February 28th, 2013

If only Obama knew

The Woodward/WhiteHouse war of words continues with this Woodward claim:

Bob Woodward said this evening on CNN that a “very senior person” at the White House warned him in an email that he would “regret doing this,” the same day he has continued to slam President Barack Obama over the looming forced cuts known as the sequester.

As soon as I read this latest installment, I thought of the old saying “if only Stalin knew.” If you’re not familiar with the phrase, here’s a quick summary of what it was about:

Surprisingly, many Soviet citizens did not realize who was responsible for the madness [the purges and terrors], thinking it was due to some breakdown in the system or officials who had gone off the deep end. People would say: “If only Stalin knew!” Sometimes concerned citizens would even try to write Stalin with complaints, an action that was likely to prove a grave mistake. Stalin often scribbled comments on documents and letters that went across his desk; when he received pleas from citizens in desperate distress, he would scrawl mocking or contemptuous remarks on them — and often order the arrest of the authors.

No, the White House official wasn’t threatening to send Bob Woodward to the Gulag—at least not the real one. But a metaphorical one will do quite nicely. Meanwhile Obama maintains plausible deniability, keeping himself removed from the dirty work that continually swirls around him, and of which Bob Woodward is hardly the only recipient. He just may be the one who’s talking about it.

But it’s been clear to me that Woodward doesn’t really know the character of the man and the White House he’s dealing with, although he’s playing catch-up mighty quick. But he still says things like these, which show a lack of understanding (to which he admits):

[Woodward] clearly is skeptical of Obama’s approach to the job. “I’m not sure he fully understands the power he has,” Woodward said. “He sees that the power is the public megaphone going around to these campaign-like events, which is real, but the audience he needs to deal with is on this issue of the sequester and these budget issues is John Boehner and Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi.”…

“Sit down and work through this,” he said. “I can see exactly how you come up with a deal that would dispose of lots of things.” Woodward, who helped bring down one presidency and has written instant history on every one since, added: “Color me a little baffled. I don’t understand this White House. Do you?”

It’s not that complicated, really. For example, yes, Obama fully and completely understands the power he has. He also intends to use it (and has been using it, finely calibrated so as not to make the frog jump out of the boiling water) to fundamentally transform the US, and he’s not going to let an old has-been and somewhat naive reporter get in his way.

It would help if Woodward understood that the main goal of most of the previous administrations on big issues—although they were interested in power, of course, and winning—was not to obliterate the other side, but to actually work with them on at least some of the problems that faced the nation, in order to benefit the nation. But this is not Obama’s goal, so why should it happen?

Woodward does not understand this. I’m not even sure it’s occurred to him; the thought is too dreadful. That’s why, in my mind, when I first heard about this but had not yet read the Politico piece, I thought of those naive Soviet citizens who could not believe that Stalin would authorize the sort of things going on in the Soviet Union, and wanted to tell him so he could set it straight. I could just picture Woodward saying to himself, “Oh, if only Obama knew.”

But I was joking. At least, I thought I was—until I got around to reading the Politico article. Because there I discovered that I wasn’t far from the truth:

Come on,” [Woodward] said. “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.’”

Holy cow.

[NOTE: I didn’t read this Henninger article from the WSJ until after I’d written the above post, but look how well it fits, although it’s not even about Woodward:

Mr. Obama likes to convey the impression that he doesn’t think or do business like other presidents. It’s time to take him at his word. If Washington is starting to look like an alternative universe, that’s because the president is creating an alternative universe, the Obamaian Universe…

He doesn’t want to cut spending. He wants more of it. Forever. Public spending is beyond ideology for Barack Obama. It’s the oxygen in his universe.

This explains Mr. Obama’s End-of-Days speeches the past week. Rationalists around Washington’s professional budgeting community have been trying to explain that this apocalypse is entirely avoidable. The bureaucracies can move spending under many shells. But Mr. Obama really believes the stars will fall from the sky if spending declines.

In Washington’s standard model, it’s all just politics. Mr. Obama is running an established strategy of driving public opinion to marginalize and ultimately defeat Republicans. Who could doubt it? But maybe it is also time to start taking Barack Obama at his word. Maybe it’s time to come to grips with the fact that he sees the public economy of federal spending as the life force of the nation as no president ever has, not even Franklin Roosevelt.

If after all these years no one in Washington can cut a deal with Barack Obama on spending, taxes and economic growth, maybe it’s because he is in a place indeed occupied by no one else.]

[ADDENDUM: Comment seen at Althouse:

I’m afraid Woodward is suffering under the delusion that truth still matters.
He couldn’t be more wrong.


