The sad decline of Bob Woodward – and The Arizona Daily Star

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Washington Post editor Bob Woodward published an opinion on Saturday, Woodward: Obama's sequester deal-changer, that I addressed on Saturday, The sad decline of Bob Woodward, and which has been roundly criticized as factually incorrect by pundits for the past several days (see below).

It is now Tuesday, and despite several critical analyses of Bob Woodward's opinion, the editors of our sad small town newspaper The Arizona Daily Star republished Woodward's opinion today without any of the critical analyses accompanying his opinion explaining why it is factually incorrect. This is just lazy and mendacious.

So for your edification and letters to the editor of the Star informing them that they are failing their duty to inform the public, here are some of the crtiical analyses published over the past few days you should read in full and reference in your letters to the editor.

Brian Buetler at Talking Points Memo responded to the op-ed:

But in this case Woodward is just dead wrong. Obama and
Democrats have always insisted that a balanced mix of spending cuts and
higher taxes replace sequestration. It’s true that John Boehner wouldn’t
agree to include new taxes in the enforcement mechanism itself, and
thus that the enforcement mechanism he and Obama settled upon —
sequestration — is composed exclusively of spending cuts. But the entire
purpose of an enforcement mechanism is to make sure that the
enforcement mechanism is never triggered. The key question is what
action it was designed to compel. And on that score, the Budget Control
Act is unambiguous.

First: “Unless a joint committee bill achieving an amount greater
than $1,200,000,000,000 in deficit reduction as provided in section
401(b)(3)(B)(i)(II) of the Budget Control Act of 2011 is enacted by
January 15, 2012, the discretionary spending limits listed in section
251(c) shall be revised, and discretionary appropriations and direct
spending shall be reduced.”

Key words: “deficit reduction.” Not “spending cuts.” If Republicans
wanted to make sure sequestration would be replaced with spending cuts
only, that would have been the place to make a stand. Some of them
certainly tried. But that’s not what ultimately won the day. Instead
the, law tasked the Super Committee with replacing sequestration with a
different deficit reduction bill — tax increases or no.

“The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at
least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021,”
according to the BCA. The bill even provided the House and Senate
instructions for advancing a Super Committee bill if it included
revenue. This couldn’t be clearer. In the Super Committee’s waning
hours, Republicans tried to entice Democrats into a spending-cut heavy
agreement by acceding to a small amount of revenue. Democrats balked —
the balance was off — but all of that just goes to show that a tax
increase has always been a likely element of a replacement bill, and
Republicans know it.

David Weigel at Slate also responded by showing how Woodard’s claims contradict the facts, including information presented in Woodward’s own book, The Price of Politics:

To argue that the White House is “moving the goal posts”
when it now asks for revenue in a sequestration replacement, you have to
toss out the fact that the White House always wanted revenue in the supercommittee’s sequestration replacement. This isn’t confusing unless reporters make it confusing.

Ezra Klein at Woodward's Washington Post also
argues that Woodward is wrong in suggesting that Obama has moved the
goal posts by insisting that any budget deal includes increases in
revenue. He pointed out that the deal over the debt ceiling did
kick the can down the road until after an important event which would
show how voters thought the matter should be settled–the election:

The American people voted for the guy who wants to cut the deficit by increasing taxes.

In fact, they went even further than that. They also voted for a
Senate that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes. And then they
voted for a House that would cut the deficit by increasing taxes, though
due to the quirks of congressional districts, they didn’t get one.

Here in DC, we can get a bit buried in Beltway minutia. The ongoing
blame game over who concocted the sequester is an excellent example. But
it’s worth remembering that the goalposts in American politics aren’t
set in backroom deals between politicians. They’re set in elections. And
in the 2012 election, the American people were very clear on where they
wanted the goalposts moved to.

Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog references other pundits who have criticized Woodward as wrong on the facts:

Let's take these one at a time. The first point, which Republicans
and reporters find needlessly fascinating, is quickly becoming farcical.
Tim Noah argued
that the White House came up with the sequestration policy "in roughly
the same sense that it was Charles Lindbergh's bad idea eight decades
ago to fork over the equivalent in today's dollars of $840,000 to a
German-born carpenter named Bruno Hauptmann…. The sequester was a
ransom payment." Noam Scheiber added
that saying the sequester was Obama's idea is "like saying it was your
idea to give wallet to mugger when he said, 'Your money or your life.'"

Republicans
were threatening to crash the economy on purpose and Obama was
scrambling to satisfy their demands before GOP lawmakers pulled the
trigger and shot the hostage (which is to say, shot us). The sequester then became part of the plan that Republicans proceeded to vote for and brag about,
before they came up with the "this is all Obama's fault" talking point
in the hopes of winning a bizarre public-relations fight.

After
Republicans created a crisis, both sides created the sequester, and both
sides now consider it dangerous. The point that matters, even if Very
Serious People in Washington are reluctant to acknowledge it, is that
only one side is prepared to compromise to resolve the problem.

Which leads us to Woodward's second, and more dramatic, error.

For the Washington Post legend, Obama is "moving the goal
posts," since everyone realized in the summer of 2011 that the
sequestration cuts were supposed to be replaced with a different set of
cuts — and no new revenue. It's unfair, Woodward argues, for the White
House to suddenly expect a balanced compromise when that was never part
of the original plan.

Woodward is plainly, demonstrably wrong.
It's not a matter of opinion and it's not an answer found in a fuzzy
gray area in which both sides have a credible claim.

When the Budget Control Act became law to end the Republicans'
debt-ceiling crisis in 2011, a "super-committee" was created to find an
alternative to the sequester. Was the committee's mandate to find a
cuts-only policy? Of course not — even Republicans accepted the fact that some revenue would be part of a solution. President Obama, when signing the BCA, explicitly said,
"You can't close the deficit with just spending cuts…. It also means
reforming our tax code so that the wealthiest Americans and biggest
corporations pay their fair share.'"

Steve Benen adds this later detail:

But wait, it gets worse. Woodward, who for whatever reason doesn't seem to care for
the president, made an unfortunate mistake and got caught. And if
Woodward acknowledged his missteps and corrected them, it would have
been easy to simply move on. Even journalistic legends make mistakes.

But in this case, after learning of the criticism, Woodward emailed Politico's [Tiger Beat on the Potomac's] Mike Allen with a defense that made matters worse,
flubbing several key, basic details, suggesting he's even more confused
about the debate than was evident from his mistaken op-ed.

How sad and pathetic for a former legend of journalism.

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