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Why are Bob Woodward and the White House arguing over the sequester?

The blame-game over who’s responsible for the 'sequester' and its automatic spending cuts finds journalistic icon Bob Woodward, engaged in a dispute with the White House.

By Staff writer / February 24, 2013

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward shown on CNN's "Larry King Live" in 2004. Woodward and the White House have been arguing about the sequester and its across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to hit Friday.

Chris Kleponis/CNN/AP

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The blame-game over who’s responsible for the “sequester” and its automatic spending cuts – which everyone agrees is a terrible way to run Washington’s business – finds journalistic icon and Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward at the center of the controversy, engaged in a shouting (or at least tweeting) match with the White House.

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The essence of the flap is Woodward’s assertion that Obama administration officials (and the President himself) fathered the notion of sequestration as a way of forcing all hands in Washington to come up with a rational spending cut and revenue plan for reducing the federal deficit, and that Obama had “moved the goal posts” on budget negotiations by seeking new revenues to accompany spending cuts.

White House press secretary Jay Carney calls Woodward’s charge in a Washington Post op-ed column Sunday “willfully wrong.”

Sequester 101: What happens if $85 billion in cuts hit on March 1

Elaborating in a statement Sunday, the White House said, “There has never been any question that the President seeking revenues as part of a plan to replace the automatic cuts in the sequester was expected from the very beginning in the 2011 fiscal negotiations and the passage of the Budget Control Act. That the President today is seeking a balanced plan to replace it with revenues and entitlement reforms cannot in even the slightest way be considered a change of policy, a change of expectations, or moving the goalposts.”

To which Woodward responded in an email to Politico: "The White House pushback is a classic case of distortion and confusion.”

"We unfortunately have seen this too often in recent presidential history,” he emailed. “I do not think it is willful. They are just mixed up, surprisingly so."

Since this is Oscar night, we pause to note that in an earlier drama Woodward was played by Robert Redford in the 1976 movie about how he and Carl Bernstein – Dustin Hoffman on screen – unearthed the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, launching a generation of would-be investigative reporters and securing tenure for their journalism professors.

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