Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is it possible that Bob Woodward really believes he's giving us first drafts of actual history?


Bob Woodward makes it hard to remember that once upon a time, for a while at least, he made a genuine journalistic contribution. (And no, Carl, if I were you, I wouldn't trust the self-serving son of a bitch either.)

by Ken

I'm thinking I should have explained a bit rather than just lashing out at Bob Woodward the other day, when the Woodward-promulgated rumor about Hillary Clinton replacing Vice President Biden on the 2012 Democratic ticket set the Village abuzz, and caused me to muse:
The question that pops into my head is the one I've already posed: Can't something, you know, be done about Bob Woodward? Hasn't he long since outlived his usefulness?

(Actually I wonder about another question: Isn't Bob Woodward embarrassed to be, well, Bob Woodward? But that gets kind of metaphysical, and probably beyond the purview of this space. Still, I wonder.)

I don't think I'm alone in suspecting that Woodward's usefulness ended roughly on publication day of All the President's Men, his account, with Carl Bernstein, of their pivotal Washington Post reporting on Watergate.

What I object to most about these "insider" blockbuster-turd tomes he produces as make-believe history isn't their lack of any kind of sourcing beyond a blanket "Trust me, I know," although goodness knows, that bothers the heck out of me. It isn't even all that "reconstructed" speech passed off in quotation marks as actual speech, although again, that bothers the heck out of me. Nor is it the pronounced Village-rightward tilt.

No, what bothers me is that if you try to figure out, based on the assumption that, while the printed conversations almost certainly never happened, but maybe something similar did, who could have been our Bob's source?, you can usually get a pretty good idea who fed him what, and it's not hard to figure out why: to gussy up his/her image in the book-to-be. And it doesn't take long to form a powerful suspicion that the cagier types among those Village swells our Bob so loves to hobnob with play him like a kazoo, and that what we really learn in those Woodward turd tomes isn't the inside story of history in the making, but the record of who kissed our Bob's butt and how often. And, of course, who didn't.

Meaning that I have more sympathy than I might otherwise for Admiral Mullen in this story passed on by our pal Al Kamen in his Washington Post "In the Loop" column today:
Castro si, Mullen no

Our colleague Bob Woodward's new book, "Obama's Wars," is getting praise from some odd corners. Cuba's Fidel Castro ordered a quick translation of "Obama's Wars," saying, "It would not be possible to understand anything about the current policy of the United States if one ignores the contents of this book."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Sept. 22, "I hope people will read the whole book."

But Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, who didn't come off so well in the book, disagrees. On Sept. 29 he said he hadn't read it, and it appears he has no intention of doing so.

On Friday, Mullen dispatched "a senior aide to my house to return the signed copy," Woodward told us Tuesday. The aide offered "no explanation of why the book was being sent back," Woodward said, nor did he "claim there were any inaccuracies. The chairman just plans not to read it." The book's spine was uncracked.

And you know, I'm prepared to believe our Bob really doesn't understand.

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At 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woodward, with his military background, links, and suspect connections therein to military intelligence, is not the person I want writing the first draft, or snapshot, of history, which in a way is what his books are. He's there first with the 'goods', and everybody else has to veer around his interpretations/translations/biases/omissions. He's like the elephant editor in the room. He's what history will have to consult first, without even wanting to, in order to become, well, history. He's a formerly well-respected, now feared/envied/mocked flack/operative and little more, but with an actual journalism asterisk by his name which reads: "Once he committed journalism, though while part of a covert military insider political coup against Nixon, and forever after lives on past tainted glory and D.C. Village fumes."

- L. Piltz

At 5:44 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Well said, LP. The mess our Bob makes with his quasi-historical fictions really has to be undone before it's possible to try to make sense of what actually happened.



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