February 28 2013
All the President's Sequester
Bob Woodward comes from an era when the press was already overwhelmingly liberal.
But they had not forgotten how to do something crucial to their craft: ask questions.
If you’ve ever watched a press conference with President Obama, you know that the press no longer sees its role as asking hard questions. Press conferences have turned into audiences.
So this Politico story headlined “Woodward at War” takes the cake as the most fascinating story of the day:
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about - and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half hour,” Woodward told us in an hour-long interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington’s powerful have spilled their secrets.
Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed. “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.”
Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’ ”
My guess is that Woodward is giving President Obama too much credit. But that doesn’t detract from what Woodward has done: ask questions, report the answers, even if doing so challenges the Obama spin machine. Read the whole story—very informative.
There are some indications that the press, having helped re-elect President Obama, is now turning just a bit: See “Our Celebrity President, Faces Real World,” by Howard Fineman. Richard Cohen had a scathing piece on President Obama as a “man without a foreign policy” yesterday in the Washington Post (Cohen is often a maverick).
Woodward, of course, has long been an icon, half the duo of young reporters who toppled Richard Nixon, played on the big screen (“All the President’s Men”) by Robert Redford.
Here is the interesting question: will the media now turn on the Watergate hero for challenging their darling?