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Bob Woodward book buildup: The reactions begin

Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward at a 2005 movie screening. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Nothing gets D.C. pundits all aflutter quite like a Bob Woodward book. His latest writing venture hits shelves Sept. 27. The book, "Obama's Wars," goes behind the closed doors of the White House to follow President Obama as he makes the decision to increase troops in Afghanistan. This is the 16th nonfiction book by Woodward, an associate editor at The Post; 11 have been about presidents.

Early reviews of the book have emerged and the political media are scanning the book for every new clue into a usually tight-lipped presidential administration.

The Post's Steve Luxenberg had a first look at the Woodward book and talks about how President Obama urgently looked for a way out of the war in Afghanistan last year.

The uncertainty of how to proceed in the war led to 20 months of infighting as personalities and policies clashed, the New York Times reports. In the book, Woodward reports that Vice President Joe Biden called Richard C. Holbrooke, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, "the most egotistical bastard I've ever met," and James L. Jones, the national security adviser, referred to some of the president's aides as "the water bugs."

Obama's White House swung open its doors for Woodward, Mike Allen and John F. Harris write in Politico. They question whether or not that was a wise move for Obama. "Republicans six weeks before an election will have a powerful incentive to publicize the most negative parts."

However, the White House seems to be embracing the book, emailing Politico with this statement: "The president comes across in the [Afghanistan] review and throughout the decision-making process as a commander-in-chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role."

Daniel W. Drezner, a professor at Tufts University, asks in Foreign Policy whether Woodward has jumped the shark, saying "media outlets as varied as Politico, Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, and the New Yorker now generate hourly revelations that Woodward used to be able to hoard for his books." (Full disclosure: FP is owned by The Post.)

The Daily Beast's Bryan Curtis said the book tries to figure out whether Obama got "rolled by the military" into the Afghan war. He doesn't get to the exact answer, but "he demonstrates convincingly that the men in uniform -- that would be David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, and Mike Mullen, along with Bob Gates -- dangled very few battle plans in front of Obama, and used bureaucratic jujitsu to make sure he didn't see others."

Wonkette sums up the buzz with: "Bob Woodward's new book, 'This Obama Guy Did 9/11,' will be that thing everybody in Washington buys on Monday even though they read all the sad dirt today in the newspapers."

Thanks to insta-Twitter reaction, the rest of the journalism community got in on the Woodward conversation early:

Dan Zak, one of The Post's features writers, has a question for the White House.

Why did a tight White House let Woodward hang around? Eikenberry on Karzai: "He's on his meds, he's off his meds." http://wapo.st/aDKjl1less than a minute ago via web

Ed Henry, CNN's senior White House correspondent, emphasizes more consideration of both Woodward's quotes and the early reaction to the book.

President allegedly -- I stress allegedly -- saying in book, "I want an exit strategy ... I can't lose the whole Democratic Party" is newsless than a minute ago via web

However, Woodward book needs to be seen in full context; right now we're only seeing bits & pieces of book. In fairness, need full pictureless than a minute ago via web

Andrea Mitchell, NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent, suggests a new book idea for Woodward.

Question: who fights more, Obama national security team or economic aides? Imagine if Woodward tracked Summers and team instead of NSCless than a minute ago via OpenBeak

Oliver Willis, a Huffington Post blogger, celebrates the book's launch.

oh yay. time for another round of "bob woodward learned about news months ago, but is now dripping it out to sell his book"less than a minute ago via web

Will you buy the Woodward book?

By Melissa Bell  | September 22, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
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Comments


The President better stick to his announced exit schedule on this one. Afghanistan society is simply not ready to join the modern world and the American public doesn't want to foot the bill in a valiant but futile attempt to try. It is the issue that can fracture many old political alliances heading into the 2012 presidential election season. It is best to put it to an end, probably an ugly end, but end it soon.

We can always use standoff weapons in the future if necessary.

Posted by: edbyronadams | September 22, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I wish we could go back to the GOP way of dictating policy...flip the bird to America, and surround yourself with yes men who all agree with every stupid idea (like unfunded wars) you have.
I just can't understand why Obama would want varying opinions and honest debate.
History shows that makes it hard to bomb countries for personal reasons and misappropriate funds to do it.

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | September 22, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

He asked the military for an exit plan. When he didn't get one, he created one himself. Would that that had been done in 2001!

Posted by: AMviennaVA | September 22, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Just proves that Obama is as clueless as ever!

Posted by: madmike272 | September 22, 2010 1:09 PM | Report abuse

Having varying opinions and honest debate is great--not being able to make a decision, not so great...thinking that you alone can make national security policy without really having any clue...is that what Americans objected to in Bush?

So is the current Afghanistan strategy run directly from the White House? Wow, does this sound like the mistakes LBJ made in Viet Nam or what?

