There has been much talk lately about the supposed conflict between Bob Woodward, the journalist made famous for his key role in reporting the Watergate scandal of the Nixon administration, and Gene Sperling, current director of the Nation Economic Council of the Obama administration. The story was first slanted by the news outlet Politico, writing in their boldly titled article “Woodward at War” that the economic advisor told Woodward via email that he would ‘regret’ his claims that the Obama administration had been propping up the highly controversial economic sequester, and even of propagating it in the first place.
However, though Sperling did in fact use the word regret, it was not in a threatening context and this has simply been yet another case of belligerent journalism gone viral. Politico originally snipped out the rest of the sentence, which has since been released in full.
“I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim,” doesn’t sound like embittered war-speech. At the most it might be construed as patronizing and contrived, but threatening? The White House found these accusations to be capricious, saying that “The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more.” As for Woodward himself, he claims that his words were misconstrued. However, he adds that when someone from the White House says “‘you’ll regret something,’ they can use their power any way they want. It’s a tone question… I’ve been dealing with White House people going back to the Nixon years. They called us every name in the book. [This] just strikes me as not a way to deal with this. It makes me uncomfortable.”
So I reread the email.
Then I reread it again. And I walked away with a mixed impression. To be true, the head economic advisor of the Obama administration comes across in his message as little more than a teenage girl playing student-body government, with the snarkily mocking tongue-in-cheek language that can be expected from such. But to respond with fear? To play up this fear in interviews with Politico and CNN and whomever might accept his words?
This entire chain reaction of over-excited reporters makes me feel tired. After the calm, regal way he repelled the waves of slander and opposition that resulted from his publishing of the Watergate scandal pushed him to the ranks of journalist jedi-dom, it’s unnerving to see Woodward speak with what appears to be thinly veiled fear. Rather, I’m suggesting that Bob Woodward, the reporter who shakes countries with hard facts, the champion of truth, and a crusader for journalists across America, has fallen into the sweet lure of knee-jerk journalism.
Yes, fame is a hard drug to quit, and it appears as though Woodward has no trouble playing along for another five minute fix. This is the first time I’ve heard Woodward’s name since my high school’s American history class, and frankly I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed that I cannot present another black and white case of political corruption against the purveyors of free speech, but there is simply nothing here but speculation and plain tomfoolery.