If you grew up with a romanticized view of investigative journalism, and with an adolescent fascination with the mythical two-headed creature that Ben Bradlee addressed as “Woodstein,” then you’ll share my discomfort at watching Bob Woodward self-destruct. Oh, well. It’s possible that he was only human all along.
Woodward wrote a piece assigning part of the blame for the sequester deal to President Barack Obama, and he alerted a source at the White House that the piece was coming. His source, apparently Gene Sperling, chewed him out. Then Woodward and Sperling exchanged emails, and Woodward chose to characterize Sperling’s email as a threat. Here he is, complaining about it on CNN:
But then Politico got its hands on the emails, and Woodward’s version suddenly seemed unhinged. Sperling comes across as measured, contrite and conciliatory, and not as someone uttering dark threats against the fourth estate:
“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. … I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim. … 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”
As any well-brought-up person would do, Woodward sent a gracious reply, assuring Sperling that he need not apologize. Richard Nixon, wherever he is, must be enjoying the irony that one of his earthly tormentors is now being haunted by the record of his own words.
None of this impeaches the credibility of Woodward’s story, but it does raise questions about his frame of mind: If his perspective is so loopy on this topic, how trustworthy is his analysis on other matters?
– Eric Ringham