On April 19 – the day the American Revolution began in 1775–Bob Woodward released ”Plan of Attack” with a fusillade of publicity that will not soon be equaled,” begins Ted Widmer’s review in the New York Times. “The shot heard round Washington benefited from several factors, including its timing. Stirred up by the recent revelations of Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill, the turmoil over the 9/11 commission and the dawning sense that our Iraq problems are not going away soon, the news media rolled out the red carpet for a book that was rumored to be more critical of the Bush administration – and therefore important – than Woodward’s previous reporting. The result has been a little difficult to decipher amid the cacophony of television chatter and White House denials (to say nothing of the ka-ching of cash registers). But a serious book it is, instantly essential, matching America’s most celebrated political reporter against the most secretive administration in our history. For once, a hyped product has lived up to its billing.”
What is most interesting about the book is how both sides of the political isle seem to be embracing the book, as Widmer points out in his review. “The latest sign of how wide the gulf is between red andblue America is that each side has already formed completely different impressions. For Democrats, the book proves that the White House is badly divided, corrupt and clueless. For Republicans, who put it on the Bush campaign Web site, it presents a decisive president who may get the details wrong now and then but is confident that America’s destiny is to bring freedom and light to Babylon.”
Perhaps this is a sign that the reporting is balanced–when everyone is either pleased or upset? It’s an interesting tale to tell. And coming from such a respected reporter as Bob Woodward, it is hard to dismiss the evidence gathered in the book as having a specific agenda. The book simply seeks the to tell what actually went on behind the scenes. It’s good journalism, of the type that made Bob Woodward a name in such circles 30 years ago. (Check out another review of the book, in The New Yorker, at http://newyorker.com/critics/books/?040510crbo_books) Tell me what you think.