Wednesday, August 01, 2018


Here's a headline at Talking Points Memo:
White House Dreads ‘Killer’ Woodward Book After ‘Everyone’ Talked To Him
The story tells us:
Though the Trump administration, unlike administrations past, withheld formal access to legendary reporter Bob Woodward for his insider exposé, White House officials are bracing for a “killer” account filled with unauthorized stories from “everyone,” according to a Tuesday Politico account.

“He hooked somebody, and that put the fear of God in everyone else,” a former official told Politico.
So should we expect serious damage to the Trump administration when the book is published on September 11, less than two months before the midterms?

I'm not expecting much. There'll probably be one or two juicy stories, but nothing that will put Trump's presidency at risk. Woodward has written many books since Watergate about sitting presidents and their administrations -- one each during the Reagan and Poppy Bush years, two during Clinton's presidency, four in the George W. Bush years, and two more when Obama was president -- and nothing stuck. The last big controversy he stirred up was more than twenty years ago, in the summer of 1996:
First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton held imaginary conversations with Eleanor Roosevelt and Mahatma Gandhi as a therapeutic release, according to a new book written by Bob Woodward....

The first lady declined a personal adviser's suggestion that she address Jesus Christ, however, because it would be "too personal," according to Woodward's book, "The Choice."
Hillary was accused of conducted "séances," even though the practice -- saying out loud what one would like to say to a person who isn't in the room -- is fairly common in psychotherapy. There was an uproar, but it didn't last, and Bill Clinton was easily reelected a few months later. Shortly after that, it became clear that Woodward had missed a much bigger story: the president's affair with Monica Lewinsky.

(The "séance" story seemed to have been totally forgotten during the 2016 campaign, even as other past attacks on Hillary were revived. Much of the country is now as New Agey as Hillary appeared to be at the time. I don't think any Oprah fan would find what she did at all unusual these days.)

Before that, the biggest post-Watergate splash a Woodward book made was in the waning days of the Reagan administration:
In [1987, Woodward] published “Veil: The Secret Wars of the C.I.A., 1981-1987,” which contained his famous account of a deathbed conversation with William Casey, the former C.I.A. director. Casey, according to Woodward’s telling, admitted that he knew about the illegal diversion of monies from Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan Contras. “His head jerked up hard,” Woodward wrote. “He stared, and finally nodded yes.” “Why?” Woodward asked. Casey whispered, “I believed.” Did it happen like that? Even today, it’s a matter of dispute. In 2010, a former C.I.A. employee, who was part of Casey’s security detail, claimed Woodward “fabricated” the story after being turned away from Casey’s room at Georgetown University Hospital.
At the time of publication, Casey's widow strenuously denied the story. In the long run, it didn't matter: Ronald Reagan became the most revered president among conversatives (although he's probably slipping to #2 these days). Reagan's vice president was elected to succeed him a year after the book appeared.

So no, I don't expect this book to have much impact. Of course, anything that stings will be dismissed by Trump and his cult as "fake news." But beyond that, Woodward isn't likely to uncover much of consequence -- and it's quite possible that he'll miss a big story.

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