Woodward Outfoxes Himself

I should begin by admitting a shameful secret: I have never, ever, not for a moment, fished into the Bob Woodward Myth. I lived through Watergate and was happy to see the back of Richard Nixon, but found the whole saga fairly irrelevant (other than a few revelations like Nixon’s plan to sic the IRS onto his “enemies list”) to why he was so dangerous a man. So I was not disposed to think of Woodward or Bernstein as Heroes of the Republic, and if anything, the rush of people from my generation into journalism that was apparently spurred by their example pushed me into the opposite direction.

I say all this to explain that this week’s grotesque self-exposure by Woodward and his subjequent adoption as an unlikely hero by the Right hasn’t shattered any of my illusions or destroyed any cherished icons. And he certainly invited the ridicule he is going to get today by posing as a martyr to the First Amendment bravely enduring “threats” from the Obama White House.

Politico, displaying its ambiguous value as both a destroyer and creator of ridiculous Beltway controversies, got hold of the email exchanges between Woodward and Gene Sperling which were the supposed vehicle for these evil, Nixonian “threats.” Here’s what Sperling said:

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

Woodward replies by assuring Sperling there is no need for apologies.

Yeah, boy, I can definitely get a whiff of Goebbels in Sperling’s solicitude for Woodward’s reputation.

Now Woodward knew what was in that email, and should have known it would get out. Why on earth would he talk about “threats” when he knew infallibly it wasn’t true and wouldn’t stand the light of day? Was it because he figured his new right-wing fans wouldn’t care whether it was true or not? Or is because something funny happens to a person’s sense of perspective once he’s been played by Robert Redford in a movie and has been told repeatedly he saved his country?

I dunno, but Woodward’s act is getting painfully old, and I don’t plan to pay any more attention to his feverish efforts to stay in the limelight.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.