Everything Is Political
The truth of the matter is that Bob Woodward has been a Republican partisan for many, many years, and only fools or the misinformed thought otherwise. Someone long ago called him a Stenographer To Power, and that epithet has stuck in my mind whenever I hear Woodward talk, or get tricked into reading some blather he’s written. Remember when Woodward said: “They trashed the place, and it wasn’t their place.”
A few articles I’ve read about Bob Woodward this week:
“Woodward at war,” was the headline Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei attached to their February 27 article playing up Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s claim that a senior White House official had threatened him over email regarding Woodward’s reporting on the origins of the budget sequestration. The Politico report on Woodward’s “major-league brushback” caught fire in the press and prompted allegations of White House intimidation. However, the email chain — which Politico published the following morning — shows that the claims of threats and intimidation by the White House are, at best, wildly overblown, and that Politico helped hype a bogus allegation by Woodward absent the full context.
The original February 27 Politico piece featured a short clip of Allen and VandeHei’s “hourlong interview” with Woodward “around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.” In that clip, Woodward reads from an email he received from a top White House official, later revealed to be economic advisor Gene Sperling. As Woodward puts it, Sperling did “something that I think it is important for people to understand. He says, you know, ‘I think you will regret staking out that claim,'” referring to Woodward’s assertion that the president was “moving the goal posts” in negotiations to avert sequestration.
(click here to continue reading Politico’s Woodward Warmongering | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
Eric Boehlert has a long list of details of Woodward’s hackery, with citations, that is well worth reading.
If Woodward were a liberal icon, it’s unlikely operatives close to Mitt Romney would’ve shown up at the reporter’s home just weeks before the election, urging him to meet with their secret source to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack.
Woodward has certainly shown in recent years that he doesn’t have his finger on the pulse on Democratic politics. Three years ago he claimed Hillary Clinton might replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket in 2012. (Then again he once predicted Dick Cheney would be the Republican nominee in 2008.)
In truth, Woodward at key junctures has been a willing conduit for Republicans and has proven instrumental in distributing their talking points. Recently, Woodward suggested, without any proof, that angry Democrats were pressuring the White House to pull Chuck Hagel’s nomination to become Secretary of Defense. And that Hagel was “twisting in the wind.”
During the Clinton years, “liberal” Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him ‘Solicitor-in-Chief,’ a move which conservatives cheered. Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that “She never goes away, she and her husband.”
But it’s Woodward’s reporting during the Bush administration that best debunks the farcical the notion that he is a “liberal” ally. He did that both through his fawning coverage of the Bush White House, especially in the early years, and by becoming a major player in the scandal surrounding CIA operative Valerie Plame.
At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson’s wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.
Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as “laughable,” “an accident,” “nothing to it” and denigrating Fitzgerald as “disgraceful” and “junkyard dog,” never once noting mentioning he’d been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.
(click here to continue reading Woodward As Liberal Icon? Not Exactly | Blog | Media Matters for America.)
This doesn’t even scratch the surface. But read the rest if you have the inclination.
Thank You For Voting
and a wee bit of sequester history from Ezra Klein
I don’t agree with my colleague Bob Woodward, who says the Obama administration is “moving the goalposts” when they insist on a sequester replacement that includes revenues. I remember talking to both members of the Obama administration and the Republican leadership in 2011, and everyone was perfectly clear that Democrats were going to pursue tax increases in any sequester replacement, and Republicans were going to oppose tax increases in any sequester replacement. What no one knew was who would win.
The sequester was a punt. The point was to give both sides a face-saving way to raise the debt ceiling even though the tax issue was stopping them from agreeing to a deficit deal. The hope was that sometime between the day the sequester was signed into law (Aug. 2, 2011) and the day it was set to go into effect (Jan. 1, 2013), something would…change. There were two candidates to drive that change.
The first and least likely was the supercommittee. If they came to a deal that both sides accepted, they could replace the sequester. They failed.
The second was the 2012 election. If Republicans won, then that would pretty much settle it: No tax increases. If President Obama won, then that, too, would pretty much settle it: The American people would’ve voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes. In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.
(click here to continue reading On the sequester, the American people ‘moved the goalposts’.)
Sing a Song of Liberty
Alex Parene gets to the meat of the Woodward-Gate: Woodward seems to think that if the President does something, it isn’t illegal. Quite a change from 1972, no?
Speaking of kinds of madness, Woodward’s actual position here is insane. As Dave Weigel points out, “some budget document” is a law, passed by Congress and signed by the president. Woodward is saying, why won’t the president just ignore the law, because he is the commander in chief, and laws should not apply to him. That is a really interesting perspective, from a man who is famous for his reporting on the extralegal activities of a guy who is considered a very bad president!
Also, that George W. Bush analogy is amazing. It would have been a good thing for him to invade and occupy Iraq without congressional approval? Say what you will about George W. Bush, at least he was really, really devoted to invading Iraq. (And yes the Reagan line, lol.)
There is nothing less important about “the sequester” than the question of whose idea it originally was. So, naturally, that is the question that much of the political press is obsessed with, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Republicans have been making the slightly incoherent argument that a) the sequester, which is a bad thing, is entirely Obama’s fault, b) Obama is exaggerating how bad the sequester will be, and c) the sequester, which is Obama’s fault, is preferable to not having the sequester. Woodward has lately been fixated on Obama’s responsibility for the idea of the sequester, but at this point, the important question is who will be responsible if it actually happens. On that question, Woodward, and others, have taken the position that it will be Obama’s fault because he has failed to “show leadership.” But laws come from Congress. The president signs or vetoes them. Republicans in the House are unwilling and unable to repeal the law Congress passed creating the sequester. All Obama can do is ask them to pass such a law, and to make the case to the public that they should pass such a law. And Obama has been doing those things, a lot.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward demands law-ignoring, mind-controlling presidential leadership – Salon.com.)
