Emails Debunk Woodward’s Claims Of Threats By Obama White House

Bob Woodward’s nonsense about the budget battle and sequester is increasingly looking like a pathetic attempt to get attention. Woodward has been been making blatantly incorrect claims about the situation along with baseless attacks on Obama. He tried to top that by claiming that the Obama White House has been engaging in Nixonian personal attacks on him. Gawker has repeated some of Woodward’s claims that he has been threatened:

Woodward appeared on CNN’s Situation Room to discuss his claims regarding the sequester. When Wolf Blitzer asked him to described the White House’s reactions to his claims, Woodward paraphrased the above email exchange, attributing it to a “very senior” White House official. Here is what Woodward said:

“It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this… It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters ‘You will regret’ doing something that you believe in.’ I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communications strategy—let’s hope it’s not a strategy, but as a tactic—he’d say look, we don’t go around saying to reporters, you will regret this.”


Woodward doubled down on his claims about the White House “strategy” in a The Politico interview published last night:

Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.'”

“They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years – or 10 years’ – experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this.’ You know, tremble, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate

Today Politico released the actual email exchange:

From Gene Sperling to Bob Woodward on Feb. 22, 2013


I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall — but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.

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. The idea that the sequester was to force both sides to go back to try at a big or grand barain with a mix of entitlements and revenues (even if there were serious disagreements on composition) was part of the DNA of the thing from the start. It was an accepted part of the understanding — from the start. Really. It was assumed by the Rs on the Supercommittee that came right after: it was assumed in the November-December 2012 negotiations. There may have been big disagreements over rates and ratios — but that it was supposed to be replaced by entitlements and revenues of some form is not controversial. (Indeed, the discretionary savings amount from the Boehner-Obama negotiations were locked in in BCA: the sequester was just designed to force all back to table on entitlements and revenues.)

I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is diffferent. Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously.

My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.


Hardly sounds very threatening, and from his response it doesn’t appear that Woodward initially saw this as a threat:

From Woodward to Sperling on Feb. 23, 2013

Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening. I know you lived all this. My partial advantage is that I talked extensively with all involved. I am traveling and will try to reach you after 3 pm today. Best, Bob

Conservative writers  were initially excited about Woodward’s attacks on the Obama White House, but Media Matters cites several who now realize “we got played.”

More Than You Are Probably Interested In Regarding The Sequester,The Affordable Care Act, and Physician Payment

I had been wondering why I have not received a notice from CMS that Medicare payments would be cut by two percent starting March 1 due to the sequester. It has become quite common to receive notices of possible cuts considering all the threatened cuts due to the sustainable growth formula which Congress repeatedly circumvents at the last minute. I found out today that the sequester doesn’t begin to affect Medicare payments until April 1. As Medicare routinely holds payments for two weeks, this actually means we will have six weeks for the sequester to be resolved before this becomes an issue.

Of course there are many other problems which will be caused by the sequester, some now and some down the road, and I don’t expect others to be overly concerned about small cuts in physician payment. Still for me this is a headache, not only because of a decrease in payments but because of the accounting headaches should this turn out to be temporary and the balance of the payments are sent at a later date.

We already have another situation causing us to have to receive partial payment and then the remainder at a later date. The Affordable Care Act calls for Medicaid payment for primary care services to be increased to Medicare levels for two years as of his January. Unfortunately what sounds like something simple has turned out to be bureaucratically quite difficult as the federal government has to approve the updated fee schedules from Medicaid programs from all fifty states. As of now, zero states have completed the approval process. This means that we are now being paid under the old fee schedules and will be paid the higher amounts retroactively to January at a later date. Those who understand how cumbersome medical billing is will recognize the nuisance this causes. Hopefully we won’t go through the same problems because of the sequester.

