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State of Denial:
Bush at War, Part III, by Bob Woodward
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This book is the third part in a series of books by Bob Woodward detailing the Bush administration's activities in the lead-up, execution, and follow-through of the Iraq war. The other books are Bush At War, published right after the war started, and Plan of Attack, which OnTheIssues also excerpts. All three are considered major components in the canon of books about the Iraq War.
Woodward is best known for his investigative reporting which unveiled the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. one might therefore consider him anti-Republican, but a fairer assessment would be anti-secrecy and anti-administration. Because of his fame and prestige, Woodward has unique access to details of the inner workings of the administration, despite its secrecy (i.e., he is granted interview requests from all of the major players). Another mark of his lack of partisanship is one of Woodward's previous books, entitled "The Commanders", detailing war politics in Panama and Kuwait under the senior President Bush. Many of the players are the same -- Powell, Rumsfeld, Cheney -- but Woodward is much more positive in his portrayal in the earlier book.
This book is unrivaled in its level of documentation and fact-checking detail -- it is difficult to refute the revelations here. Indeed, Woodward devotes some pages to confirmations of revelations from his earlier "Plan of Attack" book, especially Tenet's famous "slam dunk" phrase and other documented quotations by major players. Accordingly, this book has received a lot of attention in the loss of support for the ongoing Iraq war among the American public -- not so much because people have READ it, but because since its publication it has set the framework under which Iraq policy has been discussed.
The key question for OnTheIssues is always: "How will this book affect the next election?" It clearly affected the 2006 election and the turnover of the House and Senate from Republican to Democratic majorities -- based in large part on voter dissatisfaction with the Iraq war. The question now is, "How will the well-established anti-war sentiment play out in the 2008 election?" Perhaps the House and Senate races will repeat the 2006 elections and replace many pro-war incumbents with anti-war challengers -- but only if the Democrats can demonstrate that they're ACTUALLY anti-war and capable of DOING something to end the war, instead of just paying lip service to the majority opinion of the voters.
The most key question is: "How will this book affect the 2008 presidential race?" By 2008, people will have forgotten the specifics of this book, but it will remain important because of its having set the framework for discussion. The Republican candidates for president are mostly attempting to distance themselves from the Bush administration's war policy accordingly -- while supporting the war, they disagree with Bush's handling of the war (which is what this book is about). The candidate closest to Bush on the war is John McCain, who as of this writing (April 2007) is suffering in the polls accordingly. On the Democratic side, the candidates all spar for how anti-war they can be -- ranging from "cut off the funding now" (Sen. Gravel and Rep. Kucinich) to "slowly pull out but keep a residual force" (Sen. Clinton).
OnTheIssues predicts that the Iraq war will be the single most influential issue in the 2008 election -- both on the presidential level and the congressional level. It is difficult to see, at this time, how any Republican pro-war nominee can win the general election in the context of a growing majority of anti-war sentiment in the American public. That creates an opening for an anti-war Republican -- such as the unlikely standard-bearer, Rep. Ron Paul (R, TX), or a more mainstream candidate like Sen. Chuck Hagel (R, NE). Assuming the likely event that one of the more pro-war frontrunners wins the GOP nomination, that instead creates a serious opening for an anti-war conservative independent candidate -- such as Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R, NYC), whom Sen. Hagel has been actively recruiting. The Iraq war will certainly make the 2008 election interesting -- read the excerpts of this book to be fully informed, and stay tuned for more....
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, April 2007
Bush at War, Part III, by Bob Woodward.