Bob Woodward, Blogger

Let me just say, without qualification, that of the high profile journalists whose techniques were discussed or entered as evidence in the Scooter Libby trial, Bob Woodward had the best note taking. Judy Miller, Matt Cooper, Bob Novak, Andrea Mitchell (and, I’m sure, Marcy Wheeler)? They all were put to shame by Bob Woodward’s exactitude and organization in the way he recorded his interactions with government officials.

Which is why I find it so amusing to see Woodward take to Tom Ricks’ blog to rip Donald Rumsfeld’s memoir to pieces. Woodward knows he has the documentation to back up his critique and he cites the notes of his October 23, 2003 and July 7-8, 2006 interviews with Rummy in detail. Here’s the cattiest example:

Near the end of the Oct. 23, 2003 interview — page 39 of my transcript — this interchange took place, illustrating the worst and the best of him:

Rumsfeld: “And you lie, you told people I stuck a finger in your chest. I never stuck a finger in your chest.”

Woodward: “Yes, sir, yes, yes.”

Rumsfeld: “I never touched your chest.”

Woodward: “I swear you did.”

Rumsfeld: “Did I?”

Woodward: “Yeah, you did.”

Rumsfeld: “Physically?”

Woodward: “You did, physically, it wasn’t hostile you were illustrating a point.”

Rumsfeld: “Good.”

Woodward: “I explained that. I thought you scored a very good point.”

Rumsfeld: (laughter)

Woodward: “Which was about surprise and off balance.”

Rumsfeld: “Oh yes, I did. I remember that you’re right …Yeah, right, you are right …I said you got to get a little off balance — I’ve done that. He’s right, I’m wrong.”

He had moved from calling me a liar to acknowledging that my memory was correct and his wrong. He probably should have been more tentative at both the front end and the back end, but there it was, Rumsfeld in full.

Meanwhile, Woodward exposes Rummy’s own inconsistent claims about his notes.

“I don’t have notes,” Rumsfeld insisted. “I don’t have any notes.”  His memoir cites his personal handwritten notes dozens of time.

Sure, Woodward does this, in part, to ensure no one questions the accuracy of his own books as authoritative narratives of–among other things–the timeline leading up to the Iraq war. He also seems, in part, to be protecting Bush.

And sure, there are tidbits where the old Woodward shines through, even in his own self-reporting.

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. [bold original; underline emphasis mine]

But I gotta say, for a newbie blogger, Woodward sure took the medium.

  1. BoxTurtle says:

    But I gotta say, for a newbie blogger, Woodward sure took the medium.

    Well, he did pick an easy first target. :-)

    Boxturtle (I notice Woodard carefully avoids the word “liar”)

    • qweryous says:

      (I notice Woodard carefully avoids the word “liar”)

      Why waste a word that’s not really needed to make the point? (Could Woodward say the word “BLOWJOB” on cable news?)

  2. rosalind says:

    ot: sorry, but this one is just weird – 15 armed men rob Fremont high-tech firm

    Fifteen armed men staged a takeover robbery of a high-tech company in Fremont, tying up employees and escaping with computer components, police said.

    The heist happened shortly before 8:40 a.m. Sunday at Unigen Corp. at 45388 Warm Springs Road. The robbers, all dressed in black and armed with handguns and automatic rifles, accosted six Unigen employees in the company’s loading dock, police Sgt. Chris Mazzone said.

    The men tied up the employees and locked them in a room before spending half an hour loading computer parts into a moving-company truck, Mazzone said.

    the mob going high-tech? local gang? or…?

    • scribe says:

      Every time there’s a shortage of one or another type of chip, some gangs do these kind of robberies.

    • john in sacramento says:

      Sorta related

      I used to work for an HP vendor, and about a month before I was hired, someone got arrested for sneaking mother boards out of the building

      Not as Hollywood as your story but the same mentality

  3. al75 says:

    Woodward is characteristically selective in his outrage and choice of target.

    He doesn’t see fit to mention his own fawning over the Bushies in his earlier two books on the administration. He also – oops – never reported on the unparalleled influence of the Cheney-Rummy claque in the W. administration – presumably because they were among those feeding him dope in exchange for a positive spin.

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      I don’t want to defend Woodward, but IIRC listening to the audio version of “State of Denial”, there were some snarky bits in that work. GWBush comes off as seriously incapable of paying attention for longer than two minutes to a topic.

      As for Woodward blogging, well… it does speak well of EW and Jane’s efforts these past years that the most MSM of MSMers is now also blogging (at least, MSM style).
      That’s not all bad.

  4. rosalind says:

    and rummy fights back, via facebook:

    The well known story about Bob Woodward is that he practices what is derided as “access journalism,” whereby he favors those who provide him with information and gossip and leak against their colleagues. Those who refuse to play along, such as Donald Rumsfeld, then pay the price.

    (salon link)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Rummy’s miffed that access to him is no longer valued or sought.

      Still, if I were him, I would avoid foreign vacations without a suitcase full of fifties and an extra pair of pajamas. Never know when an enterprising Spanish magistrate will issue an arrest warrant.

  5. pseudonymousinnc says:

    As for Woodward blogging, well…

    The biggest criticism of Woodward over the past decade has been that he’s worked a medium that’s pretty much the opposite of blogging — granted access in exchange for the long lead time of his books, and the couple of stories that appear in the WP as advance publicity.

    It’d be nice if publishing on a blogging schedule, with a degree of timeliness, might unlock some of the old journalistic instincts in the man. Our host has shown how there’s no conflict whatsoever between the format and exactitude.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    There’s some controversy about how just much journalistic inquiry the former Navy intel officer and newbie WaPoop reporter ever had. His curiosity seems to have shifted away from inquiry and toward stenography; a pity.

  7. timbo says:

    Now if only someone would arrest Rumsfeld for war crimes we could get to watch Woodward again try to avoid testifying for the prosecution…