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?…