Once again, Bob Woodward is in the news with yet another best-selling book, "Plan of Attack," which covers the Iraq war from inside the White House. Although the Bush people profess to be pleased with how the president is portrayed -- it is even recommended on his campaign web site -- liberals have found much in the Woodward book to support their view that the war was launched recklessly.
Many conservatives are scratching their heads, wondering why a Republican White House would open itself up to someone like Woodward, who, after all, became famous for bringing down a Republican president. Rush Limbaugh spoke for many when he wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Frankly, I don't understand why the president or anyone else in the administration who supports the war against Iraq would give Mr. Woodward the time of day."
I have a little bit of insight on this issue because Woodward spent a good deal of time around the Treasury Department in late 1992. He was planning a book about the elder Bush's economic policy, and I was deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at Treasury.
I didn't have any direct contact with Woodward, but I had a lot of concerns about what would come out of cooperating with him. I talked to those who were working with him, both to raise red flags and to understand why they were doing it. The best answer I got is that Woodward gets paid the big bucks for a reason. He is the very best there is at what he does.
Those who talked to Woodward for this earlier book all reported that he is extremely charming and it flattered their egos to think that he was interested in their views. He made all of the Treasury people feel that he was genuinely their friend, and so they opened up to him.
Keep in mind also that when Bob Woodward comes to call, he is not just an author of best-selling books. He is also assistant managing editor of the Washington Post. That gives him access in many cases that would be denied to him if he were merely a writer of books.
Moreover, when someone like Woodward comes to you for an interview, you really don't have much choice except to talk to him. He is going to write whatever he is going to write with you or without you. At least if you talk to him directly, you can let him hear your side of the story directly. And if you are lucky, perhaps you can even convince him to put you in a favorable light.
Bruce Bartlett is a former senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis of Dallas, Texas. Bartlett is a prolific author, having published over 900 articles in national publications, and prominent magazines and published four books, including Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action.
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