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Chuck ChalbergSo the Bob Woodward has done it again. He has concocted yet another tell-all account of the mostly forgettable doings of yet another set of temporarily memorable Washington figures. And once again he has done so on the basis of unnamed sources. It’s all so tiresome and predictable.

What was neither tiresome nor predictable was the work of the original Bob Woodward of Watergate fame and fortune. There once was a time, now nearly a half-century ago, when the country couldn’t wait for the next Watergate investigatory installment, courtesy of Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman… oops Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

What a cast of unforgettable characters they were. Not Woodward and Bernstein, mind you, but the perpetually hated Richard Nixon and his newly hated attorney general, the permanently dour John Mitchell. And who could forget G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt? Watch out for anyone who sports an initial for a first name. Right, J. Edgar Hoover?

Then there was the earnest Jeb Magruder, the weaselly John Dean, and the hatchet man, craggy-faced Chuck Colson. What a gift they all were to Woodward—and Bernstein.

Of course, we can’t forget that other gift, namely the unforgettable “Deep Throat,” or an eventually named source by the name of Mark Felt, an FBI higher-up who helped lower the boom on the Nixon White House.

Now as then, the FBI is at the center of things. Now as then, a scandal is waiting to be unearthed. And yet where is Bob Woodward when we need him? Instead of doing the unearthing, he’s busily doing what he has been doing for better than four decades, namely serving as the unofficial Washington gossip-monger. Instead of cultivating new “deep throats,” within and without the FBI, instead of tracking down throats aching to be probed, he continues to waste his time on the obvious.

So, chaos is the organizing principle of the Trump Administration. So what? OK, bringing down the Trump presidency would provide a book end of sorts. Having initially made his name by exposing and destroying the detestable Richard Nixon, he can now jet off into retirement after exposing and destroying the deplorable Donald Trump.

There is a certain symmetry here. The only problem with this picture is that another historical parallel is even more compelling. A scandal far worse than Watergate is staring the Bob Woodward—and everyone else—in the face.

Watergate was really a fairly conventional story. That’s because it was a story of one party trying to spy on the other. It happens all the time—and should.

OK, there may well have been nothing quite as stupid and botched as the actual Watergate break-in. And there certainly was nothing quite as stupid and botched as the presidentially orchestrated cover-up. Participants in either one deserved whatever fate befell them, whether that was jail time or embarrassment or resignation from office.

But does Mr. Woodward deserve ongoing accolades for his genuinely journalistic efforts of nearly a half-century ago? He surely doesn’t deserve them for his string of gossipy books. On the other hand, he might, he just might, retrieve celebratory (if not celebrity) status, if he would only pay attention to the real scandal of the 2016 election.

Two years ago agents of both major parties were no doubt about their normal business of gathering intelligence about their rivals. Nothing new here. It happens on a quadrennial basis—and probably more often than that.

But there was something new in 2016. That new thing was the role of the permanent bureaucracy in this great game of politics. Whether on their own or in, dare we say, collusion with the Democrats, agents of this bureaucracy were out to defeat Donald Trump. The details of all of this are not yet entirely clear, but they are becoming clearer, no thanks to the Bob Woodward or the Woodward wannabes of the nation’s media.

To be sure, there was no bungled burglary in 2016. Instead, to borrow slightly from Clarence Thomas (of “high-tech lynching” infamy), there was a highly orchestrated effort of highly-placed Washington figures, an effort involving dossiers and FISA warrants, to spy on the Trump campaign.

That this effort ultimately failed is quite beside the point. Bob Woodward may not be interested, but there is an important story here, a story that needs to be fleshed out, a story that awaits its own deep throat, maybe even an FBI deep throat.

If only Mr. Woodward could be lured away from his obsession with serving as Washington’s unofficial gossip columnist. If only he could revert to his youthful gumshoe days when he could be found lurking in DC parking garages waiting to meet with the “Deep Throat.” What then? Why, he’d finally be back in the saddle again.

Who knows where it all might lead? A president would not be brought down, but probing the depths of the Deep State with a fresh set of deep throats could be something. Besides, the Sundance Kid is still with us. An aging Robert Woodward meet an aging Robert Redford. There’s still time to make—and remake—history again.

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4 replies to this post
  1. A good piece. Woodward’s books are reported to be “Important”, but I have never read one. His books are also reported to be boring, and with a prose style (to borrow a quip from PJ O’Rourke) that resembles the Washington DC phone book.

  2. A very nice treatment. But if the winding-up is serious, instead of the natural desire desire to sign off, I can only say: “Dream on.”

  3. Thank you for the more global perspective on this issue that calls attention to blind-spots within the majority of journalism today.

  4. I have wondered why Mr Woodward has any credibility, after he wrote “Veil”, in which he supposedly interviewed CIA director William Casey on his deathbed. Family members were with Casey almost the entire time, yet they never saw Woodward. Casey was incoherent from medications, and there were guards posted 24 hours, who would not have let Woodward into the room. The interview had to have been made-up.

    Interesting fact: Woodward nominated Janet Cooke’s story of the 8-year-old heroin addict, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, before it was determined to be a complete fabrication. Fake news before its time.

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