Caturday Reads

Cat_Surfing_The_Web

Good Morning!!

It’s another three day weekend, and it’s really quiet around here. I never thought about MLK Day being a big vacation weekend, but I was out in the car yesterday and the streets were dead. Where do these people go–the ones with enough money to get out of town? Florida? New Hampshire? I don’t know, but it’s nice when they aren’t clogging up the streets with their cars.

I expect it will be a slow news weekend too, except for the football games tomorrow. Let’s see what I can find out there in cyberspace.

Of course there’s the speech President Obama gave yesterday on NSA reforms. To be honest, I didn’t watch it. I’d rather just wait and see what happens. Here are a few reactions to Obama’s proposals.

Of course Glenn Greenwald hated it, as he wrote in an op-ed for the Guardian: Obama’s NSA ‘reforms’ are little more than a PR attempt to mollify the public. I tried to slog my way through it, but I couldn’t. He’s such a terrible writer–always nearly hysterical with rage and with absolutely no sense of humor to take the edge of his sarcasm and bile. He did end with a not-so-subtle threat to keep releasing U.S. intelligence secrets until America finally gives up spying altogether and accedes to Greenwald’s demands.

Today’s speech should be seen as the first step, not the last, on the road to restoring privacy. The causes that drove Obama to give this speech need to be, and will be, stoked and nurtured further until it becomes clear to official Washington that, this time around, cosmetic gestures are plainly inadequate.

After all, according to Glenn, there’s really no danger from terrorists or hostile countries like China and Russia. The entire goal of the national security apparatus and of signals intelligence is the instill fear in the populace.

A few more reasoned reactions:

Adam Martin at New York Magazine collects reactions from a number of people: So What Did People Think of Obama’s NSA Speech?

NPR’s Carrie Johnson offers: 5 Takeaways From The President’s NSA Speech.

Doyle McManus at the LA Times, who has been critical of both Snowden and NSA: A new day at the NSA — President Obama takes a step back from unfettered surveillance.

Individually, the concrete steps President Obama announced Friday toward reforming the National Security Agency‘s surveillance programs were modest. Taken together, though, they signal the end of an era of unfettered escalation in U.S. intelligence-gathering.

Since its establishment in 1952, the NSA’s history has been one of almost nonstop expansion. But for most of that time, the agency still faced limits on what kind of information it could gather and in the legal strictures that governed its programs.

That changed after the terrorist attacks of 2001, which prompted then-President George W. Bush to demand an all-out effort to collect every scrap of information available.

His order came at a time when the Internet, email, instant messaging and low-cost voice communications were pouring an unprecedented amount of private information into a global electronic network, available for sophisticated eavesdroppers to tap.

Bush brushed aside legal constraints and ordered the NSA to collect domestic telephone and email communications without court warrants. Later, Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court legalized much of that program retroactively, including the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone call records, known as metadata. The principle driving intelligence-gathering had become collect first, ask questions later.

Obama’s proposals are step back from that rule.

Read the rest at the link. I have no idea what will happen, but at least Obama is open to talking about it, unlike Bush/Cheney.

bob_cat

I thought this article at Mediaite was pretty funny: Robert Gates Wanted to Recruit Bob Woodward for the CIA.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates shared an interesting detail during a conversation with POLITICO’s Mike Allen about his new book: he wanted to recruit iconic Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward for the Central Intelligence Agency. Yes, that’s right, Gates wanted one of the men who broke Watergate wide open to move to the government side because of his “extraordinary ability” to pry details out of people.

Gates admitted he wasn’t exactly happy with Woodward’s assessment of his book, but beyond that he said he has great respect for Woodward, and admitted he would have liked to bring Woodward into the CIA because he has a gift that not everyone has.

“He has an extraordinary ability to get otherwise responsible adults to spill his guts to him, on background, nothing there for the historians, but his ability to get people to talk about stuff they shouldn’t be talked about is just extraordinary and maybe unique.”

Seriously, does Gates not know that Woodward began his career in naval intelligence “where he was a part of a group which briefed top intelligence officials; at one time he was close to Admiral Robert O. Welander, being communications officer on the USS Fox under Welander’s command.” Woodward even briefed Al Haig during the Nixon administration.

Woodward knew nothing about journalism until the Washington Post installed him at a small newspaper in the DC suburbs for a year so he could get some on-the-job experience before moving up to the big time? Before that, Woodward was involved in briefing Bernstein was the writer on the Watergate story and Woodward had the CIA/government connections.

Gates should know that once you’re in the “intelligence community,” you never really leave. Please forgive me for this, but I’m going to link to a post by Larry Johnson from 2005: Blowing the Whistle on Bob Woodward.

Woodward has been the consumate insider while cultivating the image of the hard charging investigative reporter. He is anything but, and it is time to blow the whistle on his incestuous relationship with certain government officials. The fact that the Washington Post is still covering for this joker says volumes about the decline of the Post.

When he appears on Larry King Live Tonight maybe he will answer a longstanding question, “When did he resign from Naval Intelligence?”

Johnson then reproduces a letter to the editor of the Tampa Tribune by Len Colodny. Colodny is coauthor of a book about Watergate called Silent Coup: The Removal of a President. Check it out.

cat computer bed

This is interesting. Greg Sargent thinks President Obama might decide to encourage an increase in  the minimum wage with an executive order.

Here’s some welcome news. At his meeting with Democratic Senators last night, President Obama indicated that he is giving serious consideration to executive action designed to raise the minimum wage for employees of federal contractors, according to one Senator who was present.

Proponents want to see this executive action happen on the merits — theybelieve it could impact as many as two million employees of federal contractors, and would help the economy. But they also believe such action could give a boost of momentum to the push for a minimum wage hike for all American workers, which obviously would require Congressional approval, but is currently facing Republican opposition.

Senator Bernie Sanders told me in an interview that the president took the idea very seriously when asked about it last night.

Surely some Democrats could applaud Obama if he did that. Of course the Greenwald cult followers will ignore it, because it would only improve the lives of working class people and do nothing for the “privacy” of upper middle class white males.

