Monday, October 15, 2007

Bob Woodward

A couple of fridays ago I saw Bob Woodward and former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen give two talks on Watergate and the current Iraq War at the University of Maine. I'm a total geek when it comes to the Watergate story. Loved the book, loved the movie; in fact the night before I started my short career as a real-life reporter, I watched All the President's Men. For those of you who aren't as familiar with the story as I am, Bill Cohen was a freshman Congressman from Maine in 1974 when he became the first Republican to turn away from Nixon - gutsy move. I'm assuming that most people know what Woodward's role was in Watergate.

(Bangor Daily News/Bridget Brown)

Growing up in Maine, I've come to really respect Cohen for his individuality and bi-partisonship (not only did he serve as the only Republican in Clinton's cabinet, he also co-wrote a spy novel with Gary Hart). And I think that's another reason I like Cohen, he's a writer - publishing both poetry and books, spy novels in fact.

The talk on Watergate, given in the afternoon (the Iraq War lecture was that evening), was an intriguing insight into that historical event given by two of the main participants. But what was really interesting was that the talk on Watergate only instigated discussion on the current administration, which John Dean, another important figure in Watergate, has referred to as worse than Nixon's own.

A smaller but still telling detail that I picked up during the afternoon discussion was that Woodward kept saying Deep Throat rather than referring to Mark Felt by name. Perhaps all those years of keeping Felt's name a secret has somehow effected Woodward enough that he is unable to reveal the name even though Deep Throat's identity has been known publically for over two years now.

The second talk given by Woodward was, like I said before, on the Iraq War, specifically focused on Woodward's own impression of the President after interviewing him over two days about the increasing unpopular war. Without a wall of objectivity or the watchfulness of tv cameras, Woodward expressed his own opinions about the situation and his thoughts on Bush - which were not favorable, but still far from the outrage that a personality from Air America may express. Instead, Woodward stated his uneasiness of Bush's aims, saying that the language that Bush used during the interviews demonstrated a man with unwavering resolve, which is not necessarily a good thing.

The one statement from Bush that Woodward focused on was the now well-known answer to the question of whether or not he consulted his father about going to war with Iraq. Bush said that he asked a "higher father" instead. As Woodward pointed out, Bush failed to seek advice from one of the most knowledgeable people on foreign affairs (say what you will about 41, he was excellent when it came to foreign policy) as well as the only President to have gone to war with Saddam Hussein. Woodward really showed his disbelief when recounting this exchange.

Both talks were fantastic, but I really wished they had done some sort of book signing with the both of them. Cohen's latest spy novel came out a few months ago, and the third book in Woodward's Iraq War series was just released in paperback. Maybe if I had snuck into the VIP dinner I could have cornered them both, but I wasn't sneaky enough to grabbed any tickets for that event. Oh well.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Wasn'toodward slow to come to an anti-war position with Iraq? He's always seemed sort of conservative actually. I love that Watergate stuff too. What a group of larger than life characters. You couldn't invent them.

Steve Allan said...

Well, he was a Republican, but as he stated last friday, a recovering one. I think that Woodward is a little more objective than most journalists at the moment, at least when it comes to his reporting and when he comments on news shows; and in this environment where more and more reporters are showing their loyalties, either subtly or down right obviously (Fox News), an objective person looks like he/she is taking on a abstaining role, which is usually perceived as a stance of being OK with the status quo.

I truly believe in the liberal basis of the media since freedom of the press seems to be such a liberal idea, at least in this day and age. When a person, and let's face it, it's usually a conservative, questions if someone is patriotic when they inquire about what government is doing; they're not an advocate for free speech, especially the free speech that the 1st Amendment deems so important to a democracy - political speech. The idea of journalism as the fourth branch of government, that it is a watchdog, is, in some part, really a more liberal idea - again, in this day and age. Criticism of government should be the cornerstone of conservatism, at least if one is to look at its definition; but sometime after Eisenhower and Goldwater, these neo-cons seem to have pushed aside that sentiment. They've hijaked the Republican party where moderates no longer have a place.

Anyway, one needs to have a certain amount of liberal ideal to be a good reporter - and it wouldn't hurt if they have a bit of Goldwater in them either.