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Woodward: From Watergate Hero to Plamegate Goat

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Bob Woodward. What a career arc. From exposing a presidential cover-up in Watergate to covering up his role in Plamegate. And being forced to apologize to his own paper. And asking a colleague, Walter Pincus, not to mention Woodward's role in the story. And failing to tell his editor that he had vital information about a major story. And, to bottom it out, doing the TV and radio rounds, minimizing the scandal as "laughable," "an accident," "nothing to it" and denigrating Fitzgerald as "disgraceful" and "a junkyard dog" without ever once divulging that he was not just an observer of the CIA leak case but a recipient -- perhaps the first -- of the leak.

Hear that hissing noise? That's the sound of the air being let out of Woodward's reputation. Especially now that he's decided to challenge Pincus to a round of credibility one-on-one. My money's on Pincus, who was appropriately skeptical about the administration's WMD claims while Woodward was writing hagiography about the brave president and his fearless aides.

It's hard to know who's happier today, Scooter Libby or Bill Keller.

I called Carl Bernstein to ask what he thought of his old partner's behavior. He was loyal as ever but he did say something very revealing -- and unintentionally damning. "This investigation," he told me, "has cast a constant searchlight that the White House can't turn off the way it has succeeded in turning off the press. So their methodology and their dishonesty and their disingenuousness -- particularly about how we went to war -- as well as their willingness to attack and rough up people who don't agree with them are now there for all to see. They can't turn off this searchlight, which is shining on a White House that runs a media apparatus so sophisticated in discrediting its critics it makes the Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Ziegler press shop look like a small-time operation." And these are the very thugs that Woodward was protecting while attacking the guy operating the searchlight.

The question now is: how will the Post handle the story? The first indications are mixed. Howard Kurtz is diving in, but it's not a promising sign that in the Post article that broke the story, Executive Editor Len Downie "declined to say whether he was upset that Woodward withheld the information from him." Or that Post eminence gris Ben Bradlee defended his former star reporter's actions to Editor and Publisher.

Last month, Jay Rosen said that the New York Times was no longer the paper of record, having ceded that position to the Washington Post. Will the Post live up to that now or will we have to find another "great national newspaper"? Wonder how they're doing over at the Chattanooga Times Free Press or the Bucks County Courier Times?

However the Post deals with the Woodward story, we know that bloggers won't let it die. They are already all over it. Here is some of what's being said:

Steve Clemons:

Woodward's celebrity-status has seriously blinded him and affected his judgment about quality journalism and his responsibilities to the public. He should never have been making such comments on television about the Plame case if he was, in fact, involved. He should have RECUSED himself in such discussion. [...]

Tomorrow, the Post -- in an editorial penned by Leonard Downie -- better make clear that Bob Woodward gets no "Judy Miller"-like protection or nod of support from the reporting staff of the paper. He has violated the public trust by both withholding information he had in a key investigation, while playing pundit on Larry King, and now upending things late in the process.

Armando at DailyKos:

Sorry Bob, your credibility is shot. Walter Pincus gets the nod in a big way here.

ReddHedd at Firedoglake:

Ah, Judy. You sure set a good standard, didn't you? Poor Downie and company were left to try and pick up the journalistic pieces, and salvage something of face at the back end -- with a colleague who has been sitting on a big scoop since June of 2003 because...well, why exactly? Only Woodward knows the answer to that one, and he's hiding behind his ego.

John at Americablog:

It's also beginning to sound a lot like Bob Woodward is becoming our next Judith Miller. His repeated rants in defense of this administration, and against the special prosecutor, certainly take on a very interesting edge considering Mr. Woodward didn't bother disclosing that he was quite involved in this story, and was hardly the impartial observer his silence suggested he was. Not to mention, he knew all along that HE TOO had received the leak, suggesting that a clear pattern of multiple leaks was developing, yet he still went on TV and said that all of these repeated leaks were just a slip of the tongue?

Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Bob Woodward sure as hell didn't volunteer to be a stand-up guy and give information because of his civic-mindedness. *snerk* Nope, he had his ass subpoened and he testified because his source cooperated and gave Fitz the information that he spoke with Woodward. (And I say "he" here, simply for a marker, not because I know the gender of Woodward's source.) For everyone out there who has been saying that Fitz was going to fold up shop and go home, I say, "Nuh uh." Stay tuned on this one. Fitz and his staff are still digging -- and with this Administration, there is clearly a whole hell of a lot of dirt.

Josh Marshall:

[I]t now seems that Woodward -- who has long been publicly critical of the Fitzgerald investigation -- has been part of it from the beginning. Literally, the beginning. [...]

At a minimum...Woodward seems to have some explaining to do, at least for the fact that he became an aggressive commentator on the leak story without ever disclosing his own role in it, not even to his editors.

Larisa Alexandrovna and Jason Leopold at The Raw Story:

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley was the senior administration official who told Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward that Valerie Plame Wilson was a CIA officer, attorneys close to the investigation and intelligence officials tell RAW STORY.

Emptywheel at The Next Hurrah:

Well, maybe the reason Fitzgerald didn't hit Libby with the full force of the Espionage Charges that are obviously just beneath the surface of Libby's perjury indictment is because he wanted to smoke out all the journalists that Libby would produce as evidence that, either he's an idiot, or he's an idiot. Libby's probably searching his contact files for discussions about Wilson he had before the tell-tale conversation with Ari Fleischer. So perhaps former kingkiller Bob Woodward won't be the only one who we hear of learning of Wilson's wife in June?

Who said irony was dead?

Jeralyn at TalkLeft:

My bet: Woodward's source is the State Department or CIA official mentioned in Paragraph 6 or 7 (and 33)of the Indictment against Libby. If it's the State Department official, it could be David Wurmser, John Hannah or Fred Fleitz. David Wurmser seems to me to be the most likely....


Booby's story just doesn't make any sense. Why would you grant confidentiality to something which is "almost gossip" and told to you in an "offhand manner." What ethical issue prevented you from telling the world that an administration source had given you that information as you could do so without revealing the identity of the source? Why could you not tell the world about this when you felt free to share the information with Pincus (denied by him).

Greg Anrig, Jr. at TPMCafe:

Woodward's peerless solicitousness toward his sources has made him rich and famous. But now that his deceit in attacking the Fitzgerald investigation without revealing his own role in the story has been unveiled, how can the Washington Post continue to assure its readers that they can trust him?

15 Questions for Bob Woodward

1. If you didn't tell your editor, Len Downie, about the CIA leak because you were so afraid of being subpoenaed, why did you supposedly tell Walter Pincus? Did you trust Pincus but not Downie?

2. Why were you afraid of being subpoenaed in 2003? Subpoenas of reporters didn't begin until 2004. And how would telling Downie lead to your being subpoenaed?

3. What are your ground rules for your books? Since Plan of Attack was published, weren't you free to use the material from your source?

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?

5. On October 27, you were on Larry King saying you had no big scoop. Was that true or a lie?

6. Why did you criticize Fitzgerald and his investigation without revealing that you had something to hide from him?

7. You said you got permission in writing from all three of your sources to testify about your conversations with them. Two of these sources, Andrew Card and Scooter Libby, have been identified. Can you release their letters? And did Libby write any poetry to you?

8. Why did you say categorically that there was no harm done by the outing of Valerie Plame? How do you know this when the CIA has yet to issue an after-action report?

9. Can you at least tell us some of the atmospherics of your dealings with Fitzgerald?

10. Did the prosecutor indicate that you might be called back?

11. Are you now writing about the Plame affair, and if you are is it for one of your books or for the Post?

12. You've praised Judith Miller's decision to go to jail and offered to do time for her. Still feel that way?

13. Did you remind your source of the June 2003 conversation and did that prompt him or her to go to Fitzgerald?

14. Had your source testified previously to Fitzgerald or before the grand jury?

15. Is there any chance your source was Bill Casey being channeled from the dead?