Donald Rumsfeld Fires Back to Bob Woodward Over Book Review

Rumsfeld's chief of staff takes a slap at the veteran Washington Post editor

By + More

In what’s turning into an epic battle between two of Washington’s major players and authors, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s office today issued a pointed slap-down of Washington Post editor and author Bob Woodward’s point-by-point criticism of Rumsfeld’s book, Known and Unknown, which he dubbed “one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others.”

In a new posting today on Facebook, Keith Urbahn, Rumsfeld’s chief of staff, dismissed Woodward’s charges and raised old questions about how Woodward, when working on a prior book, was able to talk to former CIA Director Bill Casey when he was reported to be nearly comatose at the time. The issue has dogged Woodward, dubbed by his foes like Rush Limbaugh as “Mortuary Bob.”

In the posting, Urbahn slapped the journalist’s style of reporting and suggested that Woodward’s Foreign Policy review was payback for Rumsfeld refusing to cooperate with past Woodward book projects. “The well known story about Bob Woodward is that he practices what is derided as ‘access journalism,’ whereby he favors those who provide him with information and gossip and leak against their colleagues. Those who refuse to play along, such as Donald Rumsfeld, then pay the price,” wrote the Rumsfeld aide. [ See photos of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.]

Woodward’s review was harsh, picking passages of Rumsfeld’s book to challenge and criticize. An editor’s note to the review says, “Few people know the ins and outs of the Bush administration as well as the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, who is flat-out disgusted with the evasions and elisions in Donald Rumsfeld’s new book.” After that, Woodward begins with a passage of Rumsfeld’s book then adds, “Rumsfeld’s memoir is one big clean-up job, a brazen effort to shift blame to others--including President Bush--distort history, ignore the record or simply avoid discussing matters that cannot be airbrushed away. It is a travesty, and I think the rewrite job won’t wash.” [ See editorial cartoons about the Afghanistan War.]

One thing’s for sure: The Woodward review and Rumsfeld retort reveals a very deep distrust and dislike between the two long-time Washington players.

Here’s Urbahn’s full Facebook posting:

Washington, D.C.—Bob Woodward is invested in what has been a one-sided narrative of events—one that is now being challenged by a firsthand perspective in Known and Unknown and thousands of supporting documents made available on www.rumsfeld.com.

Mr. Woodward has demonstrated a regrettable tendency to put his storyline ahead of the facts. There is most notoriously the supposed deathbed conversation he had with former CIA Director Bill Casey that implicated President Reagan in the Iran-Contra affair and just so conveniently provided the perfect scene for a book Woodward was writing on the CIA—even though Mr. Casey was reported to be nearly comatose at the time and witnesses, including Mr. Casey’s widow, denied Woodward’s account. Woodward has been repeatedly accused of ‘tilting the facts,’ ‘misleading remarks,’ ‘disingenuous statements,’ and placing ‘book sales above journalism.’

The well known story about Bob Woodward is that he practices what is derided as ‘access journalism,’ whereby he favors those who provide him with information and gossip and leak against their colleagues. Those who refuse to play along, such as Donald Rumsfeld, then pay the price.

Woodward ends his latest attempt to defend his version of events by suggesting that at some point in the future ‘when all the records are available,’ new facts and assertions that come to light will differ from those in Known and Unknown. If this means Woodward is now committed to writing a serious book of history based on contemporaneous documents and first-hand sources he is to be commended. But in all likelihood, the Bob Woodward and Sy Hersh brand of ‘journalism’ will remain what it is: little more than self-serving accounts relying on anonymous or biased sources who often had little role in decision-making.”