Last week we learned that a White House official got into an argument with Bob Woodward. Woodward is the biggest name in Washington journalism; he has survived seven Administrations (counting the one he helped take down with his Watergate reporting), and will probably continue to publish bestsellers into the Tripp Palin Administration.
Nonetheless rightbloggers rushed to defend Woodward — many for the first time in their lives — and to assert that this argument meant Obama was at war with the press (with whom he is usually in bed) and a tyrant.
Woodward had asserted in his latest book The Price of Politics and in the Washington Post that the sequester was mostly Obama’s fault, an arguable conclusion which the White House understandably disputed — via a White House figure eventually revealed to be NEC Director Gene Sperling, strongly and to Woodward’s face.
This led to an exchange of emails of which Woodward publicly complained. Quoting from Sperling’s email, “I think you will regret staking out that claim,” Woodward professed concern that some “young reporter” would someday get such an email from the Obama people and “tremble, tremble.”
“Nixon’s enemies list, anyone?” said For What It’s Worth. “Hey, Bob, you can’t say we didn’t warn you,” said J. Christian Adams of PJ Media under the headline “All The President’s Thugs.” “We knew this White House was capable of attacking even the great Bob Woodward for telling the truth.” “They are thugs,” gasped Patterico. “In the typical Alinsky fashion” — Alinsky! Drink! — “the full weight of the Obama-Chicago Machine is now specifically directed at author Bob Woodward,” said Conservative Treehouse, and ran pictures of Michelle Obama looking mad.
“When they say ‘You’ll regret this,’ they are not speaking abstractly,” intoned Ace of Spades. “They have a plan they put into place when someone reports something they don’t like.” In case you wondered what he meant, he added, “The penny-ante leukocytes, the no-account Warrior Cells of the liberal governmental-media Hive-Body have surrounded the impurity in the system and are in the process of destroying it,” perhaps in their underwater lair.
Yid With Lid claimed that “in a way Bob Woodward was one of the first ‘Bloggers'” — oh, wouldn’t we like to see Woodward’s reaction to that honorific — “…that’s why we would like him to join us at the #1 gathering of Center-right Bloggers EVER. Mr. Woodward–Won’t You Join Us?” No word yet on whether Woodward got back to him.
Washington Post rightblogger Jennifer Rubin went ballistic. “First, [Obama] has a nasty habit of making stuff up,” she said. “Now that he is sending out his Cabinet officials to scare the public he finally is being called on it… the president risks not only losing the sequester battle but also going from halo-crowned messiah to nasty bully in the eyes of at least some in the media and, more important, in the view of the country.” After all, added Rubin, Obama “got only 51 percent of the vote,” and could easily be toppled by the highly popular Republicans.
As leftbloggers were openly mocking Woodward, the story became the complicity of the hated media in bringing down Liberty’s best friend.
Scott Whitlock of the Media Research Center complained that “The Today show on Thursday allowed a scant 16 seconds, out of a possible four hours, to the claim by veteran journalist Bob Woodward that the Obama White House is trying to intimidate him and attack his coverage of the sequester cuts,” forgetting that Today could have stretched this important story over several days, so it’s really forty hours unfairly undelegated at least.
“Woodwardgate: Media Gang-Tackle Iconic Journalist to Save Obama,” hollered Breitbart.com. This was followed by several sputtering paragraphs that accused “the mainstream media” of being “too busy defending President Obama to defend the American people – or even their fellow members of the press – from Obama’s thug White House.” (Elsewhere at Breitbart.com: “Cult of Obama: List of Journalists Throwing Woodward Under Bus.”)
While admitting that “Sperling’s ‘threat’ (if you can call it that) ranks a bit low on the things-to-be-worried-about totem pole,” Matt Welch of Reason thought the real headline story was “Planet Liberalism Turned on Bob Woodward.”
When David Plouffe tweeted that “Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again,” Bryan Preston of the PJ Tatler said “Plouffe’s ageist attack on Woodward… shocked some Beltway veterans,” citing as evidence a tweet in which Chris Cillizza reacted, “WOW.”
An enraged Aaron Goldstein at The American Spectator wrote, “From what I’ve seen, Schmitty is a fairly active 63-year old. He’s been at Phillies spring training camp in Clearwater, Florida helping Ryan Howard. Long story short, I think Michael Jack Schmidt can still hit a few over the fence. I’d like to see Plouffe try to throw a few batting practice pitches to Schmidt. And after Schmidt goes deep then Woodward can step into the batter’s box and take a few swings at Plouffe.” Then he could bean him! Wouldn’t that be cool?
Some rightbloggers concatenated the Woodward incident with other signs that Obama is Hitler. For instance, Obama had been asked “Couldn’t you just have them down here and refuse to let GOP leaders leave the room?” regarding the sequestration, and answered, “I am not a dictator.” This plus Woodward they took as proof that Obama is a dictator.
“There is no shortage of irony in the president proclaiming ‘I am not a dictator’ at the end of the week when the White House cry was seemingly: ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent reporter?'” cried Da Tech Guy. “IT’S NOT ‘MADNESS’ BOB WOODWARD, IT’S WHAT DICTATORS DO,” wrote M. Catharine Evans.
At Renew America, Sher Zieve listed the Woodward incident among Obama’s many Nazi offenses (“Obama is currently following Hitler’s plan toward gun confiscation to the proverbial ‘t.’ Hitler began with nationwide gun registration in Germany…”) and concluded, “many seem to think we are – still – only approaching a dictatorship. No. We are there, folks.”
On February 28, Politico ran the email correspondence between Woodward and Gene Sperling, which seemed much more collegial than what Woodward had portrayed. “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,” said Sperling; “You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them… I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob,” replied Woodward.
