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.’”
[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.]