Bob Woodward Meets The Press

Still in the middle of a publicity blitz for his new book, Bob Woodward made the rounds to NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday where he chatted with Tim Russert.

Selected highlights:

MR. RUSSERT: Dan Bartlett, the counselor, top aide to the president, told The Washington Post, your paper, this. He “said that he and other officials noticed ‘a different tone and tenor to this project. … Some pretty hard conclusions had already formed in Bob’s mind. So we made the judgment that the third time was not a charm.'”

MR. WOODWARD: You know, that’s unfortunate he looks at it that way because I’m a reporter, and I came in and said, “Here are notes of NSC meetings I have. Here are secret documents. Here’s information. What is your response?” And it’s not that I reached hard conclusions, it’s that I had hard evidence that things had gone south and I wanted to know what happened and get answers. And they, they went radio silent, as they say.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to the president or the vice president since this book came out?

MR. WOODWARD: The vice president called me I guess as it was coming out 10 days ago.

MR. RUSSERT: And?

MR. WOODWARD: Well, he called to complain that I was quoting him about the meetings with Henry Kissinger that he and the president had. I had interviewed Vice President Cheney last year a couple of times at length about material I’m gathering on the Ford administration, on-the-record interviews, but he volunteered, he said, “Oh, by the way, Henry Kissinger comes in” and he, Dick Cheney, sits down with him once a month and the president every two or three months. And Cheney was upset I was quoting him. And I said, “Look, this—on-the-record doesn’t have anything to do with Ford, you volunteered that.” He then used a word which I can’t repeat on the air. And I said, “Look, on the record is on the record,” and he hung up on me.

MR. RUSSERT: What, what do you mean, he swore at you?

MR. WOODWARD: He, he said what I was saying was bull-something.

Full transcript when you click below.


MR. RUSSERT: And we’re back.

Bob Woodward, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. BOB WOODWARD: Thank you. Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: You’ve written three books about the Bush administration and here they are, “Bush at War,” “Plan of Attack,” “State of Denial.” The first titles, neutral. The last one, not so. Why?

MR. WOODWARD: Because that’s what the facts show. It’s been three–this really covers a three-and-a-half-year period. It took me over two years to find out what happened, and quite frankly, as, as I say as directly can be said in English, they have not been telling the truth about what Iraq has become. As you pointed out earlier, the headlines in the newspaper today–more body counts, more people being wounded, while the people in the Bush administration are going around regularly and saying, “We’ve turned the corner, the terrorists are in retreat.”

MR. RUSSERT: Dan Bartlett, the counselor, top aide to the president, told The Washington Post, your paper, this. He “said that he and other officials noticed ‘a different tone and tenor to this project. … Some pretty hard conclusions had already formed in Bob’s mind. So we made the judgment that the third time was not a charm.'”

MR. WOODWARD: You know, that’s unfortunate he looks at it that way because I’m a reporter, and I came in and said, “Here are notes of NSC meetings I have. Here are secret documents. Here’s information. What is your response?” And it’s not that I reached hard conclusions, it’s that I had hard evidence that things had gone south and I wanted to know what happened and get answers. And they, they went radio silent, as they say.

MR. RUSSERT: You told “60 Minutes” that the administration had a failure to tell the truth, something you just said as well. The White House has put out several documents, five myths to Bob Woodward’s book, the real story about the Rice-Tenet meeting.

MR. WOODWARD: Right.

MR. RUSSERT: Setting the record…

MR. WOODWARD: And I think all of those have evaporated.

MR. RUSSERT: Setting the record straight with Bob Woodward.

One of the things they say is you keep saying that the level of violence against American troops was a secret. They say a public report was given to the American people, which demonstrated–said just that.

MR. WOODWARD: After I took the secret document, which I have here, I mean, I hate to show secret documents on television, but I guess I’ll have to. Why was this document secret?

MR. RUSSERT: When did you show that to the administration?

MR. WOODWARD: In May, June, and then, couple of months later, the exact information was made public. They knew I had it. Now, I mean, just look at what that shows. If that was–that’s what’s called a pattern, increased violence. It even has gone up in the last couple of months. That’s the reality. They were keeping it classified until I got a hold of it.

MR. RUSSERT: They say the president in May and throughout the year has always said Iraq is difficult, going to be more difficult. Saying exactly…

MR. WOODWARD: But, but, but he didn’t say that. He said it’s hard, everyone knows it’s hard, but he said the terrorists are in retreat. Sorry, that is not retreat. Wake up. That’s the reality. Now they say it and now there is a kind of a silence about all of this. You know, that’s fine, maybe they–maybe there’s going to be a speech or a press conference where there is going to be some truth-telling. We need it.

MR. RUSSERT: Have you spoken to the president or the vice president since this book came out?

MR. WOODWARD: The vice president called me I guess as it was coming out 10 days ago.

MR. RUSSERT: And?