If he asked the military for an exit plan and they didn't give him one, it is probable there isn't one that doesn't put the US in jeopardy but hey, we've left countries before and let them fend for themselves (ask the Vietnamese Americans about that)and I am quite sure we are going to do it again.

Posted by: mil1 | September 22, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Petraeus "You have to recognize also that I don't think you win this war. I think you keep fighting.
....for the rest of our lives and probably our kids' lives."

If it was up to some Generals we would be fighting in these wars for decades-making us weaker and broke.

It's time to bring our troops home.

Posted by: David77 | September 22, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

For an Candidate/President that preached transparency in 2007-2008, this book might be our only example of actual transparency. The American people are learning how this Country should not be run and how inept this Administration actually is.

Posted by: abfdeal | September 22, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Strange how people can comment on something they haven't read.

Posted by: rlj1 | September 22, 2010 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Said madmike272: "Just proves that Obama is as clueless as ever!"

How is he clueless? What exactly proves it? As others here have stated, the high level view of the book's thesis is that Obama created an exit strategy (a campaign promise in 2008 and a Democratic core strategy and belief) when the folks at the Pentagon attempted to thwart such efforts politically to retain their Hawkish strategies dating back to 2001.

How is overcoming that CLUELESS?

Posted by: JimGoldbloomVA | September 22, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

Certainly obvious that the military never has provided the President with an exit stratigy. The military gets paid to Win Wars,not back out of them. And BTW isn't that why our Constitution gives the Civilian branches of government the power to declare War And Peace?

Look,unless Obama summons up the guts to get out of this mess in Afghanistan, he (like LBJ with Vietnam) probably is looking at a single term Presidency-And you better know he KNOWS this.

Posted by: oregonbirddog | September 22, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Its obvious that they lot Woodward hang around and gather material because they respected his objectivity and want a transparent record of the decision making process. If one reads the Long War Journal's daily transcripts of what is happening in Afganistan-Pakistan it is obvious that we are turning the cornor in Pakistan thru almost daily drone attacks on al Qaeda and the Taliban. This coupled with the elite Afgan force will make measurable strides in the containment of both al Qaeda and the Taliban. I hope the training of the Afganistan Army and Police forces is comeing along. I will buy the book and it will probably reaffirm my confidence in President Barack Hussien Obama's decision making ability.

Posted by: alw1 | September 22, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Just proves that Obama is as clueless as ever!

Posted by: madmike272 |

----------------------------------------

Right. If he was on top of it, he would have landed on an aircraft carrier long ago and pronounced "Mission Accomplished".

Posted by: htruman1 | September 22, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Its not that he's clueless, he's spineless. A president who took his oath and the Constitutional obligation to "provide for the common defense" seriously would view another 9/11 as unacceptable, not something that could be "absorbed". Instead he seems to be more concerned about timelines and the reaction of the Democratic party. Thank god he wasn't president on 9/11.

Posted by: Illini | September 22, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Good to know Gen McChrystal's views on Obama staff members were apparently widespread throughout.

Posted by: silencedogoodreturns | September 22, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

>> Thank god he wasn't president on 9/11.<<
_____
That's got to be the most inane post on this thread. As if Bush prevented 9/11 and then reacted appropriately. Unadulterated nonsense.

Posted by: upperdeck4 | September 22, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Upperdeck4: Thank god that Obama wasn't president on 9/11 becuase his reaction would have been to send a few cruise missiles up some camels butts and declare victory (this was Clinton's approach also). Bush took the correct approach in aggressively going after AQ/Taliban in Afghanistan and elsewhere to deny them sanctuary. What good is there in maintaining a strong military posture if you're afraid to use it when threatened?

Posted by: Illini | September 22, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Allowing Bob W. this kind of access should be considered an impeachable offense. Why tell the taliban what up with the US war stategy? Idiotic. Moreover, tyhe war strategy was driven by Democratic Party politics. Obama's message is conttantly muddled. Just Monday he hinted at departures from his White House team in his CNBC event. Later on Monday the White House issued a statement that no advisors were going to leave. The Wall Street Journal Documented that in yesterday's print edition. By 5:00 p. m. yesterday Larry Summers and the WH announced Summers was leaving. OBama demonstrates unconscionable ineptitude at the art of governing and is putting US and NATO forces a risk by his idiotic conduct.

Posted by: KEVIN25 | September 22, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Scary! Take out the trash November 2! Then, impeach the useless goofus and Biden, too. They are about as useful as teats on a boar hog.

Posted by: Cezanne | September 22, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Let's see.

What was the reason for Obama's quick turn around from his previous position that the Afghan War was a much more significant worry for America than the Iraq War?

Oh, that's right. "America can absorb another terrorist attack," and presumably another, and another, and...