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Obama Derangement Syndrome Preventing Meaningful Consideration Of Budget Issues

Obama derangement syndrome has become rather tedious. It’s not only the totally insane ones who call Obama a Socialist or who claim he was not born in the Untied States.  Conservative pundits and bloggers endlessly complain about the deficit, despite the fact that it was Republicans who ran it up and it is now shrinking, with Obama being the most fiscally conservative president since Eisenhower.  They regularly write about Obama taking an inordinate amount of time off on vacation even though he has taken far less days off than George Bush and many of his other predecessors.  Despite spending all his time on vacation, if you listen to conservatives, Obama has also taken on dictatorial powers, ignoring attempts at Republican power-grabs under the theory of the unitary president. Now a conservative columnist is attacking Obama for following the law.

Bob Woodward, who has become a second-rate conservative writer resting on his laurels from the Watergate years, has joined most of the conservative movement in totally ignoring the facts over the recent budget battles. He has a really odd attack on Obama today (which conservative bloggers are lapping up):

The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward ripped into President Barack Obama on “Morning Joe” today, saying he’s exhibiting a “kind of madness I haven’t seen in a long time” for a decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf because of budget concerns.

“Can you imagine Ronald Reagan sitting there and saying, ‘Oh, by the way, I can’t do this because of some budget document?'” Woodward said.

“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,’ … because of some budget document?”

The Defense Department said in early February that it would not deploy the U.S.S. Harry Truman to the Persian Gulf, citing budget concerns relating to the looming cuts known as the sequester.

“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,'” Woodward said.

If it was a matter of protecting the country from an imminent attack it would be a different matter. In such a case we would expect Obama to do what needs to be done (and face the inevitable conservative attacks for assuming more dictatorial powers). Sending one additional carrier to the Persian Gulf is more of an elective matter and the president is subject to obeying the law on such spending. Brian Buetler has an excellent response:

The obscure type of budget document Woodward’s referring to is called a duly enacted law — passed by Congress, signed by the President — and the only ways around it are for Congress to change it (Obama’s trip to Virginia on Tuesday was all about pushing Congress to do that) or for Obama to break it. Sequestration is bad policy, but not remotely unconstitutional, and if Obama decided to ignore it and just spend money as if the law didn’t exist the howls of outrage we’d hear from Woodward and others would be entirely justified.

Buetler also commented on additional absurdity surrounding much of the recent budget coverage:

David Ignatius doesn’t go quite as far as calling Obama’s decision to obey the law insane, but his Wednesday Washington Post column typifies the “Obama’s right on the merits, but this is somehow all his fault too” genre. In an overstretched metaphor he compares the U.S. political system to a drunk driver and Obama to a sober passenger who’s too meek to comandeer the wheel.

“I’m no fan of the way President Obama has handled the fiscal crisis,” Ignatius declares. “As I’ve written often, he needs to provide the presidential leadership that guides Congress and the country toward fiscal stability. In my analogy, he should take the steering wheel firmly in hand and drive the car toward the destination where most maps show we need to be heading: namely, a balanced program of cuts in Social Security and Medicare and modest increases in revenue.”

As it happens, that’s the precise mix of policies President Obama has been offering House Republicans for nearly two years.

The counter-argument against Obama, which we don’t hear in the mainstream media, is over whether it is really the right thing to cut Social Security and Medicare. Political discourse has centered far too much around cutting spending as if this is the only option. Social Security and Medicare are popular and beneficial programs which most voters do not want to cut. This country needs a serious discussion as to how much we want to spend on Social Security and Medicare and whether we want higher taxes to pay for this (including, but not necessarily limited to, taxes beyond the top one percent). We cannot have serious consideration over such matters as long as talk centers entirely on cutting spending and as long as one political party is unwilling to consider any means to increase revenue. We will be doomed to gridlock on matters of public policy as long as Republicans refuse to behave as responsible legislators.

