Late Night Open Thread: “Goodbye, Bob”

One last Woodwardgate post, if only so I can once again recommend Joan Didion’s exquiste fifteen-year-old examination of the Great & Powerful Bob, d/b/a “The Deferential Spirit“:

… Mr. Woodward’s rather eerie aversion to engaging the ramifications of what people say to him has been generally understood as an admirable quality, at best a mandarin modesty, at worst a kind of executive big-picture focus, the entirely justifiable oversight of someone with a more important game to play… What seems most remarkable in this new Woodward book is exactly what seemed remarkable in the previous Woodward books, each of which was presented as the insiders’ inside story and each of which went on to become a number-one bestseller: these are books in which measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent….

Cometh another fine reporter, Gawker‘s John Cook, to cast a cold eye at Troutmouth Bob:

… What’s odd about this self-immolation is that most of Woodward’s post-Watergate career, as Joan Didion viciously detailed more than a decade ago in an immortal New York Review of Books assassination, has been an exercise in deference to power. On a nearly annual basis, he has produced book-length paeans to the notion that Washington is an occasionally messy machine that always produces the desired result, generally due to the noble actions of great men…

This is a story, of course, that those decent and wise stewards generally want told—even if it requires the publications of the odd embarrassing “insider” detail—which is why Woodward has been able to waltz in and out of every administration since Carter with impunity. The trade-off—access in exchange for an implicit pledge to judge his subjects by the polite rules of Washington—has essentially defined Woodward’s journalism. Even when it came to Nixon, his bete noir, Woodward was willing to bow to his head and submit a list of pre-screened questions in exchange for an interview (it never happened).

But the spell has broken. The Obama White House has, it appears, been as receptive to Woodward’s bargain as its predecessors were, but for some reason he’s gone off the grid and begun firing wildly and without provocation. Who knows why. The changes to our politics over the last five years have obviously been hard on him. It’s more difficult to tell stories about good men working out their honest differences when one half of the equation has foresworn compromise and committed itself to total political warfare. The comfortable subroutines of his brain have gone haywire, and he’s kicking out garbage.

But the simplest explanation for this episode is that he wants people to buy his book about how the president is an effete asshole who’s in over his head. How would one go about marketing a book like that, I wonder?

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66 replies
  1. 1

    I think Woodward’s probably just mad that

    1) The Obama people won’t go kiss his ring, give him his audience, what have you

    2) He can’t get anyone inside the administration to dish him some dirt

  2. 2
    Hill Dweller says:

    Whatever Woodward’s motivation for the tantrum, he ended up becoming a punchline.

  3. 3
    Argo says:

    Cooler vid version of the song than I was used to seeing.

  4. 4
    David Koch says:

    Journalism is hard when the acting head of the FBI isn’t feeding you information in a darken garage.

  5. 5
    Narcissus says:

    It amazes me how vapid the Village is, and Woodward is just a mirror held up to the Village.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    One last Woodwardgate post,

    Yeah, surrre.

  8. 8
    cmm says:

    I know the Bob Woodward story is the epitome of all the Village self importance that this and other blogs like to poke fun at, and I am all about that, but even so I am a bit shocked at how long the legs are on this particular story. it really seems to be getting a helluva a lot of play for something so trivial that a tempest in a teapot is Hurrican Sandy in comparison.

  9. 9
    the farmer says:

    What?, no one remembers the Bob Woodward / Janet Cooke fiasco.


  10. 10
    piratedan says:

    @cmm: well its about THEM, so it feeds their own sense of self importance. Gawd forbid anyone actually perform some journalism and tell the American people just what the Sequester cuts are about… no, that only happens the day of the issue itself. It’s as if some bleeping “news Editor” decides what the public gets to know about as long as it still fits within the cozy confines of getting ratings points for advertisers instead of actually informing the public.