MR. WOODWARD: Well, he called to complain that I was quoting him about the meetings with Henry Kissinger that he and the president had. I had interviewed Vice President Cheney last year a couple of times at length about material I’m gathering on the Ford administration, on-the-record interviews, but he volunteered, he said, “Oh, by the way, Henry Kissinger comes in” and he, Dick Cheney, sits down with him once a month and the president every two or three months. And Cheney was upset I was quoting him. And I said, “Look, this–on-the-record doesn’t have anything to do with Ford, you volunteered that.” He then used a word which I can’t repeat on the air. And I said, “Look, on the record is on the record,” and he hung up on me.

MR. RUSSERT: What, what do you mean, he swore at you?

MR. WOODWARD: He, he said what I was saying was bull-something.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Tony…

MR. WOODWARD: No, but he, but he hung up. Now, look, I can, I can see, I went back and looked at the transcript that he can–ever had a disagreement about ground rules with someone. Have you?

MR. RUSSERT: Well, he thought he was talking, he thought he was talking to you for one project and you used it in another project.

MR. WOODWARD: Well, exactly. But it had nothing to do with it, and it’s clearly spelled out that it’s an on-the-record interview. And so–now, what does he do instead of saying, “Well, OK, I look at it this way, you look at it that way.” It’s a metaphor for what’s going on. Hang up when somebody has a different point of view or information you don’t want to deal with.

MR. RUSSERT: Tony Snow talked about your book at a news conference, a press briefing Thursday at the White House. Let’s watch and come back and talk about it.

(Videotape, Thursday):
MR. TONY SNOW: The Woodward book is, is going to be interesting in the sense that it’s fascinating to everybody here in the beltway. But there’s also–there are a lot of single-sourcing problems. And, you know, I mean, there are going to be a lot of back and forth–I talked to Andy Card today, for instance, who says he was quoted accurately but out of context. I talked with the aide to General Abizaid, who said that although General Abizaid is quoted a couple of times, he was never contacted, there was–they never ran quotes by them, they didn’t talk to them. They didn’t talk to Kissinger, he’s quoted in the book. They didn’t talk to Brent Scowcroft, he’s quoted in the book.
(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Did you talk to Kissinger?

MR. WOODWARD: Sure. Of course.

MR. RUSSERT: On the record?

MR. WOODWARD: On the record. Again, I was doing Ford work, but I asked about this. I mean, again, my only agreement with Kissinger is that I would check quotes, but this is on the record, October 19th, 2005, in his office in New York. I, I said “This’ll be on the record,” he said “Fine.” Check quotes. I hope he won’t mind if I’m checking some quotes here on the air. I asked about the meetings with Bush, with Cheney, particularly about Bush, and he said, “Yeah, maybe a little more with the president,” more than every two or three months. Went on for pages discussing those meetings.

MR. RUSSERT: Did you, did you talk to Brent Scowcroft?

MR. WOODWARD: Yes.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, Mr. Scowcroft issued a statement which seems to conflict with that.

MR. WOODWARD: Well, parse it, please.

MR. RUSSERT: He says, “I did not agree to be interviewed for this latest book. There are statements in the book, directly or implicitly attributed to me, that did not and never could have come from me. I never discuss any personal conversations that I may have with President [George] H.W. Bush.”

MR. WOODWARD: He’s, he’s not denying what’s in the book is correct, he’s saying it couldn’t have come from him. Look, this is–what you do in a book–and the, and the opportunity The Washington Post gives me is years to find out what happened and do as deep reporting as possible. Anyone who knows, I mean Jeff Goldberg of The New Yorker wrote a piece about Scowcroft’s agony and what’s going on here. People know what’s going on, and I’m trying to say, “Look, here’s a reality.” For instance, in, in all of this, Scowcroft and Bush Sr., the president’s father, former president.

MR. RUSSERT: But you spoke to Scowcroft on the record for the book?

MR. WOODWARD: No, I spoke to Scowcroft–I mean, he says he never talked to me–I mean, during June 30th, 2004, November 29th, 2004, October 5th, 2005.

MR. RUSSERT: Condi Rice, you say, shrugged off a briefing that George Tenet gave her about–on July 10th, 2001, about a potential attack on an American city–American interest. The September 11 commission commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, he said that Tenet said that she did not shrug it off. Who’s right?

MR. WOODWARD: I’ve been working on 9/11 for five years, since 9/11. And again, I’m trying to go deep into this. As I report in the book, this extraordinary meeting, the CIA director hops in his car and calls from the car and says, “I have to meet with the national security adviser”? I’ve never heard of that happening in any other instance at all.

MR. RUSSERT: What’s the most important fact in this book?

MR. WOODWARD: I mean, look, this is a reporter’s chronicle, what Carl Bernstein and I used to call “the best obtainable version of the truth.”

MR. RUSSERT: To be continued. Bob Woodward is the author, “State of Denial” is the book. Thank you very much.

MR. WOODWARD: Thank you.