[ADDENDUM II: I just noticed that Glenn Reynolds had the same thought as I, only he phrased it in its older version, “If only the Tsar knew.”


[ADDENDUM III: Actually, come to think of it, I think Obama would have chastised the aide who’d sent the email to Woodward. Obama would have said the aide should never make such statements in an email when a phone call would have done just as well and not left any evidence behind. Sloppy.]

[ADDENDUM IV: Excellent stuff from Ace.]

33 Responses to “If only Obama knew”

  1. George Pal Says:

    Kudos and commendations for the first Stalin-Obama correlation.

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    George Pal: the first? Hardly. I first used the “if only Obama knew” comparison long ago.

    It’s really more about the mindset of Stalin’s supporters and Obama’s supporters than Obama himself, who is not shooting and torturing the political opposition. But he doesn’t need to.

    Would he if he needed to? Let’s hope we don’t find out.

  3. DirtyJobsGuy Says:

    I’m sure Woodward knows Obama knew and is letting him know it. THis is more about letting the President know that he is not really in charge at some level. While the 20 something Twitter reporters just want to bask in the sun, O’l Bob is reminding Barack that he can break Presidents if required.

  4. Harry the Extremist Says:

    Interesting to note how the left is rushing to denounce Woodward now that he’s on Obama’s enemies list. Now Woodward is a washed out has-been who’s just looking for attention.

  5. Harry the Extremist Says:

    On the other hand, perhaps Bob IS looking for attention:

  6. neo-neocon Says:

    Harry the Extremist: I don’t doubt that Woodward is looking for attention.

    But I don’t agree with that article. The context was that the guy who wrote the email had just unloaded in anger on Woodward in a phone call. Plus, this is a pattern (war on Fox, other journalists coming forward, etc.).

    Read the comments to the post you linked for more, but there’s lots and lots around the blogosphere.

    Plus “you will regret” is not the way a normal person would say it. That would be “I think you are mistaken and you’ll come to see that.” “You will regret” is a very strange way to put it, especially emanating from a White House aide who had just chewed you out.

  7. southpaw Says:

    You nailed it perfectly. Unfortunately, so did David Pluff — Bob is an old geezer. I hate to say it, but I think you are half right. Most of Bob’s life, his cynacism as a jounalist was directed at the political right.
    The reaction he has had – to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, suggests he might not have dug so deep into Watergate had Nixon been a democrat. His instinct is clearly to believe that Obama is a man of virtue and he’s surrouned by scoundrels. His instinct and perhaps own vanity are causing him to believe that little Barack just needs some guidance about the proper use of presidential power from the wise old men around Washington. I believe he truly is baffled — this administration is not the virtuous image of the intellectual progressive left he has long believed himself a part; it’s a corrupt, power hungry, paranoid bunch who make Nixon’s guys look responsible and weak.
    And he genuinely can’t understand why Obama and his team aren’t interested in governing for the overall good, but will risk national security, release criminals into the general population, and use any tactic necessary to make political points. He’s out of his league, but I hope you’re right and he’s learning fast. We shall see if the rest of the MSM has his back, or ostracizes him. I’m betting on the latter.

  8. neo-neocon Says:

    southpaw: they will ostracize him. They are already doing so.

    That’s part of the reason he will “regret” it.

    Or maybe he’s sick of cocktail parties :-).

  9. parker Says:

    I agree Woodward does not yet realize the true nature of BHO, but he’s a bright man and may come to see the truth. A few others, such as Lanny Davis are also beginning to smell the coffee. I hope the hounds of the MSM keep baying at Woodward for he will push back.


    She is grates on the sensibilities, but stick around until 1:10 to ‘learn’ the impact sequestration will have on unemployment. 😉

    “Stupid is as stupid does.”

  10. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    When you assume that Obama has the best interests of the country at heart, then what he is doing doesn’t make any sense.

    Here’s my take. Obama wants the sequester to happen. But he’s going around the country proclaiming he doesn’t want it to happen because it will devastate government services that people depend on. His objective is to be sure that the “obstructionist” Republicans are blamed. My guess is that he is even hoping the sequester will tip the country into another recession, which can then be blamed on the Republicans. In other words, he is prepping the battlespace for the 2014 elections. If many services are cut back in 2013 and the country is in a recession caused by “the Republican’s desire to protect the wealthy,” will it not make it easier for the Democrats to win offices in the House and Senate come 2014.

    I know, it sounds too cynical to be true. Not to me.

