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From Reporter to Economic Activist, Bob Woodward In White House Crosshairs [Email Text]

“You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. … I think you will regret staking out that claim.” – Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

GENE SPERLING‘s conversation with Bob Woodward has exploded into a tale where the legendary journalist is now the story, because he’s decided to change his role from granddaddy of the press to activist for the grand bargain. Whether you are for or against the grand bargain, it’s obvious that Woodward’s belief that this is critical is coloring everything he’s reporting today.

That said, Sperling should have his head examined. Didn’t he read Price of Politics? The entire book was informed by Rep. Eric Cantor and his staff, and it’s pretty obvious that on the economy Bob Woodward believes what all the establishment elites do, which begins with finding fault in President Obama’s financial plans, while ignoring that it was Obama from the start who floating entitlement cuts disguised as reform. However, as someone who’s read the book that reads true, there is a missing component few are mentioning.

It is no secret on Capitol Hill that Cantor and his staff cooperated extensively with Woodward. It is fairly obvious as you breeze through the opening chapters of the book. But we have talked with many Democrats and Republicans who cooperated with the book. And all of them say that while they might dispute some of the broader analytical points Woodward makes, the play-by-play is basically spot on.

The “broader analytic points” are the price of politics, specifically, with Woodward clearly coming down on the side of Republicans on economic policy, which is the other side of the story that is unfolding more furiously as sequester looms.

Woodward’s allowed to become an advocate, but he cannot simultaneously declare he’s an uninterested observer.

From Politico:

Woodward thinks there is still a grand bargain to be had between Obama and Boehner, with tax reform as a huge component. “Sit down and work through this,” he said. “I can see exactly how you come up with a deal that would dispose of lots of things.” Woodward, who helped bring down one presidency and has written instant history on every one since, added: “Color me a little baffled. I don’t understand this White House. Do you?”

Woodward thinks?

If you’re intending to stay a storyteller, neutral to get the facts, why is Woodward positing the possibility of a grand bargain in the first place? Is that really his role? Where’s the side that plays devil’s advocate on whether the deal in 2011 was even a good one?

Woodward characterizing the conversation he had with Sperling as he “yelled at me for about a half-hour” is a little odd for me to visualize. Raised voices, as Sperling has admitted, with the emails now released exclusively to Politico, is not really an issue here is it? These are grown men talking about something serious. It’s also obvious that Sperling is saying that Woodward’s “broader analytic points” are incorrect, just as some Democrats disagreed, which the Politico excerpt above emphasizes as well.

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


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.

It’s been a long time since Woodward was at the center of the media world. The Washington Post has been having a hard time lately, especially after Jennifer Rubin’s disastrous McCarthyism against Chuck Hagel. New media’s eating into the Post’s profit and it’s just not the paper it once was. Careerism is wafting up from the spectacle Woodward has created, but it remains secondary to his obvious economic activism in this story.

But Gene Sperling threatening Bob Woodward? This is an obvious exaggeration based on an interpretation from a vaunted establishment player who’s taking the Obama White House on directly through fiscal policy that he obviously believes is wrong.

It’s anything but objective reporting, with Bob Woodward choosing the role of an activist, instead of a journalist, in his reporting of the event. It’s hardly shocking that Woodward doesn’t even recognize what he’s doing himself. But he is trading on his stature and his well earned reputation to do it, which will continue on none other than Sean Hannity’s Fox News channel show tonight.

However, the basic thrust that the White House doesn’t like to be challenged by the press is absolutely true.

The presidents club comes with a cult of entitlement, superiority, and egotism that is so thick it forms an unbreakable bubble that in today’s technological world can exist without reporters by going around them. That is, unless you talk directly to them and hand them a blockbuster story like this one.

The establishment press has been pissed at the White House for a long, long time. Woodward just got them their pound of flesh. It’s not a wholly bad topic to be talking about.

This piece has been updated.

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16 Responses to From Reporter to Economic Activist, Bob Woodward In White House Crosshairs [Email Text]

  1. Solo February 28, 2013 at 10:38 am #

    When pundits like Woodward have a book to sell, look out!

  2. mjsmith February 28, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    It is clear that Obama and his team are doing everything they can to scare Americans. The economy is already a mess. Poverty is already increasing. Airports already have long lines. Immigration is not being enforced. Obama and the democrats failed to pass a budget. The most pathetic aspect of this Obama strategy is how he claims to be so powerless against Republicans.

  3. angels81 February 28, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    Immigration not being enforced? Obama has deported more illegal immigrants then the last three presidents combined. He has tightened up the border with more law enforcement personal, has put drones on the border, and people trying to cross the border has dropped to its lowest in twenty years.

    You can have your opinion, but you can’t have your own facts.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter February 28, 2013 at 11:17 am #

      Angels would such a whole cloth dishonest spewing count as an opinion or an evacuation of lower abdominal gas?

    • mjsmith February 28, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      What you are saying sounds nice. It does not compensate for the lack of enforcement. It is like saying that Obamacare gives everyone health coverage. The reality is, less people have medical coverage because of Obamacare. People with medical coverage are paying more money for it.

      • Solo February 28, 2013 at 3:53 pm #

        I guess you aren’t aware that the bulk of Obamacare doesn’t kick in until 2014?

        • mjsmith March 1, 2013 at 9:17 am #

          SOlo, in 2014 healthcare will be more expensive than it already is today. More people will be uninsured than today. What will you say then? It’s the GOP and George W. Bush’s fault?

