No journalists in the last 30 years have built more of a legend than the old Washington Post pairing of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. As the Watergate wrecking crew that put Richard Nixon in the scrap yard, they are America's most venerated "icons" of investigative reporting.
But since that event, the paths of Woodward and Bernstein have separated dramatically. Woodward is still considered the top-dog journalist in Washington, a titan no president can ignore if he cares about his historical legacy, or his short-term political standing. By contrast, Bernstein has bounced around to cushy media jobs, at ABC and at Time magazine, rarely distinguishing himself, with a mere fraction of Woodward's celebrity aura.
Note the contrast between this duo's last two books. At the end of last September, Woodward's "State of Denial" was a media monster, perfectly pitched for maximum anti-GOP impact just four weeks shy of the midterm elections. The first Woodward interview was scheduled for "60 Minutes" on Oct. 1, but NBC broke out the hype on Friday morning, Sept. 29.
Here's how often chief NBC pundit Tim Russert discussed the Woodward book as a serious factor against the Republicans over the first six days on "Today" and the "NBC Nightly News." Friday morning. Friday night. Monday night. Tuesday night. Thursday morning. Thursday night. That's six times in six days. That's publicity heaven.
Russert proclaimed Woodward's book would resonate from coast to coast and be a very rough time for the White House: "Mr. Woodward will be all over the media talking about this book, talking about this issue. You know the Democrats will pounce on it. And again, if the debate is about the Iraq war rather than the broader war on terror, it's exactly on the field the Democrats want to play on."
Bob Woodward knows that if you want to be all over the media, it doesn't hurt to manicure the lawn the Democrats want to play on.
Woodward's media tour included two stops on NBC, including a big Monday morning rollout on the Oct. 2 "Today." NBC gave the Woodward book launch 15 minutes of airtime, including the author's interview. The next Sunday, Oct. 8, Woodward was Russert's guest on "Meet the Press." Weeks later, on Oct. 18, Brian Williams was still asking Russert about "the Bob Woodward book" as a landmark political event.
Compare that to Carl Bernstein's new book about Hillary Clinton, "A Woman in Charge." Bernstein has never been a "Clinton hater," but the reaction was quite different, because this time the target of the investigation was quite different.
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