Noted journalist Bob Woodward offered his insights on topics ranging from Nixon to Bush, current political issues and the role of journalism during a speech to an overflow crowd at Paepcke Auditorium on Tuesday night.Not once did he mention Mark Felt, the former FBI assistant director nicknamed "Deep Throat" who was Woodward's key anonymous source in uncovering the Watergate scandal. Woodward's latest book chronicles the story of "Deep Throat," but the audience members clearly had more current issues on their minds.
Using numerous anecdotes from his 35-year journalism career, Woodward didn't make definitive conclusions about issues but let facts speak for themselves. Interviewing President George W. Bush for his book "Plan of Attack" was "not typical," said Woodward, who is assistant managing editor at the Washington Post. Answering 500 questions, the president was very direct and used weighty words like "duty" and "zeal" to describe "liberating people." Woodward spoke of Bush's intense belief that what he is doing is right and how overcoming obstacles made him even more determined. "It was almost a mind trip on how he looks at things and what he values," Woodward said.
Woodward refrained from ultimately judging Bush, noting that, "If you go back into history you'll find many instances of presidents making unpopular decisions. History teaches you that the most important trait a president can have is simply courage, and courage often means walking the road alone." Of Nixon's presidency, Woodward said, "The real chill goes down your spine when you see the smallness of Richard Nixon. Too often [he used] the power of the presidency to settle a score."
Nevertheless, Nixon was a very intelligent president, Woodward said. "He understood that the hating is what had done him in." Woodward quoted the president's farewell speech to his staff, in which he told them, "Always remember others may hate you, but those who hate you don't win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself."Woodward's half-hour talk, punctuated several times by well-received jokes, was followed by 11 questions from the audience. He theorized that Hillary Clinton would earn the Democratic nomination in 2008 and would run against Dick Cheney, and he rejected the likelihood of a third party being a threat to Democrats and Republicans. He discounted the fear that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts would help overturn abortion rights if elected to the bench.He spoke of his continuing faith in the press, which depends on owners who support their newsrooms and reporters who are driven to get to the truth. Decrying the impatience of today's journalism, with its fixation on up-to-the-minute updates, Woodward said that news services should stick to their responsibility of getting all the facts.