  11. 11
    mai naem says:

    Who the fuck cares about who proposed the sequester? I cannot believe D.C. has spent this many hours on Bob Fucking Woodward and his WATB “Sperling was meeaan to me and he’s hurt my fee fees.” And the fact that he goes on FOX. Seriously? I understand him not going on MSNBC but you go on FOX and BTW does Woodward know that Hannity is an entertainer not a journalist. Not even close.

    I listened to a long interview with Kitty Kelley about her book about Stanley Tretick and his JFK photos. She mentioned that Tretick never bought the Janet Cooke drug addict story while they were running it and wasn’t shocked when it came out that it was a fraud. Tretick told Kelley that the Cook’s editor was a Yalie and not somebody with street smarts like himself. Also too, I’ve never paid attention to Kitty Kelley before – I just thought she was a gossip columnist kind of writer – but she came across a really fun cool genuinely nice lady.

  12. 12
    Bagofmice says:

    Woodward summed up in feline format.

  13. 13
    raven says:

    Joe fest report, Barak Obama is a liar.

  14. 14
    raven says:

    And Nicole Wallace agrees. Even I can’t take this.

  15. 15
    kay says:

    @mai naem:

    The Didion piece really is great, because she’s saying what a lot of people say now, but she wrote it in 1996.

    She wrote the best and most honest account of the Democratic Party I’ve ever read, “Insider Baseball”, in 1988.

    It’s “about” the Jesse Jackson campaign in 1988, but it’s really about tge various Democratic constituencies, and how they fit (or don’t fit) together. It would be perfectly true and relevant written today, with some character and plot changes :)

  16. 16
    Anya says:

    @raven: I wonder how many people watch the Village Circle jerk? Isn’t the lowest rated morning show?

  17. 17
    JPL says:

    @Anya: When Morning Joe lost Raven, they lost every one.

  18. 18
    NotMax says:


    Sounds as if they’re in full-on misdirection mode. Again.

    Same culprits stuck in the rut of doing the ‘That nasty Obama, he cut Medicare by $716 billion!’ – ‘Obama refuses to cut Medicare!’ pendulum dance. Amazing that they don’t suffer from terminal whiplash.

  19. 19
    kay says:

    @mai naem:

    Obviously, I don’t trust them, but I wonder if this is about the fact that “opinion leaders” pushed hard for austerity in the hopes they’d get cuts in SS and Medicare and now they got the deficit reduction they were screaming for without those cuts. They’ve lost leverage, in other words.

    Also, the truth is austerity is a fucking disaster in the UK and Europe. I haven’t heard them explain or elaborate on that, the fachat what they advised in tge US is a huge flop where it was tried. Maybe they did “we were all wrong about austerity” but I didn’t read it. Andrew Sullivan has some ‘splaining to do. He could get the ball rolling.

  20. 20
    Baud says:


    I can’t link to it right now, but Reuters did a piece today on the sequester talks that reads like it was written by the RNC itself. They are shameless.

  21. 21
    kay says:


    The Keller piece in the Times is a mess. I have no idea what he wants. I think he wants Obama to sell cuts to SS and Medicare, because obviously opinion leaders have been unable to sell it despite best efforts.

    He admits that isn’t what Obama was elected on, but says ge COULD have been elected on that, had he run on that, which he didn’t.

    I think it’s amusing they object to his “campaigning” but not if he campaigns on their agenda. That’s not “campaigning” because it’s unpopular.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    SFAW says:


    He admits that isn’t what Obama was elected on, but says ge COULD have been elected on that, had he run on that, which he didn’t.

    For some reason, this comment reminds me of a Benchley line, something on the order of “A man so rich he only needed ham to have ham-and-eggs, if he had had the eggs.”

  24. 24
    mai naem says:

    @kay: I don’t even understand why the Obama people are being so defensive about the sequester. Now, it has become a big deal. Now they can’t talk back. Bob Woodward can go screw himself. He invited Sperling over with Obama so that if they don’t show up, he can sit there and say “Waahhh, see how rude they are? They don’t even show up when I invite them so graciously?”