  11. George Pal Says:


    I wasn’t aware of the linked post but it makes the correlation that much more insightful by way of prescience. Though O hasn’t shot or tortured the opposition he has set the precedent (I think) of being the first Pres to order the execution (by drone) of a US citizen without trial. I’d assume supporters of O would think that the start of an omelette.

  12. Lizzy Says:

    “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.’”

    At first I thought this was naivete, but it could also be a sly way for Woodward to publicly give Obama the chance to swoop in and apologize for Sperling’s treatment of Woodward’s treatment. Sorta like when a customer service rep mistreats a customer, and once the supervisor takes over the aggrieved customer says something, “I know it must not be your policy to do X, right? So how are YOU going to address my complaint?”

  13. Dr. Mabuse Says:

    Stalin, the Tsar…let’s not forget the other one: “If only the Fuehrer knew!” And now Obama. Hmm, what on earth could link individuals of such different eras and cultures?

  14. mizpants Says:

    I agree with Lizzy and DirtyJobsGuy. Woodward is not naive. He and Sperling are talking in a kind of Washington Mafia code in those emails, embedding their true meanings.
    I’m not a cynic by nature, but I’m learning. You have to be a Kremlinologist to even guess at what’s going on with the O administration. My question is: was it ever thus? I mean, were all administrations corrupt, and Obama’s just more so, or more blatantly so? Or is this something new in the world?
    My late father-in-law used to say, in his heavy Old World accent: “All is swindle.”

  15. southpaw Says:

    Neo – you have a point — at 68 or whatever he is, the parties are probably getting old anyway. From here on out, it’s just a long steady decline into senility and his own conservative blog. 🙂
    Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the WH starts a rumor that Alzheimers might be a reason he’s confused about the facts….then they discredit him with words of kindness and understanding about his unfortunate and tragic demise.

  16. parker Says:

    “were all administrations corrupt, and Obama’s just more so, or more blatantly so? Or is this something new in the world?”

    IMO all administrations have had a degree of corruption. There has always been, over the years, too much cash sloshing around in DC and plenty of schemers dealing under the table. The BHO administration is operating per Chicago standards where corruption is the rule, not the exception.

    Its not something new, but it is blatant and on a grand scale. The price of pardons come 12/16 will be astronomical.

  17. Snackeater Says:

    How could anyone be stupid enough to put that in an email? Well, they aren’t. Because it’s just another in a long line of distractions, and it’s serving it’s intended purpose–no one’s talking about the economy, are they?

  18. Ymarsakar Says:

    Obviously a member of the Left thought that what he did to others, could not be done to him by the Left. Oh no, that’s not so.

  19. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Its not a matter of naivete with Woodward. It’s a matter of holding on to his beliefs, his world view and what Obama represents to him personally and really, to every typical liberal. As obscene as the thought surely is, think Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln for a comparable mythos.

    Obama is the ‘great black hope’, not just to blacks but to white liberals. To them, Obama is literally a modern day prophet.

    Thus, he cannot be playing them for fools because if he is, all activists on the left become suspect and the beliefs and policies that liberals support are revealed to rest upon intellectual quicksand. As neo said, “the thought is too dreadful” to contemplate.

    “Say it isn’t so Joe” would be the reaction were Obama’s duplicity to be revealed in an undeniable manner.

    Woodward et al will maintain their denial, as long as possible.

  20. rickl Says:

    mizpants Says:
    February 28th, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    My question is: was it ever thus? I mean, were all administrations corrupt, and Obama’s just more so, or more blatantly so? Or is this something new in the world?

    You have to be a Kremlinologist to even guess at what’s going on with the O administration.

    You answered your own question.

  21. parker Says:

    “Because it’s just another in a long line of distractions, and it’s serving it’s intended purpose–no one’s talking about the economy, are they?”

    It is intended as a distraction, but I’m not so sure it is the correct distraction for their purposes. As far as economy is concerned, the measly sequestration ‘cuts’ will come and go and no one on Main Street will notice. DC will continue to spend more between now and 10/1/13 than was spent in 2012. The FED will pump up the bubble until the DJIA pops and we’re back in 2008 (only deeper) and BHO propelled by Uncle Ben will come to the rescue. Wash, rinse, repeat.

    The juggler has thousands of plates spinning and then one day another plate will be added and all the plates will fall to the floor and splinter into a 100 trillion slivers. That’s my take and I’m sticking to it. 😉

  22. Sam L. Says:

    If Benghazi Barry says he didn’t know, he’s lying. Mainly, that’s what he does.

