FAVORITES: Bob Woodward
INTERVIEW BY CHUCK CONCONI
August marks the 30th anniversary of President Nixon�s
resignation: His downfall started with a Watergate burglary, and his
fate was sealed when the White House coverup was uncovered by Bob
Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
Woodward, who stayed on at the Washington Post as a key
reporter and editor, also has had a successful book-writing career
with nine best-selling nonfiction books, the only contemporary
American author who can make that claim.
His most recent book is Plan of Attack, about the Bush
White House and the war in Iraq.
Favorite book read since writing Plan of Attack:
1912 by James Chace. It�s about the 1912 presidential
election with William Howard Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, Eugene V.
Debs, and Woodrow Wilson. I was struck by how George
Bush is in some ways like Wilson in his internationalism and
idealism. There�s one Wilson quote that contributed to my thinking:
�If I didn�t feel I was the personal instrument of God, I couldn�t
carry on.� Bush doesn�t go that far, but it was like when he told me
that he consults not his father but a �higher father.� Bush wants to
be a good messenger of God.
Book of all time: All the King�s Men by Robert
Movie of all time: Casablanca.
Escape: The place I have on the South River in Maryland
with my wife, Elsa, and our seven-year-old daughter, Diana.
Place in another country: Israel, where survival is in the
Most important influence: Ben Bradlee because his own
curiosities and interests were important to the editing of the
Washington Post. You always knew that if Ben was interested in
something, it was an important story to pursue. There is also his
unflappability. I screwed up many times, and he never really got
angry with me. He is the opposite of Richard Nixon, who was haunted
by the mistakes of his past. With Ben you always leave a meeting
feeling better about yourself, and that�s real leadership.
What�s wrong with the media? Near the end of John
Stacks�s wonderful book, Scotty, about James Reston
of the New York Times, he talks about the breakdown between
people in public life and the media as �a corrosively reciprocal
cynicism.� That nailed it for me. Skepticism and cynicism are good,
but they have become corrosive elements. Stacks quotes a friend
saying in the book that people lie where the truth would do. People
do seem to get caught up in a cover-up when the truth would do.
Favorite local outing: Thursday nights when my wife and I
attend the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center.
Best presidential memoir: RN by Richard Nixon.
Nixon had secret Dictabelts on which he would record his daily
recollections. When Diane Sawyer was helping him with his
book, she persuaded him to include these recollections. They were
candid and very personal and revealing in ways that were not always
favorable to him. I�m hoping that Bill Clinton�s book will
have the same candor.
TV show: I like 24 but rarely get to see it. I get
to see only about two or three hours of the 24. The series
captures some of the raw fear about terrorism.
Music: I�m a sucker for the classics, from Beethoven
Restaurant: Nathans in Georgetown.
Most misunderstood president: Gerald Ford. His pardon of
Nixon was almost certainly the right thing to do to move the country
beyond Nixon and Watergate. It was a gutsy call and cost him the
Least understood institution in Washington: Congress. No
institution has changed so much in the 30 years I�ve been reporting.
Partisan warfare there is now like World War I, with everyone in
their trenches. It is now an institution at risk.
What is surprising about Bush? He�s not that secretive.
I�ve interviewed him for nearly eight hours and asked close to 700
questions with no restrictions. He�s permitted serious examination
of his decisions relating to 9/11 and the Iraq war. It exceeds what
any president has done in my lifetime.
The historic figure you would most like to interview? I
guess it would be Nixon. The question that pulses throughout
is why? Why all the crimes and abuse? Why didn�t he realize that
when he was elected the first time the people had a feeling of
goodwill toward him? Why all the anger and hate rather than
returning the goodwill?