The Buck Stops Here: The Bush Administration at War. (Interview)
Woodward, Bob, Harvard International Review
Bob Woodward is Associate Managing Editor for The Washington Post. As an investigative journalist for The Washington Post, Mr. Woodward earned a Pulitzer Prize for his work on the Watergate presidential scandal, and his coverage of the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks earned him the National Affairs Pulitzer Prize in 2002. Mr. Woodward has authored and co-authored numerous national bestsellers. His most recent book Bush At War earned critical acclaim as an in-depth look at US President George Bush's war on terrorism.
HARVARD INTERNATIONAL REVIEW:
The issue of media disclosure has become increasingly prominent since September 11, 2001. Do you think media coverage has changed in response to heightened concerns for national security?
Yes, it has had to adapt. Journalists have to be careful that they are not concealing information because it is merely embarrassing, rather than an actual or potential violation of national security. In Bush at War, I revealed that my sources think the relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the military is an unbelievably complicated mess. It was embarrassing that US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had to go to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to say that the US operation in Afghanistan was transitioning from a covert one to a military one and that Rumsfeld had to take charge.
Do you think it is more or less difficult for the media to cover events than it has been in the past?
There is no general rule about whether or not it is easy or hard. I think there are two things that make it more difficult. The government, various institutions, and businesses have become very skilled at manipulating and restricting the flow of information. People have written extensively about how US President George Bush's administration is good at spinning information. You can get around that tactic by reporting and reporting, trying to get more information, getting a little bit of information, taking it to somebody else, and searching for more detail and explanation. Chronology is also important. I was able to get the notes of US National Security Council meetings to see exactly what people were saying and when. But in writing the book, I was not working under a deadline, With deadline pressure, it is very difficult. I guess the other component of that is that there is such pressure to tell people "the latest," but the problem is that the latest is often wrong or truly irrelevant. When I hear on my car r adio, "The Dow Jones Industrial Average has gone down one point," that is the latest news, but it is not important. This rush to provide the most immediate update means that people do not have the time or inclination to uncover serious political scandals. There is much more emphasis on the daily rush of the event rather than the digging.
Is investigative journalism more difficult with consolidated media networks attempting to provide sensational coverage?
Sensationalism definitely occurs. I do not know that much about it because at The Washington Past, we still have time to dig into things. However, at other media outlets, such as television news, radio, and the Internet, there is more pressure to provide minute-by-minute coverage rather than critical analysis. The question is the quality of the coverage, which is determined by the amount of time that reporters and editors spend getting to the bottom of something, going beyond the sound bites or quick updates. I sometimes find myself checking Internet news sources six times a day. I really do not need to, but it is curiosity driven. A lot of the impulses are pure curiosity rather than a desire to really understand.
Have President Bush's convictions increased his effectiveness as a leader?
I do not want to judge whether or not he is effective or ineffective. I only want to describe what has happened. He answered two and a half hours of my questions about why he acts the way he does and where he gets his convictions, Ineffective or effective, he is driven by what he describes as humanitarian concerns. …