And no shout-out from Woodward in the White House, y’all
In my November 20 item “We’ve Been Had — by Hadley,” I noted that whether or not Steve Hadley was Bob Woodward‘s malignant mole in the White House, Hadley was unfortunately just a benign lump before 9/11. I also noted that ex-daily reporter Woodward is no longer “America’s foremost journalist,” as he was dubbed recently by Downing Street Memo scoopmeister Michael Smith.
Which prompted Norman Michael Harman to write me yesterday from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia:
Subject: The “not foremost” journalist
How right you are! Yes, Mr. Woodward was a good journalist, but that was a long, long time ago. He eventually morphed into what he is now; a channeler of “official voices.” (Isn’t that the reason the NYTimes editor said he kept giving Ms. Miller front page stories even after her disastrous pre-war Iraq “reporting?”)
This past May I submitted my graduate thesis at Georgetown University on the Bush administration’s foreign policy. In the course of my year-long research I happened to read Woodward’s Bush at War. It was godawful!
Basically, what he did was to do a bunch of interviews with the top people in the administration, record their words, and then transcribe them to the page. It seemed that he did no outside verification or research into what they were telling him. He simply repeated their words as if they were real.
It was one of the most pathetic pieces of work from a major political writer I have ever had the misfortune to read — it read more like one of those self-serving memoirs every former president puts out.
I stumbled across your column in the U.S. Center on Public Diplomacy’s Public Diplomacy Press Review, and decided to sign up. Great stuff, thanks!
Thanks for writing, Norman Michael Harman. What you said about Woodward? Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle. He used to be great at breaking scandals. Now that he’s a “channeler,” he’s just medium as a journalist.
Woodward was once my boy; it was thanks to his work that I hung up my printer’s apron and went back to college in 1974 to study journalism.
But a lot of time has passed since. My colleague Syd Schanberg, who spent part of the ’70s in harrowing Cambodia and, like Woodward, has one of them Pulitzers to show for his work, has a good take on Woodward, just posted yesterday (including a separate interview).
I appreciate your kind words, but for really great stuff, I do what you do: I keep checking out the PD Press Review, John Brown‘s really fine aggregation of news, links, and commentary. Considering how bollixed the Bush regime’s public diplomacy is, Brown’s page is a must-read.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 23, 2005