Bob Woodward reviewed

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jan 24 09:55:36 MST 2003

(A surprisingly sharp review from Anthony Lewis, a former top NY Times 
editor renowned for liberal platitudes.)

The New York Review of Books
February 13, 2003

On the West Wing
By Anthony Lewis

Bush at War
by Bob Woodward
Simon and Schuster, 376 pp., $28.00

The Right Man: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush
by David Frum
Random House, 303 pp., $25.95

Another example of frustration in reading Woodward's book: he quotes 
Bush as saying at a National Security Council meeting on September 17, 
2001, "The attorney general, the CIA and the FBI will assist in 
protecting America from further attacks" (a strangely empty statement to 
make in such a meeting, more like reassuring words in a speech). Then 
Woodward writes: "He directed [Attorney General John] Ashcroft to 
request new legal authority from Congress for the FBI to track, wiretap 
and stop terrorists—a project already under way." Did Bush's words lead 
to Ashcroft's broad assault on civil liberties, the secret detention of 
hundreds of aliens, the assertion of power to imprison American citizens 
indefinitely without trial and without access to counsel if the 
President designates them "enemy combatants"? There is nothing more in 
the book about domestic antiterrorism measures or Bush's awareness of 
them. One wants to know more. Woodward would no doubt say he was writing 
a different book. Fair enough. But the access he had produced 
tantalizing leads that were not explored.


The bare recitation of facts is an outmoded style of journalism. It was 
ended in the 1950s by the experience of dealing with Senator Joe 
McCarthy, when journalists realized how misleading it would be simply to 
report what he said without informing the reader about his past 
falsehoods. So the journalist as a recording machine was replaced by the 
journalist as both reporter and interpreter of events. That has its 
dangers, too, but no newspaper reader today would be satisfied with 
"just the facts." It is even more unsatisfying in a book.



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