As president, Johnson found that his famous intimidation “treatment” — so effective in one-on-one interactions in the Senate — did not work through the medium of television. It also turned off reporters, but that did not stop him from trying it on them. Johnson would often call and berate senior network executives in response to critical stories, sometimes even challenging their patriotism. …

But in the battle between Nixon and the news media, we all know who won. (Ask Woodward.)

After Johnson and Nixon, most White House communications offices got the message that a hardball approach with the press could often backfire. …

It may be too much to say that the Obama White House is bringing back the Johnson and Nixon playbook. And Woodward, in particular, has received enormous access to top officials of this White House. But it would not surprise me if the Obama team’s other efforts at intimidation, rather than the specifics of the Sperling e-mail, inspired Woodward to make the “regret” incident public. As Woodward well knows, attempts to intimidate the press are not unprecedented — and are rarely wise.