Monday, September 22, 2008

Bob Woodward: Bush Apologist & "World Changer"

In this time of tumultuous economic upheaval in the U.S., I've come to the conclusion that the following interview is indicative of what we are up against today in trying to obtain reasonably truthful reporting of national events. I watched Bob Woodward (and have seen no other discussion of this conversation since then) tell Charlie Rose (on his show last week) that Bush was disengaged from the Iraq war, that he had changed the original assessment he was given from General Pace from we are "not winning" in Iraq to "not losing," that Bush was very troubled by the way the military waged the war but felt that he couldn't affect what was going on, and that (ultimately) he was satisfied to let the next president continue to wage the war after he leaves office (as hard to believe in that event as that is). Bob said also that he had asked the new generals in the Army involved at that time if they thought the war in Iraq was over and only 1 in 97 thought it was; he also said he thought it could "bite us in the rear end real quickly." Charlie was quick to forgive Bush (I thought) by saying that "it's the fault of the system that we live in today that it's not prepared to tell the hard truth and to ask for sacrifice." Bob said he asked the President about whether he should have "asked for full mobilization" if the situation were really so important (to address in this fashion) and that Bush replied he "never thought it was necessary" (and that because "Bush lived in a bubble" this precluded his being told anything different). Charlie then asked "if we had learned the lessons of the Vietnam War or did we learn them and forget them or did they not apply?" To which Woodward laughed as though it was a discussion fraught with irony instead of Charlie just lobbing a sweetheart question that he could swat away without answering seriously. Bob then said that Bush "had lost the moral authority of the Presidency and that this was why Nixon had had to resign" because he "also had lost the moral authority of the Presidency" (and not that he had been confronted with the "smoking gun" evidence of the tapes by fellow Republican Howard Baker). He also spoke of George H. W. Bush as being "the cautious one" and as also being perplexed at his son's behavior (with no follow-up reporting from Woodward on the implications of such). Woodward also talked with Charlie about how he had asked Bush if he felt he had played his last card and Bush said "No" that he had not played his last card; that a President always had one more card to play and then went into an extended discussion of Petraeus as a father figure to Bush who did not acknowledge his own Father's realm of expertise or that of Colin Powell or Rumsfeld. He then talked about the lack of introspection of anyone in this administration starting with Bush and ending with Condi Rice (who said she would do the same in Iraq a thousand times again) - which drew incredulous comments and looks from Bob to Charlie - and how they had no apologies for any of their misunderstandings and missteps. Woodward then queried to no one in particular "What is the next surprise in Iraq?" Later he ventured that one of the lessons learned in Iraq is that there needs to be a process where they "can examine exactly where they are today." He said "the answers" so far "are too mushy;" that "there was no real analysis," and that the bad news had "Bush slamming down a book" and saying "I don't want to hear it" and that he didn't "want it to get into The New York Times." I had a tough time personally believing that both Bob and Charlie didn't follow up these thoughts with some real incisive commentary on what this type of failure in judgment and management of the war effort meant for a supposedly MBA-led government. Talk about mushy reporting. When speaking about Obama's and McCain's ability to lead the country wisely after this monumental foul up at the top, Woodward dodged the question by saying that because we have a democracy, the people have the opportunity to evaluate the candidates and judge what qualities they need to accomplish the task . . . (blah blah blah). He then came down exactly like all the rest of the TV talking heads (who are not good-to-go, paid-off right wingers with no apologies): they are both good candidates who would need to go to "Commander-in-Chief" school (with not one extra word (or facial tic) about Bush's own lack of preparation - talk about discreet!). (And pardon me for saying this, but I still get the feeling every time I listen closely to someone who has interviewed Bush personally that they just can't bring themselves to fall out of love with the guy. Yeah. So sue me. I said it.) He also went into detail about how Bush told everyone on his staff not to talk to the press - ever - and that Admiral Fallon (who was Petraeus' boss at Central Command), upon being asked by John McCain at his confirmation hearings "I hear you're not supporting the surge plan" got the reply that "there was no plan" and that they were going "to wait until Petraeus arrived in Iraq to devise one." When Petraeus got to Baghdad (reports Bob), it was a "ghost town." Baghdad "was almost dead." And thus, the problem was solved! The "techniques" (giving the Shiites a go at the Sunnis, torturing anyone who moved oddly, and eventually throwing up our hands and paying off both the Sunnis and Shiites) had worked! After listening to Bob (once again), I could not help thinking of Nora Ephron's remark that:

Bob has always had trouble seeing the forest for the trees. That’s why people love to talk to him; he almost never puts the pieces together in a way that hurts his sources. And that’s also why he has so much access: his sources can count on him to convey their version of events.
Thusly, the genesis of his incredulousness that never wavers, no matter the context. And yet, I never can help thinking, when listening to him speak, that he is not bothered by those trees at all, and that he says exactly what will serve to help him continue to be the reporter who never quite seems to be able to add 2 and 2 (and thus is the perfect fall guy for whatever shill has his ear). Listen to it (and the Part 1 interview if you can stand it) and try to discern why he was rambling all over the map so much. For my two-cents worth, I think he has begun to regret (at this most critical juncture with the ever-increasing intensity from the downward spiraling of the U.S. economy) his part in delivering false information from the revered Bush/Cheney House that Woodward Helped to Build. And another shoe (or two) is being readied for the fall. How many ships (and troops) are there still in the Persian Gulf and the area around Georgia? Where is Cheney and what is he up to? And what in the heck are the American taxpayers doing assuming the debts of the financial sharks who worked so hard to bankrupt them already? Suzan

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