    I was watching Morning Ho. Not one mofo kiss asses on that round table asked Nicole Wallace why she was now for gay marriage but it was perfectly okay for the Bush admin, for who she worked for, to use it was a wedge issue in 04. Gays were awful godless gomorrahs in 04 and now it’s okay for them to get married Nicole? Really? But, hey, lets spend hours on who proposed the sequester.

  25. 25
    Hill Dweller says:

    @raven: What is Obama supposed to be lying about?

  26. 26
    SFAW says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    What is Obama supposed to be lying about?

    For wingnuts, the question is always: What ISN’T Obama lying about?

  27. 27
    Cheryl from Maryland says:

    I miss MTV from the 80’s. Gabriel’s videos are works of genius.

    As is Ms. Didion’s article on Woodward’s style – she writes so well, the knife is hard to see until one breaks it down into — Woodward adds so many useless details that by the time you’ve plowed through his bullshit, it is hard to realize he has said nothing.

  28. 28
    Patricia Kayden says:

    “an effete asshole”

    Yeah that sounds just like No Drama Obama. The lack of scandals is continuing to drive certain people crazy. Woodward should take a break from the public eye and get himself together. Straight up lying doesn’t help sell books.

  29. 29
    raven says:

    @Hill Dweller: The impact. They were snarking their asses off about “poor little Johnny won’t be able to go to school,the airports will shut down and the military is fucked”.

  30. 30
    lojasmo says:

    “The president is an efete asshole, who’s in over his head”

    This books is coming from THIS VERY BLOG!


  31. 31
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @lojasmo: Ha! Since I never read T&H’s comments, I won’t be reading that book. Perfect.

  32. 32
    Hill Dweller says:

    @raven: Were they citing Kessler’s “fact checking”? He seems to find particular joy trying to disprove the sequester’s negative effects.

    Nevertheless, Squint Scarborough is a joke.

  33. 33
    Baud says:

    The media is just warming up for a full throated campaign to support the Republicans in 2014 and 2016.

  34. 34
    Kay says:

    @mai naem:

    I don’t even understand why the Obama people are being so defensive about the sequester.

    Because they want to blame the sequester on Republicans, so they don’t mind talking about it. That’s the one part I do understand.
    They want to blame the sequester on Republicans, Nicole Wallace and Joe Scarborough want to blame the sequester on them. I think the window conservatives and media had for cutting SS and Medicare is slipping away. It had to be portrayed as an “emergency” because regular people don’t want to cut SS and Medicare, by huge margins. I think it makes them uncomfortable to be so far out ahead of their audience, because then you’re not “reporting”, right? You’re an advocate for a specific set of policies. They haven’t been able to sway most people on cutting SS and Medicare. They’re ahead of their audience.
    I think it would be easier on everyone if they would just come out as advocates, myself. Obviously they have completely swallowed the idea that there have to be huge changes to SS and Medicare, or…something or other will happen.
    I myself move a little slower, so first I’d like an explanation on why the policies they tried to sell to Americans are currently harming so many regular people in the UK. They promised an upside to austerity for regular people. Cut spending and “confidence” will return and investors will reward those who sacrificed with economic growth. That hasn’t happened. Regular people got badly hurt and there was no upside. I’d like to know if they still believe it’s a good idea for Americans, and why they still think it’s a good idea.

  35. 35
  36. 36
    mai naem says:

    @Kay: What really pisses me off is that nobody brings up that Greenspan with Reagan increased payroll taxes telling us that we had to have those to make SS and Medicare solvent blah blah blah it was urgent, the grand bargain blah blah blah. There was a surplus in SS, there was a surplus up to 2001 when Bush 11 came in and gave most of that SS surplus money to tax cuts for the wealthy. So, why am I now being told that I’m supposed to make up for those tax cuts plus interest – tax cuts from which I benefited very little. That’s not even getting into how the wealthy make more money from non-wage compensation. Morning Ho can go screw himself, hell, he can go screw Woodward. Take your hands off my social security and medicare.

