It looks like Bob Woodward is waging war against the White House.
The veteran Washington Post journalist is stirring up a controversy for attacking President Obama over the looming across-the-board spending cuts that will take place on Friday unless Congress can hammer out a deal.
Woodward argued on the Washington Post’s website that the Obama Administration was disingenuously “moving the goal posts” in negotiating with the GOP on the sequester by demanding that revenue be part of a deal to avoid it. The right immediately praised the article, declaring that the cuts must be dealt with only using spending cuts. Critics, of course, have been arguing that it was both parties who voted in favor of putting the sequester into place in 2011.
Then, on Wednesday’s Morning Joe, Woodward declared Obama was showing a “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time” regarding a decision to deploy an aircraft to the Persian Gulf over budget concerns.
“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?” he asked. Woodward has since be criticized for essentially arguing the commander-in-chief should ignore the law he signed and make the GOP cave into budget demands via his office alone.
“Why the president won’t simply ignore a law that he signed strikes me as a particularly crazy brand of what my colleague Matthew Yglesias called “BipartisanThink,” writes Dave Weigel of Slate. ”The 2011 Budget Control Act is very clear: It cuts the appropriations for defense and non-defense discretionary spending over the next 10 years.”
Later that night, he appeared on CNN, telling the network he was threatened by the White House.
“It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this,” Woodward said of a the approach of a senior Obama aide—later identified as Gene Sperling—regarding Woodward’s sequester claims. “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.”
The actual email exchange was published by Politico. In the messages, Sperling is far more polite than Woodward suggested. “I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim,” wrote Sperling. He added, “My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.”
Woodward, in turn, said he doesn’t mind a “little heat” from the White House, and welcomes Sperling’s “personal advice” and “am listening.”
The White House has since issued a statement that “no threat was intended.”
Dems are lashing out at Woodward. Former senior Obama adviser David Plouffe tweeted “Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imaging my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated.”
Lis Smith, former Obama campaign spokesman, wrote “”Woodward deserves a lot of credit for taking a macro story about DC dysfunction, competing econ theories & making it all abt him,” she wrote.
Was Woodward threatened? You decide.