stunning accusation yesterday:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: You're used to this kind of stuff, but share with our viewers what's going on between you and the White House.
BOB WOODWARD: Well, they're not happy at all and some people kind of, you know, said, look, 'we don't see eye to eye on this.' They never really said, though, afterwards, they've said that this is factually wrong, and they -- and it was said to me in an e-mail by a top --
BLITZER: What was said?
WOODWARD: It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.
BLITZER: Who sent that e-mail to you?
WOODWARD: Well, I'm not going to say.
BLITZER: Was it a senior person at the White House?
WOODWARD: A very senior person.
Politico outs the "senior person" as Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (as per the White House website).
Damage control is already underway:
A White House official said: “Of course no threat was intended. As Mr. Woodward noted, the email from the aide was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation. The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation.”
Maybe it was just a poor choice of words, but word choice is crucial when you are an assistant to the president, and dealing with what is presumed to be a free press. But I'm not buying the innocence routine here; if Sperling was so free with his tongue on a famed journalist like Woodward, there seems little doubt he's loosed it in a similar fashion on lesser lights before.
Why did Gene Sperling think he could get away with such a threat? As mentioned above, perhaps he's done it before, with no consequences. Or maybe he sees himself as a sort of Scott Pritchard character from Costner's No Way Out; a power-mad General Counsel to the Secretary of Defense:
You have no idea what men of power can do!
Here's the question: Will Sperling be sanctioned by the White House?
Depends. The Obama fanatics are circling the wagons, accusing Woodward of senility and all but calling for a Soviet-style institutionalization of the revered reporter. On the other hand, the MSM is giving the story some play, at odds with their usual role as drooling sycophants. And Obama knows it is easier for him to lose his economic assistant (how hard is it to repeat "raise taxes!" ad nasuem, anyway?) than to lose the mainstream media.
But it could be that Obama will take the third way: Do nothing at all, and let Sperling's ugly threats to a famed journalist - who broke ranks, and called out the president on his misdirection and lies - stand.
It would send another type of message entirely.
We'll see if the media gets it.
UPDATE: The released emails from Gene Sperling seem even more damning:
But I do truly believe 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...