For those outside Washington who wonder why power-brokers in this city have trouble getting their priorities straight, look no further than the absurd controversy over a run-of-the-mill, reporter-source disagreement between veteran journalist Bob Woodward and veteran public servant Gene Sperling.
The two were feuding over a column Woodward wrote saying President Obama had "moved the goalposts" in the sequester standoff, asking for tax increases in addition to spending cuts. That charge is very debatable, but it's beside the point. And even more beside the point is Woodward's bizarre reaction to the White House reaction.
Sperling, a blogger at the Washington Post reported, had threatened Woodward, a theme Woodward basically backed up when he spoke about the non-affair on TV. The threat? Sperling—in an E-mail (first disclosed by Politico) that started out with an apology for raising his voice in a conversation with Woodward on the topic—said that "as a friend," he believes Woodward would "regret" having written that. Not exactly a horse's head at the end of the bed.
Woodward then noted that while he, as an experienced journalist, might not quiver over such language, a younger and less experience scribe might. Let's hope not. Anyone, of any age, who would be intimidated by such verbiage not only is too green to be reporting in Washington, but perhaps doesn't belong in newspapering at all.
But none of that matters either. The public doesn't care about the delicate sensibilities of a young reporter or whether Woodward felt vaguely threatened by the White House. They don't even care if Obama moved the goalposts, or whether the Republicans will be more damaged politically by the standoff, or whether Obama's got them in a box, or whether the Democrats have grossly overhyped the effects of the automatic spending cuts. They just want Congress and the White House to do their jobs and fix this. Sequestration was a self-created crisis and controversy. And so was the Woodward-Sperling spat.