[ UPDATED] It is time to upgrade, or perhaps downgrade is a fairer term, Washington’s sequestration battle to a full-fledged ethics train wreck. This is one that may cause far reaching damage, and anyone, including the White House and the Republicans, who thinks it is predictable or controllable is deluded. You don’t control a train wreck; it controls you, once you are on board. The White House, and thus President Obama, are riding right up front.
Today Watergate-busting journalist Bob Woodward revealed that after he dared to interfere with the White House disinformation campaign—-designed to re-write history and assign Congressional Republicans responsibility for the introducing irresponsible, certifiable and reckless sequester device (voting for it was bad enough)—by writing in a Washington Post column that it was White House staff that initially proposed the gimmick, he was threatened by a senior White House official. “I think you will regret staking out that claim,” the official wrote to him. Woodward told both CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Politico that he regarded the statement as a thinly veiled threat, especially after the same official (now identified as Gene Sperling) had screamed at him over the phone for the cardinal sin of letting the facts interfere with the White House’s public opinion manipulation strategy. Woodward told Politico,
“‘You’ll regret.’ Come on. I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’ ”
Why in the world does Woodward think that? More than four years into Obama’s administration, and Woodward really thinks the President doesn’t control his own staff? Does he really believe that Obama hasn’t set the boundaries and standards? This was a senior staff member, and the President is directly responsible for what he does. I believe using threats backed by White House power is business as usual for this White House. It is also a Chicago political mainstay. I believe that a White House that has the audacity to threaten a revered truth-teller like Bob Woodward has had its confidence bolstered by successfully doing the same to other, lesser, and less courageous reporters. Even with the mainstream media’s disgraceful and unethical bias toward Obama and his policies, this is the only way to explain the media’s negligence, torpor, and lack of diligence in reporting the depths of the Obama administration’s incompetence and dishonesty.
Obama has personally, and un-Presidentially, attacked other media figures who displeased him by name, as well as an entire news network, Fox. This Presidency that was sold to us on the promise of unprecedented transparency and honesty seeks to control the free press with threats, so that the truth about a calculated, coordinated lie–“The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed”—- will never get through to a befuddled, barely attentive public. And, with the exception of Woodward, it is still working. Here is Politico spinning its own story:
“And that contention has made Woodward, once Public Enemy Number One to a generation of Republicans, the unlikely darling of the right wing. Conservatives suddenly swoon over him, with his stepped-up appearances on Fox News and starring role in GOP press releases. And while White House officials are certainly within their rights to yell at any journalist, including Bob Woodward, this very public battle with a Washington legend has become a major distraction at a pivotal moment for the president.”
You see? Ooooo…conservatives like Woodward now; he must be bad and untrustworthy, just like them. Politico can’t bring itself to side with a fellow journalist–White House spank!
Who says White House officials are within their rights to yell at journalists for doing their jobs? As Woodward noted,
“But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years — or ten years’ — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this.’ You know, tremble, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate.”
Of course it’s not the way to operate! It’s an unethical and coercive way to operate. It’s a dictator’s way of operating: force the press to serve you, rather than the public interest. Moreover, the White House deceiving the public and threatening a legendary reporter for exposing its lie isn’t a “distraction.” Politico minimizes the significance of the incident as if it was a flat tire or a case of the hiccups. This is the story:
- First, there is the calculated lie that the news media allows to take root.
- Then President and a White House communications apparatus that have habitually misled the public, ducked accountability for failures and mistakes, and are exposed by a journalist who can’t be dismissed as biased.
- Next, the response of the White House to that journalist, after it can’t bully him into doing its’ bidding, is, in essence, ‘You’ll be sorry.’
That’s no “distraction.” That’s a symptom of a breakdown in leadership and democratic institutions. There is a reason why Bob Woodward is alarmed.
He’s seen this before.
Pointer: Mark Levin