NRA cat

These days it seems we’re getting shootings in public places on an almost daily basis. I posted about a grocery store shooting in Elkhart, Indiana a couple of days ago. The victims and the shooter have now been identified.

What happened, police say, is 22-year-old Shawn Bair walked into the store Wednesday at about 9:30 p.m. Surveillance video shows him making phone calls and texting people….

Police say Bair pulled out a .44 caliber semi-automatic handgun, and shot and killed 20-year-old Krystal Dikes. Police say she had just started working at the store stocking the shelves. Friends say she was a caring, compassionate person.

“I don’t know what his goal was, I don’t know what his aim was, mad at the world. There’s definitely a family grieving for her. Definitely. And lots of friends,” said Dikes’ boyfriend Kyle Barnett.

Also murdered was 44-year-old Rachelle Godfread who was shopping. Bair then held the manager of the store at gunpoint until police arrived.

Police still aren’t sure why Bair, who police have been in contact with before, decided to go on this rampage but his Facebook page is filled with violent images and posts. In one post he says he knows he’s going hell. One from 2010 says he realized everybody should die, no matter what race or religion.

According to the Chicago Tribune,

Rachelle Godfread, 44, had recently moved from southern Indiana to Elkhart, where she was closer to her son who played basketball at the South Bend campus of Indiana University. Now that college student has lost his mom.

Yesterday there was a shooting in a school gymnasium in Philadelphia. CNN reports:

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of a juvenile suspect in a shooting that wounded two students at a Philadelphia school Friday, police said Saturday.

The shooting occurred at Delaware Valley Charter High School.

The suspect is not in custody, but police expect him, accompanied by an attorney, to turn himself in Saturday morning.

The shooter was in the school gym with seven other students, city police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said.

Some were playing basketball and others standing in a corner when he pulled a gun and fired.

The victims, a boy and a girl, both age 15, were hit in the arm. They were taken to a local hospital, police said, and their wounds are not life-threatening.

The Friday afternoon incident was at least the second shooting at or near a school this week in the Olney neighborhood.

And then there are the plain old street shootings. Again from the Chicago Tribune: Shootings leave 2 dead, 7 injured since Friday afternoon.

Two men have been killed and seven people injured in shootings on the South and West sides since Friday afternoon, according to police.

The violent start to the weekend, which came as downtown temperatures hovered in the teens, included a shooting that injured three people on a Dan Ryan Expressway ramp and another that left a 15-year-old girl hospitalized.

Police were called to the first of Friday’s homicides about 5:20 p.m., after gunfire rang out in 4900 block of West Huron Street in the Austin neighborhood.

Officers found 21-year-old Timothy Travis on the ground, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head, authorities said.

Travis, who lived in the 4900 block of West Quincy Street, was pronounced dead on the scene at 5:34 p.m., according to the Cook County medical examiner’s office.

Of course the “experts” are “weighing in”: Experts: N. Mexico suspect, other young shooters show preteens’ impulse actions.

(CNN) — The New Mexico middle school shooting allegedly by a 12-year-old boy highlights how such gunfire is now occurring in America’s earlier grades, raising disturbing issues on whether such youngsters know the devastating consequences of such violence and on how they should then be adjudicated, experts say.

“It’s becoming more and more common, especially in the middle-school age, for these kids to be committing these violent acts,” said Sheela Raja, clinical psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago….

That tally includes last October’s shooting in Sparks, Nevada, by a 12-year-old boy who killed himself after fatally shooting a teacher; a 2010 shooting in a Madison, Alabama, by a ninth-grader who fatally shot a boy, 14, in the head; a 2000 shooting in Mount Morris Township, Michigan, in which a 6-year-old boy killed another 6-year-old; and the 1999 shooting in Deming, New Mexico, in which a 12-year-old boy killed a classmate, 13.

Raja explains that children at these ages do not have the cognitive development to restrain strong impulses or to understand the full implications of their actions.

“People should remember that a 12-year-old is barely past the age of believing in Santa Claus,” said Wendy Walsh, a behavior expert and psychologist.

“While there is great variance in cognitive development, plenty of kids this age are unable to fully comprehend that death is permanent,” Walsh said. “Add to that the impact of violent video games where ‘downed’ characters get up again, and there is good reason to assume this child does not think like an adult.”

Wouldn’t it make sense to keep guns out the hands of young kids then? I know, stupid question.

From the NYT: In Age of School Shootings, Lockdown Is the New Fire Drill.

For students across the country, lockdowns have become a fixture of the school day, the duck-and-cover drills for a generation growing up in the shadow of Columbine High School in Colorado and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Kindergartners learn to hide quietly behind bookshelves. Teachers warn high school students that the glow of their cellphones could make them targets. And parents get regular text messages from school officials alerting them to lockdowns.

School administrators across the country have worked with police departments in recent years to create detailed plans to secure their schools, an effort that was redoubled after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. At the whiff of a threat, teachers are now instructed to snap off the lights, lock their doors and usher their students into corners and closets. School officials call the police. Students huddle in their classrooms for minutes or hours, texting one another, playing cards and board games, or just waiting until they get the all clear.

Why should kids have to go through this at school–a place where they are supposed to be safe and protected? I guess because the NRA wants more and more guns everywhere and Congress doesn’t have the guts to do anything about it.

Another “expert” told Jake Tapper that mass shootings are on the rise. Isn’t it great that we have “experts” to explain that to us? /snark

kitten computer

OK, enough depressing news about death and destruction. What’s the latest on Chris Christie? Steve Kornaki has dug up some good stuff: Christie camp held Sandy relief money hostage, mayor alleges.

Two senior members of Gov. Chris Christie’s administration warned a New Jersey mayor earlier this year that her town would be starved of hurricane relief money unless she approved a lucrative redevelopment plan favored by the governor, according to the mayor and emails and personal notes she shared with msnbc.

The mayor, Dawn Zimmer, hasn’t approved the project, but she did request $127 million in hurricane relief for her city of Hoboken – 80% of which was underwater after Sandy hit in October 2012. What she got was $142,000 to defray the cost of a single back-up generator plus an additional $200,000 in recovery grants.

