Bob Woodward’s Evolving Portrait of President Bush
In Bob Woodward’s highly anticipated new book, “State of Denial,” President Bush emerges as a passive, impatient, sophomoric and intellectually incurious leader, presiding over a grossly dysfunctional war cabinet and given to an almost religious certainty that makes him disinclined to rethink or re-evaluate decisions he has made about the war. It’s 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.
Drum is pleased, observing,
This is what happens when a court turns on its king: the court stenographer dutifully turns right along with them and then tells the whole world about it. That’s why I’ve never held Bob Woodward’s role against him. We need to have at least one court stenographer around so the rest of us know what the court is thinking, and Woodward is as good a choice as anyone.
Steven Taylor adds, “The fact that Woodward’s first two books were considered basically positive vis-a-vis the administration will give this one more credibility.”
It seems to me, though, that what we have is an author who has published three books on the Bush presidency in four years whose evolving view of said presidency happens to coincide with the popular view of the moment. In 2002, Bush was wildly popular, riding high on his post-9/11 leadership wave and Woodward gave the public what it wanted. Now, with Bush’s poll numbers at Nixonian levels, suddenly Woodward sees him as inept. Strange that.
Especially so since, one presumes, people do not get less competent while in office. Whatever George W. Bush’s intellectual and character shortcomings, they had to be evident in 2001. After all, he was new to the job and, really, new to politics. And he was dealing with arguably the biggest domestic crisis in forty years. Even if his stubborness and lack of curiosity prevented him from growing in office, it’s rather hard to believe that he got less competent with time.