Chopping Woodward

The blogosphere is reeling with the surprise news that Bob Woodward is now implicated in the Valerie Plame affair — according to his testimony to Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, he learned of Plame’s name and position at the CIA in mid-June 2003, but kept that information from his editors at the Washington Post.

Many are taking shots at Woodward for failing to be more forthcoming. Now That’s Progress calls him “Mr. Uncredible” and writes that they’re “glad Bob Woodward got scooped on Deep Throat by Deep Throat himself. Woodward had been living off that notoriety for so long that he’s been given a pass as some sort of sacred cow of journalism. Recently the curtains have been pulled back to showcase the wizard, and he’s less than impressive. In fact, he comes off as a self-serving egotist, miffed that people have stopped kissing his ring.”

The fact that Woodward himself has served as a talking head on the matter, saying things like “If the judge would permit it, I would go serve some of [Judith Miller’s] jail time, because I think the principle is that important, and it should be underscored,” as he on “Larry King Live” on July 11, gives bloggers that much more to work with. Woodward also told Larry King that, “When the story comes out, I’m quite confident we’re going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter,” and downplayed the implications of revealing Plame’s name on NPR, saying, “When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great.” Atrios already has a compendium of transcript excerpts up on his site that he is calling “The Booby Files,” after his nickname for Woodward.

It’s getting sleazy, thinks Pam Spaulding at Pandagon, who writes, “the formerly-straight-shooting Woodward has been slagging prosecutor Fitzgerald and downplaying the significance of the leak all this time as a talking head, which amounts to propaganda for the Bush Administration. Now we know why he did it — it clearly wasn’t in his best interest to spin it truthfully.”

Jesse Berney points to these statements and thinks they are proof that “Woodward was played”: “It’s clear that he fell for the administration’s strategy: spread the word around town to reporters, make it seem like everyone’s talking about it, and try to turn their insinuations about Wilson and Plame’s motives into common wisdom.”

For Tom Maguire at Just One Minute, Woodward’s admission casts doubt on Fitzgerald’s indictment of Libby and Fitzgerald’s own credibility: “Fitzgerald blew it — he had White House phone logs, he had sign in sheets, he had Libby’s notes, he had testimony from many, many people, he had two years, and still, somehow, he did not include Bob Woodward on his contacts-of-interest list.

“As to the specifics of the Libby indictment, a bold prosecutor might press ahead —arguably, Libby’s statement that he believed he was hearing about Plame for the first time when he spoke to Russert is still false, and arguably, Libby’s assertions that he sourced his knowledge to other reporters when he spoke to Miller and Cooper are also false.

“But it will take a mighty straight-faced jury to focus exclusively on that if the defense can bring in a parade of reporters that may have, directly or indirectly, put the Wilson and wife story in Libby’s ear.”

And we don’t imagine this is the last we’ll be hearing from the blogs about All the (Vice) President’s Men.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.