In an exclusive interview, Zimmer broke her silence and named Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Richard Constable, Christie’s community affairs commissioner, as the two officials who delivered messages on behalf of a governor she had long supported.

Something tells me we have a lot more Christie corruption news to look forward to.

Now what stories are you following today? Please post your links in the comments and have a great long weekend!


Saturday: A Grab Bag For Your Reading Pleasure

in other news2

Good Morning!!

Yesterday the State Department released its report on the Keystone XL Pipeline, apparently giving it their seal of approval. The original NYT headline on their story by John Broder was “A 2000-Page Lubricant for Keystone XL.” At some point it was changed to “Report May Ease Path for New Pipeline.” I guess the first was was a little too graphic for the Gray Lady, but the two combined sound even more lewd–or is is just me? Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

The State Department issued a revised environmental impact statement for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline on Friday that makes no recommendation about whether the project should be built but presents no conclusive environmental reason it should not be.

The 2,000-page document also makes no statement on whether the pipeline is in the United States’ economic and energy interests, a determination to be made later this year by President Obama.

But it will certainly add a new element to the already robust climate change and energy debate around the $7 billion proposed project. The new report does not make any policy recommendations, but its conclusion that the environmental and climate change impacts are manageable could provide Mr. Obama political cover if he decides to approve the pipeline.

Although the study will help guide the president’s decision, it does not make the politics any easier. Environmental advocates and landowners along the route have mounted spirited protests against the project, including a large demonstration in Washington last month. They say they view Keystone as a test of Mr. Obama’s seriousness about addressing global warming.

And of course, as Broder points out, “the pressure from industry, the Canadian government, most Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, local officials and union leaders” is also intense.

Are you getting the feeling this is a done deal? Isn’t John Kerry supposed to be an environmentalist?

The “sequester” cuts have begun, and guess who has an op-ed in the NYT about it? Brace yourself.

Singing the Sequester Soap Opera, by Joe Scarborough. I’ll skip the fake-poetic introductory paragraphs {Gag} … go to the link and read them if you desire. Actually, all the paragraphs are over-the-top, IMO. Joe’s point seems to be that Obama “overplayed his hand”

Americans who endured the grimmest warnings from President Obama and his administration need not fear that the cuts will jeopardize military readiness; limit our nation’s ability to forecast hurricanes; compromise food safety; lead to outbreaks of E. coli; undermine airport security; and cause older Americans to go hungry.

The Republicans have won this round, according to “Morning Joe,” because no one is going to feel any pain whatsoever.

…this year’s reductions will not do great damage to domestic and defense programs. Congress will have $85 billion less to spend this year, but the Congressional Budget Office projects that the actual cuts implemented this year will amount to only $42 billion out of a $3.5 trillion budget. That means that politicians will have to cut a little more than a penny out of every dollar that it spends this year.

Does Mr. Obama really want to claim that his administration, which has added $6 trillion to the national debt, is unable to save a penny out of every dollar it spends? Does he really expect Americans to believe — after four years, the banking and auto bailouts, several stimulus bills and a run of record deficits — that our $16 trillion economy cannot absorb $42 billion of spending reductions?

Good to know, Joe. Thanks for that comforting message. Now we’ll just have to wait and see if your predictions are accurate.

Oddly, WBUR in Boston is reporting that thousands of Federal workers in the city are facing furloughs:

Thousands of people work in the John F. Kennedy Federal Building at Boston’s Government Center. It’s actually twin 26-story buildings. On Thursday, the word “sequester” seemed to be on the lips of federal employees going in and out. Bethany Seed said she’s not looking forward to Monday, when she might be handed a furlough notice.

“For me, personally, a furlough would be a problem because I’d still be paying for full-time child care,” Seed said. “And I’d be losing my pay from work. So it’s not something I would like to see happen.”

Seed is an economist with the U.S. Department of Labor. When you hear things like jobless numbers, she works on those statistics. Her boss — not her director supervisor, but way up the chain — is Seth Harris, the acting U.S. labor secretary, who was visiting Boston Thursday.

“Unfortunately, a sizable number of my workers are going to be subject to furloughs,” Harris said. “It’s going to vary from agency to agency across the department. We’re going to lose about six days of work from our employees on average. That’s a big loss.”

But Seed can now breathe a sigh of relief, because “Morning Joe” has decreed that no one will be hurt by the “sequester” cuts. Or did he only me no one who is important to him will be hurt? Again, we’ll just have to wait and see.

In contrast to Know-Nothing Joe Scarborough, Bob Cesca seems to know a little bit about the issues–at least this piece at HuffPo made sense to me: The Sequestration Fight Is Based on Lies and Stupidity. Here’s the introduction; if it grabs you too, please read the whole thing at the link.

As a political writer, being outraged by certain issues and policies is like rocket fuel. I’m not an angry guy by nature, but there’s a universe of things in politics that anger me and, combined with an almost involuntary drive to seek and disseminate the truth, I’m never really at a loss for topics to cover.

But the sequestration issue has been one of those rare items that frustrate me to the point of being incapable of spending time on it. When I read about sequestration, my brain seizes. The stupidity of it all simply confounds me to the point of being speechless. For me, this is a shocking and rare predicament.

It’s not even the chronic brinksmanship — the reoccurring doomsday countdowns and the Republican-manifested economic sabotage that’s behind it all. It’s not the Keynesian in me who opposes the very notion of deficit reduction during a sluggish recovery. Granted, these are both points of irritation, but the characteristic of the sequester that ought to force us all into complete apoplexy and subsequent outrage-induced catatonia is the epidemic of ignorance regarding the status of the federal budget deficit.

This post by David Atkins at Hullabaloo is also well worth a look: Alternate Universe Land.

Sinkholes and a Missing Governor

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Florida man who disappeared into a sinkhole. This morning NPR (via AP0 reported:

Engineers worked gingerly to find out more about a slowly growing sinkhole that swallowed a Florida man in his bedroom, believing the entire house could eventually succumb to the unstable ground.

Jeff Bush, 37, was in his bedroom Thursday night when the earth opened and took him and everything else in his room. Five other people were in the house but managed to escape unharmed. Bush’s brother jumped into the hole to try to help, but he had to be rescued himself by a sheriff’s deputy.