  23. Snackeater Says:

    The economy is 0bama’s vehicle for his sole purpose in life: redistribution of wealth. The economy’s been stagnant for four years because that’s what he wants. He simultaneously silences those most affected via increased welfare and extended unemployment, and stifles private sector growth via massive public sector debt. The rest he distracts with manufactured crises and the appearance of ineptness, all the while aided and abetted by the useful idiots in the T-P Media. This is by design, and it’s working so far.

  24. SteveH Says:

    Liberals and their naiveity about Obama are a far distant second to the most naive among us. Those who think, “if only liberals knew”.

  25. beverly Says:

    I am reading a volume of leftist bilge — for work — and their one theme, their obsession, is “Give Us Your Money, Give Us Your Money, Dammit!”

    ALL the world’s problems and evils will be solved if they can only get their mitts on the MONEY belonging to those they hate, and then act like Lady Effing Bountiful spreading [some of] it around to Those Who Sit in Darkness, who will then sing Hosannahs of Praise to their Leftist Deliverers!

    Srsly, that’s the whole dream. The whole book hums with hate for the Haves [non-Leftist Haves only, of course], and drips with condescension for the retarded, pathetic, helpless Have-Nots. Poor babies who can’t move, breathe, or even Live without the Leftist Gods to take care of them: with the Hated Haves’ money.

    And they think they’re so godlike and righteous.

    They talk of the Haves as “receiving” money [from whom? who the hell knows? don’t bother them with any Vulcan dee-tails]. That they may have actually Earned it never crosses their greedy little brains. Their greed is staggering — they covet everything that is, all the wealth in the world, to be “redistributed” at their command. Their lust for power is something that would make a Mafia chieftain gag: they want nothing less than power over the whole freaking world.

    Woodward? I’d suggest reading Lassky’s book “It Didn’t Start with Watergate,” if you want to have your eyes opened to the criminal, thuggish behavior carried on by the “American” Left since the beginning of the 20th century. Woodward and Bernstein didn’t play nearly as big a role as the Left’s mythology claimed; most of what they dug up on Nixon didn’t amount to spit, and much of what they created in “All the President’s Men” was a fable. Check it out.

    So, I don’t think he’s so intrepid; it’s good he’s kinda-sorta calling the Jackanapes on some of his bullsh**, but really, he just wants to have one of those Beer Summits and get the Jackanapes to be a little better at the Game.

  26. physicsguy Says:

    Slightly back on topic: this morning over at drudge, there’s a whole section of articles of the MSM viciously turning on Woodward. It will be interesting to see if Neo’s prediction that Woodward will continue to push away from his consciousness that “thought too dreadful to contemplate.”

  27. J.L. Says:

    Check out this from Pat Cadell, Democrat and on Nixon’s “enemies list.” Says Obama is closest thing to Nixon in a long time:


  28. southernjames Says:

    Bob should probably give Juan Williams a call. They can commiserate on how it feels when your liberal comrades turn on you — all of a sudden the viscious hate machine which didn’t bother you one WHIT when it was directed at all the wrong sorts – now is turned on you…..and to your further shock and surprise, the only ones treating you in any sort of civil mannner are those crazy right wingers over at the Faux News Channel.

    That’s gotta be so jarring, for the enlightened who are our betters, like Juan and Bob. Poor saps.

  29. Ymarsakar Says:

    If only Obama knew what their side’s mass murder, rapist, looting, totalitarian tendencies will bring them in the future. It won’t be the riches and luxury they all envision as their rightful prize.

  30. Ymarsakar Says:

    Woodward’s entire career was a tool of personal destruction wielded by the Left.

    Why does he think now that he is allowed to bare his fangs against his own Masters…

  31. Southpaw Says:

    The awrd is already being chiseled on Marxist Hall of Fame plaque in the Kremlin
    Bob Woodward (USA) : USEFUL IDIOT ( Magna cum laude).

  32. Wry Mouth Says:

    “I thought of the old saying ‘if only Stalin knew.’ …”

    speaking of reaching back in time, my mother’s family (from the Czech/Ukraine region) remembers that one.

  33. Mike Mahoney Says:

    It is as if the author and many commentors are still trying to prove their points about Obama. To whom that would truly matter would come as a complete surprise to me. Sides have long since been chosen. Such compiling of evidence, analysis of it and sort of plea for sanity really are just a waste. More to the point, marks of someone scared to move to the next step. Congress suffers this infliction, chronically.
    The way to stop a bully, plain and simple, is to coldcock him. No warning, no mercy, and never a sideglance at spectators. That signals your guilt and want of their approval.
    Boehner and the house Republicans have a constitutional set of brass knuckles. They’re embarrased of it.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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