  37. 37
    Kay says:


    The Sands’ activities in China came under the scrutiny of federal investigators after 2010, when Steven C. Jacobs, the former president of the company’s operations in Macau, filed a wrongful-termination lawsuit in which he charged that he had been pressured to exercise improper leverage against government officials. He also accused the company of turning a blind eye toward Chinese organized crime figures operating in its casinos.

    I always get a kick out of how these things are uncovered. The best hearing Catholic priest abuse survivors have had, to date, came in a bankruptcy court, because the church was trying to dodge the survivor damages. I get a mean satisfaction about that to this day, that they screwed themselves trying to dodge creditors. Too smart for their own good.

  38. 38
  39. 39
    Kay says:

    @mai naem:

    I would accept changes to Medicare if I has some trust that they had any clue about Medicare, but I don’t. I keep going back to the fact that Obama and Democrats in Congress apparently cut 500 billion out of the privatized part of the program (Medicare Advantage) without harm.. Good God. How much were they making on the privatized part of that program? One can cut 500 billion in over-payments?

  40. 40
    General Stuck says:

    But the simplest explanation for this episode is that he wants people to buy his book about how the president is an effete asshole who’s in over his head. How would one go about marketing a book like that, I wonder?…

    And the simplest explanation for the simplest explanation of this episode, is that we are entering the 5th year and 2nd term of the first black president. “effete asshole” “in over his head” have been slur mainstays coming from structural Washington pro lefters for a few years now.

    Woodward saw himself in the mirror one morning, and decided it was his duty as chief Village stenographer, to break his usual deferential newsy mode, and take down this uppity POTUS a notch or two from a possible glide slope to greatness that was settling in. To remind him, who made him, in Woodwards privileged mind, and that this here is his city, and those of his class. The ruling class, that all have pale complexions. So he jumped feets first into minding mode, and landed squarely in clown shoes.

    Woodward isn’t the first to lose his shit from the breaking of unspoken tradition, and he won’t be the last during the time when the president is near.

  41. 41
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Kay: enough so that Bob Corker decided to introduce another bill to reinstate those cuts in his “save Medicare by introducing more private competition again” bill last week.

  42. 42
    sparrow says:

    @General Stuck: I have been wondering this for a long time, and I feel stupid asking, but can someone enlighten me of the provenance of ‘near’? I get that it is an (ironic?) derogatory (?) term for black person. It’s not on urban dictionary, so I guess it’s not a widely-known thing? Is this a BJ-ism?

  43. 43
    Kay says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    I figured they’d try to add them back in, and there’s no guarantee they won’t succeed, but wouldn’t that have been a good thing for people to know going in to the austerity push by media? That there were 500 billion in over-payments that could be cut (over ten years)? It didn’t go towards deficit reduction, it went toward revenue-neutral in the PPACA, but we could have had this great discussion about how the privatization of 25% of Medicare didn’t actually save anyone any money. That’s still relevant today, because of course conservatives want to completely privatize Medicare.

  44. 44
    Josie says:

    @sparrow: Watch this clip from Blazing Saddles and you will understand.

  45. 45
    General Stuck says:


    The “president is near”, is a PC version of the Blazing Saddle “The sheriff is a nig…..” line. I don’t remember who first coined it, but is similar in origin to the later, “The president is a ni-CLANG”

  46. 46
    PeakVT says:

    @Kay: That’s not real surprising. Medicare Advantage providers were basically offering the same benefits as the government (some differences, but not a lot). How exactly would they do it cheaper, as the providers had less buying power than Medicare itself due to being small, while at the same time having extra costs from sales, marketing, another layer of administration, and the need to turn a profit? Lo and behold, it turns out they couldn’t, so they asked for more, and go it.

  47. 47
    Kay says:


    How exactly would they do it cheaper, as the providers had less buying power than Medicare itself due to being small, while at the same time having extra costs from sales, marketing, another layer of administration, and the need to turn a profit?

