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Bob Woodward's 'Firecracker,' the Second Coming of Judy's Notebook?

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So Patrick Fitzgerald is going to impanel a new Plamegate grand jury. Meaning this thing is far from over. And that Bob Woodward, among others, is going to continue to have some more explaining to do.

Yesterday, I had some questions for Mr. W, including #4: "Why did you come forward to Len Downie in late October to reveal your source? This was supposedly before your source approached Fitzgerald, so what motivated you? Did the source call you or did you have sudden pangs of conscience? Why didn't this occur to you in 2003 or 2004?"

I've been checking my e-mail, my voicemail, and my BlackBerry but, so far, he hasn't gotten back to me.

And I'm not the only one who's been left wondering. "Exactly what triggered Woodward's disclosure to [his editor] remains unclear," wrote Howard Kurtz.

In his spin, Woodward is trying to put a positive face on things by making it sound as if he decided to come forward and disclose his Plamegate involvement to Len Downie of his own free will (a claim Downie seemed to back up when he told the Post that Woodward told him about the contact to alert him to a possible story). But a tell-tale excerpt from Woodward's appearance on Larry King the night before the Libby indictment indicates that he had to be prodded into coming clean.

It reminds me of how Judy Miller suddenly and magically remembered the notes from that other meeting with Scooter Libby following her first grand jury visit. Jane Hamsher didn't buy Judy's claim, blogging: "It implies they all woke up one morning and spontaneously pulled the notebook out of their collective hindquarters, with no prosecutorial prodding. I'm not convinced..."

And I'm not convinced about the nature of Woodward's disclosure.

Let's go to the tape:

It's October 27. Woodward is part of the Larry King panel discussing the anticipated indictments. Coming back from a commercial break, King dramatically announces that Newsweek's Michael Isikoff (also on the panel) had whispered to him during the commercial that he had "a key question" for Woodward. Isikoff then pops the question, triggering an exchange that in hindsight is very revealing.

Isikoff announces that a White House source has told him that Woodward has information about Plamegate that he has not yet revealed. Excited, King prompts Woodward to "come clean," but Woodward denies that he has anything to offer. In fact, he doesn't just deny it, he scoffs at the notion. "I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker." Come on, Bob, being perhaps the first recipient of the Plame leak isn't even a firecracker? Just a touch misleading, don't you think?

Then Woodward helpfully provides the rope with which he will eventually hang himself.

WOODWARD: I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best New York Times reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell. Finally, this went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the "Washington Post" called me and said, "I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it?"

So this wasn't something that Woodward suddenly decided to do. Instead, the cat was already out of the bag and Downie was pressing him for answers. At that point Woodward realized he needed to fess up to Downie. Lying to the public on national TV is one thing, but directly lying to your editor when confronted is apparently quite another in Woodward's ethics book.

It's hard not to surmise that Woodward finally came clean only because he was forced to.

Yesterday, the Washington Post said of its assistant managing editor: "Woodward has periodically faced criticism for holding back scoops for his Simon & Schuster-published books..." So here's one more question for Mr. Woodward: Was this another scoop you were saving for your next book? And was the no doubt sizable advance worth the price of your reputation?

Here is the money exchange from the King CNN transcript.

We display, you decide:

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're in Washington where things are hopping and we're going to follow up again tomorrow night. We're going to lead this round with Bob Woodward as we turn to tomorrow.

KING:... Michael Isikoff whispered to me during the break that he has a key question he'd like to ask Mr. Woodward, so I don't know what this is about.

ISIKOFF: No, look, this is the biggest mystery in Washington, has been really for two years and now as we come down to the deadline of tomorrow the city is awash with rumors. There's a new one every 15 minutes and nobody really knows what's going to happen tomorrow. Nobody knows what Fitzgerald's got.

I talked to a source at the White House late this afternoon who told me that Bob [Woodward] is going to have a bombshell in tomorrow's paper identifying the Mr. X source who is behind the whole thing. So, I don't know, maybe this is Bob's opportunity.

KING: Come clean.

WOODWARD: I wish I did have a bombshell. I don't even have a firecracker. I'm sorry. In fact, I mean this tells you something about the atmosphere here. I got a call from somebody in the CIA saying he got a call from the best "New York Times" reporter on this saying exactly that I supposedly had a bombshell. Finally, this went around that I was going to do it tonight or in the paper. Finally, Len Downie, who is the editor of the "Washington Post" called me and said, "I hear you have a bombshell. Would you let me in on it?"

KING: So now the rumors are about you.

WOODWARD: And I said I'm sorry to disappoint you but I don't.

But, in fact, you did, and didn't admit it. And that is very disappointing indeed.

P.S. TiVo Alert: Woodward will be back on Larry King on Monday. HuffPost readers should call in and ask him about this (unless, like Judy Miller, he refuses to take calls).