Woodward and Easterbrook


It's not the writing that Tim Rutten likes about the new Bob Woodward book, Plan of Attack. He writes in today's LAT review, "Woodward's prose can charitably be described as utilitarian." But overall, Rutten says:

"Plan of Attack" is a remarkable book, one that fulfills the too often ephemeral promise of what has come to be called investigative journalism. What Woodward has delivered is not so much a first draft of history but history in real time...

Anyone who goes to the polls without becoming familiar with this book's contents and forming an opinion about their significance risks dereliction in the exercise of his or her franchise.

Readers will find it necessary to draw their own conclusions about this story's implications, because of Woodward's scrupulous adherence to certain journalistic conventions...

For a dissenting view on that last point, see Gregg Easterbrook's blog at the New Republic:

Bad enough that extended sections of recent Woodward efforts have been fabricated, in the literalist sense--conjectured conversations placed in quotation marks. What is presented may be similar to what was actually said, but cannot have the verity Woodward claims, unless tape recorders are rolling or a stenographer is seated nearby when President Bush and Colin Powell speak in private. Woodward and his editors have cheapened the quotation mark, changing its meaning from "what was said" to "whatever sounds about right."...

Does Woodward crave attention so badly he can no longer write a book that conforms to the standard disciplines of nonfiction and to standard distinctions between truth and conjecture?

One reason journalism keeps declining in public standing is that Woodward, a leading figure, so prominently devalues the craft.

For Earth Day, Easterbrook also restates his contrarian take on the environment: all trends are positive except for greenhouse gas accumulation, but Democrats and the media don't want to admit it, and the Republicans don't want to admit that regulation works. On this, he writes, Republicans have been their own worst PR advisers.

Just as voters are conditioned to believe that Democrats are soft on defense, even though the claim is preposterous, voters are now conditioned to believe Republicans want to harm the environment, even though the claim is preposterous.

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