For a long time now, Bob Woodward has seemed to be a doppelganger of his most famous subject. Like Nixon, Woodward is personally stiff, with halting and robotic speech patterns substituting for the disgraced president's twitches. Like Nixon, Woodward enjoys the surreptitious -- many of his books don't even have notes, so determined is he to conceal How He Got That Story -- and, like Nixon, he regards information as the source of his power over others (by astonishing coincidence, the people who don't cooperate with Woodward are always the worst people in Washington). Nixon looked out into the world and saw malign forces arrayed against him; Woodward became part of the Sally Quinn/Ben Bradlee Rat Pack, whose worldview was summed up in David Broder's notorious words about Bill Clinton: "He came in here and he trashed the place, and it's not his place."
Both Erick Erickson and Mediaite's Noah Rothman have seen a veiled reference to Nixon in something Woodward said on Morning Joe yesterday morning about President Obama's handling of the sequester:
"Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying 'Oh, by the way, I can't do this because of some budget document?' Or George W. Bush saying, 'You know, I'm not going to invade Iraq because I can't get the aircraft carriers I need' or even Bill Clinton saying, 'You know, I’m not going to attack Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters,' as he did when Clinton was president because of some budget document? Under the Constitution, the president is commander-in-chief and employs the force. And so we now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, I can't do what I need to do to protect the country. That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time.But where they see Woodward hinting that Obama is a new mad Nixon, I see Woodward being Nixonian in scurrilously suggesting that the president has lost his bearings. It's like something Nixon would have slipped into the press about Ed Muskie during the '72 primaries.
(It's also rather Nixonian to suggest that the president should just become a dictator to satisfy Woodward's craving for action.)
Woodward's follow-up -- the Obamaites-threatened-me story -- also seems like a Nixonian attempt at character assassination, although, like Nixon releasing the tapes, Woodward seems to have undercut his position by revealing more:
Bob Woodward called a senior White House official last week to tell him that in a piece in that weekend's Washington Post, he was going to question President Barack Obama's account of how sequestration came about -- and got a major-league brushback. The Obama aide "yelled at me for about a half hour," Woodward told us in an hour-long interview yesterday around the Georgetown dining room table where so many generations of Washington's powerful have spilled their secrets.That's your nothingburger of a "threat," Bob? "[P]erhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim"? Following an apology?
Digging into one of his famous folders, Woodward said the tirade was followed by a page-long email from the aide, one of the four or five administration officials most closely involved in the fiscal negotiations with the Hill. "I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today," the official typed. "You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim."
But Woodward wants vengeance. He revealed in his book that the White House originated the idea of the sequester, and Team Obama got away with fudging that fact (never mind that this was the only way out of a hostage crisis). Woodward is angry -- the bastards got away with it! Woodward will be avenged!
Somewhere in hell, Dick Nixon is nodding and saying, "Bob, I know just how you feel."
UPDATE: Notice the ellipsis in the "threatening" quote from the e-mail above? Some people saw that and smelled a rat:
Woodward’s ellipsis was immediately suspicious to me. twitter.com/jamisonfoser/s… But Superstar Journalists didn’t bother to question it.— Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) February 28, 2013
In fact, as we now know, the full text of the "threatening" e-mail (from White House aide Gene Sperling) reveals the missing words:
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.What Sperling is referring to is Woodward's claim, in a Washington Post article, that Obama initially accepted that the sequester should be replaced only with spending cuts. This assertion has been proven to be factually incorrect, based on the plain text of the law that put the sequester into effect.
Except for the fact that we found out what was missing, you could call this ellipsis Woodward's 18-minute gap.