Some rightbloggers begged off the crusade. “Clearly not a veiled threat of retaliation, but rather a warning that the reporter was about to get the story wrong,” wrote Matt K. Lewis at the Daily Caller. “Looks like we were played.” Ditto RedState’s Erick Erickson, the Washington Examiner‘s Byron York, and others. Even Woodward said, well, he never actually used the word “threat.”
In light of that, some rightbloggers updated their original belligerent posts in amusing ways.
“UPDATE,” hastened Jennifer Rubin, “The full e-mails reveal less bullying and far more pomposity, suggesting the White House would have its critic’s best interest at heart.” After headlining “Woodward Claims White House Threat,” Ross Kaminsky of The American Spectator updated, “the details of the e-mails at issue in this story make Woodward’s claim of being threatened seem overstated,” but “when you have a Chicago thugocracy, it’s not surprising that more stories of threats start to percolate out, such as from former Clinton aide Lanny Davis…”
But for many rightbloggers, this didn’t matter at all. In fact it only increased their outrage. “Attack the messenger and nitpick what ‘you will regret’ means to stifle his message that Obama has told two whoppers about the sequester,” thundered William A. Jacobson of Legal Insurrection.
Craige McMillan of WorldNetDaily predicted horrible consequences for Woodward from Obama’s “Chicago machine”: “On a personal level,” he said, flashlight under his chin, “dinner and cocktail party invitations will dry up.” Also, there would be “more critical articles.”
Worse, McMillan implied, Woodward’s newspaper articles would be memory-holed: “Regarding Woodward’s archives, I would expect his employer to assert ownership, on the basis of his employment and ‘work for hire’ in the copyright law,” said McMillan. “Given his age (and its influence on habits), he is unlikely to have copies stored elsewhere. He may well lose access to his own archives.” Great God, he’s right — it’s already happened to Josh Trevino!
The Anchoress wrote a post called “Taking Down Benedict; Taking Down Woodward,” which compared some nuns’ removal of “Benedict’s picture from their walls at the moment of sede vacante” with “the Woodward take-down,” also described as “mediafolk eating their own to protect their presidential squeeze-toy.” Along with this pureed metaphor, The Anchoress offered the observation that “perhaps yesterday was a day when butterflies flapped their wings, and fomented distant calamities.” Maybe Obama will hijack the Papacy.
While some rightbloggers hashtagged the world that they #StandWithWoodward (“‘Dick Morris: Bob Woodward Wasn’t Exaggerating Threat’… #StandWithWoodward,” tweeted Kendal Black — well, that’s going to change some minds), others wanted us to know that, truth be told, they never liked the guy.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner at the Washington Times told us, “I don’t care for Mr. Woodward,” because he brought down the sainted Richard Nixon “for one reason: [He and Carl Bernstein] despised his politics,” and also because Woodward “was willing to turn a blind eye to Mr. Clinton’s numerous scandals…” Despite this history of evil, Kuhner affected to believe that Woodward turned on the “socialist autocrat” Obama because “he realizes that the president is an inept narcissist who is out of his depth” and wants to save America from him. Complicated man, that Woodward.
A disgusted Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media got mad at Woodward for being “an Obama appeaser,” because the leaked emails showed him being chummy with Sperling. “Can you imagine famed Watergate reporter Woodward referring to Nixon Administration officials in such friendly terms?” snarled Kincaid. “This exchange has all the earmarks of a ‘journalist’ who, rather than being threatened, is being fed a line by the Obama White House and wants more of it… Sadly, it is all too typical of how the liberal media do Obama’s bidding.”
Both victim and collaborator — why, it’s positively Soviet. Kincaid fleshed this assertion out at length with accounts of how “Obama supporters and Internet ‘trolls’ have sanitized” the Wikipedia page on Frank Marshall Davis “in order to eliminate any hint that Obama’s Marxist policies are being driven by the relationship he had for almost 10 years with a Communist Party operative under surveillance by the FBI.” Also, Davis was “a Communist, pornographer, a pedophile, heavy drinker and dope smoker… His influence on Obama helps explain his policies as President.” See how it all ties together?
The Right Scoop went even further: though “Bob Woodward says that he never called the language in the email a threat against him,” Bob Woodward was wrong, because The Right Scoop found it “pretty much a threat in my book.”
On Sunday, Woodward was inviting Obama and Sperling over to his house, but by then it was clear that rightbloggers had already added the Woodward incident to their permanent collection of Obama grievances.
At the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker had a fascinating angle: Parker wrote, “Americans increasingly dislike the so-called mainstream media, sometimes for good reason,” she wrote. So far so what — but then: “Distrust of media, encouraged by alternative media seeking to enhance their own standing, has become a tool useful to the very powers the Fourth Estate was constitutionally endowed to monitor. When the president can bypass reporters to reach the public, it is not far-fetched to imagine a time — perhaps now? — when the state controls the message.”
Wait — so, now the President can bypass the liberal media, and use blogs and Twitter to reach the American people? This seems like a rightblogger wet dream — from about, oh, 2000-2008.
At Hot Air, Jazz Shaw amplified: While originally, “bloggers and other non-establishment entities stepped in to watch the watchers so to speak,” over time “blogging quickly devolved into competing camps who almost exclusively challenged the media on the other side of the fence rather than scoring any points for transparency in government.” Wow! Have any of you guys heard about this?
For Shaw this meant that “state influence over the media remains a danger, just as the Founders knew it could be when they drafted the Bill of Rights.” To William A. Jacobson, it meant one of the great non-sequiturs of our time: “The press itself has become the greatest threat to freedom of the press.”
To us, it means that rightbloggers’ most reliable skill is turning the tiniest burp of news into the Rise of the Third Reich. Too bad for them that, at the moment, it’s not really a paying skill.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 3, 2013