Woodward As Liberal Icon? Not Exactly

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Some conservatives who initially cheered Bob Woodward's claim of being threatened by a senior White House aide expressed amazement that media commentators who weren't buying Woodward's story were attacking such a famously "liberal" journalist. Possibly confused by their own rhetoric about how all Beltway reporters lean left -- or by the suggestion that if Woodward helped bring down a Republican president, he must be a Democratic sympathizer -- the talk of liberal journalists and the White House turning on a supposed Obama supporter like Woodward has been steady.

But it's just not true. If Woodward were a liberal icon, it's unlikely operatives close to Mitt Romney would've shown up at the reporter's home just weeks before the election, urging him to meet with their secret source to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack.

Woodward has certainly shown in recent years that he doesn't have his finger on the pulse on Democratic politics. Three years ago he claimed Hillary Clinton might replace Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket in 2012. (Then again he once predicted Dick Cheney would be the Republican nominee in 2008.) 

In truth, Woodward at key junctures has been a willing conduit for Republicans and has proven instrumental in distributing their talking points. Recently, Woodward suggested, without any proof, that angry Democrats were pressuring the White House to pull Chuck Hagel's nomination to become Secretary of Defense. And that Hagel was "twisting in the wind." 

During the Clinton years, "liberal" Woodward often took direct aim at the Democratic president, as well as Vice President Al Gore, labeling him 'Solicitor-in-Chief,' a move which conservatives cheered.  Years later, when news broke that newly elected president Barack Obama had selected Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, Woodward lamented that "She never goes away, she and her husband."

But it's Woodward's reporting during the Bush administration that best debunks the farcical the notion that he is a "liberal" ally. He did that both through his fawning coverage of the Bush White House, especially in the early years, and by becoming a major player in the scandal surrounding CIA operative Valerie Plame.

At the same time Woodward was being granted extraordinary access to the Bush White House and to Bush himself in order to write his war-themed books, Woodward helped delay the Plame whodunit. He did it by failing, for two years, to reveal that a senior Bush administration official had told him that former ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, Plame, worked at the CIA.

Worse, prior to his shocking revelation, Woodward had made the media rounds minimizing the scandal as "laughable," "an accident," "nothing to it" and denigrating Fitzgerald as "disgraceful" and "junkyard dog," never once noting mentioning he'd been on the receiving end of a leak about Plame.

Woodward sat on the scoop for more than two years, later insisting the information he had received about Plame was insignificant; not newsworthy. But if his scoop had been revealed months earlier -- let alone years earlier -- it would have created enormous political and legal problems for the Bush White House.

As blogger Glenn Greenwald wrote in 2005:

It is most ironic to listen to Woodward insist that he has not become too cozy with the Bush Administration as a result of the unique and lucrative access they give to him, while he simultaneously sounds exactly like an Administration defense lawyer shamelessly and vigorously defending both himself and Administration officials from every conceivable charge of wrongdoing concerning the Plame scandal. If Scott McClellan or Lewis Libby's lawyers had answered the same questions from [CNN's Larry] King, it's hard to see a single answer which would have been different.

And yes, during Bush's first term Woodward became extremely cozy with the Republican president.

In early 2002, Woodward helped write an eight-part, 40,000-word series in the Washington Post, "10 Days in September: Inside the War Cabinet." It provided an inside glimpse into how the administration dealt with the Sept. 11 attacks and mapped out its strategy for the war on terrorism.

Conservatives cheered the series, suggesting it was a Pulitzer Prize must-win. The far-right raves were understandable: "10 Days in September: Inside the War Cabinet" erased any suggestion of Bush as an inexperienced leader.

To say the series presented the administration, and Bush in particular, in a glowing light would be an understatement. The young president was depicted as being utterly sure of himself, operating on gut instincts, leading round-table discussions, formulating complex strategies, asking pointed questions, building international coalitions, demanding results, poring over speeches and seeking last-minute phrase changes.

That hagiography-like approach soon found its way into Woodward's 2002 book, Bush At War. As Salon noted, it offered a "a portrait of the president-as-resolute-war-leader that put him in a league with Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt." (It took Woodward five more years before he wrote a book about how badly the White House had mismanaged the Iraq War.)

But here's all you need to know about Woodward and his supposed status as a beacon of the left:  

-September 11, 2012

-September 26, 2012

-October 5, 2012

-October 26, 2012

-November 7, 2012

-November 30, 2012

-February 28, 2013

Those are the dates of Woodward's most recent sit-down Fox News interviews with Sean Hannity. And yes, last night Woodward agreed with Hannity that the press should have asked more questions about Bill Ayers during the 2008 campaign.

Case closed.

Bob Woodward
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