Engineers were expected at the home to do more tests after sunrise Saturday. They spent the previous day on the property, taking soil samples and running various tests — while acknowledging that the entire lot was dangerous. No one was allowed in the home.

“I cannot tell you why it has not collapsed yet,” Bill Bracken, the owner of an engineering company called to assess the sinkhole, said of the home. He described the earth below as a “very large, very fluid mass.”

Apparently sinkholes are endemic in Florida, so much so that homeowners must have insurance for the possibility that their home may be sitting on one.

“You can almost envision a piece of Swiss cheese,” Taylor Yarkosky, a sinkhole expert from Brooksville, Fla., said while gesturing to the ground and the sky blue home where the earth opened in Seffner. “Any house in Florida could be in that same situation.”

A sinkhole near Orlando grew to 400 feet across in 1981 and devoured five sports cars, most of two businesses, a three-bedroom house and the deep end of an Olympic-size swimming pool.

More than 500 sinkholes have been reported in Hillsborough County alone since the government started keeping track in 1954, according to the state’s environmental agency.

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Assumption Parish sinkhole

Yikes! So…what about that sinkhole near New Orleans then? Residents angry as Assumption sinkhole keeps growing

BAYOU CORNE, La. — The Assumption Parish sinkhole is a lot like a living, breathing thing. More than 200 days after it mysteriously started swallowing up the swamp, hundreds of residents are still under a mandatory evacuation order.

Geophysicists say the cavern that caused the sinkhole at the surface is still collapsing, leaving Bayou Corne residents wondering if there will ever be an end in sight….Geophyisicists [sic] now say the western side of one of the brine caverns is collapsing, filling in from deep in the Earth, causing the sinkhole at the surface to expand and contract.

Former residents of the area would like some answers.

Many of the ones they keep getting are conflicting and confusing, especially from the state and the company that once mined the collapsing salt cavern Texas Brine.

“The cause of the sinkhole is the subject of pending litigation. At this point, I don’t think it’s proper to have any discussion about what the cause is and whether we accept what anyone has said regarding the cause of the sinkhole,” Troy Charpentier, an attorney for Texas Brine, told the committee.

The secretary of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources flat-out testified at the same hearing, “The cavern collapse led to the sinkhole and created a path for the natural gas to come to the surface.”
But Secretary Stephen Chustz slipped out a backdoor, with his press secretary only offering an interview with himself after the hearing without giving us the chance to ask him any questions.

Hmmmmm… What about the governor then?

From David J. Mitchell at the Baton Rouge Advocate: Inside Report: Sinkhole critics: O, Governor, where art thou?

For months now, a vocal group of activists and residents has found fault with Gov. Bobby Jindal over his absence from the scene of the Bayou Corne sinkhole.

Why, they ask, has he not made the commonly seen leadership visit to a disaster area that, while brief, boosts morale and provides hope?

Sinkhole activist John Achee Jr., a regular critic of Jindal and state government’s handling of the sinkhole and salt dome regulation, leveled this complaint again during a Feb. 19 joint hearing of the House and Senate committees on Natural Resources.

He called Jindal’s absence “disheartening” and “very concerning.”

Jindal’s office issued a response, saying that the good governor gets updates on what’s happening and that he thinks “abundant resources” have already been provided. Translation: “I couldn’t possibly care less, so f&ck off, loser!”

Odd and Ends

I just had to share this story from Gawker about a nervous mom and her fight to find out where her son had got off to: World’s Most Embarrassing Mom Makes Peruvian Government Hunt Down Her Son When He Stops Posting on Facebook. I have to say I’m much more sympathetic to the mom than Gawker is. I think someday the young man will grow older and wiser and will look back and understand how much his mom loves him. I’d much rather have a mom like that than one who doesn’t worry when I disappear into the wilderness for months.

I’m running short on space, so I’ll end with this oldie-but-goodie from 1996 by the great Joan Didion at The New York Review of Books, in which she ripped Bob Woodward and his clunky writing from stem to stern: The Deferential Spirit. It’s long, but please go read it–even if you read it back in 1996. It’s priceless!

Now it’s your turn. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Gene Sperling: “A mix of entitlements and revenues was part of the DNA” of the Sequester “from the start.”

Gene Sperling and Barack Obama

Gene Sperling and Barack Obama

I want to call attention to some rather startling statements in Gene Sperling’s e-mail to Bob Woodward, which I posted earlier. Please note the highlighted sections.

From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013

Bob:

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.

Gene

Really? Does anyone recall President Obama saying that at the time the sequester was proposed and voted on in 2011? Did President Obama discuss these plans for entitlement cuts during his campaign for re-election? I’ve always suspected he did plan cuts in Social Security, Medicare, but when did he publicly state this? I’ve done a somewhat cursory search, but I can’t find anything.

There is no mention of these agreed-upon cuts in the Wikipedia entry on the Budget Control Act of 2011. There no mention of “entitlement” cuts in this extensive article at The Bipartisan Policy Center. This analysis (pdf) notes that the Supercommittee was authorized to cut Social Security:

The “Super Committee” deficit reduction plan: BCA also creates a new, special joint committee of Congress charged with finding at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to avoid any potential sequestration. This “Super Committee” can cut spending (including Social Security and Medicare), raise revenue, or propose a combination of both. If the committee cannot agree on a plan, or Congress fails to approve it, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion will be triggered through sequestration. To assist the Super Committee with its task, Congress also provided for an accelerated review of the Super Committee recommendations, provided that the Super Committee followed specific timelines, as outlined in the text.

But I think it was generally assumed that the Super Committee would not be able to agree on anything, and if they did that the Senate at least would not vote for Social Security cuts.

So now the truth has come out. Certainly no one from the White House has come rushing out to deny that cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are what is supposed to balance any new revenue. A few other bloggers have written about this.

Digby is always alert for any mentions of Obama’s seeming obsession with cutting Social Security, and she didn’t miss this one.

I don’t know that anyone’s ever admitted that in public before or that the president was completely, shall we say, honest when he ran for his second term about that specific definition of “a balanced approach”. I haven’t heard anyone say publicly that the sequester “deal” as far as the White House was concerned was to cut “entitlements” in exchange for new revenues. I wonder how many members of congress were aware of this “deal” when they voted for the sequester? The public certainly wasn’t.

