Ramona Grigg

Ramona Grigg
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Upper Peninsula, Michigan, USA
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September 17
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I'm a liberal woman from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, old enough to remember where I was when FDR died. My website, Ramona's Voices, was first published on the afternoon of Barack Obama's Inaugural after hearing his call to service. I include many voices much more eloquent than mine, because one voice isn't enough. Liberal-leaning with humor, except when the days are too dark and the enemy is too strong. Then it's war.

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MARCH 1, 2013 1:35PM

Will the Real Bob Woodward Please Sit Down?

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 Once there was a young Washington Post reporter named Bob Woodward who became a celebrity almost overnight by joining with another reporter named Carl Bernstein (remember him?) to expose the inner workings of a penny ante break-in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington. D.C.

The Woodward/Bernstein team, aided by WP editor Ben Bradlee and publisher Katherine Graham (along with several unsung on-the-ground reporters), wrote a series of powerful exposes, thrilling and galvanizing an entire nation, opening our eyes to the widespread corruption, collusion and obstruction in the Nixon Administration.  That seemingly inconsequential 1972 burglary grew into a major scandal involving and eventually bringing down a sitting president of the United States.  (Nixon resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974.)

Woodward and Bernstein won a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting and then went on to write the first of two books about their experiences. It was entitled, "All the President's Men"  and it became an instant bestseller. (Their second book together, "The Final Days", recounted Nixon's last months in office.)

As if those accolades weren't heady enough for a young reporter like Woodward, the crowning glory came in the form of a gorgeous famous actor named Robert Redford, who portrayed him in the highly acclaimed Academy Award-winning movie based on their book.

That was Bob Woodward way back then.  Shift to this week, when the real Bob Woodward is busy trying to disentangle himself from a claim he made that the White House threatened him!  Threatened Bob Woodward!  When all Bob Woodward was doing was attempting to expose President Obama's "lies about the sequester". (Was the sequester the president's idea, or not?  Bob says it wasHuge.)

When Woodward discussed his upcoming column with a "very senior White House aide" (no secret any more, it was National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling) both on the phone and through subsequent emails (where Sperling actually apologized to Woodward for coming on too strong), the seasoned reporter came away from them believing, he said, that he had been threatened.

As much as the real Bob Woodward wanted to convince the rest of us that he's so important he's still getting threats from the White House, he couldn't get around the fact that the emails are out there and we've seen them.

This is what Woodward told Jonathan Karl at ABC News:

Feb 28, 2013 9:31am
gty bob woodward dm 130228 wblog Woodward vs. Obama: Woodward Reveals Emails
 Kris Connor/Getty Images

Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward has shared with ABC News his email exchange with the White House official who told him he would “regret” his reporting on the sequester.  That official was Gene Sperling, the director of President Obama’s National Economic Council.

Woodward tells me that Sperling’s words – “as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim” – was an implied threat because, Woodward says, the White House was not really disputing the facts.

“It’s just not the way to operate,” Woodward told me, saying Sperling’s implied message was, “You challenge us, you will regret it.”

Why did he respond to Sperling’s email so politely?  He was trying to keep open the lines of communication.

“They don’t have to talk to anybody,” Woodward said.

That was yesterday.  Today, Woodward says he never said he was threatened. (That's all, folks.  Nothing to see here.  Move along.)

But we're talking about Bob Woodward here.  Attention must be paid.

Rush Limbaugh starts a program this way and then moves on from there:
I don't know, folks.  I don't know.  I'm just not sure that what we're dealing with here is a "you're gonna have a dead horse in your bed tomorrow morning" kind of threat.  I don't think that's what we're dealing with.  I do think the White House is gonna take care of Woodward with a death panel down the road.  That's how they're gonna deal with this.  We'll never know.  Woodward's gonna get sick and the death panel will come in there and that will be that.
 Fox News and the Right Wing media have a field day.  Because he's Bob Woodward and. . .attention must be paid.

The real Bob Woodward, it turns out, is not the stuff of Hollywood.  That Bob Woodward, if he ever existed, is long gone.  Someone needs to tell that to the real Bob Woodward.  And then someone needs to tell that to people like Politico's Ron Allen, who appeared on Morning Joe today defending Bob Woodward by reminding everyone that (guess what?)  "Attention must be paid to Bob Woodward."

This isn't the first time that Woodward has either outright lied or exaggerated in order to make himself more important.  The stories about his inaccuracies are out there in great enough numbers to see that, in fact, attention has been paid.

Perhaps the most egregious (and easily disproved) outright self-aggrandizing lie was the one he told about the supposed deathbed confession of former CIA director William Casey, as told to Woodward and spelled out in great detail in his 1987 book, "Veil".

Six years ago, Jack Kelly brought it up again in an article for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Skeptics noted:
That Mr. Casey had suffered a stroke which deprived him of the power of speech.

That Mr. Casey's room at Georgetown University hospital was guarded 24/7 by CIA security personnel, who likely would have noticed if Mr. Woodward had attempted to sneak in.

That Mr. Casey's wife, Sophia, said that either she or their daughter, Bernadette Smith, were constantly at Mr. Casey's bedside, and likely would have noticed Mr. Woodward if he had been there. "We had our food brought up there," Mrs. Casey told Time magazine. "There was a lavatory there. We never had to go out of the room."

That intimates said Mr. Casey despised Bob Woodward, and that he would be the last person on earth to whom Mr. Casey would grant a deathbed interview.