    I read quite a bit about the private program when media and conservatives were demonizing the cuts, and I believe they were acting to self-select healthier, younger recipients. They were offering “free” inexpensive services, things like gym memberships, and obviously a free gym membership is attractive to younger, healthier recipients. I don’t know how many times we have to try the “privatization to hold down costs” before it’s questioned. They’re pushing K-12 education privatization now, under the guise of “reform” and it’s not saving any money either. Privatized for-profits in K-12 education spend a ton on advertising and executive salaries. None of that money is going to kids, obviously. You can’t pay an executive 3 million dollars and not have that COME from somewhere. It isn’t just appearing. They’re taking it out of taxpayer funds that were earmarked for public education.

  48. 48
    Kay says:


    I think they have an obligation to talk about the profit. They won’t even use the word “privatized” for Medicare Advantage and for-profit school management companies, but I don’t even believe “privatized” is enough. I think they have to use a simple word that everyone understands, which is “profit”. These are publicly-funded programs, but they are in no way “public” programs, as people understand the word “public”. Just use the damned word that best fits.

  49. 49
    Citizen_X says:

    The Obama White House has, it appears, been as receptive to Woodward’s bargain as its predecessors were, but for some reason he’s gone off the grid and begun firing wildly and without provocation. Who knows why.

    Hmm. ‘Tis a puzzlement. What one thing could mark Obama as different from all the other presidents? I do not know.

  50. 50
    Tripod says:

    I had forgotten about the Bob Casey deathbed interview.

    What a piece of work. Woodward’s M.O. is that of a Hollywood publicity hack. Write promotional fluff pieces for People Magazine where subjects are asked to pick their fictional celebrity romance partners. Then leverage that access into penning those instant, friendly celebrity bios.

  51. 51
    Roger Moore says:

    @David Koch:

    Journalism is hard when the acting head of the FBI isn’t feeding you information in a darken garage

    See, the problem for Woodward is that getting information from the head of the FBI in a darkened garage is too hard. It involves getting up in the middle of the night, driving to the garage while trying to make sure nobody is tailing you, and listening to what the guy says. Sitting in a comfortable living room with free food and booze and having his ego stroked for doing it is more of Woodward’s speed.

  52. 52
    Roger Moore says:


    Amazing that they don’t suffer from terminal whiplash.

    You can only get whiplash if you have a spine.

  53. 53
    Ira-ny says:

    Just when your think Joe and Co. cannot get any worse, it does.

  54. 54
    Karma Gyurme says:

    Wow! Read the Joan Didion piece. Amazing takedown.

  55. 55
    Elizabelle says:

    The Joan Didion essay was worth reading.

    She never used the term “stenographer”, but it’s her inescapable conclusion.

    The world rendered is an Erewhon in which not only inductive reasoning but ordinary reliance on context clues appear to have vanished.

  56. 56
    Elizabelle says:

    And a Didion money quote: Woodward subjects his “journalism” to less scrutiny than any reporter or attorney dealing with a whistleblower or unreliable witness would:

    Here is where we reach the single unique element in the method, and also the problem. As any prosecutor and surely Mr. Woodward knows, the person on the inside who calls and says “I want to talk” is an informant, or snitch, and is generally looking to bargain a deal, to improve his or her own situation, to place the blame on someone else in return for being allowed to plead down or out certain charges. Because the story told by a criminal or civil informant is understood to be colored by self-interest, the informant knows that his or her testimony will be unrespected, even reviled, subjected to rigorous examination and often rejection.

    The informant who talks to Mr. Woodward, on the other hand, knows that his or her testimony will be not only respected but burnished into the inside story, which is why so many people on the inside … do want to talk to him.

    Bob Woodward. Mouthpiece for the DC status quo.

  57. 57
    dance around in your bones says:

    For the life of me I cannot understand anyone willingly watching Joe Scar…..stuck in the gym or whatever, I can get.

    But you’d have to go all Clockwork Orange on me to get me to watch it.

    eta: and now off to read the Joan Didion article!