I wish I could understand why it is so important to Barack Obama to cut these vital programs before he leaves office. It seems to be his obsession. But there you have it. It’s not just in the DNA of the sequester, it seems to be in the DNA of this White House.

In this sense, it seems that Sperling and Woodward–and by extension Obama–do “see eye to eye.”

At FDL, John Walker gets right to the point in his headline: Sperling: Obama Wanted Sequester to Force Democrats to Accept Entitlement Cuts.

The way Obama has handled basically every manufactured crisis from the debt ceiling, to the Bush tax cuts expiration, to the sequester has been about trying to force both Democrats and Republicans to embrace his version of a “grand bargain.” While it is clear this has been the driving force behind Obama’s decisions, if you pay close attention to his actions is is rare than an administration official will directly admit this. This is actually what I think it most interesting about the recently leaked email exchange between Bob Woodward and Gene Sperling up on Politico…..

Obama wants to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits. Obama also wants to raise taxes, but he only wants to do these unpopular things if he can get bipartisan cover to destroy basic democratic accountability. If everyone is to blame than no one is to blame.

What has sometimes been viewed as incompetence on the part of Obama during negotiations is actually Obama trying to weaken Democrats’ hand to “force” them to accept entitlement cuts while being able to blame it on the mean Republicans.

That is why even now Obama isn’t calling for the sequester to be simply repealed or delayed. Obama still wants to use this manufactured crisis to force congressional Democrats to betray their base by adopting Social Security cuts and get Republicans to accept revenue increases.

Finally, thanks to JJ for sending me the link to this piece by Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect: Dear White House, You’ll Regret This.

[Gene Sperling’s] e-mail is pure confirmation that Obama’s position, dating back to at least 2011, has been to try to trade cuts in Social Security and Medicare for new revenues. It confirms that Sperling and his boss have been channeling the likes of Robert Rubin, Pete Peterson, the corporate-sponsored Fix the Debt campaign, et al., who have been promoting exactly this grand bargain. Sperling confirms that the sequester was designed to force exactly such a dismal deal.

But even worse, writes Kuttner, is what the e-mail demonstrations about Sperling’s–and Obama’s–pathetic negotiating skills.

The Woodward-Sperling exchange is far more interesting for what it reveals about Sperling/Obama’s propensity for giving ground on core issues and getting almost nothing in return. I supposed we should be grateful that Sperling is only wrecking the economy, the Democrats, Social Security, and Medicare—and not negotiating nukes with the Ayatollah.

I’ve said ever since I read The Audacity of Hope back in 2007 that Obama wanted to cut Social Security. Actually, he made it clear in the book that he wanted to privatize it, but he must have realized that wasn’t going to happen. It’s time for those of us who care about these issues to start screaming bloody murder again. We need to get on this ASAP. So tell your friends and call your Congress critters.

The floor is open for discussion.


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.’”

bob_cat

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.
Read the rest of this entry »


President Obama Is Driving The Village Pundits Insane!

bob_cat

Wow. The Village pundits are so wound up over the “sequester” these days that I hate to think what’s going to happen over the weekend when the automatic budget cuts have taken effect. Will there be weeping and wailing instead of dancing at Disco Dave’s place? Will Bob Schieffer have to talk David Ignatius off a ledge? Will Dana Millbank freak out and require hospitalization? Will Bob Woodward’s hair catch fire? Will Major Garrett spontaneously combust?

Honestly, I’ve never seen anything like the temper tantrums the Village pundits have been throwing over the past week or two; and now that they are finally realizing that they’re not going to get the White House and Congress to agree to replace the “sequester” with Simpson Bowles 2.0, they’ve begun to scream and stamp their feet. I’m afraid one of them may throw himself to the floor and have a kicking and shrieking tantrum soon.

First up, Bob Woodward. Last Friday, the poor, frustrated stuffed shirt published a hectoring op-ed in the Washington Post in which he assigned full blame for the “sequester” to President Obama. As evidence, Woodward misleadingly sourced his own book on last year’s debt limit fight. He was rounding mocked on numerous liberal websites, and that must have really gotten his dander up.

Today Woodward appeared on Morning Joe and upped the ante. Mediaite reports:

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward’s ongoing war of words with President Barack Obama’s White House escalated on Wednesday when Woodward took to the set of MSNBC’s Morning Joe to slam the president’s handling of the sequester fight. Woodward said that the president has displayed a “kind of madness” in his decision to make those cuts as painful and deleterious to the nation’s war fighting capability as possible….

He then turned to the sequester: “I think peoples’ heads are about to explode about all of this, you know, what the hell is going on here,” Woodward said. “I’m not sure the White House understands exactly what happened in all of these negotiations at the end of 2011 with the sequester and the super committee, because they were really on the sidelines.”

Woodward slammed Obama’s decision to announce that sequester cuts would force an American aircraft carrier to not deploy to the Persian Gulf.

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document’?”

Watch it:

h/t to TPM and to RalphB for the catch!

Ignatius

Woodward’s pompous WaPo colleague David Ignatius also strongly disapproves of President Obama’s failure to make what Ignatius thinks is the obviously correct choice:

We have a political system that is the equivalent of a drunk driver. The primary culprits are the House Republicans. They are so intoxicated with their own ideology that they are ready to drive the nation’s car off the road. I don’t know if the sequestration that’s set to begin Friday will produce a little crisis or a big one; the sad fact is that the Republicans don’t know, either, yet they’re still willing to put the country at risk to make a political point.

At least Ignatius admits the Republicans are mostly to blame for the crisis. But…

I’m no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis. As I’ve written often, he needs to provide the presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.

Why is it always Social Security and Medicare that these guys want to cut? Surely there has to be a better way to deal with the noncrisis than to starve granny and then refuse her health care when she’s dying in the street?

Dana Millbank in drag

Dana Millbank in drag

Last Tuesday Dan Millbank, also of the WaPo, stated his demand that Simpson-Bowles be enacted right now!

