“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
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.
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?”
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.