Republicans Seen As Out Of Touch, Losing Support Of Voters Concerned About Science And The Modern World

There has been a lot of attention paid to the Hispanic vote in the past year but the Republican problem with minorities extends to many groups. Lloyd Green looked at why Republicans are losing votes among Asians. Some groups such as African-Americans might be less likely to vote for Republicans due to their history of racism and Hispanics might vote against Republicans for their views on immigration (which may also stem from conservative racism). Republicans have not provided comparable reasons for Asian-Americans to vote against them, but there are aspects of Republican policies which are unattractive to Asian-Americans. Green argues that Asian-Americans are voting against Republicans for the same reason as many other educated Americans:

These days, the GOP strikes Asian-Americans, along with many other Americans, as hostile to science and modernity. For example, George W. Bush severely restricted the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research and cast his very first presidential veto to block enactment of the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act. More recently, Congressman Paul Broun of Georgia—a member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and a prospective Senate candidate—declared that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang were lies that emanated from the pit of Hell. Apparently, a low-taxes-only agenda is no longer enough to woo a demographic whose median household income exceeds $90,000 by the time that they become third-generation Americans.

And there is a further rub. According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Asian immigrants hold at least a college degree—compared with less than one in three members of the overall adult population. At Cal Tech—where race, ethnicity, and legacy status are excluded from admissions criteria—Asian-Americans comprise nearly 40 percent of the student body. At MIT, which professes a commitment to diversity, Asian-Americans comprise more than a quarter of students.

What’s more, Asian-American students tend to concentrate in the STEM jobs—sciences, technology, mathematics, and engineering—that are crucial to our economy. Thus, in a sense, Asian-Americans are not just another ethnic group waiting for a politician to march in a parade, eat some exotic food, and then announce a community grant or shill for votes. Rather, they are also a subset of high-tech America, and one thing is clear: high-tech America is not in love with the Republican Party.

This is consistent with other findings from Pew Research showing that many believe the Republicans are out of touch with the modern world:

At a time when the Republican Party’s image is at a historic low, 62% of the public says the GOP is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme.

Opinions about the Democratic Party are mixed, but the party is viewed more positively than the GOP in every dimension tested except one. Somewhat more say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party has strong principles (63% vs. 57%).

Being seen as having strong principles might not necessarily be good in terms of modern political issues. Often Republicans chose their principles and ideology over facts while Democrats tend to take a more pragmatic view of the issues. The bigger problem is that while Republicans may be characterized more by strong principles, Republicans  follow the wrong principles in opposing science, knowledge, and the modern world. On the other hand, there are times when I would like to see the Democrats more consistently defend liberal principles.

Michigan Republicans Promote Election Rigging Scheme

Michigan wound up with far right Republicans in control of state government during the GOP sweep of 2010. This has led to problems including passing a so-called “right to work” law, attempts to restrict reproductive rights, and state government attempting to ignore the will of the voters in legalization of medical marijuana. While most states have given up on the idea of trying to rig elections,  many Michigan Republicans are still pushing for this:

Republicans handed Bobby Schostak another two-year term as state chairman Saturday and overwhelmingly endorsed a plan to change Michigan presidential electoral vote rules in a way opponents charge is intended to distort election results in favor of GOP candidates.

By a 1,370-132 margin at the party convention in Lansing, GOP members approved a resolution backing a proposal from Rep. Pete Lund, R-Shelby Township, to divvy-up 14 of the state’s 16 electoral votes according to which candidate got the most votes in each congressional district. The other two would go to the state-wide vote total winner.

That switch from a winner-take-all formula that has been in effect 175 years could water down the dominance Democrats have had in Michigan in presidential elections for the last 24 years.

Critics say the plan would have given Mitt Romney nine of Michigan’s 16 electoral votes last year, although he lost by more than 500,00 votes to President Barack Obama state-wide. With the win, Obama captured all 16 Michigan electoral votes.

Lund introduced a bill to make the revision last year but it was unsuccessful. Hesaid he intends to reintroduce it in 2013, but leaders of the Republican majorities in both legislative chambers haven’t publicly announced a position on it.

Governor Rick Snyder, who is more moderate than most of the Republican elected in 2010, is not currently supporting this proposal. However, Snyder has often given in to the radical right, such as in reversing his position and signing “right to work” legislation in late 2012.

The current winner take all system in effect in all but two states might sound undemocratic, but provides results far closer to the national popular vote than allocating electoral votes by Congressional district. Under the current system, the winner of the popular vote has won the vast majority of elections. The 2000 election provided a notable exception with Al Gore winning the popular vote but George Bush winning the electoral vote. Reviews of the results in Florida afterwards did show that Gore would have won Florida (and therefore the election) if there was a state-wide recount, but not in the more limited recounts sought by Gore which were ultimately shut down by the Supreme Court.

There are two problems with the Republican proposal to allocate electoral votes based upon Congressional districts. Republicans hold a larger number of Congressional districts than they should receive based upon numbers of votes for each party due to gerrymandering. Even if not for gerrymandering, the concentration of Democratic voters in cities compared to the more rural Republican voters would result in Democrats controlling a smaller number of Congressional districts–winning by larger margins in cities than Republicans would win in other areas.

While is is preferable that the winner of the popular vote becomes president, allocating electoral votes by state helps to level out these issues and provides a result far closer to the popular vote than the Republican proposal would. Of course the Republican proponents realize this and prefer rigging elections to providing a platform which more voters would support. Even many Republicans oppose this. Hopefully some oppose this in support of democracy. Other motivating factors for some Republicans is the hope that they can carry an entire state and receive all of its electoral votes in the future, and fear of their state becoming less meaningful to candidates and receiving less attention during elections.

SciFi Weekend: Doctor Who and Daleks; Community and Inspector Spacetime; Sherlock as Cartoon; Person of Interest; The Americans; Utopia; Downton Abbey; Batwoman’s Gay Marriage; Captain America

Daleks London

Steven Moffat discussed the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who in a recent interview. Doctor Who returns March 30 with the final eight episodes of the season. Next fall we will have the 50th Anniversary episode (which will also be in 3D and released at movie theaters). In addition there will be the usual Christmas episode and An Adventure in Space and Time about the making of Doctor Who. This would still leave us with less Doctor Who than last fall, but Moffat does say there will be even more than these shows.

Ray Cusick who designed the look of the Daleks in 1963, died at last week at age 84.

The video above has an interview with Jenna-Louise Coleman on The Last Leg.

Last week’s episode of Community  featured a trip to an Inspector Spacetime convention and ended with how an American version of this Doctor Who parody would appear, after the producers received advice from Pierce. Here’s another take on how an American version of Doctor Who might have turned out.


Angela Taratuta has re-imagined Sherlock as a cartoon series with pictures such as the one above.

Revolution returns on March 25. NBC is launching a prequel web series tomorrow which starts eleven years after the blackout:

In this webseries, premiering Feb. 25 on, we flashback to 11 years after the blackout and the night Miles (Billy Burke) first tried to assassinate Gen. Monroe (David Lyons). The story will follow Capt. Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) on a mission to hunt down and kill and those who had a hand in the attempt to assassinate Monroe. While on his journey, however, Neville will apparently stumble “upon an even greater conspiracy that could change the course of the Republic forever,” according to a description.

Person of Interest Relevance

Person of Interest had an excellent episode, Relevance, in which we saw the machine used as intended. There was another team receiving numbers from the machine to fight actual terrorist threats, but they believed the information came from more conventional sources. They went after people found by the machine to be relevant, as opposed to the cases investigated by Finch and Reese not involving terrorism, and therefore considered irrelevant. One member of the team started to get too close to what is actually going on so both were set up to be killed. The female member of the team, Shaw, survived, with a little help from Reese after Shaw and her partner came up as the new numbers for Finch and Reese.

Shaw is quite a fighter on her own, and stated she has an “Axis II personality disorder,” meaning  she “doesn’t really feel anything” when she kills people. Her best moment was when she showed she was still a loyal soldier in fighting terrorism and also remained determined to avenge the killing of her partner. “A good soldier does both.” She initially refused to take Finch’s card, but later agreed after they saved her from poisoning, leaving her old superiors believing she was dead.

Shaw will make a welcome addition to the reoccurring cast of Person of Interest (assuming this as she was too good a character to only use once). Making the episode even better, Amy Acker  returned to reprise her role as Root (actually starting in the final moments of last week’s episode). Now, besides the team of Finch and Reese, we have the group involved in using the machine to fight terrorism as part of the show, with these people portrayed as both being engaged in an important task and as being somewhat evil. Having them infiltrated by Root will make matters even more interesting.

The Americans

FX has renewed The Americans for a second season. The series is about Soviet spies embedded in the United States during the Reagan years. Last week was their best episode to date, taking place at the time of the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. The Russians were worried about whether the attempt would be pinned on the KGB. Some of the Russians also were concerned that generals led by Alexander Haig were carrying out a coup following Haig’s “I am in control” statement.

Utopia completed its first season last week, and hopefully will receive a second season. While not reducing my recommendations to watch the entire series or my hope for a second season, the first season finale was not up to the level of previous episodes. It was probably harder to write this episode because it had less mystery many of the secrets of the first season already revealed but also having to keep some things unresolved for second season. Major spoiler in the rest of this paragraph: I did have one problem with the explanations in the finale. If the manuscript didn’t really matter and the search was all to get Jessica out in the open, what were they doing with the interrogation of Grant and what did that chemical diagram mean? Perhaps the explanation to Jessica wasn’t entirely honest and there was information on recreating Janus to be found in case Jessica wasn’t captured.

The BBC has canceled The Hour after its second season. Hypable explains why you should watch the show despite being cancelled.

As expected following the Christmas episode of Downton Abbey, Lily James will become a regular member of the cast next season. With two members of the cast dying last season, her addition serves much the same purpose of Lesley Anne-Down joining Upstairs Downstairs as Miss Georgina. Vulture gave several reasons why ITV and PBS won’t both broadcast the show at the same time. I was especially interested in this point:

Editing episodes for PBS more quickly would also be more costly.
The version of Downton that airs in the U.K. is slightly different than the one that airs in the U.S. ITV is a commercial network that ran season three over eight installments, while commercial-free PBS ran the same season in just six. That requires some “stitching together and filling out” for the American version, Hoppe says. And because the editing is done entirely by the creative team in the U.K., “what it would mean in order for us to go simultaneously with them is that we’d have to have two editing rooms going at the same time during postproduction, one for our version and one for theirs,” Hoppe says. “It’s not one of the main factors in the decision, but it’s not an insignificant financial implication.”

I downloaded the series when it first aired on ITV and then, based upon following media stories, the series seemed to go by much faster when aired on PBS. This explains that it really did go by faster, with fewer episodes in the US. I wonder if some things were taken out of the US version. For example, there hasn’t been much discussion in the United States about the arc involving the Dalek invasion of Downton.

The Saturn Award nominations have been released–full list here.


Batwoman is entering into a same-sex marriage but Alyssa Rosenberg says this  portrayal of a gay marriage is not enough to make up for DC hiring homophobe Orson Scott Card:

Something I wish I’d said more clearly the first itme I wrote about DC’s decision to hire Card to write Superman is that calls to fire him don’t appeal to me that strongly because it separates out his hiring from DC’s other hiring practices, which among other things, have produced a staff with very few women and no lead African-American writers on any comics titles. A decision by comics stores not to stock the title, demonstrating that Card’s values turn them off from a product that otherwise might have been profitable for them, makes more sense. And what would be most interesting to me is an explanation from DC about what process lead to Card’s selection. What made his pitches’ stronger than other writers? How did they weigh the likely publicity challenges from his employment against what appears to be a larger institutional imperative to modernize the brand by telling stories about committed gay couples? If DC Comics wants its image to be gay-friendly, then it should have been expected to be evaluated for consistency. More same-sex engagements doesn’t eliminate the appearance of a glaring contradiction in DC’s image.

