State of Denial: How Woodward Took Down Rumsfeld

As Bob Wood­ward’s lat­est book climbed the best­seller charts last week, the per­son­al for­tunes of Don Rums­feld tum­bled. The one man’s rise and the oth­er man’s fall were not total­ly dis­con­nect­ed. Pub­lished weeks before the mid-term elec­tions, State of Denial effec­tive­ly rehashed the Bush admin­is­tra­tion’s many mis­takes made before and after 9–11, and before and after the Iraq inva­sion. If Wood­ward sees a par­tic­u­lar weak link in the admin­is­tra­tion, it’s Don Rums­feld. Tar­get­ing him for the bet­ter part of the book, Wood­ward por­trays the Defense Sec­re­tary as a micro­man­ag­er who brow­beat his sub­or­di­nates and cut strong mil­i­tary thinkers out of the war plan­ning process, and who went to war with 140,000 troops (instead of the 600,000 rec­om­mend­ed by Gen­er­al Tom­my Franks), and then over­saw the ill-planned occu­pa­tion. Now #5 on the New York Times best­seller list, Wood­ward helped inten­si­fy the crit­i­cism of Rums­feld through­out Octo­ber, and, when the elec­tions went the Democ­rats’ way, the Sec. of Defense was gone. (If you don’t own the book, check out Wood­ward’s piece in Newsweek, which gives you the short ver­sion of how Rum­my dropped the ball.)

One of the big­ger rev­e­la­tions in State of Denial is that Rums­feld almost got cut back in 2004, when Bush won his sec­ond term. Andrew Card, Bush’s for­mer Chief of Staff, qui­et­ly tried to engi­neer a shuf­fle, but polit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions ulti­mate­ly got in the way. (Wood­ward sum­ma­rizes this part of his book in a recent Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle.) What you get here is trade­mark Wood­ward. He gives you an intrigu­ing insid­er view of how pol­i­tics gets played out in Wash­ing­ton — how Rums­feld won’t return Con­di Rice’s phone calls, how the Chief of Staff tries to sack Rum­my, how no one will tell Bush the prob­lems they see in Iraq, etc.

Wood­ward’s account is all very inter­est­ing. But it’s also trou­bling in a way. The third install­ment of a tril­o­gy called Bush at War, State of Denial re-exam­ines some of the same ground that Wood­ward already cov­ered in first two books, but it turns a pre­vi­ous­ly enthu­si­as­tic analy­sis of the war effort into a crit­i­cal one. You can’t help but feel that Wood­ward, like so many oth­ers now, wants to dis­tance him­self from this pres­i­dent and his war. And he’s more than will­ing to make his case by inter­view­ing for­mer admin­is­tra­tion mem­bers (Andrew Card) who are look­ing to do the same. So, what you get here is a case where a cred­i­bil­i­ty gap unfor­tu­nate­ly casts doubt on the sub­stance.


You can read the full first chap­ter of Wood­ward’s book here.

Franklin Foer reviews Wood­ward in the New York Times, Nov 12, 2006.

Final­ly, you can also catch Wood­ward on Let­ter­man:

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.