Woodward got played by the White House, and I say that because that’s exactly how I would’ve played Woodward had I been Sperling. Sperling wasn’t threatening Woodward, but given Woodward’s history, Sperling knew how Woodward would react to that language…”you’ll regret”… and so he embedded it in the email, knowing full well that Woodward would overplay his hand.
When Woodward went on CNN to insinuate that he felt threatened, he fell into a trap set by the White House to discredit him. Woodward should’ve seen that trap coming a mile away. If he’d behaved as a reporter, and focused on policies instead of thin insinuations… then he would’ve been fine. .. but he didn’t. They played on Woodward’s perspective, his perception of gov’t, his history with gov’t. They lured him into a psychological trap and he took the bait. If you take a step back and look at it, it really was a genius strategy, but Woodward should’ve known better. He’s too old and too skilled to have played the fool so easily, to have allowed the White House to handle him so handily.
Woodward felt – predictably – threatened because of his life’s experience. Whenever you’re that predictable, it becomes easy to set you up….then take you down. This is not really about whether Woodward “felt” threatened. That’s emotional. The question is whether there was an implied threat in Sperling’s email, and it doesn’t appear that there was. Check and mate.