19 November 2005

What About Bob?

This [Plame leak] investigation... has cast a
constant searchlight that the White House
can't turn off the way it has succeeded in
turning off the press. So their methodology
and their dishonesty and their disingenuousness
-- particularly about how we went to war -- as
well as their willingness to attack and rough up
people who don't agree with them are now there
for all to see.

- Carl Bernstein

Carl Bernstein has kept a low-profile since Watergate -- at
least when compared to his former partner at the Washington
Post, Bob Woodward. In the years since All the President’s Men,
Woodward has authored many best-selling books, including
two that cover the current Bush administration. His uncanny
ability to obtain access to the highest government officials
(and get them to speak on the record) give his work instant
“must-read” status for Washington insiders and political
junkies alike.

But some folks -- like the Village Voice -- have noticed that
Bob's been acting a bit strange lately.

On October 27, Woodward appeared on CNN's
Larry King Live and pronounced that the current
Plamegate scandal in the White House was
really much ado about nothing.

Here are some of his words: "First of all, this
began not as somebody launching a smear
campaign. . . . When the story comes out, I'm
quite confident we're going to find out that it
started kind of as gossip, as chatter, and that
somebody learned that Joe Wilson's wife had
worked at the CIA and helped him get this job
going to Niger to see if there was an Iraq-Niger
uranium deal.

"And there's a lot of innocent actions in all of
this. . . . Well, this is a junkyard dog prosecutor
and he goes everywhere and asks every
question and turns over rocks, and rocks under
rocks, and so forth. . . . I think it's quite possible,
though probably unlikely, that he will say, you
know, there was no malice or criminal intent at
the start of this. Some people kind of had
convenient memories before the grand jury.

"Technically they might be able to be charged
with perjury. But I don't see an underlying crime
here, and the absence of the underlying crime
may cause somebody who is a really thoughtful
prosecutor to say, you know maybe this is not
one to go to the court with."

Is this the same Bob Woodward whose
Watergate scoops were dismissed by Richard
Nixon's press secretary, the late Ron Ziegler, as
piddling stories about a "third-rate burglary"?
Doesn't Woodward remember the reaction by
many in the White House press corps, who
initially sneered at the story and brushed it off
as the fevered product of two lowly cityside
reporters covering crime and the courts—which
is what Woodward and Bernstein were at the

On Wednesday, the other shoe dropped...

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob
Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA
leak case that a senior administration official told
him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her
position at the agency nearly a month before her
identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told
Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official
casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame
worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass
destruction, and that he did not believe the
information to be classified or sensitive, according
to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the
previously undisclosed conversation after the official
alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week
after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis
"Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the
source freed Woodward to testify but would not
allow him to discuss their conversations publicly,
Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the
official's name or provide crucial details about the
testimony. Woodward did not share the information
with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard
Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post
reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling
in the summer of 2003 does not recall the
conversation taking place.

Et tu, Bob?

Arianna Huffington writes, “Hear that hissing noise? That’s
the sound of the air being let out of Woodward’s reputation.”

Or could it be a sigh of relief from Bill Keller and the New York Times?

Joe Conason writes a fitting epitaph for this once-great
Icarus of American journalism:

With his relentless pursuit of "access," the literary
formula that has brought him so much money and
fame, Woodward placed book sales above
journalism. Boasting of his friendly relationship with
the president who facilitated his interviews with
administration officials, he now behaves like the
journalistic courtiers of the Nixon era.

To those who have observed Woodward's career
since the glory of Watergate, including readers of his
many bestselling books, the change in his role and
outlook have long been obvious. For him, the
cultivation of high-ranking sources is the very
essence of journalism. And while there is no question
that reporters owe a duty of confidentiality to their
sources, it is also true that they owe candor to their
colleagues and transparency to their readers.

Sadly, Woodward not only served as a silent
accomplice of the Bush White House in its attack on
Plame and her husband, Joseph Wilson, but went
much further by publicly criticizing special counsel
Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation of that attack -- and
suggested repeatedly, up to the eve of the indictment
of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, that the investigation
should be curtailed. Now, instead, his own admission
of involvement may have figured in Fitzgerald's
indication Friday that he plans to call a new
grand jury
in the case.

But I wouldn’t worry too much, Bob.

I’m sure Judy will save a spot for you at Fox News.