Bob Woodward vs. the White House: Who's right in 'sequester' smackdown? (+video)
The White House is taking public issue with veteran journalist Bob Woodward over his words about about the origin and nature of the 'sequester.' Both sides have points, but there are at least three reasons Team Obama might regret this match.
Bob Woodward and the White House have suddenly become embroiled in a very public shoving match over stuff the legendary Washington Post reporter has said about the origin and nature of the "sequester."Skip to next paragraph
Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.
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Mr. Woodward says the administration is being touchy and aggressive and trying to intimidate him. “They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” he told Politico’s Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei on Wednesday.
President Obama’s supporters in essence say Woodward is a has-been who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Ex-Obama senior adviser David Plouffe on Twitter Wednesday night wrote, “Watching Woodward last 2 days is like my imagining my idol [Phillies 3rd baseman] Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated.”
Who’s right here? This is a squabble for which official Washington is buying popcorn, pulling up a chair, and taking sides, after all.
Both sides have points but we’ll try to sort some things out. Woodward’s basic substantive charges about the sequester are that it was the administration’s idea to begin with, and that the White House has “moved the goal posts” by now insisting on new tax revenue as well as spending cuts to reach further deficit-reduction goals.
The former is true. Administration officials did come up with the sequester idea as a way to try to force Congress to agree to those deficit-reduction figures. The White House pretty much acknowledges this but adds that it is kind of irrelevant, because it was House Republicans who were holding the debt-ceiling increase hostage at the time. If Speaker John Boehner et al had not been doing that there would have been no need for sequestration, Q.E.D. Plus, it wasn’t supposed to ever go into effect.
The latter Woodward charge is more open to debate. Speaker Boehner may have thought that the “grand bargain” deficit-reduction package he nearly struck with the White House back in 2011 was all about budget cuts. But the administration pretty clearly thought more tax revenue would be included as well.
Slate’s Moneybox columnist Matthew Yglesias writes Thursday that the deficit-reduction effort that might hold off sequestration has always been an undefined rough beast that both sides want to shape to their own preferences.