FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Woodward Scandal Must Not Blow Over

by NORMAN SOLOMON

Bob Woodward probably hoped that the long holiday weekend would break the momentum of an uproar that suddenly confronted him midway through November. But three days after Thanksgiving, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” a question about the famed Washington Post reporter provoked anything but the customary adulation.

“I think none of us can really understand Bob’s silence for two years about his own role in the case,” longtime Post journalist David Broder told viewers. “He’s explained it by saying he did not want to become involved and did not want to face a subpoena, but he left his editor, our editor, blind-sided for two years and he went out and talked disparagingly about the significance of the investigation without disclosing his role in it. Those are hard things to reconcile.”

An icon of the media establishment, Broder is accustomed to making excuses for deceptive machinations by the White House and other centers of power in Washington. His televised rebuke of Woodward on Nov. 27 does not augur well for current efforts to salvage Woodward’s reputation as a trustworthy journalist.

The Woodward saga is a story of a reporter who, as half of the Post duo that broke open Watergate, challenged powerful insiders — and then, as years went by, became one of them. He used confidential sources to expose wrongdoing at the top levels of the U.S. government — and then, gradually, became cozy with high-placed sources who effectively used him.

Now, Woodward is scrambling to explain why, for more than two years, he didn’t disclose that a government official told him the wife of Bush war-policy critic Joe Wilson was undercover CIA employee Valerie Plame. Even after the Plame leaks turned into a big scandal rocking the Bush administration, Woodward failed to tell any Post editor about his own involvement — though he may have been the first journalist to receive one of those leaks. And, in media appearances, he disparaged the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald without so much as hinting at his own stake in disparaging it.

Interviewed several months ago on NPR’s “Fresh Air” program, Woodward portrayed the investigation as little more than a tempest in a teapot. “The issues don’t really involve national security or people’s lives or jeopardy,” he commented, adding that “I think in the end, we will find there’s not really corruption here.”

Woodward also told the national radio audience: “The woman who was the CIA undercover operative was working in CIA headquarters. There was no national security threat, there was no jeopardy to her life, there was no nothing. When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great.”

But there was never anything laughable about Fitzgerald’s investigation into the Plame scandal. And Woodward had learned to take it a lot more seriously by the time he appeared as the only guest on CNN’s hour-long “Larry King Live” the night of Nov. 21.

After days of bad publicity, Woodward was in a spinning mood. He seemed eager to run out the clock as he filled time with digressions and minor details. When in a corner, he often brought up Watergate, as though his days of indisputable glory could draw light away from his recent indefensible behavior.

Larry King is rarely a vigorous interviewer; his customary mode of questioning is much closer to Oprah than “60 Minutes.” But King, who has featured Woodward on his show many times over the years, seemed agitated during the latest interview. And that’s understandable. After all, Woodward had previously gone on the show and dismissed the importance of the Plamegate scandal while withholding relevant firsthand information.

Woodward has written best-selling books heavily reliant on interviews granted by top administration officials. During the Nov. 21 interview, the unusually engaged King zeroed in on a dynamic that often pollutes the work of big-name journalists in Washington: They get and retain access to the powerful because they don’t go out of bounds.

Noting that Woodward was able to avail himself of lengthy interviews with President Bush for a recent book, King said: “He’s given you three hours. He’ll help you with the next book. Doesn’t that give him an edge with you?” And, King pointed out, the benefits of such arrangements run in both directions, for author and president alike: “He’s not going to come out looking terrible because you want him for your next book and you’d like to have that in.”

Bob Woodward wasn’t grilled by Larry King. But the questions were vigorous enough to make America’s most renowned reporter seem evasive and self-absorbed.

During the long interview, Woodward gave various explanations for his careful silence that misled Post editors and the public. He did not want to get dragged into the Plame-leak investigation with a subpoena, and anyway he was preoccupied with gathering information that would be revealed later in a book.

Overall, Bob Woodward’s priorities seemed to center on Bob Woodward. Yet near the end of the interview, he offered this platitude with a straight face and without a hint of self-reproach: “I think the biggest mistake you can make in this sort of situation as a reporter is to worry about yourself.”

NORMAN SOLOMON is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

 

More articles by:

Norman Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, where he coordinates ExposeFacts. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail