Bush at War by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster), 376 pages, $44 cloth. Rating: NN
Somewhere along the road, Bob Woodward forgot the difference between being a journalist and a stenographer. Bush At War is an uncritical, unexamined recounting of the hundred days from the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington to the collapse of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Woodward wants the reader to believe that he's the fly on the wall watching Bush and his team come to grips with the awesome responsibility of waging war. He was given access to reams of notes from these meetings and interviewed most of the people who led the U.S. to war, including Bush himself.
He paints a portrait of Bush as a tough but tender man who's always in control, knows what he has to do and -- damn the torpedoes -- goes and does it. No wimp he.
Condoleeza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, is portrayed as a sweet, piano-playing mother to the nation. Only Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld comes across as less than saintly. Apparently he didn't give Woodward the same amount of time as the other sycophants in the White House and military.
Shortly after the book was published, Sunday-morning talk shows fell over themselves praising the author and his access. One pundit asked in awe, "How does Woodward do it?"
The answer is easy. Don't ask hard questions. Don't challenge the record.
It's telling that Bush chose former Nixon secretary of state Henry Kissinger to oversee the government's inquiry into what happened on September 11. Like Woodward, Kissinger will give the White House what it wants. It makes you wonder how two men on opposite sides of the Watergate wars could find themselves shilling for the same White House three decades later.
Woodward should know that regurgitating unchallenged handouts from those in power is not journalism but propaganda. Bush At War is a sad ending for a once great journalist.Write Books at firstname.lastname@example.org