sequester by adding tax increases to the conversation when revenue was never part of the original agreement with Republicans that focused strictly on spending cuts, or when he says the sequester was Mr. Obama’s idea after the President says it wasn’t, logical people—those without blind allegiances or aren’t willing to debate without attacking the messenger—believe Woodward. They believe based on a lifetime record of telling nothing but the truth based on what he witnessed, wrote and recorded via extraordinary access.
Being publicly contradicted by Woodward is unfamiliar territory for some members of the Obama Administration, who aren’t used to getting the kind of retort they received from him this week. They’re also not used to not being able to simply demonize the opposition via its friends in the media, some of whom are now former senior officials.
That’s because Woodward is unlike any target they’ve tried to knock down before. This isn’t Sean Hannity going on a daily anti-Obama rant, it isn’t Rush Limbaugh doing the same. It isn’t Trump or a Breitbart writer or anyone else where the messenger could be dismissed a teabagging wingnut.
So apparently the only option left is to threaten the 69-year-old in an oh-so-2013 way: via email! It’s amazing how brave allegedly mature adults can act behind a keyboard.
The threat to Mr. Woodward by a senior Obama Administration official for contradicting the President read this way:
“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.”
Woodward’s reaction on CNN:
“It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you’re going to regret doing something you believe in, even though we don’t look at it that way, you do look at it that way.”