I've watched clips of Bob Woodward's appearance on Sean Hannity's show last night and Morning Joe today. The clips are tedious, but also fascinating: Woodward says more or less the same thing in each interview, but Woodward allows the same talking points to buttress an Establishmentarian right-centrist agenda on Joe Scarborough's show and a paranoid demonization-of-Obama/Democrats/liberalism agenda on Hannity's.
I see how the Hannity-Woodward two-step works. Hannity uses his questions to denounce the hated Obama. Then Hannity finishes off the ad hominem with a brief nod to Virtue writ large. Woodward agrees with that. Woodward never endorses the bulk of Hannity's rant, but he never challenges Hannity's obsession with Obama, either.
HANNITY: ... I'm very proud to work with some great reporters here at Fox that do dig into issues like Fast and Furious, our reporting on Benghazi. And I would even argue, the fact that the president was never asked a lot about the $6 trillion in debt that he accumulated prior to this election, in this first election wasn't asked about his association with Bill Ayers, was troublesome to me. I think we've got a media that's not as critical as perhaps it once was in the days of, for example, Watergate.See how that works? Woodward agrees that a skeptical press is good. As for the rest, he just lets it slide. But it functions as an endorsement-by-silence of Hannity's rant.
WOODWARD: Well, I agree with that. We need to be very aggressive, and it's one of the judges that said, "Democracies die in darkness," and I really think that's true....
On Morning Joe, which exists in a world where Obama isn't the Antichrist but could be said to be playing acceptable but harsh LBJ-style hardball, Joe Scarborough said that was the case, in a monologue of his own, and Woodward agreed with that as well:
SCARBOROUGH: ... This comes after the White House pushing back pretty hard on you for quite some time because the president said he had nothing to do with the sequester, you pointed out in your piece that he did, the White House started pushing back furiously, Gene called you up, and we love Gene here, but it's a thirty-minute call, and, as I said to David [Axelrod], let's just not pretend here that when you say the word "regret"-- And this whole "I said it as a friend"? That sentence before? We'd always do that in Washington. You put your arm around somebody, you bring them close, and you say, "Hey, listen, Jim? We're good friends. You know we're good friends. I love ya. OK? But I just gotta tell ya, buddy, if you go out there and put this amendment on my bill, you're gonna regret it. I'm only saying it because I love ya." But you're sending the message, "Watch out. Duck."So in paranoid Fox Land, where Obama is a monster of world-historic proportions, Hannity recites the multi-count indictment and Woodward says, in effect, "Yeah, what you just said." On Morning Joe, where Obama is, at worst, an ordinary political monster, Scarborough portrays Obama and his surrogates as typical pols playing hardball (the way Joe himself has!) and Woodward says, "Yeah, what you just said."
WOODWARD: Exactly! And this is the code....
It all reminds of something Jonathan Chait wrote yesterday:
[Woodward's] more recent books often compile interesting facts, but how Woodward chooses to package those facts has come to represent a barometric measure of a figure's standing within the establishment.... In 2003, when George W. Bush was still a decisive and indispensable war leader, Woodward wrote a heroic treatment of the Iraq War. After Bush's reputation had collapsed, Woodward packaged essentially the same facts into a devastating indictment.Woodward will slice and dice his Sperling/sequester narrative any way you need it sliced.