Thursday: Bob Woodward’s Non-Scoop, and Some Interesting Long ReadsPosted: February 28, 2013
Poor Bob Woodward! The only way he can get attention nowadays is by whining and crying and generally creating a tempest in a teapot.
Yesterday Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen posted one of their patented “Behind the Curtain” pieces: Woodward at War, in which they dramatically revealed the inside story of Woodward’s little spat with the White House. This is the sort of story only the Villagers really care about, but when they care about something, they insist on forcing their opinions about it on the rest of us. It was the subject of the first hour of Morning Joe for yesterday and today, and the focus of countless media reports and blog posts throughout the day yesterday. Woodward must be in heaven with all this attention. From Politico:
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend’s Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama’s account of how sequestration came about — and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide “yelled at me for about a half-hour,” Woodward told us in an hourlong 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. “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.’”
Horrors! “I think you will regret staking out that claim” is a “major league brushback?” Either Nixon and his men were quite a bit wimpier than we all thought, or Woodward is a lot touchier now than he was in the Watergate days.
In an update, Vandehei and Allen revealed that the White House adviser who supposedly yelled at Woodward over the phone and then “threatened” him was Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council. This morning they published the actual e-mails between Sperling and Woodward. Frankly, I was underwhelmed. Follow me below the fold to read them.
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.
From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob
That, folks, is the giant scandal that the Villagers have been talking interminably about: Bob Woodward nitpicking about who started the sequester fight. Sorry, but Gene Sperling did not threaten you Bob. He tried to warn you that you were making a mistake and you were going to end up looking like a moron. And that’s what happened.
Here are a few more reactions to Woodward’s non-scoop.
Harry Blodget at Business Insider: Oh, Please, The White House Didn’t ‘Threaten’ Bob Woodward
Balloon Juice: They don’t give a fuck about anybody else
Joseph Cannon: Woodward
Charles Pierce: The Woodward Myth
Some Worthwhile (at least to me) Long Reads
There isn’t a whole lot of real news today except for the fact that the “sequester” cuts will kick in tomorrow. I think we’ve all heard enough about that for the time being. So, to give you something else to think about, I have a collection of long reads that I found enlightening. I hope you’ll find something here to interest you too.
Last Sunday the NYT Magazine published a lengthy article by Michael Moss, the author of a new book (Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us) on the processed food industry: The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food. It’s a fascinating and shocking read, highly recommended.
Investigative reporter Russ Baker explores whether there was more to General David Petraeus’s fall from grace than an extramarital affair: Exclusive – Petraeus: The Plot Thickens
Was the ambitious General David Petraeus targeted for take-down by competing interests in the US military/intelligence hierarchy—years before his abrupt downfall last year in an adultery scandal?
Previously unreported documents analyzed by WhoWhatWhy suggest as much. They provide new insight into the scandalous extramarital romance that led to Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November after several years of rapid rise—going from a little-known general to a prospective presidential candidate in a stunningly brief time frame.
Among other revelations the documents show that:
-Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair nearly two years earlier than previously known.
-Petraeus’s affair was known to foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle in which Petraeus was an active party.
-Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people.
It’s an interesting read.
Baker is a terrific writer, IMO. He is the author of Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, the Powerful Forces That Put It in the White House, and What Their Influence Means for America. Since we’ve been talking about Bob Woodward, I thought I’d pass on this long read: A Growing Body Of Evidence Suggests Watergate Was A Setup To Nail Nixon.
That is just a portion of excerpts from Baker’s book that Business Insider published last year. If you find it interesting, there are links there to the other excerpts.
Here’s a related oldie but goodie: Carl Bernstein’s long article from Rolling Stone about the CIA’s subversion of the American media, published in 1977. THE CIA AND THE MEDIA: How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up.
In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.
Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit.
There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
I wonder if Bernstein ever questioned how his old co-worker Bob Woodward moved so rapidly from Naval Intelligence to reporter at the respected Washington Post with absolutely zero journalistic experience?
I’ve been waiting for Mark Ames to write about Christopher Dorner and his vendetta against the LAPD, and last week he did.
Ames is the guy to read if you want to understand the political and social implications of workplace mass murders. He’s the author of the book Going Postal – Rage, Murder, and Rebellion: From Reagan’s Workplaces to Clinton’s Columbine and Beyond. Here’s his analysis of the Dorner case: WRONGFUL TERMINATION: CHRIS DORNER’S TERRIFYINGLY BANAL KILLING SPREE. Here’s the intro:
In the days after his lethal rebellion and violent death, Christopher Dorner has become many things to many different people: a one-man Alamo hero who died fighting the police state; a crazy black man who started murdering cops because that’s what crazy black men do; or a symbol of government oppression and the militarization of America’s police forces. For some conspiracy theorists, Dorner even became a Manchurian candidate in an elaborate Big Brother plot to sow chaos and fear, so that Government Marxists could fill America’s skies with armed drones, assassinating gun-owners and freedom-lovers at will.
But all this focus on Dorner’s spectacular ending has obscured the real story about what sent Chris Dorner over the edge: workplace abuse, racial discrimination, and a legitimate claim of wrongful termination. In a nation where workers have fewer legal protections than workers in many developing nations, low-level employees like Dorner have few rights, little power and almost nowhere to turn. Ever since the Reagan Revolution of the 80s, popular culture has neglected labor problems in favor of violent epic fantasies, even though more and more Americans suffered worsening labor conditions in their own lives, privately and alone. Wrongful termination and workplace discrimination are devastating problems for each and every victim, yet collectively we’re infinitely more worried about police state fascism and getting assassinated by armed drones, thanks to media and pop culture conditioning. Labor and workplace problems are considered boring, even embarrassing.
And as a bonus, Yasha Levine writes about the history of racism in the San Bernadino Sheriff’s office. These are the guys who made sure Dorner wouldn’t get out of that cabin alive and go to trial. SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT: PUTTING THE “SOUTH” IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.
Dealing with the SBCS is like taking a trip to the deep South, minus the southern hospitality and charm. The force is staffed by a tight good ol’ boys network drawn from a base of white ultra-conservative ex-military types, overseen by corrupt judges and a municipal government that’s deep in the pocket of ruthless real estate speculators. It’s distinguished by brazen graft, police brutality and a general disregard for lawful policing.
SBCS deputies once drew their guns on NSFWCORP senior editor Mark Ames while he was a guest at my double-wide trailer in Victorville back in 2010. They grabbed him while he was taking a walk around the neighborhood, saying that he matched a description of some car thief operating in the area. They cuffed him, then took his keys, entered my house without a warrant, rifled through my undies and inspected my closets. In the end, they found a small stash of what appeared to be marijuana and, it has been alleged, a mysterious white crystalline powder piled on a small mirror, along with an Iranian banknote nailed to the wall — but apparently got spooked by Ames’ journalistic bonafides, particularly when one of the deputies recognized him from MSNBC. They let him go with a stern warning.
So, when I learned that Chris Dorner was on SBCS turf, I said to my wife: “No matter what happens, the end isn’t going to be pretty.”
Okay, this is getting way too long so I’ll end here. Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list? I promise to click on every link!