Bob Woodward's Controversial New Book

The following is a transcription of the October 7, 2006 edition of "FOX News Watch" that has been edited for clarity.

ERIC BURNS, HOST: If it were possible to summarize a 491-page book in one sentence, this might be the summary of Bob Woodward's new book "State of Denial":


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "STATE OF DENIAL": It is the oldest story in the coverage of government: the failure to tell the truth.


BURNS: Specifically, Bob Woodward charges the Bush administration with failure to tell the truth about how the war in Iraq is going and failure to heed warnings about 9/11.

Jane, I'm going to sound kind of unimaginative here because I think the place to begin is the same place we began the last segment, with the notion of holding on to information too long. Bob Woodward works for a newspaper. One would think that some of this information he got would have gone into the newspaper months and months ago. He held on to it for a book. You make more money with a book than you do with a newspaper article.

Did he act ethically in hanging on to his information for the book?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, first of all, I think it's an important book. And I think this side by side of what was said publicly and what was being told to these people, probably, if it's all true, is pretty damaging.

I do question the timing. I think one month before the election — conservatives are questioning the timing; I'm questioning the timing. Why did we have to wait so long? Is he the only person that had access to these people because of his previous two books? It would have helped to have known this before so many soldiers died in this war.

JIM PINKERTON, NEWSDAY: Well, Larry King asked Woodward about the timing and Woodward said, Simon & Schuster told me only one thing had to happen: It had to get out before the election. Which even King said, well, gee, what does that mean? In terms of, like, what would be the impact of that?

BURNS: But what about The Washington Post? If you were the editor of The Washington Post and you knew that your star reporter was working on a story this incendiary, wouldn't you want some of the information in your paper, Cal?

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, he's an assistant managing editor. He has a unique relationship that I don't know of anybody else in journalism who has such a relationship. He gets to do these books in which he finds out facts that if he were just a reporter and not doing a book, would be on the front page of the newspaper. But he gets to hold them.

I don't know if that serves journalism. It certainly serves Woodward. It serves the publisher. But I don't think it serves journalism. To have this stuff out a month before the election — it needed to be out a lot longer, a lot earlier so we could have a major national debate. Coming so close to the election, you get the finger-pointing from the right, who say it's part of the conspiracy, the left says, yes, see, I told you so. And I'm not sure that the public is served by that.

NEAL GABLER, MEDIA WRITER: Yes, The Washington Post even got scooped by The New York Times.

THOMAS: Yes, there you go.

GABLER: I love that. You know, there are revelations aplenty in this book. The accusation that Bush lied, knowing that there was no progress going on in Iraq, but saying there was...

THOMAS: I know you don't believe that.

GABLER: ... that Condoleezza — no, I don't.



GABLER: Condoleezza Rice being briefed by George Tenet on July 10, 2001, that there was imminent threat by Al Qaeda, and she not remembering that the briefing, much less acting upon it.

But the real media story I think most of us would probably agree is the fact that Woodward has been in the pocket of this administration for his two previous books, and now he's turned on them, you know, he's put his finger in his wind.

HALL: And now they've turned on him.

GABLER: And now they've turned...


GABLER: ... when he said, I want to be on the right side of history, folks.

PINKERTON: Jacob Weisberg in The Financial Times had a piece where he went through the descriptions of Rumsfeld in the 2002 book, the 2004 book, the 2006 book, and concluded that Woodward is just a weather vane. And as the media wind had turned against Bush and the administration, so has Woodward.

BURNS: All right. We're all talking about Woodward's book. Everybody, Jane, is familiar with at least some of the charges. There have been denials of some of these charges from the Bush administration.

Have they been given enough attention in the media?

HALL: I think so. I read that, I mean, Condoleezza's Rice response — Andrew Card pretty much acknowledged that what he had said to Woodward was true. Woodward has documentation.

I think the bigger question is the one you're raising. If the purpose is to serve the American public, then why hold on to this for a big book, and why not get it out there sooner, in your newspaper? That's what we're supposed to do. Information wants to be free, that's according to Jim Pinkerton.

PINKERTON: Well put, Jane.

Woodward can be accused of being an opportunist and a snake. But he gets his facts right. I mean, as he said on "Larry King," he said, I have seven hours of taped interviews with Andy Card. And they — let him try to deny it. Andy Card hasn't really denied anything. I mean, that's the point: Woodward does get them on the record.


BURNS: But the point I was trying to make a minute ago is those people who have denied this — Card not among them — have they gotten a fair shake in the media, Cal? Should there be more time spent on the air denying "State of Denial"?

THOMAS: Well, look, the president has been out there making his case. He's said on more than one occasion, the mission is accomplished, we're winning, the terrorists are in retreat, light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, excuse me, that was in Vietnam. But they do have Kissinger in there.

I think they have a major media problem. I mean, the president has the power of the White House. He can get out there and say anything anytime he wants. Woodward's point is — and I think it's a good point and worthy of discussion — that you've got to be honest and more forthcoming with the people if you want them to follow you.

GABLER: Yes, and Woodward obviously thinks Bush is toast. But the interesting thing, as Cal says, the administration can't spin the media now. The media is beginning to think that Bush is toast.

BURNS: Is that how we want to leave it?

HALL: No. I think...

PINKERTON: No. No. No. The way to leave it is the media thinks Bush is toast. And that is true.

GABLER: Yes. Yes. Yes.

PINKERTON: That's absolutely right.


HALL: And the American people deserve this information and deserve a debate on Iraq.

BURNS: More quickly than they got it. OK. Yes, that sounds better than "Bush is toast," and then we go to a break. Just not classy enough. It's time for...

HALL: Thank you. That's why I'm here.

BURNS: It's time for another break.

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