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My Story of the Fantastically Unimpressive Bob Woodward

March 04, 2013|Stephen Markley

Bob Woodward has been in the news lately for a silly flare-up over his self-aggrandizing misrepresentation of an innocuous email sent by Gene Sperling regarding the sequester. I won’t re-litigate the whole mess here (and if you want a solid recap, read Gawker’s John Cook on the whole stupid thing). But I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to tell the story of how I met Woodward in 2005 and thought the guy was mostly an idiot.

He spoke at Miami University, and members of the Honors program (which, despite my alcohol intake, I was a part of) got to go attend a private lecture with him. Yours truly was selected to introduce the esteemed speaker to the small group of students and faculty for a Q & A session that would proceed Woodward’s speech that night.

I threw together a couple of autobiographical details, a few quick jokes (one about “Deep Throat” [naturally], one about being less handsome than Robert Redford [of course]—the usual Bob Woodward crowd-pleasers). Yet from the moment he opened his mouth following my introduction, Woodward ascended straight to my Shit List.

Here are the four reasons that Bob Woodward is on my Shit List:

1) Most of Woodward and the group’s discussion that day in 2005 centered around the obvious questions of President George W. Bush and the Iraq war. Despite questions from the group about the clearly failing policy of Bush administration and the quickly deteriorating situation on the ground, Woodward stuck to the, “History will be the true judge” theme, and clearly was an awed fan of the President, referring again and again to his ultra-exclusive interview wherein Bush granted him complete access to ask any question he wanted (the italics on “interview” are meant to convey that Woodward used the word the same way a woman tells a man to spank her).

As I sat there, however, listening to the man deftly side-step any actual reckoning of Bush’s actions in the Middle East, I grew frustrated. Finally, I raised my hand and asked the following:

“Okay, but clearly Bush can’t just go on like he’s doing now in Iraq. The place is a mess and it’s only getting worse. Eventually he’s going to have to do something because people are going to get sick of watching American kids get blown up. And you talk about history? What’s history going to think if he leaves this mess for the next guy in office? Eventually he’ll start thinking legacy and he’ll have to do something.”

Woodward looked at me with a bemused smile. “I don’t know if that’s the case,” he said. “President Bush is not someone who cares about his poll numbers, about what people think of him. He does what he does out of conviction. I sat across from him for 2 hours,” (this was the like the ninth time he’d dropped the amount of time he’d spent with Bush; like they had time to get acquainted with each other’s teets). “I got a look at him,” he said, in that moronic way people do when they sit across from someone famous and claim this allows them some special insight. Hell, it’s what Bush famously said about Vlad Putin.

“And do you know what he said to me when I asked him how he thought history would judge him?” Woodward asked us. “He shrugged and said, ‘Who knows? We’ll all be dead.’”

Woodward smiled at me as if to say, “Huh? Pretty good, right? Bet you’ve never met someone who’s met the president, huh little boy!”

I stared at him, hoping there was a punch line. There was not. “Don’t you think that’s something of a profound statement?” he asked the group. 

“Did you just call George W. Bush profound?” I asked, and everyone in the room grew uncomfortable, including myself. But “who knows, we’ll all be dead” is the opposite of profound when you’ve sent a few hundred thousand troops to occupy a tinderbox of a country for shady reasons. Or maybe I missed the part where we wanted a seventh grader's cut-rate interpretation of Friedrich Nietzsche making policy. He pointed to another hand, and I was left to mull who was the bigger dipshit: George W. Bush or acclaimed journalist Bob Woodward. All of which brings me to my next point:

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