  58. 58
    nancydarling says:

    @Karma Gyurme: Ditto the Didion piece.

    All of this hoo-ha that Woodward keeps stirring up reminded me of this Charlie Rose interview with his two chums, Woodward and Quinn from the Clinton years. Warning: there are lots of puke inducing moments.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

  59. 59
    Mnemosyne says:

    I have to say, all of this Woodward chit-chat is making me want to watch Dick again, which is a hilarious takedown of the whole Woodward/Bernstein mythos.

    Woodward is perfectly played by (a very restrained) Will Ferrell and Bernstein is played by Bruce McCulloch from “Kids in the Hall.” They even have Bernstein’s bicycle in the background like in the Redford/Hoffman movie.

  60. 60
    patroclus says:

    @Mnemosyne: “Dick” is a great movie! When I met John Dean, I asked him about it, and he very proudly said that he got a credit in that movie, but that it didn’t happen precisely the way it was portrayed. He also said they “did a number” on everybody connected with Watergate.

    On Woodward, thanks for the Didion link. I agree that Woodward wrote the op-ed because he wanted to sell his book and that he burned Sperling because he’s at heart a Republican who believes Republican spin and wanted to dis the WH, who he believes are effete assholes who are in over their head. Otherwise, he didn’t report much of anything and added almost nothing to the conversation. I’m sure that he’d like to get Dem sources again, but that’ll be more difficult after publically burning Sperling.

  61. 61
    Original Lee says:

    @Kay: The number of Medicare fraud lawsuits has been huge, and even the smallest piker business that I have read about managed to strip in excess of $1M from the program over a period of maybe five years.

    Just a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation (all WAGs, BTW): If each state has 10 in-home care providers submitting false claims for 50 patients a year each, that’s 500 patients’ worth of false claims per state per year, or 25,000 patients’ worth nationwide. From what I’ve read, the false claims most of these type of firms file are for services that were allegedly performed once or twice a week over a period of three months to a year, usually about $100 a pop. Let’s call it an average of $2000 per patient per year, and now you’re up to $50M/year just for in-home care provider fraud.

  62. 62
    LittlePig says:

    @PeakVT: Thank you for making my day.

  63. 63
    LittlePig says:

    @raven: Tee hee. The airports are the pain point.

    No, really. In the context of who actually matters in this society (None Dare Call It Plutocracy…), the airports are where you can actually touch average rich asshole where he/she lives. Little Johnny not going to school? Rich asshole sends kids to private schools. Military cuts? If not a Big Boy Toy manufacturer or lobbyist, who cares?

    But very few average rich assholes have their own airline.

  64. 64
    Bruce S says:

    There was nothing “vicious” about Didion’s piece. If anything, it was too kind.

  65. 65
    Odin says:

    But there are nuggets of information in Woodward’s work. In Veil, for example, Woodward writes of Prince Bandar paying off Sheikh Fadlallah with $10 million and the CIA being amazed the problem could be handled that cheaply. He also asserted the CIA paid Lebanese agents to blow up a Beirut highrise resulting in the deaths of 80 people and the wounding of hundreds. Where else have you read those details?

    And the story about the SC justices’ machinations that led to the Roe v Wade decision was worth the price of The Brethren, (the paperback price anyway). I loved the Burger story about him suddenly realizing the others are taking over the writing of the decision and he goes to his buddy Blackmun to complain about it and Blackmun shows him the part he’s writing. Burger storms out without a word. The clerks call it the “Et tu, Harry?” story.

    Where else have you read that story?

  66. 66
    Nutella says:


    You can’t pay an executive 3 million dollars and not have that COME from somewhere. It isn’t just appearing. They’re taking it out of taxpayer funds that were earmarked for public education.

    And that’s the whole point of charter schools. By design, it’s a method to transfer huge amounts of the taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the rich friends of the likes of Bill Gates and Rahm Emanuel. The schoolkids are just cover for the grand theft and will be thrown away after the scam is complete.

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