Bob Woodward goes where the wild things are!


How will the children react: Last evening, Bob Woodward went on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. While there, Woodward proceeded to play the fool—and to do a few things which were worse.

After a lengthy, largely pointless discussion of antique understandings about the sequester, Woodward went where the wild things are. Blitzer initiated the exchange—but Woodward was eager to follow.

Below, you see the passage in question. Woodward makes no attempt to debunk or deny Blitzer’s claim that “it's getting pretty nasty” over at the White House:
BLITZER (2/27/13): It's getting pretty nasty. Take us behind the scenes a little bit, the allegations being hurled against you right now.

WOODWARD: Well, I mean—

BLITZER: You're used to this kind of stuff, but—


BLITZER: Share with our viewers what's going on between you and the White House.

WOODWARD: Well, they're— 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, what was said?

WOODWARD: It was, 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 it's—

I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communications strategy—let's hope it's not a strategy, that 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.
It’s hard to make out what Woodward is saying in that last garbled passage. This isn’t the clearest of minds. (To watch this full exchange, just click here.)

But as he spoke with Blitzer, Woodward helped advance the dark suggestions first presented by Allen and Vandehei at Politico. On Tuesday, the boys interviewed Woodward for a good solid hour. (They even got to visit his house!) They came away with the idea that Woodward felt he had received “a veiled threat” from the White House.

To read their report, click here. That's where this bullshit started.

According to Politico, Woodward thought he'd received a threat! And as of this very moment, that’s the way CNN is playing Blitzer’s interview. The headline on CNN’s web site says this: “Bob Woodward says he was threatened by White House.” (As we post, we see that CNN has now walked that headline back.)

Was Woodward threatened by the White House? Did he receive a “veiled threat?” The claim is beyond absurd. In response to Woodward’s allegations, the White House released the e-mails in question—and no, they don’t include a threat, or anything mildly like that. (To read the e-mails in question, click here.)

Woodward swapped e-mails with Gene Sperling, a most mild-mannered fellow. Not only was Sperling’s e-mail to Woodward innocuous (although he apologized for raising his voice in a previous dispute). In real time, Woodward replied to Sperling’s allegedly threatening e-mail.

How badly threatened did Woodward feel? When he replied to Sperling's e-mail, this is what he said:
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today.

Best, Bob
In real time, that was Woodward’s response to the allegedly threatening e-mail. But so what! Three days later, he was sitting with the Politico 2, giving them the thrilling impression that he had felt threatened. He continued this nonsense with Blitzer last night, quoting one piece of Sperling's e-mail completely out of context.

This is very ugly stuff—ugly, stupid, inane, bizarre. Our question to you is this: How will the children react?

You know? Our mandarin climbers?

From his spot at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent has already offered a tortured attempt to say that Woodward might not have meant what they’re saying he said. But here’s the ultimate question:

Will Rachel Maddow address this topic tonight? In our view, Maddow has typically played her viewers for fools in such matters, pretending to challenge “the Beltway media” while persistently refusing to name or challenge any famous media players. In truth, Maddow has persistently feathered her nest by kissing the asses of big major players like Woodward.

What is Ezra going to say, especially if he guest-hosts? Where will Dylan Matthews come down? And what will you be hearing from Rachel? Steve Benen has already filed this lengthy post at Maddowblog. But will his boss speak up?

Intelligent liberals shouldn’t trust our mandarin climbers; we should persistently challenge them. This ridiculous incident gives us a chance to see what the children are made of.


  1. "How will the children react?"

    Bob, you left out Megan.

    1. Finally, Bob names names: Greg Sargent, Rachel Maddow, Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, Rachel Maddow again, Steve Benen, and Rachel Maddow.

      Now how well do they fit this nebulous, ever-shifting definition of "mandarin" as proposed by the great Megan McArdle?

      Bob, wake up! You are being played by a Koch brothers propagandist.

    2. Greg, the transcript from the Blitzer conversation is right on this very page and it isn't unclear at all. *WOODWARD: It was, it was said very clearly, "You will regret doing this."* And then, moments later, *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 it's—*

      I don't see how that could be easier to understand and it is not credible once you read the actual emails. Bob's article is spot on and Woodward, well, I haven't given him much credit for integrity in a long time. I don't expect Redford to play him in any movies about his later years.

    3. Steve Benen was born the same year as McArdle (as was Maddow). Benen's BA degree is from Florida International. Not known as a posh institution. And then Benen worked for his dad....oops, no, he worked for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. That doesn't sound mandarin...

      To me, mandarin class would be more like if your father were a Fed governor and your mother was a scholar at the Brookings Institution while you went to fancy private schools. And then you were a foreign policy adviser to a major presidential campaign at age 23...did I mention that you had a Secretary of State as a family friend? Now that would be a "mandarin," once you get the Rhodes Scholarship anyway.

    4. Wouldn't the son of a Tennessee U.S. Senator who attended private schools then Harvard, and then got elected to his first office when his famous name certainly didn't hurt also qualify as a "mandarin"?

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  3. Bob, Greg here. I was not trying to defend Woodward; I was merely to clarify what it is he actually said. He never used the word "threat." Politico did.

    1. Greg, I'm not Bob, but EVERYWHERE I have heard this story, it's been "White House Threatens Woodward." Go find the "Morning Joe" discussion on it, as well as the Blitzer interview.

      No, Woodward didn't use the word "threat," but as Bob points out, he certainly used "you will regret doing this".

      Now what did Woodward actually say again? To quote the passages Somerby highlighted:

      "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,"

    2. Too late Greg.

      You are already labeled a "mandarin."

    3. Woodward's response was "overwrought" (your word) but your explanation is as Bob describes "tortured"

    4. Anonymous, Woodward has since come out and said he never called it a threat.

      All I'm saying is that I don't know what Woodward meant, and I don't believe anyone else does, either. There are two credible interpretations. Either one is supported by his words.

    5. So if Woodward says so, it MUST be true.

      Benen has it right. Woodward wrote a grossly inaccurate op-ed, got called on it, then immediately pimped this fable of the angry "you will regret this" phone call to Politico, where it spread throughout the echo chamber.

      And he then doubled down on it to Blitzer.

      As much as you want to change this into some sort of relativism game, there are not "two credible interpretations" to this. The record is clear, right before you, and easy to read.

    6. Oh, Greg. Please.

      Don't fall back on the old, tired "there are two credible interpretations" dodge.

      Next thing you know, you'll be working with McArdle for the Kochs denying global warming.

    7. If Greg doesn't know what Woodward meant, whose fault is that?
      How many more interviews does Woodward have to give here for Greg to understand what he meant?
      If it's not about Woodward suggesting that the White House threatened him, what exactly has he been grandstanding about?
      Exactly when did the White House tell reporters "You're going to regret doing something you believe in" as Woodward contends?
      Greg: don't diminish yourself by providing cover for this kind of nonsense.

    8. If Greg doesn't know what Woodward meant, he is the only person playing dumb.

  4. The confused portion quoted by Bob Somerby was meant by Woodward to say that Obama himself wasn't behind the bad behavior at the White House, as I read it.

    I think the words were a threat. This White House has already punished news people who report in ways it doesn't like. E.g., excluded Fox News from certain calls and meetings that other news organizations were invited to.

    Maybe the words "You're going to regret this" were a warning, rather than a threat. If so, the warning was accurate. Various liberals attacked Woodward after this contretemps became public. Also, similar warnings or threats were made to other reporters who displeased the Obama Administration. E.g., see , ,

    It seems that the Obama Administration is copying the Nixon Administration.

    1. David, for once in your life, do some homework and actually read the e-mails in question.

      Somerby has even provided a link that you should be able to manage.

      You will quickly find that what Sperling actually wrote, in contrast to what your right-wing handlers are telling you, can in no way be even stretched into a "threat" or even a "warning."

    2. "Various liberals attacked Woodward after this contretemps became public."

      You've got your head so far up your Clavin that the only things you can see are vodkapundit, the note, breitbart, and pj media.

      This was no mishap and it didn't magically become public: hacktard Woodward and hacktards Allen and VanderHei put this bulls**t out there to attack the administration on the eve of sequester.

      You might want to actually read Somerby's post before shooting from the anus.

    3. Good lordy, Woodward even invited Allen and VanderHei to his home to spin this fable around his storied dining room table.

      No, this story did not happen by accident. Woodward planted it to take the heat off the horribly inaccurate and unsubstantiated op-ed he wrote.

  5. Woodward is obviously suffereing Relevance Deprivation Syndrome. It's a long time since I thought anything he said was important. Is it too hard to tell a celebrity journalist to please just get out of the way?

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  7. Quaker in a BasementFebruary 28, 2013 at 8:29 PM

    That has Woodward upset? Sheesh. Does he wet himself every time he hears a car backfire?

    1. What has Woodward upset is that he wrote a terrible op-ed, and was attacked for it. People have been kissing his ass for decades, he's getting a little heat for pretty much the first time in his adult life, and he didn't react well. The "threat" stuff, whining to Politico, was one Washington insider running to other Washington insiders (ex Posties, like Woodward, of course) to bail him out, and they delivered, to the extent they were able, but the world is changing under their feet, and such bailouts aren't worth as much as once they were.

      Bob is watching this with kind of a cynical eye, but I'm enjoying it, because it shows the degree to which the value of "Mandarin" status is decaying. There was a time, and it was only a few years ago, when no one would have dared push back against a figure like Woodward when he said stupid shit (about a Democrat, of course, the right pushes back against everything).

    2. I have no idea where Bob is going with this. Is Woodward part of the "mandarin" class as described by his latest savant, Megan McArdle?

      I don't think so.

      And also, in this Information Age, isn't it interesting how quick Woodward got his fable out, and how quickly it was debunked?

  8. Let me see if I got the timeline right:

    Woodward writes a bad op-ed that is quickly debunked as nonsense.

    As the heat builds, he invites two Politico reporters to his home to spin this tale of a high-level administration official telling him he will "regret" the story if published. The reporters leave his home with the unmistakeable impression that Woodward is claiming the White House threatened him, and that is the story they print.

    It reaches the echo chamber, and Woodward hits the gabfest circuit where he doubles down with everyone from Joe Scarborough to Wolf Blitzer to Sean Hannity.

    The White House releases the e-mails in question, which clearly show that no "threat" was made or intended. In fact, the e-mail exchange is quite cordial.

    With another story blowing up in his face, Woodward now claims he never used the word "threat," thus everybody who got that "impression" is badly mistaken.

    And Greg Sargent buys it.

    1. I am embarrassed for Greg Sargent.

      Mr. Sargent, it's too late for Woodward to salvage his credibility, but it's not too late for you.

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