reprinted from whowhatwhy.com
Just one year before the publication of "Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward became a player in his own book-in-progress. He morphed into his true identity: Warrior Bob. Actually, there's an even deeper persona, Agent Woodward"--" but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
In June of 2009, Woodward traveled to Afghanistan with General Jim Jones, President Obama's National Security adviser, to meet with General Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of forces there. Why did Jones allow this journalist to accompany him? Because Jones knew that Woodward could be counted on to deliver the company line"--"the military line. In fact, Jones was essentially Woodward's patron.
The New Republic's Gabriel Sherman wrote at the time that
"Jones was a guest of Woodward at his wife Elsa Walsh's fiftieth birthday party held at Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee's house. He and Elsa were glued to Jones at the cocktail party before the dinner started"
In September of last year, McChrystal (or someone close to him) leaked to Woodward a document that essentially forced President Obama's hand. Obama wanted time to consider all options on what to do about Afghanistan. But the leak, publicizing the military's "confidential" assertion that a troop increase was essential, cast the die, and Obama had to go along. Nobody was happier than the Pentagon"--"and, it should be said, its allies in the vast military contracting establishment.
The website Firedoglake chronicled the developments in a pungent essay:
Apparently General McChrystal and the Petraeus cabal aren't willing to wait for their Commander in Chief to set the strategy. Prior to the President's interviews, McChrystal's people were already telling journalists that they were "impatient with Obama" as Nancy Youssef reported. This "Power Play," as I mentioned last night, included a veiled threat that McChrystal would resign if he didn't get his way.- Advertisement -
And sure enough, just hours after the Commander in Chief was on the airwaves, somehow McChrystal's classified report hit the Washington Post " compliments of Bob Woodward no less.
Wow, what a coincidence!
This episode highlights a crucial aspect of Bob Woodward's career that has been ignored by most of the media. Simply put, Woodward is the military's man, and always has been.
For almost four decades, under cover of his supposedly "objective" reporting, Woodward has represented the viewpoints of the military and intelligence establishments. Often he has done so in the context of complex inside maneuvering of which he gives his readers little clue. He did it with the book Veil, about CIA director William Casey, in which he relied on Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a rival of Casey's, as his key source. (Inman, from Texas, was closely identified with the Bush faction of the CIA.) The book was based in part on a "deathbed interview" with Casey that Casey's widow and former CIA guards said never took place.
Typically, Woodward uses information he gets from his main sources to gain access to others. He then gets more secrets from them, and so on down the line. His stature"--"if that's the word"--"as a repository of this inside dope has been key to the relentless success machine that his media colleagues have perpetuated. The New York Times review of his Obama book laid out the formula:
In Obama's Wars, Mr. Woodward, as usual, eschews analysis and commentary. Instead, he hews to his I Am a Tape Recorder technique, using his insider access to give readers interested in inside-the-Beltway politics lots of granular detail harvested from interviews conducted on background, as well as leaked memos, meeting notes and other documents. Some of this information is revealing about the interplay of personality and policy and politics in Washington; some of it is just self-serving spin. As he's done in his earlier books, Mr. Woodward acknowledges that attributions of thoughts, conclusions or feelings to a person were in some cases not obtained directly from that person, but from notes or from a colleague whom the person told"--"a questionable but increasingly popular method, which means the reader should take the reconstructed scenes with a grain of salt.
And then, thanks to all this attention, and even with that grain of salt, the book went to #1.
But might there be more to Woodward and his oeuvre than just questionable work practices? Well, let's see. Woodward granted former CIA director George H.W. Bush a pass by excluding him from accounts of Iran-Contra, which occurred while the notorious intriguer was vice president under the notoriously hands-off Ronald Reagan. (When I asked Woodward about this for my book Family of Secrets, he replied, "Bush was"What was it he said at the time? I was out of the loop?") Later Woodward got exclusive access to H.W.'s son. He spent more time with George W. Bush than did any other journalist, writing several largely sympathetic books about his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan before playing catch-up with prevailing sentiment and essentially reversing course.
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