It’s about time, Bob. Frankly, the people who are saying that Woodward made the white house look “pretty good” in the previous two books must have read different books. Granted, Woodward could have been just a tad more scathing in those books, but he may have been letting the conversations speak for themselves.
This was what some were saying about Bush at War and Plan of Attack:
It’s [the new book] a portrait that stands in stark contrast to the laudatory one Mr. Woodward drew in ‘Bush at War,’ his 2002 book, which depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the ‘vision thing’ his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state.
The above describes a take on those books that seems to be talking about some other book. Maybe Woodward was a genius in those books, carefully crafting a caricature that is read positively by both Bush critics and Bush supporters. I only saw the naive, clueless part. It was definitely there in the previous books.
My read in those two previous books was pretty much like how Maureen Dowd described them, commenting on the fact that Woodward’s two books were on the recommended reading list of the White House “even though they made the White House leadership seem divorced from reality”. Bush was always obsessed , along with Rumsfeld, with “getting Iraq”. Bush’s “parting shot” in the second book was the most disturbing. When Woodward asks him what history will say about Bush’s Iraq “solution”, Bush held us his hands in a “who knows?” kind of shrug gesture, and said “We’ll all be dead”. Just “plain spoken” that George. Sheesh.
The quote above from the NYTimes reviewer tends to say the same thing:
Whereas Mr. Woodward has tended in the past to stand apart from his narrative, rarely pausing to analyze or assess the copious material he has gathered, he is more of an active agent in this volume — perhaps in a kind of belated mea culpa for his earlier positive portrayals of the administration. In particular, he inserts himself into interviews with Mr. Rumsfeld — clearly annoyed, even appalled, by the Pentagon chief’s cavalier language and reluctance to assume responsibility for his department’s failures.
From a Newsweek review on msnbc.com
The Rumsfeld portrayed by Woodward is bullying and petty. Bush himself doesn’t come off much better. The president is folksy and jocular, but incurious to the point of cluelessness. His war cabinet is deeply dysfunctional. Condoleezza Rice is almost a pathetic figure, whining to the president that she can’t get Rumsfeld to return her calls.
I’ll wait for the Audio book. I just got too much on my plate right now. I’ll probably pick it up and read a bit in the book store on my next “browsing” visit after work soon.