Thursday: Bob Woodward’s Non-Scoop, and Some Interesting Long Reads

coffee break

Good Morning!!

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

Gawker: Flop Threat: Woodward All, ‘The President’s Mean’: Watergate Journalist Accuses White House of ‘Threat,’ Runs to Fox

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.

salt fat sugar

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.

Bernstein Woodward

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!

Have a great day everyone!!

37 Comments on “Thursday: Bob Woodward’s Non-Scoop, and Some Interesting Long Reads”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    Charlie Pierce on the latest Politico nonsense. I haven’t read it yet, but I know it will be great.

    Going to read it now. Talk to y’all soon!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Pierce’s intro:

      I am looking out the window, fully expecting to see the two Presiding Geniuses of Tiger Beat On The Potomac floating gracefully above the Potomac, because they are plainly as puffed up as human beings can be without simply exploding on the spot. They were summoned to an undisclosed location where Bob Woodward is hiding because someone in the Obama administration pointed out that he might one day regret having been publicly stupid on the subject of the sequester, and Bob knows what that means. So, huddled in his bunker, fiddling with the knobs on the crystal set and eating cold Spaghetti-O’s out of the can, Bob summoned two of the only reporters he knows who share the same level of self-delusion that he does.


      • bostonboomer says:

        I might have to watch Hannity tonight to see how much further Woodward will damage his already tattered reputation.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Whatever you do, don’t miss this article from 2000 that Pierce links to in the Woodward post.

      • RalphB says:

        I love Charlie’s post today and read again his story on SSI, which was magnificent. Woodward, if he were in a normal environment, would be finished!

      • bostonboomer says:

        I’m still tearing up over the SSI story and cursing Woodward for being such a powerful fraud.

      • RalphB says:

        I’ve read that SSI story multiple times and it never fails to get me.

      • Fannie says:

        OMG, what a story, the vibes from his story just kept swallowing me up. I kept thinking bet little Marcus has a headstone about the size of a loaf of wonderbread. I’d like to think that his grandparents are buried next to him, and would love to see a photo.

        The other thing I got to thinking about was the director of Health Services, wasn’t that Casper Winebarger? Something like that. What you often think of being old news, turned out to be new News for me, and Charles’s recount sent vibes up and down my spine. Thank you BB

      • bostonboomer says:

        You’re welcome. I never read it before either, Fannie. This happened during the Clinton administration, sad to say. I don’t know if you saw the Balloon Juice link in my post, but it really hit home with me. We are nothing but abstractions to the politicians and to most journalists.

        They don’t give a fuck about anybody else.

        It was Bob Somerby who introduced me to the idea that most big name establishment media types only care about themselves, their vacation homes, how much the White House kisses their ass, how big a boner they get from thinking about torture or bombing or spreading freedom or a president in a flight suit.

        Has there ever been a better example of this than Bob Woodward’s shameful performance today? He’ll be on Hannity to self-obsess a little more tomorrow.

      • Beata says:

        What a heartbreaking story. Can’t stop crying about it. How many children like Marcus have suffered similar fates? Does Bob Woodward regret the role he played in that story? Does he even know about it? Probably not. He’s a very busy important man with other very busy important people to see and talk to. Well, f*** him. Compared to Marcus and his grandparents, Bob Woodward isn’t worth sh**.

        Pardon my French.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Woodward knows about it, because Charlie Pierce called him and asked him. He didn’t seem very concerned.

  2. ANonOMouse says:

    Poor Bob Woodward, he needs a whambulance!!!!

    I watched Morning Joe today and they had a couple of guys on who were KNOCKING DOWN SS & Medicare and screaming that SS is unsustainable. What a shill Joe and Mika have become for the Kill SS/Medicare crowd. One of the guys even went so far as to say that SS beneficiaries are receiving “mulitiples” of what they paid in and that it was “unfair” to younger people for current recipents to receive “multiples” of what they paid in. I am so damn sick of these folks who don’t understand that Social Security is a retirement program and that SS was designed from the onset for the possiblity of paying out more to the retiree than the retiree put in. Investment + interest, LIKE ANY OTHER RETIREMENT PROGRAM. I paid into SS for over 40 years, I paid into Medicare from the day it began. I can’t imagine the mindset that looks at SS recipients and chacterizes those recipients as “TAKERS”. Apparently we’re going to have to go to the streets and remind them we’re not going to allow them to take SS & Medicare apart

    Just the thought that people actually have the nerve to say that SS is “unfair” is infuriating to me, especially in a circumstance where many/most of us had our 401k retirement savings decimated by the swindlers on Wall Street who skated away from their theft, unprosectued.