On Tuesday morning, as President Obama and House Republicans were abandoning hope of reaching a compromise to avoid across-the-board spending cuts on March 1, the indefatigable duo of Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson made one more attempt to float a bipartisan compromise. They were literally shouted down.

Seconds after Bowles and Simpson were introduced at a breakfast forum hosted by Politico, hecklers in the audience began to interrupt: “Pay your share of taxes! Stop cutting jobs! Stop cutting Medicare and Medicaid!”

“Wait your turn,” pleaded the moderator, Politico’s Mike Allen, as the half-dozen demonstrators were gradually removed.

Good grief! How shocking that the peons would dare to demand that the Villagers “sacrifice” instead of resigning themselves to “feel the pain” so that the Villagers and their wealthy friends aren’t inconvenienced!

These politicians aren’t “serious,” Millbank tut tuts, claiming that “neither [Obama nor Boehner] is offering anything close to a workable plan.”

I’ve left the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) for last. Major Garrett’s bizarre and incomprehensible (to me anyway) op-ed in the National Journal: Tennessee Williams Offers Window Into the Mendacity That Defines the Sequester.

Major Garrett disapproves

Major Garrett disapproves

According to Garrett, the way to understand the “sequester” is to listen to Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The problem is “mendacity,” which is a fancy word for lying.

How can anyone look upon the sequester with anything but revulsion and venom — the kind of smoldering rage that spills out of Big Daddy Pollitt (played by Burl Ives in the 1958 movie) when he begins to peel back the slippery layers of deception that defined his seemingly respectable Mississippi Delta life. Big Daddy’s life and all those who spin around it are reduced, as if by the centripetal force of fakery, into one word: mendacity.

Williams was not speaking for the South or plantation owners, but everyone who can kid themselves into believing something that simply isn’t true. Acid drips from Big Daddy’s sweet-sounding and recurrent question: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that was true?” After listening to all the varied finger-pointing and blame-shifting on our latest budget crisis, I will from now substitute the word “mendacity” for “sequester.”

Ooooookaaaay….

Encapsulated within the confines of a tortured Mississippi family, Tennessee Williams captured in the 1950s a bit of the writhing, frustrating, and at times grotesque antics of modern American budget mendacity. In his immortal Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Big Daddy Pollitt and his son Brick — a high school football hero turned town drunk — argue over Brick’s refusal to see the consequences of his drinking, how his indolence breeds chaos in the lives of others. Earlier, Brick speaks mournfully of mendacity — the lies of his young life.

Big Daddy: “But it’s always there in the mornin’, ain’t it—the truth? And it’s here right now. You’re just feeling sorry for yourself; that’s all it is — self-pity.… Life ain’t no damn football game. Life ain’t just a buncha high spots. You’re a 30-year-old kid. Soon you’ll be a 50-year-old kid, pretendin’ you’re hearin’ cheers when there ain’t any. Dreamin’ and drinkin’ your life away. Heroes in the real world live 24 hours a day, not just two hours in a game. Mendacity, you won’t … you won’t live with mendacity but you’re an expert at it. The truth is pain and sweat and payin’ bills.”

Big Daddy and Brick

Big Daddy and Brick

Garrett doesn’t mention that Brick’s drinking and “indolence” stems from clinical depression triggered by denial of his homosexuality, but maybe Garrett doesn’t know that. But we now know how what Garrett believes is the solution to the financial noncrisis:

Our mendacities now are about dollars and cents. We hate ourselves, at some level, for being unable to produce enough to pay our bills. Our politics invites us to dream our life away. But the sequester and the fiscal cliff and the debt/default drama fractiously and dramatically remind us of our limits. We are frustrated. We don’t want to live with mendacity. But, sadly, we’ve become experts at it.

The truth is pain and sweat and payin’ bills.

Except that American does pay its bills and will continue to do so unless the Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling. And yes, as Garrett writes, most American families pay their bills too. But just like the federal government, most American families go into debt in order to buy a house or a car. Only the very richest among us can pay cash for those items. Like the government, families borrow and then pay the loans back with interest.

If anyone can figure out what else Garrett is trying to say, I’d be glad to hear it. Frankly, I think he’s lost his mind, and so have the rest of these Village idiots. I’m going to be fascinated to watch what happens to them over the next few days as their Simpson-Bowles fantasies crash and burn.


Sally Quinn: Only Believers Can Be American Citizens

Sally Quinn is insane

Why does the Washington Post keep publishing the bizarre rantings of an insane person like Sally Quinn? Does Ben Bradlee still have that much influence, or is it Bob Woodward’s attachment to Bradlee that ensures that Quinn can keep vomiting forth her hate-filled screeds in, of all things, the “On Faith” column?

Forgive me if you’ve already heard enough about Quinn’s reaction to Wednesday’s presidential debate. Somehow I missed her latest nonsensical frothings until this afternoon. If only I’d continued on, happily unaware! But instead, I clicked on a link and soon learned that, according to Quinn, Mitt Romney won the first debate because he mentioned god. I also found out that Quinn believes that atheists can’t be American citizens!

When Mitt Romney mentioned the “Creator” in the debate Wednesday, he owned it. “We’re all children of the same God,” he said.

That’s about 85 percent of the country he was talking to. That should have been President Obama’s constituency but he let Romney have it as he let Romney have the debate.

Is that so. Is she really claiming that 85 percent of voters are suddenly going to vote for Mitt Romney now because he mentioned god?

Moving on:

Citing the Declaration of Independence, Romney said: “Second, is that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.”

Like most of what Sally Quinn writes, and much of what Mitt Romney says, that makes absolutely no sense, but I’ll have more to say about that in a minute.

Quinn continues (emphasis added):

This is a religious country. Part of claiming your citizenship is claiming a belief in God, even if you are not Christian…. We’ve got the Creator in our Declaration of Independence. We’ve got “In God We Trust” on our coins. We’ve got “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance. And we say prayers in the Senate and the House of Representatives to God.

An atheist could never get elected dog catcher, much less president….Up until now, the idea of being American and believing in God were synonymous.

I have news for Quinn. This is not a “religious country.” This is a country in which people can worship as they please, but they can’t interfere with other people doing something completely different. Our government, however, is secular and there can be no religious test for American citizenship or for public office.

