Every once in a while we hear about a story that gives us a good sense of the warped world of politicians and journalists in Washington, D.C. The recent snit between Bob Woodward and the White House is one of those stories.
In case you missed this earth-shattering tale, Bob Woodward — the Watergate reporter who has since made a career out of writing turgid, insider-based accounts of Washington events — was getting ready to write about “sequestration,” the Rube Goldberg process by which $85 billion in “automatic” spending cuts will be made today because our current President can’t lead and our current Congress can’t legislate. When Woodward told a White House aide his view on the genesis of the “sequestration” concept and the President’s approach to it, he says the aide yelled at him for a half hour, then sent Woodward an email that stated, among other things, that Woodward would “regret” staking out his position on the issue. Woodward, miffed, disclosed the exchange, which he saw as a veiled threat.
What does this tell us about Washington, D.C.? It tells us that the White House is focused more on spin than solving problems and is amazingly thin-skinned about criticism. “Sequestration” — the implementation of “automatic” spending cuts that were consciously designed to be so draconian and blunderbuss that they would force the parties to sit down and reach an agreement — is an idiotic way for our government to operate. I don’t blame the White House for trying to blur its role in putting such lunacy into place. The Democrat-controlled Senate, and the Republican-controlled House, are engaging in similar juvenile finger-pointing. The notion of accepting responsibility and reaching agreement on a rational approach evidently is too adult a concept to hold sway in the weird world of Washington.
But what of Bob Woodward? He received a dressing down from some presidential flunky and then got an email he thought was ill-considered. Big deal! I guess the politicians and reporters in D.C. are so chummy that a few strong words are deeply wounding and cause for scandal. Maybe that’s our problem. The reporters and the politicians in the D.C. fishbowl are so used to stroking each other that real reporting never gets done and real accountability never gets assigned. I’d be perfectly happy if more politicians and aides with bloated egos did some yelling at reporters tracking down the news, and more reporters shrugged off the tirades and printed what they and their editors decided was the real story.