April 28, 2004


Bob Woodward's Washington: The books come and go, but the plot is always the same--vanity, duplicity, flattery, and guile. (Andrew Ferguson, 05/03/2004, Weekly Standard)

"We're urging people to buy the book," said the White House communications director, Dan Bartlett. "What this book does is show a president who was asking the right questions and showing prudence as well as resolve during very difficult times. This book undermines a lot of the critics' charges."

Well, maybe it does, but the sight of a White House humping a Woodward book is an interesting development all by itself. I'm showing my age, but I remember when Republicans hated Bob Woodward. It all began with Watergate, of course, when Woodward and his partner Carl Bernstein dragged the bloodied body of Richard Nixon from the White House and martyred him on the front page of the Post. Hostilities intensified with a book about the Iran-contra scandal, Veil, in which Woodward claimed to have snagged a deathbed interview with William Casey, Ronald Reagan's director of central intelligence. Though few people could translate Casey's mumbles even when he was healthy, Woodward said he palavered with the old spook as he lay in a hospital room, wreathed in tubes and half-paralyzed from a stroke. By his account, Woodward asked Casey why he had orchestrated the scandal, and (said Woodward) Casey said: "I believed."

Republicans didn't. By the late 1980s, in that pitiless, binary ledger kept by Washington's professional conservatives, Woodward was the enemy.

Then, suddenly, it appeared that Woodward was becoming more--um, objective. The Commanders, Woodward's behind-the-scenes account of the Gulf War, showed a masterly George H.W. Bush manipulating the geopolitical map like Kasparov at a chessboard, faithfully attended by Powell, Dick Cheney, and America's Metternich, James Baker III. In The Man Who Would be President, Woodward teamed up with David Broder to sketch a portrait of Dan Quayle as a Hoosier Pericles. Really, Dan Quayle. The Choice and The Agenda, Woodward's backstage peeks at Bill Clinton's White House, did as much as any piece of Gingrichian agitprop to solidify that administration's reputation as a clownshow of fops and incompetents.

Hey, thought Republicans: Maybe we've been a little hard on old Bob. And of course they had.

In fact, Bob Woodward will likely be seen in retrospect as one of the most important conservatives of the pasty few decades.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 28, 2004 9:10 AM

Pasty decades indeed...

Posted by: M.Murcek at April 28, 2004 9:16 AM

Retrospective view of Woodward is very confusing, since it appears that maybe, possibly, concievably he is a journalist who presents FACTS WITHOUT TRYING TO MASSAGE THOSE FACTS TO FURTHER AN AGENDA.

nah can't be.

Posted by: h-man at April 28, 2004 9:27 AM

Strange as it may seem, conservatives should have been able to deduce that Woodward wasn't 100 percent on the standard liberal reservation after his book "Wired" came out and he was reviled about his Belushi/Hollywood revelations by many of the same people who had been praising him a decade earlier for his Nixon stories.

Woodward was always the more career-oriented of the Watergate duo, while Carl Bernstein was (and is) the ideologue of the pair, though even Carl can sneak outside the box once in a while, as with his biography of Pope John Paul II. That means Bob will be a little fairer in his writings, since that means continued access to the top players in government.

Posted by: John at April 28, 2004 9:43 AM

What ever happened to Bernstein?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at April 28, 2004 10:37 AM

Woodward the conservative actually makes sense. He took out Nixon and Nixon was no conservative.

Posted by: Mike at April 28, 2004 2:41 PM

Retrospective view of Woodward is very confusing, since it appears that maybe, possibly, concievably he is a journalist who presents FACTS WITHOUT TRYING TO MASSAGE THOSE FACTS TO FURTHER AN AGENDA.

Well, I don't know about that. His book on the CIA had lots of "deathbed revelations" from William Casey, but Casey's widow swore that he was in a coma and couldn't have said all that to Woodward.

Posted by: PapayaSF at April 28, 2004 10:28 PM

There's always the 'Silent Coup/Jim Hougan theory,
that the Watergate leaks were part of a Pentagon
plot to derail Nixon's detente policies (Jim Grady
of the condor novels, wrote a recent novel about
these matters)

Posted by: narciso at April 28, 2004 10:48 PM

He's the one who couldn't see through Janet Cooke. In retrospect, he won't be remembered for anything he did after 1973.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 28, 2004 11:14 PM