    I know what unfair is. Unfair is Big Pharma charging people 20 times more than what a medication is worth. Unfair is Imaging Centers charging $3-6k for a simple MRI, not including the charges from the Docs who read those MRI’s. Unfair is Hospitals who charge $10’s of thousands of dollars for a few days of hospital stay. Unfair is Executives who make 120 times more than their average employee. Unfair is people in the top 1% who make millions/billions of dollars every year and end up paying a smaller marginal tax rate than the average worker who makes 30/50K a year. Unfair is the top 5% of American’s who OWN 62% of this Nation’s wealth. Those things are UNFAIR.

    Just when I think I can’t be any more disgusted I make the mistake of watching Morning Joe.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Great comment, Mouse! I listened to some of Morning Joe today, but I always have to shut it off after awhile. I just can’t take too much of the stupid first thing in the morning.

    • Beata says:

      Ditto what BB said. Great comment, Mouse.

      You’re a brave woman ( of course, I already knew that ). I haven’t been able to stomach Morning Shmoe and his Push Granny Off The Cliff Crowd for months now.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        I don’t know about the brave thingy! Perhaps dumb is a better description of what I am because I keep allowing myself to watch The “Schmoe” and his side-kick Mika knowing damned good and well I’m going to be pissed off by their nonsense.

    • Fannie says:

      Yes, Joe’s panties were just bursting with Woodward.

    • RalphB says:

      +1000 Mouse!

  3. Beata says:

    Gene Sperling’s email is ooh, so scary!!! Poor wittle Bobby Woodward. I’m surprised he hasn’t hired a food taster by now. Perhaps Hostess with the Mostest Sally Quinn could recommend a top-drawer one, complete with British accent and well-tailored uniform, who is willing to sacrifice all for one of his betters.

    Thanks for the good links, BB! I’m glad you used the photo of the cat jumping out of the bag onto Beltway Bobby’s head again. It’s a classic.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    The House just passed the Violence Against Women Act.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    Bradley Manning pleads guilty to some charges and not guilty to others. Denies “aiding the enemy.”

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Time Magazine posted 39 photos of a couple in an abusive relationship some of which show the male perpetrator choking and beating his partner while her toddler daughter tries to protect her. Is that ethical journalism?

    • Delphyne says:

      That poor little girl – imagine her comforting her mother after witnessing this kind of abuse. I hope that guy never finds this family again and that they are safe.

      I don’t know if it’s ethical journalism or not – I know I could not stand there taking pictures what was happening any more than I could photograph an animal drowning after it crashed through some ice.

      The level of craziness on our planet is ramped up way to high for my comfort.

      • bostonboomer says:

        The Slate article suggests it was good journalism. But what would have happened if the man hit the children or killed the mother? Would they have chosen to intervene then? The journalists didn’t even call the police–a neighbor did.

      • RalphB says:

        Story says another resident of the house called the police.

      • RalphB says:

        Shane attacked Maggie, throwing her into chairs, pushing her up against the wall and choking her in front of her daughter, Memphis.

        After I confirmed one of the housemates had called the police, I then continued to document the abuse — my instincts as a photojournalist began kicking in. If Maggie couldn’t leave, neither could I.

        The photographer was another woman and he probably would have killed her as well.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I didn’t notice the photographer was a woman. I agree documenting real domestic abuse is valuable. I’m just glad the little boy wasn’t a witness. Witnessing violence to others as a child is the strongest predictor of perpetrating violence in adulthood.

    • RalphB says:

      It may be as ethical as most journalism. It certainly tells a story which needs to be documented in a no nonsense way.

      If the photographer had stepped in the battle would have escalated. Unless the photographer could end it, damage to everyone would likely have been worse.

      • bostonboomer says:

        You have to be amazed by a man who would do that knowing he was being photographed.

      • RalphB says:

        People who do that sort of awful thing must be somewhat beyond reason to a large extent. I wonder if it even registered with him that he was being photographed?

  7. bostonboomer says:

    Think Progress: Senators Introduce Legislation To Close Loophole Allowing For Large-Scale Cruelty To Puppies

  8. RalphB says:

    Matt Yglesias: Bob Woodward Trolls the World He’s gonna regret this 🙂

    • RalphB says:

      “We need to start asking the same fundamental questions about the press that we do of the other powerful institutions in this society — about who is served, about standards, about self-interest and its eclipse of the public interest and the interest of truth.” — Carl Bernstein

  9. RalphB says:

    Looks like Peter King is gonna stay mad at his GOP colleagues.

    TPM: Rep. King Can’t Believe Rubio Has The ‘Balls’ To Raise Money In New York

    Rep. Peter King (R-NY) thinks Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is showing some chutzpah by raising money in New York after voting against a Superstorm Sandy relief bill, telling in a story published Thursday that the junior Florida senator and 2016 contender has some “balls” to seek cash from Wall Street and other Empire State donors.

    “Being from New York we’re not supposed to be suckers,” King said. “It’s bad enough that these guys voted against it, that’s inexcusable enough. But to have the balls to come in and say, ‘We screwed you now make us president?”