I presume everyone remembers how when the New York Times published information about a classified program designed to track the movement of alleged terrorist funding through the international banking system Bush administration officials threatened to prosecute Times reporters and management over what they had done? No you don't, because although some conservatives and Republicans thought it might be a worth considering it didn't happen. You can guarantee that if it had, it would have become a TV-radio-newspaper-Internet establishment press obsession for days on end.
Tonight, Washington Post's Bob Woodward alleged that because he is sticking to his guns in insisting that sequestration was the brainchild of the Obama White House, that it was personally approved by Obama, and that bringing up tax increases now to try to resolve the current sequestration impasse is "moving the goalposts," he has been threatened by "a very senior person" in the White House. Woodward said so on CNN's Situation Room earlier today. What's even more troubling is that Woodward told two Politico reporters the same thing yesterday, and that they appear to have sat on the revelation until this evening when the CNN interview forced their hand. Relevant portions of the CNN transcript and Politico column follow the jump.
This is from a rush transcript at CNN. Woodward was interviewed by the network's Wolf Blitzer and Kate Bolduan (I checked the first portion of it against the video; there was no supporting video for the last line quoted below; bolds are mine throughout this post):
BOLDUAN: What do you make of the White House's response to your article?
WOODWARD: Well, I think they're confused. I think they've got this idea. I mean, they put out these long talking points and said, see, even Woodward's book reports that Speaker Boehner said, let's get $600 billion over ten years in revenue in the super committee. That's exactly right. That's not the sequester. And they've said - they have,as you know, I said, get somebody from the White House here, and we'll debate.
BLITZER: We invited the White House to send someone here, to debate this issue with you, and they declined.
WOODWARD: Why? Why? Because it's irrefutable; that's exactly what happened. I'm not saying this is a moving of the goalposts that was some criminal act or something like that, I'm just saying, that's –
... BLITZER: You're used to this kind of stuff, but share with our viewers what's going on between you and the White House.
WOODWARD: Well, they're not happy at all, and some people kind of, you know, said, look, we don't see eye to eye on this. They never really said, though - afterwards, they've said that this is factually wrong, and they - and it was said to me in an e-mail by a top –
BLITZER: What was said? Yes.
WOODWARD: It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.
BLITZER: Who sent that e-mail to you?
WOODWARD: Well, I'm not going to say.
BLITZER: Was it a senior person at the White House?
WOODWARD: A very senior person. And just as a matter - I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you're going to regret doing something that you believe in. And even though we don't look at it that way, you do look at it that way. And I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communication's strategy - let's hope it's not a strategy, but it's a tactic that somebody's employed, and said, look, we don't go around trying to say to reporters, if you, in an honest way, present something we don't like, that, you know, you're going to regret this. And just - it's Mickey Mouse.
... BOLDUAN: That line clearly has touched a nerve with folks at the White House. There's no question about that.
Woodward is giving Obama and the White House quite the benefit of the doubt when he says "let's hope it's not a strategy." When have they, the Obama-friendly press, and leftist activists not employed such a strategy?
Establishment press apparatchiks like Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen at the Poltico are already calling Woodward a newly-minted uncomplimentary "unlikely darling of the right wing" when he's nothing of the sort (all he's doing is reiterating the truth as told in his book a year ago, when those truths produced no visible pushback).
The Politico pair had the following information from Woodward yesterday and appear to have held it until 8 p.m. this evening:
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.'"
It will be interesting to see if Woodward's press colleagues allow him to twist in the wind as the administration piles on, or if they visibly rush to his defense. Early betting should be in the former; a search at the Associated Press's national site on Woodward's last name returns nothing relevant.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.