One of the skeptics, Michael Ledeen, was contacted by Ted Koppel, who was going to have Mr. Woodward on ABC's "Nightline" program, and was soliciting suggestions for questions he should ask.
"Ask him to describe the room," Mr. Ledeen said he told Mr. Koppel. "What was Casey wearing? Were there lots of flowers? What color were his pajamas?"

Mr. Koppel did ask those questions, and, Mr. Ledeen said, "Woodward froze, deer-in-headlights. Then he said he couldn't discuss it because it would 'reveal sources.' "
That was over a quarter of a century ago, and still life goes on for Bob Woodward--as if it's All Watergate All the Time and nothing he has done to blacken his name since then has caused even a smudge.
 Jonathan Cohn over at the Atlantic, while making light fun of Woodward's "I was threatened" claim, along with showing us how wrong Woodward got the whole "sequester" thing, still says, "Woodward remains one of the best fact-gatherers in the business." 
Anybody who has watched Woodward in action over the years can't possibly still believe he walks on water, but what he has going for him, what keeps him up there on top, is that magical name.  Bob Woodward.  It's like a cloak of invisibility for him.  It renders him omnipotent, even in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.
 
He basks in his Watergate glory because the truth is, we really hate to see our idols fall. We have so few journalistic idols anymore, we especially can't stand the thought of a protector of the people turning into a pompous prick. 

So once again Bob Woodward not only makes the story, he is the story.  And as much as I hate that kind of stuff,  I'm doing it, too.  I'm giving Woodward what he wants.  Attention.  Attention.  Everlasting attention.


(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)

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not a fan - of BW - not even back in the day. Nixon had to go, and we may never know the full story why - and where BW came from. I do not find him objective or talented.
Being 9 and 11 when the momentous events went down, and not a reader of non-fiction, I guess I never got my pair of Woodward goggles. He should have known better on this one.
Ramona: Your column here is as sharply and accurately drawn as any I've seen in the mainstream press (which is the only place where Woodward's shenanigans have attracted any attention, for reasons you document so well here.) That he's had a pass from The Establishment (remember that phrase?) has been no secret for the past 40 years or so. When Janet Cooke went down, as I recall, he was managing editor. She went down alone. The only person who seems unaware of his tarnished record -- as opposed to his popular and all-important reputation, is Woodward himself.

It's good to remember, though, that young journalists don't think of Woodward as any kind of hero, any more than they think of Robert Redford as any kind of actor.

You may have already seen it, but I thought Michael Tomasky's assessment was spot-on too:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/03/bob-woodward-and-the-rules-of-washington-morality.html
What a tangled web we weave...

Best Woodward stop weaving...and just move off the stage. I doubt he will do that.

At one time I despised Richard Nixon...and for that reason probably held Bob Woodward in greater esteem than I should have.

Now I see that my loathing for Nixon came from ideology and distaste for the man's personality and quirks.

If the political bullshit were overlooked (admittedly a tough thing to do)…he was a decent president with lots of accomplishments. In today's Republican Party...he would have been a pariah.
I suspect that the interview where he was all upset was taped after Gene sent an email apologizing.
Obama has a lot of responsibility for the sequester. Woodward got that right.

Butter does melt in Obama's mouth and he does play hardball. Woodward has enjoyed access for a long time. It is telling that he got sobered by the real Obama administration behind the mask brand.

Schadenfreude certainly comes out abundantly by fellow media and those locked into Obama denial.

Woodward has enjoyed so much access it is almost amusing to see him stunned by losing it. Wonder if he still has the capacity to put it into mature context and go after what deserves going after.
Woodward has exhausted many a forest with the books he's sold to the mainstream public over the years. One market he has yet to open up is the conservative book buying masses who propel tomes from the likes of Hannity and Brietbart to the best seller list. These folks will reward him handsomely for telling them what they wish to hear.
Just getting back to this. Sorry. Thanks for the comments, everybody.

Jeremiah, thanks for the kind words and for Michael Tomasky's excellent article. I hadn't seen it.

Frank, interesting, isn't it, that Nixon is looking pretty good these days? Says something about the current brand of Republicanism.

Michael, I think you're right. It looks like it was Woodward himself who allowed the emails to be published, yet he was still suggesting there was something threatening about them.

Libby, why am I not surprised that your first three paragraphs were about that damned Obama? LOL. And the last was a hope that Woodward would recover enough to go after Obama. Did I get that right?

Carl, yes, I fully expect Woodward will become the Right Wing darling and his books will be purchased by the caseload in order to make sure all of his subsequent screeds will become best sellers. He won't be hurting at all.
Good info, Ramona. I wondered what the hubub was about. Now I know.
"along with showing us how wrong Woodward got the whole "sequester" thing"

I guess it really sucks when you write this long hit piece, get ann EP, then the President comes out and confirms what Woodward was true.

Better luck defending BO next time.
Dang I hate typing at 70 MPH. I guess you will have to read around my typos.

Like they say, this would be a great place to build a freeway.
I've obviously been out of the loop long enough to have missed all of this. Bob Woodward should have disappeared into the night ages ago, to be honest.
Bob Woodward IS a good fact-gatherer, and always was, but he NEVER puts things in the context in which they actually happened, he shines only the light that he knows will show his subjects in the way he wants them to be shown--which is not always accurate. Or even mostly accurate. Remember the hatchet job he did on John Belushi?
Havlin, I didn't remember the Belushi hatchet job but I found an article about it that pretty much shows how Woodward can include the facts without seeing the whole picture. Fascinating:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/03/bob_woodward_and_gene_sperling_what_woodward_s_john_belushi_book_can_tell.single.html
He's always been a little over the top, even with the deep throat, watergate fiasco.

Sometimes I wondered if there really ever was a deep throat.