  4. secularhumanizinevoluter February 28, 2013 at 11:15 am #

    1″It is clear that Obama and his team are doing everything they can to scare Americans.”
    If pointing out the obstructionism and the economic disaster that will result from the repugnantKLAN/teabagger mob’s domestic terrorist war on the American economy and people is ” doing everything they can to scare Americans.” then they deserve a medal.

    2.”The economy is already a mess.”
    That is simply not true on just about every level of economic record available.

    3.” Poverty is already increasing.”
    True but that has far more to do with the top 1% squeezing more money out of the already shrinking(because of THEIR and repug/bagger activities) middle class.

    4.” Airports already have long lines.”
    And what exactly does this have to do with anything?!!!

    5.” Immigration is not being enforced.”
    That must be why deportations have sky rocketed under Obama huh?

    6.” Obama and the democrats failed to pass a budget.”
    WRONG…the REPUGNANTKLAN/TEABAGGER controled House has been acting in an absolute obstructionist manor.

    7.” The most pathetic aspect of this Obama strategy is how he claims to be so powerless against Republicans.”
    DAMN that Constitution thingy!!!

    • mjsmith February 28, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Secular… I know you feel the economy is doing great, because you believe everything Obama says. The facts show otherwise. Even when the democrat party controlled both the House and Senate, they still failed to pass a budget. You can blame the top 1% for the poverty increase in the USA in order to keep consistant with being wrong on every single issue you talk about. Maybe you can help me out – When Obama talks about how great the economy is doing, as he had in his recent State of the Union address or during his re-election campaign, what economy is he talking about?Certainly not the US economy,

      • angels81 February 28, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

        Words have meaning mjsmith. By you using the word “great”, which the President has never used you change the meaning of what the President has said. The President has said the economy is moving in the right direction, and is slowly getting better. Nobody I know of has said the economy is doing great, except maybe wall street moguls and some of the 1%.

        Once again you can have your opinion, but not your own facts.

        • mjsmith February 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

          angels81 – He did not use the word “great’. He did make references to “economic recovery. I do not believe the economy is moving in the right direction. More people are without healthcare now. Lack of healthcare is a major reason why people / families file for bankruptcy. THe gap between rich and poor is growing, not shrinking. So yes your 1% class warfare reference is true. Do you want to blame anyone other than Obama for this? Look who is in the Obama administration. How many Wall Street big-wigs went to trial and were convicted in Federal Court while Obama was President? ZERO! Oh, are these just my opinions? Nobody I knowsaid the economy is doing great either.It is easy to slam the person and party who is in power. My opinion is Obama can’t take the heat.

          • secularhumanizinevoluter February 28, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

            Amazing….you are shown to be full of utter crap and you try to spin that as vindication?!!!!!!!!

            ” My opinion is Obama can’t take the heat.”
            Like the rectal pore every body has one….just some…as in your case stink and spew more weak shit then others.

            “Obama can’t take the heat”
            BWAHAHA! I guess that’s why the public supports his agenda and not the repug/bagger/Christos huh? Bwahahaha! AND why 60% of the electorate recognize it’s the repug/bagger obstructionists responsible for the economic situation regarding sequester?

          • jinbaltimore March 1, 2013 at 2:27 am #

            Are you implying that Romney would have prosecuted fraudulent Wall Streeters? Or that the 99% would be better off with him?

            Man, the leaders of both of the Wall Street Parties, must laugh themselves silly with how well they’ve snookered their poorer supporters into believing there are significant differences between them.

          • mjsmith March 1, 2013 at 9:27 am #

            jinbaltimore – I amnot sayng anything about Romney, or even implying anything about Romney. I am stating a clear fact – There are less financial crime prosecutions under Obama than Reagan, H.W. Bush, Clinton,and W. Bush. Not a single criminal or civil case against anyone as a result of the finacial crisis.

          • mjsmith March 1, 2013 at 9:29 am #

            mister secular – Could you explain “repug/bagger/Christos”? If you do not mind. Please educate me.

  5. DaGoat February 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    As is common a lot of points are getting jumbled together, but my takes on this:

    - Sperling was not trying to threaten Woodward. The whole tone of the e-mail was conciliatory.

    - from my read of the book, Woodward’s claim that Obama moved the goalposts by asking for more revenues is wrong. Maybe I missed it or maybe it wasn’t in the book, but I don’t think the book supports Woodward’s claim.

    - Obama’s claim that the GOP came up with the idea for the sequester is clearly wrong. I’m not sure that makes much difference since they all voted for it, but the Obama administration appears to be lying.

    - Cantor did not have some Machiavellian influence over Woodward. Woodward had many sources (probably including Sperling) and has been doing this a long time.

    - I don’t see Woodward’s saying that a Grand Bargain is still possible as being out of line. I think that’s a reasonable conclusion from the book. It’s pretty clear that if it was just some combination of Obama, Biden (who I thought came across very well in the book), Boehner, Red and Cantor a deal would have been done. I leave out Pelosi since she seemed to be a minor character at that point.

    -The sticking point was mostly the Tea Party contingent, although I think the Democrats in the House and Senate were a wild card since they were sort of taken for granted. The Democratic rank and file did not seem to have as much influence as the Tea Party. It’s an open question whether Democrats would have gone along with a grand bargain.

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong