Bob Woodward, robed once again in his jurisprudential role of chief journalist of the supreme sort, scoops the skinny on the letter of sequestration's origin--while altogether missing the spirit of the wretched thing. His ruling, based on earlier "extensive reporting" for his book, The Price of Politics, whose current reference comes complete with an Amazon.com link for your purchasing convenience, is final:
In fact, the final deal reached between Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2011 included an agreement that there would be no tax increases in the sequester in exchange for what the president was insisting on: an agreement that the nation’s debt ceiling would be increased for 18 months, so Obama would not have to go through another such negotiation in 2012, when he was running for reelection.
So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts. His call for a balanced approach is reasonable, and he makes a strong case that those in the top income brackets could and should pay more. But that was not the deal he made.
That may be. What Woodward omits, however, is that it was Republicans who moved the goal posts first by unilaterally rewriting the game's rules while in play (i.e., once-routine debt-limit increases could now degenerate into harrowing fiscal extortion and spasmodic government-by-crisis). Justice Woodward's primal omission is then compounded by a two others, the second of which is more pertinent: contract law really frowns on duress; and Doomsday devices, as Dr. Strangelove once helpfully noted, are meant to ensure against detonation by both sides smartly averting its trigger.
Now it's true, keeping with the last point's Hollywood theme, that in 2011 I advised that Obama should assume the role of Keyser Söze and simply blast anyone--to, ahem, make a lasting point. For when you deal with kidnappers, they'll kidnap again; and when you negotiate with hooligans, they'll double-cross you every time. But, that's history.
What isn't history is that Woodward's current reporting grossly misidentifies the treacherous goal-post movers.