It's been more than three years since the identity of Bob Woodward's famed Deep Throat source was broken in Vanity Fair rather than in Woodward's Washington Post, as he had planned. So perhaps the newspaper is not all that bitter that Woodward, a longtime editor there, has yet let another book project emerge first in a competing news outlet. Last night it was Fox News Channel, not the Post, with exclusive first details of Woodward's fourth book on President Bush, The War Within. Among them was the revelation that John McCain, while standing in the West Wing, clenched his fists and said of the Bush team, "everything is f—-ing spin." Now that's a revelation that's well-timed for the McCain campaign. Wonder who leaked to Fox?! (*McCough.*) Anyway, the Post apparently had its own Web story ready on a hairtrigger, and published it, bringing forth slightly terrifying revelations like how a cadre of generals organized to do something about the inept civilian Commander in Chief:
The discord between Bush and Casey is one manifestation of the often-debilitating rift that Woodward portrays between the U.S. military and its civilian leadership. The book describes a "near revolt" in late 2006 by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who felt that their advice was not reaching the president. Adm. Michael Mullen, then serving as chief of naval operations, expressed fear that the military would "take the fall" for a failure in Iraq. According to the book, Casey and Abizaid resolutely opposed the large surge that the president ultimately ordered, as did Rumsfeld. Casey went so far as to refer to Baghdad as a "troop sump." Within the administration, only the National Security Council staff strongly supported the surge plan.
Actually, Fox's story is still more sensational and interesting, even though the Post had more time to write, but maybe the paper is still trying to save some details for a series starting Sunday ahead of the book's release Monday. Or maybe News Corporation just knows from sensational!
Either way, it's probably time for Woodward, his newspaper and his book publisher to stop trying to stage manage his book releases so tightly. If the Post is going to hold on to its exclusives, it's going to have to start publishing earlier and more aggressively. Or at least pre-write better contingency Web stories.