Friday, September 29, 2006

You know the rats are jumping ship

. . . when they come running to Bob Woodward to cover their ass. This morning's New York Times features a front-page story on Woodward's new book, State of Denial, which does not appear to follow the storyline of his previous two books on Bush's response to 9/11 and the subsequent build-up to the Iraq War. Bush at War and Plan of Attack were kiss-ups to the Bush administration rather than kiss-and-tells about the dishonest and manipulative scheming behind the decisions of the Decider, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et. al. to launch the United States into the Iraq War. If the Times story represents a fair reading of the book (the reporters have obtained and read an advance copy), Woodward's high-level sources are lining up to say they were the ones who cautioned the White House against going into Iraq and/or managing the war and occupation the way it has. Woodward, because he is a pillar of the Washington political-media establishment, will have credibility with the mainstream media in a way that an independent and non-kiss-ass reporter like Seymour Hersh, whose work for the New Yorker over the past three years has been outstanding, does not

Woodward (and Carl Bernstein) deserved every plaudit he received after his Watergate reporting. But that independence soon gave way to ambition, and, by the early 1980s, Woodward began churning out books that looked like extended Variety Magazine articles, except they substituted politicians, campaign consultants, military brass, bureaucrats and the occasional media figure for show-business figures. His books offered nothing more than an inside perspective from the perspective of inside players on inside politics. Although Woodward rarely cites his sources on the record, you can usually tell who did most of the talking to him by the way they are portrayed in his books. The narrative he creates usually features a cast of good and bad guys; he rarely, however, offers any kind of assessment on the merits of decisions his powerbrokers make, or offer countervailing evidence to demonstrate they might have been wrong. If State of Denial makes the Bush administration squirm even a little, Woodward will have accomplished something useful -- for a change.

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