If all DC wants is our money, rather than our social approval, that’s fine. But it needs to recognize that fishing for money on the grounds that it’s producing progressive and game-changing content is going to be a more difficult task if there’s a disconnect between what the content is, and who the money spent on it ends up going to.

The next Captain America movie, The Winter Soldier, will differ from the first, and from The Avengers, in being more of a political thriller according to Kevin Feige of Marvel Studios:

The challenge is not the number of projects but rather making sure that each is a fresh take on the genre. Being able to populate the films with rich, three-dimensional characters and employing a wealth of storylines that have been developed over the decades in print makes it much easier to pull off, Feige says.

And when it all comes together, the results are boffo: “The Avengers” was one of 2012’s most popular pics, according to, and with more than $620 million in ticket sales it was the year’s box office champ by a large margin.

As long as Marvel stays on its game, Feige believes its pics will continue to do well in a genre that is far from a passing trend.

“If it is a fad, it’s one that lasts 30 to 40 years, as the Western did, because each one is so different,” he says. “There’s an opportunity to graft almost sub-genres onto them. Our first Captain America film was a World War II picture, and the next is a political thriller. They all have their own textures and patinas, and that’s what is exciting about it.”


Bob Woodward Wrong In Accusing Obama Of Moving The Goal Posts In Sequester Battle

Conservatives have a tendency to latch onto articles which support their viewpoints, ignoring any further information which shows they are wrong. Therefore they have been citing Bob Woodard’s op-ed in The Washington Post which supports their attempts to pin the blame for any damages which occur from the sequester on Obama. For years Bob Woodward has capitalized on his name and avoided the hard work of actually reporting. This leads to him being wrong on many occasions, such as at present, when he ignores virtually all the negotiations surrounding the debt ceiling agreement which led to the sequester. Woodward appears totally oblivious to what Obama has been calling for when he accuses him of “moving the goal posts” in calling for a balanced approach to the deficit (while also admitting that Obama’s position is “reasonable” and that Obama “makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more.”

Brian Buetler 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 also responded by showing how Woodard’s claims contradict the facts, including information presented in Woodward’s own book, The Price of Politics. He concluded:

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 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 also  points 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.

It is theoretically possible that a majority voted for candidates who did not reflect their views. After all, polls blinded to party have often showed that Republican voters actually favor Democratic positions. This wasn’t the case here. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that most voters do not support the types of spending cuts advocated by Republicans. This is consistent with other recent polls showing that a majority support Democratic positions on the budget and other issues.

Democrats Trying To Compete In Texas

In the last couple of presidential elections states which the Republicans had hoped to turn in to swing states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan remained blue. The two major swing states in the Bush years, Ohio and Florida, both went to Obama, along with some former red states such as Virginia. Looking at the electoral map, about the only large state (in terms of population and electoral votes) which remained firmly in Republican hands was Texas. Without Texas it would be impossible for Republicans to find any path to victory in the electoral college as long as current partisan divisions persist.

Republicans are losing outside of the south due to a combination of factors including holding unpopular, extremist positions and due to demographics. The same demographic trends can also be seen in Texas where white, non-Hispanic voters currently make up less than 45 percent of the voters. Real Clear Politics has a report on how Democrats are attempting to become more competitive in Texas.

Democrats might still not be able to win Texas in 2016 but if they could just be competitive and force Republicans to campaign there it would put them at quite a disadvantage. If Democrats could win some victories in the state government, they might also be able to reverse some of the gerrymandering and increase their chances of retaking control of the House in the next decade (if they don’t manage to do so before then due to the declining support for Republicans).

As Public Turns Against Them, Republicans Resort To More Lying

As I discussed yesterday, Republicans are at a disadvantage politically over the sequester battle because the voters like and trust Barack Obama and his positions more than they like the Republicans and their views. Bloomberg released a poll last night which is consistent with other recent polls showing greater support for Obama and reduced support for the Republicans:

President Barack Obama enters the latest budget showdown with Congress with his highest job- approval rating in three years and public support for his economic message, while his Republican opponents’ popularity stands at a record low.

