Woodward under fire as White House, allies seek to discredit sequester reporting

Neil Munro | White House Correspondent

Progressives are throwing a series of virtual flowerpots at veteran journalist Bob Woodward, following his stepped-up criticism of President Barack Obama’s attempt to raise taxes by hyping the sequester budget trims.

“Watching Woodward last 2 days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated,” said a late-night tweet from David Plouffe, who was President Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign manager and 2012 campaign adviser.

Plouffe quickly defended his dig at Woodward’s age, saying “like many I was shaped by Woodward writing and books. ATPM was perfection. But this latest skirmish off,” he said. “ATPM” refers to Woodward’s 1974 Watergate tell-all book, “All the President’s Men.”

Neera Tanden, the president of Center for American Progress, also got sucked in. “Bob Woodward certainly changed a lot in 5 days,” tweeted Tanden, who worked for Obama before heading the CAP, which lobbies for the interests of Democrats.

The pile-on by the president’s allies follows Woodward’s recent statements that Obama is walking away from the 2011 budget-deal by calling for more tax increases, that he is hyping the impact of the sequester cuts, and that he was allegedly threatened by Obama’s top economic adviser, Gene Sperling.

The supposed threat came Feb. 22 when Sperling tried to get Woodward to back down from his conclusion that Obama is “moving the goalposts” from the 2011 budget deal.

Woodward also slammed Obama’s hype over the cuts — which will leave 2013 spending level with 2013 spending — as “madness.”

On Feb. 28, Politico published an e-mail that Sperling sent to Woodward shortly after an apparently heated phone call.

“I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today … 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,” Sperling wrote.

“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,” Sperling said.

Woodward described that “regret” prediction as a veiled threat, according to Politico.

Obama’s aides say Obama is not “moving the goalposts” by demanding extra taxes to offset spending cuts, which will trim only about $42 billion in March to September expenditures from the $3.8 trillion budget.

“The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand bargain 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,” Sperling argued in his email to Woodward. Woodward wrote over the weekend that Obama had originally agreed to not make tax hikes a part of the sequester deal.

Obama’s outside aides are helping the White House out.

Stefanie Cutter, one of Obama’s press aides on the 2012 campaign, threw a few words at Woodward. “So much talk abt Woodward & Sperling emails this a.m. Why the hell is this news? Sperling doing his job, Woodward sort of doing his. #stupid,” she tweeted.

Brad Woodhouse, the communications director of the Democratic National Committee, retweeted a critical comment about Woodward from a journalist at National Public Radio. “Woodward has ‘splaining to do. Email from Sperling seems to be making case, not threat.”

For their part, GOP flacks are spotlighting the White House’s pile-on, and tweeting out their own taunts.

“‘You’ll regret this’ – is a threat,” said Brad Dayspring, a spokesman at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which helps senators’ election campaigns. “May not be of violence, but it is a threat. Definition: an indication or warning of probable trouble,” he added.

He also prodded journalists to look past the finger-pointing to the core disagreement between Woodward and the White House. “Don’t chase the [David] Plouffe spin. He’s throwing a curveball to distract from Woodward’s true point: Obama not being honest on sequester.”

Dayspring also taunted liberals for their sudden criticism of Woodward.

“Will liberal professors have to stop showing ‘All the President’s Men’ to their students now that Woodward is being blackballed by the left?” he tweeted.

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