Quinn wraps up her idiotic piece by announcing that if President Obama wants to win the next debate, he’ll have to “wear God, as much as it offends him to do so.”

WTF?! How do you “wear god?” Is she suggesting that Obama should wear a crucifix around his neck at the next debate? And what does she mean by claiming that Obama is offended by “wearing god?” I’m completely at a loss here.

Frankly, I think Sally Quinn needs to be evaluated by a competent psychiatrist immediately. Furthermore, as long as she continues writing for it, the Washington Post cannot ever again be considered a serious newspaper.

But I want to return to Romney’s quote on the the Declaration of Independence:

“Second, is that line that says we are endowed by our Creator with our rights, I believe we must maintain our commitment to religious tolerance and freedom in this country. That statement also says that we are endowed by our creator with the right to pursue happiness as we choose. I interpret that as, one, making sure that those people who are less fortunate and can’t care for themselves are cared by — by one another.”

That is not at all what Thomas Jefferson wrote. The Declaration of Independence says that we are all “created equal” and have innate rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” There’s nothing in there about the pursuit of happiness “as we choose,” or about who is supposed to take care of “less fortunate” people. Here’s the relevant quote:

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Romney seems to be trying to reinterpret Jefferson’s words–perhaps based on Paul Ryan’s twisted version of Ayn Randism–to mean that “less fortunate” people should help each other, while fortunate ones like Romney help themselves in any way they like. Come to think of it, that’s probably exactly what he does believe. But it’s not what Thomas Jefferson wrote.

It’s abundantly clear that Jefferson was writing about the role of government in making sure that citizens are granted the rights that come from “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” and that when a government no longer protects those rights, the citizens have a right to form a new government. If Mitt Romney doesn’t understand that, then he has no business running for public office, much less serving as President of the United States.

Although I regret reading Sally Quinn’s confused and innane thoughts on the presidential debate, I’m grateful to her for pointing out Mitt Romney’s complete ignorance of the document that laid the foundation for American independence and for the rights that are enumerated in the U.S. Constitution. I hate to think how he would interpret the Bill of Rights.

Oh, and I am a full-fledged citizen even though I don’t accept Sally Quinn’s or Mitt Romney’s twisted religious beliefs, and I have every intention of voting on November 6.


Tuesday Reads: New Political Books

Good Morning!!

There are lots of interesting books coming out this month, so thought I’d preview a few of them. I pre-ordered the fourth volume of Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power, which comes out today. I have the first two volumes, and I admit they’ve just been sitting on my bookshelf for years unread. I thought I might read vol. 4 first, since it covers the Kennedy assassination and Johnson’s first few years as President. Then maybe I’ll be inspired to read the earlier volumes. Caro is 77 this year. I hope he has time to finish this series, which is considered one of the greatest biographies of all time.

Another interesting book that is being released today is Steve Coll’s Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power. The book is an investigation of the giant corporation beginning with the Exxon Valdez oil spill and ending with the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Salon published an excerpt from the book on Sunday.

Also coming out today is It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein. The authors had an op-ed in the Washington Post a few days ago to preview the book: Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

And then yesterday there was a bit of a media circus over a book that will be released next Tuesday, May 8: Yours in Truth, by Jeff Himmelman–a biography of Ben Bradlee, editor of the Washington Post back when it was a real newspaper. New York Magazine published an excerpt from the book that led to a fascinating back and forth over what I think are some pretty minor issues about the Washington Post’s Watergate coverage. The fascinating aspects of the story are the reactions of the people involved: Himmelman, Bradlee, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein.

Jeff Himmelman worked for years as a research assistant to Bob Woodward, helping him with articles for the WaPo, as well as Woodward’s book Bush at War. Woodward was Himmelman’s mentor.

My office was on the third floor of Bob’s house, down the hall from the framed apology from Nixon’s press secretary that sits at the top of the staircase. I was back working as Bob’s research assistant for a few months, after having more or less lived in his house from 1999 to 2002. Bob had been my first real boss, hiring me when I was 23. I’d been with him on September 11, as he charged toward the Capitol while the plane presumably targeting it was still in the air, and had helped him begin Bush at War, the first of his blockbuster portraits of the Bush presidency that were a late turning point in his legendary career. As a reporter, I was in awe of him. I had also gotten to know Carl Bernstein, who called often and sometimes stayed in the guest bedroom on the other end of the third floor. I still remember the charge I got out of relaying Carl’s phone messages—­Bernstein for Woodward.

Carl was important to Bob, but Ben Brad­lee was something entirely different. Bob revered him, and so I did, too. I had only met Ben once, for a few seconds in Bob’s kitchen, but I had seen All the President’s Men. When Bob said, “I told them they should hire you,” I leaped at the chance.

Woodward’s mentor had been Ben Bradlee, long-time editor of the WaPo. So naturally when Woodward suggested Himmelman as a co-author of a memoir by Bradlee, Himmelman was thrilled. Eventually, Bradlee decided he didn’t want to write the book, but he was fine with Himmelman writing a biography. Bradlee generously opened up his archives to the young writer. All of which led up to a mini-Shakespearean tragedy.

Himmelman discovered that Bradlee had on a few occasions questioned whether Woodward’s portrayal of his relationship with Deep Throat had been embellished–perhaps the story about the signals he used to schedule meetings (using a flowerpot on Woodward’s apartment balcony, which has one of the best stainless steel juliet balconies by the way) with the mysterious source wasn’t quite true or perhaps there were more or fewer meetings in the parking garage than Woodward had described. Bradlee had told an interviewer in 1990:

Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.

To me, that’s a big *so what?* Those details aren’t integral to the Watergate story.

The second big revelation in yesterday’s New York Magazine article was that one of Carl Bernstein’s anonymous sources had actually been had actually been a grand juror in Judge Sirica’s investigation. If that had ever come out, Woodward and Bernstein would have been jailed. The two young reporters and Bradlee had made the decision to approach some of the grand jurors, although it would have been a crime for the jurors to reveal any of the evidence. It was risky, but frankly, I have no problem with it. Journalists should take risks. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

In early December, Judge John Sirica was told by prosecutors that a grand juror had been approached by the Post reporters but had revealed nothing. Incensed, Sirica called Woodward and Bernstein into court two weeks later and warned against any further meddling. “Had they actually obtained information from that grand juror,” he wrote later, “they would have gone to jail.” According to the Post’s lawyers, who negotiated on their behalf, Sirica almost locked them up anyway.

