In the escalating war of words between the White House and Bob Woodward, probably the best-known reporter in the country, Woodward is claiming that a senior White House official threatened him because of his reporting that claimed the sequester budget cuts that are about to slam the country was originally the idea of the president.
“It was said very clearly: ‘you will regret doing this,’ ” Woodward, an editor at the Washington Post and the bestselling author of many books about the White House, said on CNN’s The Situation Room. “I’m not going to say [who], a very senior person. It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you’re going to regret doing something you believe in.”
Woodward wrote an op-ed in the Post over the weekend, saying the Obama administration invented the sequester and then moved “the goal posts” by saying any deal had to include new revenue along with the agreed-upon cuts.
But Democrats say that since the sequester was never meant to be implemented, it’s not moving the goal posts to try and replace it with spending cuts and additional revenue.
“I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communications strategy — let’s hope it’s not a strategy, but just a tactic he’s employing — he’d say, ‘look, we don’t go around trying to say to reporters if you in an honest way present something that we don’t like, you’re going to regret this,’ ” Woodward continued. “It’s Mickey Mouse.”
As for the “threat,” a senior White House official said, “Of course no threat was intended.”
“As Mr. Woodward noted, the email from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation,” the official said. “The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide’s email in a friendly manner.”
With an enviable access to the inner workings of many White House administrations, Woodward, who won a Pulitzer Prize with Carl Bernstein for stories that led to the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s, has crafted a reputation as the ultimate Washington insider, spinning tales in his bestselling books of the palace intrigue inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. At the height of the 2012 election, Woodward published a book, “The Price of Politics,” suggesting that President Obama was in over his head in trying to deal with the economy — a book seized upon by the Republican opposition, and which may have made him a permanent enemy of the Obama White House.
Woodward went on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and said the president’s lack of leadership on the sequester was “madness.”
Woodward slammed Obama’s decision to announce that sequester cuts would force an American aircraft carrier to not deploy to the Persian Gulf.
“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document’?” Woodward asked, referring to Obama’s comment about the aircraft carrier. “Or George W. Bush saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to invade Iraq because I can’t get the aircraft carriers I need.’ Or even Bill Clinton saying, ‘You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters,’ … because of some budget document?”
“Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, ‘I can’t do what I need to do to protect the country,’ ” Woodward concluded. “That’s a kind of madness that I haven’t seen in a long time.”