Fifty-five percent of Americans approve of Obama’s performance in office, his strongest level of support since September 2009, according to a Bloomberg National poll conducted Feb. 15-18. Only 35 percent of the country has a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest rating in a survey that began in September 2009. The party’s brand slipped six percentage points in the last six months, the poll shows.

Americans by 49 percent to 44 percent believe Obama’s proposals for government spending on infrastructure, education and alternative energy are more likely to create jobs than Republican calls to cut spending and taxes to build business confidence and spur employment.

“The Republicans are not offering any new solutions,” said poll respondent Cynthia Synos, 62, a political independent who lives in the St. Louis suburb of Greendale, Missouri. “Their answer is always tax cuts and incentives for business. I’ve never heard them say anything innovative to spark the economy that would help the other 85, 90 percent of people that have to deal with the economy as it is.”

A USA Today/Pew Poll shows that most voters support Obama’s positions over those held by Republicans and that “just 22% of Americans, nearly a record low, consider themselves Republicans.”

And those automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester, that are poised to take effect next week?

If no deal is reached to avert them, half of Americans say congressional Republicans will be more to blame. Less than a third would blame Obama first.

The Republican response to being on the losing end in this showdown is to do what they usually do–tell more lies. The Republican National Committee is now running an ad which distorts Obama’s words to falsely make it appear that it is Obama that supports the unpopular  budget cuts due to sequestration which are likely to occur. BuzzFeed contrasts Obama’s actual statement with the out of context portion used by the RNC.

I’m getting tired of all the misinformation coming from the Republicans about the budget and sequester. If I wanted to be lied to and deceived I’d reread Gone Girl.

Republicans Try To Pin Blame For Sequester On Obama

As the Republicans are unwilling to negotiate (having developed a philosophical opposition to this), sequestration is likely to occur. The spending cuts are going to be unpopular so the Republican response (as on so many issues) is to try to shift the blame for the problems they have created. John Boehner even has an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal which blames Obama. Boehner’s account, like Republican accounts of history typically are, is largely fictitious. He also blames Obama for not putting forth a detailed plan. In reality, Obama has offered a balanced approach containing both increases in revenue and spending cuts, cutting more than is actually desirable. In contrast, if Republicans such as Boehner believe the deficit can be reduced significantly by spending cuts alone, why do they refuse to be specific about what they will cut? The answer is that the Republicans know that most voters (even most Republican voters) would be highly unhappy about the cuts which would be necessary to balance the budget, and the Republicans want to be able to blame the Democrats.

There are many responses on line to Boehner’s false claim that Obama is to blame. This includes a direct response from the White House and a review of the history of the sequester from John Avlon. For those who desire a more detailed review of the facts, along with a description of the damage caused by the radicalization of the Republican Party form a centrist source, I’d suggest reading It’s Even Worse Than It Looks by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.

Republicans have frequently succeeded in pinning the blame for their failures on others but many pundits do not believe they will succeed this time. Byron York responded to Boehner’s op-ed with a response entitled The GOP’s astonishingly bad message on sequester cuts. Here is a portion of his response:

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”

Which leads to the question: Why would Republicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs?  Boehner and the GOP are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the GOP’s blessing…

The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs.  The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them.  At the same time, Boehner is contributing to Republican confusion on the question of whether the cuts are in fact “deep” or whether they are relatively minor.

Could the GOP message on the sequester be any more self-defeating?  Boehner could argue that the sequester cuts are necessary as a first — and somewhat modest — step toward controlling the deficits that threaten the economy.  Instead, he describes them as a threat to national security and jobs that he nevertheless supports.  It’s not an argument that is likely to persuade millions of Americans.

Chris Cillizza has a simpler explanation as to why Obama will win politically on this one which can be further simplified to say that Obama is popular and Congress is not.