Journalist Clashes with White House over Sequester Report
(WASHINGTON) -- Veteran journalist Bob Woodward is embroiled in a public clash with the White House over his reporting on the sequester.
Woodward has been making the rounds on cable TV and print outlets, accusing a “very senior person” in the administration of threatening him last week ahead of an op-ed he later published in the Washington Post attributing the idea for the automatic spending cuts to President Obama.
The blitz drew a harsh rebuke from former senior Obama adviser David Plouffe Wednesday night: “Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith also opined: “Woodward deserves a lot of credit for taking a macro story about DC dysfunction, competing econ theories & making it all about him,” she said.
In the column at the center of the storm, Woodward writes the White House has been deliberately disingenuous about its role in the sequester, and accused Obama of “moving the goal posts” by insisting Republicans agree to new tax revenue as part of any substitute for the sequester. “That was not the deal he made,” he says.
Woodward’s report has rankled administration officials, particularly since it undermines the narrative the White House has been pushing ahead the March 1 sequester deadline. Democrats claim the automatic cuts were mutually agreed upon and never intended to be enacted, making Obama’s demand for new revenue a legitimate one. Republicans claim the sequester was Obama’s idea and that any replacement plan was to be entirely cuts.
Now, Woodward alleges that he was bullied even ahead of publishing his report. He told Politico on Wednesday that one Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half hour” and in an email message delivered a veiled threat.
That aide has been identified as the director of the White House Economic Council, Gene Sperling. Woodward shared with ABC News his email exchange with Sperling:
From: Sperling, Gene
Date: February 22, 2013 11:52:34 PM EST
To: Bob Woodward
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.
From: Bob Woodward
Date: February 23, 2013 7:23:37 AM EST
To: Sperling, Gene
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. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob
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