The New Republic’s Isaac Chotiner leapt to defend President Barack Obama yesterday over reports that the new book by former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, paints the president as aloof from his commanders and uninterested in military success. Chotiner–who admits he has not read the book (nor have I)–pounced on a negative interpretation of the Gates memoir by journalist Bob Woodward:
Unfortunately, Woodward’s account of the book is as flawed and overly simplified as, er, Woodward’s own books about the Obama administration…..According to Woodward, it is a serious charge against a president to say that he had doubts about the “course he had charted.” Since the same author wrote three increasingly critical books about a certain former president who never expressed the slightest doubts about disastrous policy choices, you would think Woodward might know better. Apparently not.
Woodward’s real sin, clearly, is criticizing Obama. It is a sin doubled by a sense of betrayal, since the left once lionized Woodward for his reporting on Republican presidents, especially Richard Nixon and, as Chotiner notes, George W. Bush. Once Woodward turned the same scrutiny onto Barack Obama, and found that he was not a Greek god but was responsible for much of the federal fiscal mess, the left turned against its journalistic hero.
Chotiner praises the New York Times‘ treatment of the Gates memoir–again, without having read it himself–saying that the Times‘ Thom Shanker “makes the same point, but in a less judgmental way.” So the problem is not that Woodward is wrong–just that he is less charitable towards Obama than a liberal journalist ought to be.
The last and best word here belongs to HotAir’s Mary Katherine Ham, who notes that the White House’s own pushback against reporting on the Gates memoir tends to reinforce the most newsworthy point: that Obama wanted to pull out of Afghanistan and the Middle East as fast as possible, rather than achieve any kind of victory.
That is not a secret: it has been clear since before Obama came to office. Before, the left praised that stance: now, faced with its consequences, they treat Obama’s policy as the embarrassment that it always was.