Before the scolding from Sirica, Bernstein visited the apartment of a woman he identified, in the book, as “Z.” She wouldn’t talk to him in person, but she slipped her number under the door. “Your articles have been excellent,” she told him, advising him to read their own reporting carefully. “There is more truth in there than you must have realized,” she said. “Your perseverance has been admirable.” She sounded, Carl thought, “like some kind of mystic.”

Through an old memo from Bernstein, Himmelman learned that this woman was actually a grand juror, although Bernstein didn’t know that when he first approached her. They used her as a source in All the President’s Men without revealing her identity. Again, I have no problem with that. No one is going to jail for this now.

But Bob Woodward especially is very upset. Bernstein is concerned, but less than Woodward, who IMHO is self-involved, pompous ass. Anyway New York Mag published a response from Woodward and Bernstein along with Himmelman’s article.

But that wasn’t enough for Woodward, he also spoke to Politico at least twice about his objections: Woodward rejects new Watergate claims

In an interview with POLITICO Sunday night, Woodward asserted that Himmelman failed to include in the New York magazine article a much more recent interview he did with Bradlee that was more supportive of Woodward.

“There’s a transcript of an interview that Himmelman did with Bradlee 18 months ago in which Ben undercuts the [New York magazine] piece. It’s amazing that it’s not in Jeff’s piece,” Woodward said. “It’s almost like the way Nixon’s tapings did him in, Jeff’s own interview with Bradlee does him in.”

….

According to Woodward’s reading of the transcript, Bradlee told Himmelman: “If you would ask me, do I think that [Woodward] embellished, I would say no.”

Bradlee and wife Sally Quinn also defended Woodward to Politico. Poor Woodward–stabbed in the back by his beloved protege: “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is/To have a thankless child! (King Lear)

And then Himmelman fired back, revealing to Politico an even more recent statement by Bradlee.

That interview between Bradlee and Himmelman took place on March 9, 2011, just two days after Woodward met with Bradlee and Himmelman at Bradlee’s house to encourage them not to publish the potentially damaging quotes from his 1990 interview.

In the 2011 interview, which Himmelman provided to POLITICO and are included in his forthcoming biography of Bradlee, Bradlee reiterates his initial doubts about Woodward’s reporting.

“I wanted to be crystal clear about it, so I just went ahead and asked him,” Himmelman writes. “‘You said what you said in 1990, and there’s a record of it…’”

Bradlee: “Yeah.”

Himmelman: “And you don’t retract it?”

Bradlee: “I don’t.”

If, like me you’re still fascinated by the Watergate story and by political journalism generally do go read the Himmelman article in NY Magazine. The part I found most interesting was how upset Woodward was by these minor revelations–he even begged Himmelman not to include them in the book and convinced Bradlee to also ask that Himmelman leave them out of the book. Woodward tried to convince Himmelman himself and then showed up at Bradlee’s house to enlist his mentor’s help. From the NY Mag. article:

When Bob arrived, he didn’t look like he’d slept a lot. We shook hands, but only in the most perfunctory way. Ben sat at the head of the dining-room table, and I sat to Ben’s left, facing Bob. There was no small talk. Bob had brought a thick manila folder with him, which he set down heavily on the table in a way that he meant for us to notice. When Ben asked what it was, Bob said, “Data.” Then he asked Ben what he thought of the whole situation.

“I’ve known this young man for some years now,” Ben said, meaning me, “and I trust his skills and his intent.” Then he looked down at the transcript and said, “Nothing in here really bothers me, but I know there’s something in here that bothers you. What’s in here that bothers you?”

Bob went into his pitch, which he proceeded to repeat over the course of the meeting. He would read the “residual fear” line out loud, and then say he couldn’t figure out how Ben could still have had doubts about his reporting so many years after Nixon resigned. This was the unresolvable crux of the problem, and one they circled for the duration of the meeting: How could Ben have doubted the flowerpots and the garage meetings, when the rest of the reporting had turned out to be true? Bob thought this was inconsistent and hurtful. Ben didn’t. Bob tried everything he could to get Ben to disavow what he had said, or at least tell me I couldn’t use it. Ben wouldn’t do either of those things. “Bob, you’ve made your point,” Ben said after Bob had made his pitch four or five times. “Quit while you’re ahead.”

Clearly Bradlee agrees with me that this is no big deal. But Woodward is worried about his legacy. Sorry, Bob. You already sold out your legacy by becoming the Bush administration’s court stenographer.

Bob turned to me. I had worked for him; he had given an impromptu toast at my wedding. You know me and the world we live in, he said. People who didn’t like him and didn’t like the Post—the “fuckers out there,” as Ben had called them—were going to seize on these comments. “Don’t give fodder to the fuckers,” Bob said, and once he lit on this phrase he repeated it a couple of times. The quotes from the interview with Barbara were nothing more than outtakes from Ben’s book, he said. Ben hadn’t used them, and so I shouldn’t use them, either.

The article ends with the further revelation that the original tape of the 1990 interview has disappeared from the archive.

“What does that mean?” Ben asked.

“I don’t know.”

“Do you think Woodward’s got it?”

“Maybe,” I said. He laughed, and then I laughed. The Watergate parallels were a little much, though we were surely imagining things. “His reaction to this thing was off the charts.”

“Off the charts!” Ben said. “It suggests that he’s really worried. That it might be true.”

Who cares about these little revelations about a long ago scandal? I don’t. Sadly, if Watergate happened today, it would be just a minor blip on the political radar. Huge scandals and abuses of power are now routinely ignored or defended by the supine and power-worshiping corporate media. But the insight this story provides into the psychology of Bob Woodward is fascinating.

Sorry this ended up being so long. I hope you’re not all bored stiff. So what’s on your reading list today?