Like others in the ragtag alliance of bloggers, a few renegade journalists and other assorted "DFH"s back in the worst days of the Bush-era 2000s, I grew very disenchanted with journalist Bob Woodward. Whatever Woodward had been during the glory days of Watergate, the Beltway journalist seemed to have surrendered all power of critical thinking -- and fact checking -- in return for access to Washington's rich and famous. The books that resulted tended to be a form of stenography, not journalism.
My sense was that Woodward was moving back toward his roots in recent years, but nothing prepared me for the journalist's awesome takedown of the lies and deceptions of former Bush defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld that the Washington Post stalwart carried out in the new issue of Foreign Policy magazine. Woodward held onto his notes and aggressively takes down the spin in Rumsfeld's new book.
On January 9, 2002, four months after 9/11, Dan Balz of The Washington Post and I interviewed Rumsfeld for a newspaper series on the Bush administration's response to 9/11. According to notes of the NSC, on September 12, the day after 9/11, Rumsfeld again raised Iraq saying, is there a need to address Iraq as well as bin Laden?
When Balz read this to Rumsfeld, he blew up. "I didn't say that," he said, maintaining that it was his aide Larry DiRita talking over his shoulder. His reaction was comic and we agreed to treat it as off the record. But Balz persisted and asked Rumsfeld what he was thinking.
"Yeah," Rumsfeld finally told us. "I wanted to make sure that -- I always ask myself, what's missing. It's easy for people to edit and make something slightly better. But the question is, what haven't we asked ourselves? So I do it all the time. I do it here, I do it in cabinet meetings or NSC meetings. It was a fair question."
"I don't have notes," Rumsfeld insisted. "I don't have any notes." His memoir cites his personal handwritten notes dozens of time.
That's just one of several cases where Woodward chronicles Rumsfeld's ever-changing story lines. Concludes the author:
Rumsfeld is indeed a pro -- at ducking and weaving and dodging responsibility, a reflection of much of what is worst in Washington.
That is just beautiful. Your next assignment, Mr. Woodward, should you choose to accept: Taking down the Beltway BS machine....in real time.