I am both amused and empathetic with the plight of Bob Woodward, who is now the focus of a Washington political kerfuffle ignited by his reporting that the sequester idea originated with Barack Obama’s new Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew. That claim led to a White House push back and provoked a response from Bob Woodward. Mr. Watergate was not in the mood to be bullied, especially when he believed that his credibility was at stake.
Woodward, who has been a bit of a “lefty” celebrity for his hard hitting books and reporting on Republicans like Nixon, Reagan, George Bush Sr. and George W, is now a pariah as far as the left is concerned. Matt Welch provides a nice sample of the left’s vitriol:
Who goes birther first, Scalia or Woodward?
Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated.
Smart @thenation interns & young folks have no idea who Woodward is but dc establishment freaked about his critique of WH & sequester.
My amateur advice: stop cooperating with Woodward in the first place.
I think Woodward will find people will stop yelling at him the very minute he decides to stop sucking so much at his job.
Telling egotist Woodward “I think you will regret staking out that claim” isn’t a threat; it’s just not realistic.
Woodward’s managed to make me suspect Nixon got a raw deal.
I have experienced the same phenomena, but from both the right and the left. My advice for Bob? Ignore the assholes and just be yourself.
In the aftermath of the 2001 9-11, I was in great demand to comment on terrorism. That ultimately led to a contract with Fox News, where I was a Fox News analyst and appeared regularly on the network. My downfall came on the Hannity and Colmes show in November 2002, when I opined that an invasion of Iraq would be a diversion in the war on terrorism and that we were not well equipped to fight a two front war. I subsequently learned that my remarks sparked the ire of Rupert Murdoch, who in turn ordered that I not be allowed back on air. Bill O’Reilly, to his credit, was the only one who continued to use me while my contract was in place.
2003 marked the start of the Left’s love affair with me. I was not seeking their approval. They simply embraced what I was saying. I was an early critic of the invasion of Iraq. I came a bit late to the game. My pointed criticism of the Bush Administration cooking the books to build a case for invading Iraq started in May 2003 during an interview on NPR. Then came the outing of my old CIA buddy, Valerie Plame Wilson. I contacted several of our other Career Trainee colleagues (i.e., all of us who entered on duty at the same time and spent a year together in a special CIA training program) and we appeared on Nightline in September 2003 to defend Valerie. Boy, that made us something of celebrities among the left.
I even attended a Daily Kos Convention and spoke with Joe Wilson about the lies of Bush and the intimidation factor. I was adored by the Libs. I became a regular on the Keith Olbermann show on MSNBC. I was working at Fort Bragg scripting a terrorism exercise back in 2004 and got a call from Olbermann’s booker–they wanted me for that night’s show. I explained where I was and they said, “no problem.” When I arrived at the Fairfield Inn after working that day, a satellite truck was sitting in the parking lot with cables snaking into a first floor room. The gals at the front desk were very excited–a TV crew was on site. I did the interview with Keith that night sitting on a chair at the foot of the bed while the cameraman sat on the toilette.
Needless to say, consorting with the left made me a pariah of the right. It did not help things that I appeared in the documentary OUTFOXED, describing how Fox executives tried to shape the news and comments to support the Bush Administration. I was not pandering to a political agenda. I was simply telling what I knew from firsthand experience.
The left turned on me in 2008 when I declined to board the Obama bandwagon. I had the audacity to report on his ties to terrorists and hardcore lefties. I had the gall to describe him as an untested, inexperienced politician devoid of any substantive leadership experience. That made me a target of hatred by many on the left. I used to write regularly for Josh Marshall at TPM Cafe and for the Huffington Post. Those venues went away.
You may not like what I write or agree with my positions. But understand this (and this is advice for Bob Woodward as well)–I am not writing to win friends or accolades. I write what I know, based on my experience and take positions that I believe are morally and ethically correct.
So, I watch the blowback and switching of positions underway with respect to Bob Woodward with a twinge of nostalgia. Been there done that. Bob, my advice to you is simple–just tell the truth and be true to yourself. You may lose popularity and following, but you will at least have your integrity intact.
UPDATE–As some of you have noted below (you know who you are, and thanks), Woodward is not alone in being the target of White House petulance and ire. Aging Democrat and staunch Clinton supporter, Lanny Davis and the National Journal’s Ron Fournier tell a very similar story:
I had angered the White House, particularly a senior White House official who I am unable to identify because I promised the person anonymity. Going back to my first political beat, covering Bill Clinton’s administration in Arkansas and later in Washington, I’ve had a practice that is fairly common in journalism: A handful of sources I deal with regularly are granted blanket anonymity. Any time we communicate, they know I am prepared to report the information at will (matters of fact, not spin or opinion) and that I will not attribute it to them.
This is an important way to build a transparent and productive relationship between reporters and the people they cover. Nothing chills a conversation faster than saying, “I’m quoting you on this.”
The official angered by my Woodward tweet sent me an indignant e-mail. “What’s next, a Nazi analogy?” the official wrote, chastising me for spreading “bull**** like that” I was not offended by the note, mild in comparison to past exchanges with this official. But it was the last straw in a relationship that had deteriorated.
As editor-in-chief of National Journal, I received several e-mails and telephone calls from this White House official filled with vulgarity, abusive language, and virtually the same phrase that Woodward called a veiled threat. “You will regret staking out that claim,” The Washington Post reporter was told.
Once I moved back to daily reporting this year, the badgering intensified. I wrote Saturday night, asking the official to stop e-mailing me. The official wrote, challenging Woodward and my tweet. “Get off your high horse and assess the facts, Ron,” the official wrote.
Where is the outrage among the Democrats? And while Republicans are now climbing on the bandwagon, they were remarkably quiet when the Bushies went after reporters who challenged them on Iraq. My point? I want consistency. I don’t give a hairless rat’s ass about party affiliation. This is about the abuse of power by the Executive branch. While no one is getting locked up in jail over this (yet), this smacks of the same tactics employed by the likes of Castro, Chavez, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, etc.
And it is quite appropriate to remember the full quote from Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.