Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hollywoodward Strikes Again

What would a Bob Woodward book be without bombshells...
Mr. Biden called Mr. Holbrooke “the most egotistical bastard I’ve ever met.” A variety of administration officials expressed scorn for James L. Jones, the retired Marine general who is national security adviser, while he referred to some of the president’s other aides as “the water bugs” or “the Politburo.”
Say one thing for Biden, he never lets judgment or facts get in the way of a good ole emotional sound bite. But man alive, it sounds just as messy as the Bush White House. It also sounds like Obama is a bit distracted by fighting wars and defending America and chasing down bin Laden and such stuff..
Even after he agreed to send another 30,000 troops last winter, the Pentagon asked for another 4,500 “enablers” to support them. The president lost his poise, according to the book. “I’m done doing this!” he erupted. in a lot of political calculations being inferred where national security should predominate. Of course it might just be Woodward leaving that initial impression to sell books. He didn't talk about any slam dunks this time--apparently the president can't jump. But he also quotes Obama as telling Lindsay Graham he had to declare an Afghan timeline for withdrawal in 2011 or risk losing the Democratic party, presumably meaning losing reelection in 2012. Will anyone ask Gibbs to explain this?

And in that vein it'll be interesting to see how a Woodward book goes over in the age of O with all the Dem-friendly journalists. As to the revelation about the CIA's Afghan-staffed pursuit teams (CTPT) it sounds like the culmination of the feckless squads formed during Clinton's second term who were supposed to go after bin Laden but failed. Speaking of books, Steven Coll wrote about them extensively in his book "Ghost Wars", which BTW is a pretty fair assessment of the GWoT despite his avoidance of a few crucial players like Ali Mohammed or anyone remotely involved with Iraq.

MORE 9/22/10

Woodward's employer has a feature on the book today including more gossipy snippets of backbiting and infighting, including a few details from 'top secret' meetings. But it's useful to remember--most of what they told Woodward was relayed for a reason. Disclosing classified information is a crime and several quips are attributed to specific persons..
A new capability developed by the National Security Agency has dramatically increased the speed at which intercepted communications can be turned around into useful information for intelligence analysts and covert operators. "They talk, we listen. They move, we observe. Given the opportunity, we react operationally," then-Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell explained to Obama at a briefing two days after he was elected president.
Hear that, AQ? There was also the requisite "Pakistan is not our BFF" gossip, something everyone already knows and previously confirmed by Wikileaks. The WaPo article paints Obama as the decisive leader, staring down the military instead of being bowled over by them. The biggest bombshell is probably Obama's immediate desire for a way out of the AfPak theater after campaigning that it was the 'central front' in the GWoT, but again, who didn't know he was playing politics with the war as a way to beat McCain by running against Bush?

CONTEXT 9/23/10

A couple of other comments excerpted are making more news, mainly the "we're stronger after 9/11" and "America can absorb another terrorist attack". On the latter, John Dickerson echoes my feelings on the comment:
This led the president to talk about the need to prioritize. Objectively, the president said, you would want to be able to stop every attack, but a president has to prioritize. So what does the president put at the top of the danger list? A nuclear weapon or a weapon of mass destruction. Why? Because—and here's where the quote in question comes in—as bad as 9/11 was, the United States was not crippled. A nuclear attack or weapon of mass destruction, however, would be a "game changer," to use a popular cliché.
Again, this points out the communication disconnect present in the White House right now. Basically, we have a college professor as the Commander-in-Chief, and he thinks and talks like a college professor. He blurts out theory as if speaking to a class, not America.

Everyone should know that a president cannot expect to stop all attacks. And everyone should know that an NBC attack has to be priority one for any president because no, America may NOT survive one (especially in our precarious financial situation). Heck, the president might not survive one if planted in Washington. Once again he blew the mass communication aspect on relaying his thoughts.

As to the former (about being stronger after 9/11) this one's a head-scratcher and likely was uttered out of a need to suggest the American people survived, etc. But it's strange he would say America got stronger after years of bashing Bush on, well, just about everything.


LASunsett said...

Woodward is a pro. He knows how to work a crowd, from a marketing standpoint (as well others). I am sure he wants to generate sales, but I think he wants to put out (what he considers) a good journalistic product. He wants to be the king of investigative journalists.

He has been biased in the past, there is no doubt. He is much the liberal leaning journalist when there is no real reason to be otherwise. He has made his name, he is does what he wants. He certainly is biased on the selection of his topics.

But one thing I have noticed about him is how he deals with things he finds that are not in line, with his way of thinking. He finds a way to gloss down things here and there, especially when the things he discovers are NOT supportive (of whatever his predisposed objective may be).

He reports them but mixes it up a little, very careful not to spend too much time going into it. He just leaves it as a subliminal seed for the reader to think about afterward. "Hmmm, I wonder what he meant by that?"

This may be a good read for that kind of thing. Based on what we have already read and heard, this might be a book that plants some doubt at the end, just enough to swing some people who see incompetence as Obama's biggest fault, not ideology.

You and I are likely to express that we think it's both. But there are many old-school liberals who think that he:

A) has not lived up to the hype and failed to deliver the dream

B) has gone too far to the left.

They don't like him much right now, but they don't like conservatives either. Question is, how does that translate this November....and two year from now?

Debbie said...

The Obama administration is saying they are pleased with the book, that is shows his base he really wanted to do certain things ...

What a spin

Right Truth

A.C. McCloud said...

Well guys, I opined that the admin wanted Woodward to put some of this out, and from Debbie's comment that looks correct. Obama can tell his staff/cabinet how much he considers eligible for leaking to send whatever message they want.

Then again, they really don't have the choice of saying no. As LA says, he's a legend, so if they rebuffed his interview requests he would just hatchet them to pieces week after week in the WaPo on the transparency issue.

Still, I think they used him as much as possible to spin Obama as being tough with the bully generals and hard lined on getting out of the wars. Again as mentioned by LA, he's subtle so it will take a careful reading of the book to see what little catnip surprises he left for us.