When Bob Woodward tells you to read something, you stand up and READ -- plus other Woodward enhanced interrogation techniques
I think I've established that I'm not a great fan of make-believe journalist Bob Woodward -- having posed such questions as "Is Bob Woodward the very best person to review George Tenet's book? Or maybe the WORST? (Can you guess which way the Washington Post voted?)" (May 2007) and "Is it possible that Bob Woodward really believes he's giving us first drafts of actual history?" (October 2010). All the same, I wasn't expecting to find myself laughing out loud -- along with some eye-rolling, admitedly -- at the Bobster's grandiose self-fluffing.
However, since I do have some curiosity about the prospect of former Sen. Chuck Hagel's installation at the Pentagon, I was curious enough to take a look at what our Bob has to say in a WaPo column called "Why Obama picked Hagel." And he does have some interesting things to say.
There is, notably, a quote from Hagel presented in the now-familiar Woodwardian journalistic spinoff of insider trading, where the practice of journalism consists of gathering insider information with a view to its highly selective release at the most opportune moment -- "most opportune" for the opportunist in question, that is. Thus we are told that in the early months of President Obama's first term his former Senate colleague came "to the White House to vist with the friend he had made during the four years they overlapped in the Senate" and was asked what he thought about foreign policy and defense issues.
According to an account that Hagel later gave, and is reported here for the first time, he told Obama: "We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don't control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they" -- the military and diplomats -- "tell you. Any assumption 10 years old is out of date. You need to question our role. You need to question the military. You need to question what are we using the military for.I've boldfaced that first part because, hey, are you gonna tell me you couldn't use a good laugh? This business of the later-given account and its being reported here for the first time -- such a gaffishly executed exercise in either fake modesty or circumspection, avoiding the central word in all of Woodwardia, ME-ME-ME-ME-ME.
"Afghanistan will be defining for your presidency in the first term," Hagel also said, according to his own account, "perhaps even for a second term." The key was not to get "bogged down."
Obama did not say much but listened. At the time, Hagel considered Obama a "loner," inclined to keep a distance and his own counsel. But Hagel's comments help explain why Obama nominated his former Senate colleague to be his next secretary of defense. The two share similar views and philosophies as the Obama administration attempts to define the role of the United States in the transition to a post-superpower world.
But this isn't the belly laugh I promised at the outset. Indeed, I have to acknowledge that it will be old news to anyone who read Bob's book, oh, whichever-book-it-was. I can't be expected to keep them straight. Oh, I see it was Obama's Wars.
When I interviewed President Obama in the summer of 2010 for my book "Obama's Wars," his deeply rooted aversion to war was evident. As I reported in the book, I handed Obama a copy of a quotation from Rick Atkinson's World War II history, "The Day of Battle," and asked him to read it. Obama stood and read:No, no, it's not the president saying, "See my Nobel Prize acceptance speech." I admit that's pretty funny, even if by chance the president actually said those words. Maybe it's even funnier if he did. And after all, our Bob has been slammed so hard and so often over his "journalistic" career for suspicious quotes that almost certainly couldn't be actual quotes that you'd think by now when he manufactures quotes to dramatize something that somebody told him somebody else said, he'd do it better than "See my Nobel Prize acceptance speech."
"And then there was the saddest lesson, to be learned again and again . . . that war is corrupting, that it corrodes the soul and tarnishes the spirit, that even the excellent and the superior can be defiled, and that no heart would remain unstained."
"I sympathize with this view," Obama told me. "See my Nobel Prize acceptance speech."
Again, no, though. The hilarious part is our Bob handing the president of these United States a book quotation with the order to read it and the president by golly standing up and reading it out loud.
At first this may not sound odd to anyone who's watched enough TV courtroom dramas, where lawyers are always handing witnesses stuff and ordering them to read "the highlighted portion," and uncomfortable as they appear, they do, even when they have no direct connection to what they're reading, and you'd figure somebody ought to be objecting.
But the president is an under-oath witness subject to "gotcha"-ing by a crafty cross-examining attorney about to blow the whole case wide open. He's, you know, the president. And Bob is just, you know, whatever it is you want to call it, what he is. And our Bob hands him the quotation and tells him to read and he by God stands up and reads. And in just a year or two the world gets to read all about it.
REPORTED HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME: MORE
RECENT WOODWARD ENHANCED INTERROGATIONS
House Minority Leader NANCY PELOSI, on her objection to the House majority leadership's expenditure of millions of dollars to prop up DOMA
Required to read highlighted passages from the 1953 Nancy Drew mystery (No. 31) The Ringmaster's Secret
Senate Minority Leader MITCH McCONNELL, on his search for a Plan B to put in place of his old Plan A ("to make Obama a one-term president")
Instructed to put on a Boy Scout uniform and order five dozen boxes of his favorite variety of Girl Scout cookies (anything but those ridiculous Thank U Berry Much-es)
Supreme Court Justice ANTONIN SCALIA, explaining why his practice of prejudging cases and his habit of hanging out with rich right-wing parties to cases never call for him to recuse himself
Made to sign up for Weight Watchers Online -- though with sign-up fee waived (special "friends of Bob" deal)
Vice President JOE BIDEN, offering exclusive not-to-be-published-till-2016 details about his plans to run for president
Had to stand up and read -- and pick his favorite from among -- a David Letterman-style Top 10 List of "Favorite Joe Biden Gaffes" found online
Treasury Secretary-designate JACK LEW, detailing all his fiscal and monetary plans for these next four years
Asked to recite from memory the Gordon Gekko "Greed is good" speech from the original Wall Street film
Senate Majority Leader HARRY REID, explaining his strategy in the recent filibuster "reform" to-do
Required to stand on the desk and sing his college fight song
New Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair DAVID "THE DIAPER MAN" VITTER, discussing techniques for hiring hookers without leaving a paper trail as well as his recent precedent-defying decision to dump virtually all the committee staff left behind by GOP-term-limited chair James Inhofe*
Called on to strip naked to enable Bob to body-paint the image of Carl Bernstein's genitalia all over him
*SPEAKING OF CHAIRMAN VITTER'S PURGE, HIS
STAFF DENIES ANY ANIMOSITY TOWARD INHOFE
We won't know till the relevant Woodward book is published what Senator Vitter may have told Bob about reports of personal discord with Senator Inhofe and "The Diaper Man" 's purge of Environment and Public Works Committee staff. Like this from National Journal:
One rumor, according to an aide who used to work for Inhofe on the panel, is that the two senators didn't get along.However, a source close to Senator Vitter says he told Bob W:
"From what I've been told, it was due to the fact that Vitter was pissed at Inhofe because Inhofe refused to help him fund-raise because of the prostitution scandal that Vitter faced," the aide said, who was not among the dozen or so most recently let go. "Vitter wanted to purge and get rid of everyone."
I respect the heck out of my colleague from Oklahoma, and if I found myself in need of a hooker on short notice in the Sooner State, he'd be my first phone call. Besides, nobody has done more to give substance to the belief that God gave us the environment to rape, pillage, and plunder. But every raper/pillager/plunderer has his own style.Meanwhile at least two energy-industry lobbyists so far confirm receiving e-mails in which the senator wrote:
The only difference between my good friend Jim Inhofe and me on raping, pillaging, and plundering the environment is that he always thinks of it like a one-man mission whereas I'm a strong believer in being a team player, being on the team -- as long as my friends in the environmental-raping industries remember, when it comes time to spread the cash and goodies and cut the checks, that I'm now the guy in charge.