A lot is being made about Washington Post's Bob Woodward's claim that he was threaten by the White House. The media focus has been on the use of the word "regret" in a White House email. But that is in effect a red herring. The real focus ought to be on the fact that the White House used intimidation and resorted to petty vindictiveness to beat back Woodward's assertion that the president had moved the goal posts on the sequestration issue and that the president is wrong to use national security as a means to get his way on sequestration.
Without any denial, Woodward asserted that the White House on being noticed by him of his forthcoming editorial Obama’s sequester deal-changer yelled at him on the phone for a half and hour. In a subsequent emails the White House said: "You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim." [The Meaning Of 'Regret': Journalist Bob Woodward, White House Disagree].
Now in the plain meaning approach, it is difficult to argue that "regret" was meant as a threat, but it seems close. And it might be easily considered more than close given any knowledge about actual context and content of the phone "conversation" that preceded the White House email. And in a spite of vindictiveness - later a White House adviser suggested on Twitter that Woodward was past his prime.
For another view see Politico's Woodward Warmongering that suggests that the situation in context is overblown. But one wonders if this is not the smoke before the fire. The sequestration issue has exposed the continued partisanship in both parties choosing to call each other names rather than sitting down and solving the problem of their making.
But, Bob Woodward is no cub reporter, he is in fact the associate editor at the Washington Post and made his journalism mark with his and Carl Berstein's reporting on the Watergate scandal that brought Nixon down. Mr. Woodward's journalism found in his Washington Post articles and editorials as well as his books over the years demonstrate his willingness to take on the power of the White House.
This administration has been secretive in its policies. E.g., the existence of the drone program to assassinate American citizens perceived as 'enemies of the state.' A retrospective analysis of this president 8 years will demonstrate that Constitutional rights have significantly suffered at the hands of this president in the name of terrorism. President Roosevelt's WWII internment policies will pale in comparison.
The Bob Woodwards are to be encouraged to represent the principles of a free press. We must have a free press that is not intimidated by the power of the White House. I would rather have an overreacting journalist than the Republican puppets at Fox News.
Thus this isn't about the meaning of the term "regret." It is really about a journalist daring to criticize a president. It may have been irksome to the White House that the criticism came from a journalist and newspaper depicted as 'liberal,' but that is just too bad.
Ah democracy - it isn't pretty.