Noteworthy, although I’m not sure which way it cuts. Younger reporters were tweeting last night that they get angry e-mails from political flacks all the time and that it’s no big deal, which is a nifty way to humblebrag about how they’ve upset Power by speaking Truth while also serving the liberal cause du jour of discrediting Bob Woodward. (Some serve more bravely than others.) Is that what David Jackson means here, that Woodward’s blowing routine White House grumpiness out of all proportion? Or that Woodward’s right and that veiled White House threats are more common than you’d think?
In a statement, the White House said that “of course no threat was intended. As Mr. Woodward noted, the email from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide’s email in a friendly manner.”
All we can say is: We know more than a few reporters have received similar e-mails from White House officials. Yelling has also been known to happen.
Tension between presidents, presidential aides, and the people who cover them is inherent and has been around as the government itself.
Just as I’m writing this, Politico’s posted what’s alleged to be the full e-mail exchange between Woodward and Sperling, no doubt courtesy of a leak from the latter’s office. Quote:
From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013
I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.
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. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)
I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.
My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
Follow the link for Woodward’s supposed reply, which is also conciliatory and even has him saying “You do not ever have to apologize to me” and “I for one welcome a little heat.” Here’s how Woodward himself quoted the e-mail to Politico in their interview yesterday:
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.
The fact that the “threat” came in the context of an apology seemed unusual even last night; as it is, if the leaked e-mail is accurate, Sperling actually apologized three separate times for getting loud and prefaced the “regret” part with “as a friend.” If he’s threatening him, rather than simply trying to steer him away from a wrong/unhelpful claim, it’s a threat so veiled I can’t see it. But stay tuned; Woodward’s set to appear on Hannity’s show tonight to address this, assuming he doesn’t so so elsewhere earlier in the day.