Sometimes It Is Deliberate
Woodward’s second point — “moving the goalposts” — has been torn to shreds like a hunk of meat tossed into the lion cage. Brian Beutler points out that the law didn’t call for spending cuts to be put into place, it called for “deficit reduction.” David Corn adds that Boehner himself conceded the possibility, however remote, that sequestration could be replaced with some mix of higher revenue and lower spending. Dave Weigel points out that Woodward’s own book says the same thing. There’s nothing left at all to the point Woodward is trying to argue here.
To understand where Woodward is coming from, you need to recall his book on the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. That book was notable because it concluded that Obama was responsible for blowing up the big deal to reduce the deficit by spooking John Boehner and mishandling the negotiations. Woodward’s interpretive line here runs in contrast to every other account of the episode, which shows Obama was always ready to offer highly generous terms to Boehner, but Boehner simply concluded his party’s base, represented by Eric Cantor, would not accept higher revenue in any form.
What Woodward is saying here is that the failure to strike a deal is Obama’s fault by definition. There is no set of imaginable facts that would cause Woodward to conclude that Congress bears responsibility for an agreement. It’s a truly bizarre way of thinking, but also a common one, combining elements of BipartisanThink and the Cult of the Presidency. Fellow venerable reporter Ron Fournier has been insisting that Obama ought to somehow mind-control Republicans into accepting higher revenue. “His aides and allies will ask, ‘Exactly what can he do to get the GOP to deal?,’” writes Fournier, “That is a question best put to the president, a skilled and well-meaning leader elected to answer the toughest questions.”
Hypnosis! Jedi mind tricks! Whatever! Fournier’s job is to demand that Obama do something that flies in the face of everything we know about the ideological makeup of the Republican Party and the nature of free will, not to explain how it could happen. David Gregory, among others, heartily endorses Fournier’s argument.
Woodward’s strange way of understanding this issue survives because it is something that he and certain people need to believe, for professional and ideological reasons.
(click here to continue reading The Weird Philosophy of Bob Woodward — Daily Intelligencer.)
and in a follow up:
To reconcile Woodward’s journalistic reputation with the weird pettiness of his current role, one has to grasp the distinction between his abilities as a reporter and his abilities as an analyst. Woodward was, and remains, an elite gatherer of facts. But anybody who has seen him commit acts of political commentary on television has witnessed a painful spectacle. As an analyst, Woodward is a particular kind of awful — a Georgetown Wise Man reliably and almost invariably mouthing the conventional wisdom of the Washington Establishment.
His more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure’s standing within the establishment. His 1994 account of Bill Clinton’s major budget bill, which in retrospect was a major success, told a story of chaos and indecision. He wrote a fulsome love letter to Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” at the peak of the Fed chairman’s almost comic prestige. In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush’s reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.
Woodward’s book on the 2011 debt negotiations was notable for arguing that Obama scotched a potential deficit deal. The central argument has since been debunked by no less a figure than Eric Cantor, who admitted to Ryan Lizza that he killed the deal.
(click here to continue reading What the Hell Happened to Bob Woodward? — Daily Intelligencer.)
Tumult Has Become Still
John Cassidy writes:
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Woodward’s 2000 book on Alan Greenspan, “Maestro,” which was clearly based on extensive access to the Fed chairman, is a good example of what Didion was talking about. As an inside account of what Greenspan said and did and thought, it was a useful primer, and, as with all of Woodward’s books, it included some arresting, if largely irrelevant, narrative details, such as one in which the great man, disturbed by his wife, Andrea Mitchell’s, desire for a canine companion, asks one of his colleagues, the chairman of the Philadelphia Fed, “Well, how do you tell your wife you don’t want a dog?” But as a guide to the impact of Greenspan’s policies, or the real significance of his rise to a godlike status, “Maestro” wasn’t much help at all. Less than a year after it was published, the stock-market bubble that Greenspan had helped to inflate burst, and the country was plunged into a recession.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward Throws an Interception : The New Yorker.)
Michael Tomasky pulls no punches:
So in other words, Obama said in November 2011 exactly what he said for the next year, and exactly what he is saying today! Those goal posts are now looking more and more stationary, aren’t they? The notion that the supercommittee was the only place where revenues could be discussed is so wrong that it really makes me wonder how intelligent Bob Woodward is. It was understood in November 2011 that Congress still had 13 months to come up with something until the January 2013 deadline. And Obama has wanted revenues that entire time. Sheesh.
(click here to continue reading Bob Woodward’s So-Called Thinking Sort Of Explained – The Daily Beast.)
Lady Liberty Looks Pissed
And a bit of truthiness to cleanse our palate:
Investigative journalist Bob Woodward announced Thursday that he’s received credible information from an anonymous source confirming that Woodward hasn’t been a relevant force in American journalism in 40 years. “Though I cannot divulge his name, I can tell you that he’s an extremely reliable, high-level government source, and thus far everything he’s told me about how I’m no longer a salient or even particularly respected journalistic figure completely checks out,” Woodward told reporters, describing a late-night parking garage rendezvous in which the Washington Post editor was purportedly told to “follow the writing.” “My source assured me that once I read my careless reporting on the Iraq war, my exaggerated interviews, and my exploitative and inaccurate account of the recent sequestration situation, it would be abundantly clear that my influence in the field has substantially waned since Watergate. And he’s right. It’s all true.” Woodward then accidentally revealed that his source’s name was White House Communications Director Daniel Pfeiffer, which prompted the journalist to murmur, “Goddamnit, Bob, you’ve really lost it,” under his breath.
(click here to continue reading Anonymous Source Informs Bob Woodward He Hasn’t Been Relevant In 40 Years | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.)