Accuracy in Media

There was a time when John Kerry bragged about having the backing of unnamed foreign leaders. But now that Bob Woodward has hinted in his book, Plan of Attack, that Saudi Arabia is backing President Bush for re-election, the Democrats and their media allies are raising an uproar. Kerry, who had criticized Bush for rising oil prices, is now upset that they might be going down. He declared at a campaign stop that, “?if what Bob Woodward reports is true?that gas supplies and prices in America are tied to the American election, then tied to a secret White House deal?that is outrageous and unacceptable.”

Ironically, the claim now is that it is Bush, not Kerry, who has some influential foreign friends, and one of them is Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. Woodward says Bandar promised the White House that Saudi Arabia will lower oil prices in the months before the election. In the face of questions about this alleged promise, Woodward told George Stephanopoulos, “If you knew my reporting, you would have confidence in it.”

Unfortunately for Woodward, who is labeled “The Best Reporter of All Time” on a CBS News website, his record is not stellar. As a Washington Post editor, he was taken in by Janet Cooke and her fake story of a child heroin addict. The story won a Pulitzer Prize that had to be returned when it was exposed as a phony. Woodward kept his job and still makes millions of dollars on his books. By contrast, two top New York Times editors lost their jobs in the wake of the Jayson Blair fakery and fabrication scandal at that paper. Woodward was accused of fabricating his own account of a deathbed interview with CIA chief William Casey for his book Veil. Woodward is best known for helping to bring down a Republican president, Richard Nixon, in the Watergate scandal.

Nevertheless, Bush cooperated with Woodward, and the White House ordered other administration officials to cooperate as well.

Despite such assistance, Secretary of State Colin Powell denies the report that he was out of the loop on Iraq. Powell and National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice both say that Woodward simply got the facts wrong. 

While the book is described as critical of Bush’s Iraq war policy, one of the key charges, highlighted by the CBS 60 Minutes interview of Woodward, is that Bush was reluctant to go to war in Iraq and did so only after CIA director George Tenet assured him that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

If this is true, the real question is why Tenet, a Clinton holdover, remains as CIA director after apparently misleading the President.

The most “explosive” allegation, according to George Stephanopoulos of ABC World News Tonight, is that of a U.S.-Saudi oil deal. But this charge has also lost its sting. Woodward has backed away from reports that a “deal” was made. On CNN’s Larry King Live, he said that he is only reporting that the Saudis “hoped to keep oil prices low during the period before the election, because of its impact on the economy.” On the same show, Bandar said, “This is nothing unusual. President Clinton asked us to keep the prices down in the year 2000. In fact, I can go back to 1979, President Carter asked us to keep the prices down to avoid the malaise.”

Hoping for the worst, reporter John Roberts on the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather said, “The book kicks off what some Republicans say looks like yet another miserable week for White House officials?off-message, on the defensive, struggling to explain themselves, instead of leading on the issues.”

The irony is that, despite several “miserable weeks” already, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll finds that Bush’s lead over Kerry has widened to 51-46 percent. A Washington Post-ABC poll finds Bush leading 49-44 percent. 

These extraordinary results mean that the liberal media assault?focusing on the Richard Clarke book, the 9/11 hearings, a lackluster presidential news conference, and the bad news from Iraq?has not had its intended effect.

And if the Woodward book itself is so damaging, why is it now featured on the “suggested reading list” of the Bush campaign website, along with books by Karen Hughes and Sean Hannity? It appears that the Washington Post reporter who helped bring down Richard Nixon is considered a helpmate by the current Republican administration. The book shows why Tenet should have been fired a long time ago.

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