In this case, Bob Woodward seems to have simply trolled himself and a lot of other people, and I'm not really sure what that's about. He claimed the White House threatened him, and this was breathlessly promoted throughout the land, but the actual "threat" in question was an email that, when released, you'd have to be a special kind of strange to perceive as "threatening" in any way. Really:
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.So much for the myth of hard-nosed, sharp-edged journalists swashbuckling their way through Washington intrigue to bring us much-needed truths. Apparently even the behemoths of the profession are wilting flowers, and language as harsh as the above is enough to send them scurrying to the cameras to complain that somebody has been mean to them.
The Woodward claim (one that he's being disingenuous about, or rather is finessing a bit more than can be reasonably finessed) is that the White House never expected raised revenues as part of the threatened sequester, and apparently the White House vigorously disputing his version of events is supposed to be evidence of just how right he is. By that token, every conspiracy crackpot in America has been vindicated ten times over—but now it's Bob Woodward saying it, so that gets more notice? Is that how we do things?
The entire media establishment seemed to bellow forth as one: Yes, that is how we do things. Woodward made too much of it in a CNN interview devoted to the White House being "not happy" with Woodward's article, an access-based, personality-fueled metastory of the sort that seems to make up what CNN and Wolf Blitzer in particular seem to think is a good enough substitute for actual journalism. Politico's Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei ran with it, and seem to have embellished it themselves, declaring it "Woodward at war". We were off and running: The premise was going to be that the mean, mean White House had "threatened" Bob Woodward in an email clearly threatening Woodward with, at most, future embarrassment about the story.
Why? Because at heart, this is a story about access journalism, and there is nothing so dear to access journalism as hearing the brave war tales of those that engage entirely in access journalism. Oh—and because for those on the conservative side of things, the silly non-event was evidence once again of a "Chicago-style" aggression and oppression of the media. Because of that email, up there. Yes, that one.
Let's look at just some of the brave souls who latched on eagerly to the notion of an embattled Bob Woodward facing cruel, vicious treatment at the hands of the White House, apparently not one of them actually having read the email exchange in question (below the fold):
UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: A “threat” theme has exploded into the newstream today regarding the Woodward story. (WaPo)Yep, that's how it works. And then who's cheering for who in the fight becomes a story in itself, since isn't it funny when a Glenn Beck staffer or right-wing think tanker praises someone they recently loathed, and what does that say about politics, other than that everyone in it is transparent, and simple-minded, and working the levers by rote?
Really, I think everyone involved should be embarrassed by this story. Woodward himself, certainly, for skipping to the cameras and telling us how very important he his, by virtue of some staffer getting angry with him. The subsequent pushers of the story, so eager to report about it as if Bob Woodward was a brave soul standing up for anything other than Bob Woodward's version of a story. We are facing the supposed "unthinkable" budget measure of sequestration entirely because the very harsh realities of an austerity-imposed "sequestration" are of little significance compared to the tittering among the political class as to who might win or lose by it, so on the eve of actually doing the thing it seems a nice touch to have devolved into a discussion of the bravery of the access journalists valiantly trying to suss that out for us.