Posted by: slsmithsg | September 22, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

I wonder if the military presented an "exit strategy" for the WWII following Pearl Harbour. I also wonder what the outcome of the WWII would have been if FDR had avoided "talk of victory as he described his objectives" to the generals after Pearl Harbour.

Posted by: nahumkorda | September 22, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

How could ANYTHING be Obama's fault?

Nothing ever is.

He's pretty good at relabeling and shifting blame.

Posted by: postfan1 | September 22, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

At least the Obozo WH is consistent.
They're obviously WAAAY over their pointy heads and then.....
They're stupid (and vain) enough to show it all to Woodward.
It's not Obama that worries me, it's the people who voted for him; stupid is forever.

Posted by: graywolf98 | September 22, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like Gates should go and Petreaus should report to Michelle.

Posted by: robert26 | September 22, 2010 7:28 PM | Report abuse

I can't understand how anyone would want to keep pouring the lives of American men and women plus $2 billion down the drain. We are creating more terrorists who would like to bomb the U.S. every day we stay in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, a real Republican who actually knew something about fighting a war, warned us about the industial/military complex. If you ask career driven military officers for options, don't be surprised when they want to escalate the war effort. Nobody ever got promoted by pulling out even though it is the only rational thing to do for the sake of our soldiers and the economy.
The media builds up the reputation of officers like McCrystal and Petreaus because is sells advertising. Petreaus is bright and ambitious but forgets that to fight a long war you better have the country behind you and right now it is obvious the American people see this military build up as a lost cause and a waste of resources.

Posted by: jp1943 | September 22, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

I can't understand how anyone would want to keep pouring the lives of American men and women plus $2 billion per week down the drain. We are creating more terrorists who would like to bomb the U.S. every day we stay in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, a real Republican who actually knew something about fighting a war, warned us about the industrial/military complex. If you ask career driven military officers for options, don't be surprised when they want to escalate the war effort. Nobody ever got promoted by pulling out even though it is the only rational thing to do for the sake of our soldiers and the economy.
The media builds up the reputation of officers like McCrystal and Petreaus because is sells advertising. Petreaus is bright and ambitious but forgets that to fight a long war you better have the country behind you and right now it is obvious the American people see this military build up as a lost cause and a waste of resources.

Posted by: jp1943 | September 22, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

Is Obama setting himself up for impeachment??

He is letting this Country down in each and every category. Now, we find that it is by design!

What was he talking about when he told us that Afghanistan was the war we needed to fight? Did he mean -- however -- that we should not win it??

How does he think the parents and loved ones of those lost in the chopper crash yesterday feel today under his LACK OF LEADERSHIP?? That "we can absorb it?"

Beginning to believe that he is the most incompetent hawker to ever hit DC!
He seems to have the same personality traits as Jimmy Carter, who just reminded us this week that he was 'Superior'! Obama is dangerous -- if for no other reason, he DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE DOES NOT KNOW, BUT, he has ZERO comprehension of his lack of knowledge!

HE HAS AN ACUTE CASE OF Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

Posted by: wheeljc | September 22, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

How can Obama send men and women to die in a war that has no goal and that he wants to end without achieving anything. This man is despicable and a disgrace to the traditions of this country.

Posted by: jrwaw | September 22, 2010 9:44 PM | Report abuse

"I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party."

Note that he doesn't mind losing the war or the country, however.

Posted by: prosecutor1 | September 22, 2010 11:04 PM | Report abuse

It appears that Obama got talked into this quagmire by the Pentagon crowd. Now the comparison to Viet Nam is more appropriate than ever. Johnson knew that the war was hopeless but could not find a way out. This administration is in the same boat.

Posted by: dfdougherty | September 22, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

"Will you buy the Woodward book?v"

LOL I ordered 100 copies to sell down in Capitol Hill.

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | September 23, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

Gates' and Petraeus's reputations have fallen fastest and hardest. No one believed Obama knew what he was doing in military matters. Months ago it was clear that the generals were hoodwinking the president. No matter how you feel about Obama, this is a serious matter. Petraeus won't resign; he's smart and knew he was assuring his job security when he took the Afghanistan assignment. His honor has gone and probably his chances for further advancement. Hawaii, Gen. P.? He and his wife, upon whose shoulders he built his career, can sit in the sun and reflect on all the good times of war.

Posted by: mirrorgazer | September 23, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

"America can absorb another terrorist attack." I'm embarrassed that this guy is my president.

Posted by: RB1019 | September 23, 2010 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Right. If he was on top of it, he would have landed on an aircraft carrier long ago and pronounced "Mission Accomplished".

Posted by: htruman1
_________________________________

You mean, like when he said "The stimulus did its job"?

Or when this administration dubbed the last few months "Recovery Summer"?

Talk about inept and clueless.

Posted by: etpietro | September 23, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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