Here's the transcript of the "60 Minutes" interview with Bob Woodward about `State of Denial'. Go to the bold below for Woodward's response to critics who claim that he is savaging Bush because Bush wouldn't see him for this book:
President Bush's former chief of staff, Andy Card, said the Bush presidency will be judged by three things: “Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.” Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, has just completed his third book on the Bush presidency, “State of Denial.”
Woodward spent more than two years, interviewed more than 200 people including most of the top officials in the administration and came to a damning conclusion. He tells Mike Wallace that for the last three years the White house has not been honest with the American public.
"It is the oldest story in the coverage of government: the failure to tell the truth," Woodward charges.
Asked to explain what he means that the Bush administration has not told the truth about Iraq, Woodward says, "I think probably the prominent, most prominent example is the level of violence."
Not just the growing sectarian violence — Sunnis against Shias that gets reported every day — but attacks on U.S., Iraqi and allied forces. Woodward says that’s the most important measure of violence in Iraq, and he unearthed a graph, classified secret, that shows those attacks have increased dramatically over the last three years.
"Getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week," he says. "That’s more than 100 a day—that is four an hour. Attacking our forces."
Woodward says the government had kept this trend secret for years before finally declassifying the graph just three weeks ago. And Woodward accuses President Bush and the Pentagon of making false claims of progress in Iraq – claims, contradicted by facts that are being kept secret.
For example, Woodward says an intelligence report classified secret from the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded in large print that "THE SUNNI ARAB INSURGENCY IS GAINING STRENGTH AND INCREASING CAPACITY, DESPITE POLITICAL PROGRESS."
And “INSURGENTS RETAIN THE CAPABILITIES TO…INCREASE THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE THROUGH NEXT YEAR.”
But just two days later a public defense department report said just the opposite. “Violent action, will begin to wane in early 2007,” the report said.
What does Woodward make of that?
"The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon [saying], 'Oh, no, things are going to get better,'" he tells Wallace. "Now there’s public, and then there’s private. But what did they do with the private? They stamp it secret. No one is supposed to know," says Woodward.
"Why is that secret? The insurgents know what they’re doing. They know the level of violence and how effective they are. Who doesn’t know? The American public," he adds.
"President Bush says over and over as Iraqi forces stand up, U.S. forces will stand down. The number of Iraqis in uniform today I understand is up to 300,000?" Wallace asks.
"They’ve stood up from essentially zero to 300,000. This is the military and the police," Woodward replies.
"But, U.S. forces are not standing down. The attacks keep coming," Wallace remarks.
"They’ve stood up and up and up and we haven’t stood down, and it’s worse," Woodward replies.
John Negorponte knows it’s worse. He’s the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, and according to Woodward, Negroponte thinks the U.S. policy in Iraq is in trouble – that violence is now so widespread that the U.S. doesn’t even know about much of it; and that the killings will continue to escalate.
"He was the ambassador there in Iraq and now he sees all the intelligence," Woodward says. "I report he believes that we’ve always going almost back to the beginning, miscalculated and underestimated the nature of the insurgency."
"There’s this feeling, 'How can a bunch guys running around putting improvised explosive devices in dead animals and by the side of the road in cars, cause all this trouble," Woodward says.
Woodward reports that a top general says Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has so emasculated the joint chiefs that the chairman of the chiefs has become “the parrot on Rumsfeld’s shoulder.”
And, according to Woodward, another key general, John Abizaid, who’s in charge of the whole Gulf region, told friends that on Iraq, Rumsfeld has lost all credibility.
"What does that mean, he doesn’t have any credibility anymore?" Wallace asks.
"That means that he cannot go public and articulate what the strategy is. Now, this is so important they decide," Woodward explains. "The Secretary of State Rice will announce what the strategy is. This is October of last year." She told Congress the U.S. strategy in Iraq is "clear, hold and build."
"Rumsfeld sees this and goes ballistic and says, 'Now wait a minute. That’s not our strategy. We want to get the Iraqis to do these things.' Well it turns out George Bush and the White House liked this definition of the strategy so it’s in a presidential speech he’s gonna give the next month," Woodward tells Wallace.
"Rumsfeld sees it. He calls Andy Card, the White House chief of staff and says 'Take it out. Take it out. That’s not our strategy. We can’t do that.' Card says it’s the core of what we’re doing. That’s two and a half years after the invasion of Iraq. They cannot agree on the definition of the strategy. They cannot agree on the bumper sticker."
"General John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East, you quote him as saying privately a year ago that the U.S. should start cutting its troops in Iraq. You report that he told some close Army friends, quote, 'We’ve gotta get the f out.' And then this past March, General Abizaid visited Congressman John Murtha on Capitol Hill," Wallace says.
"John Murtha is in many ways the soul and the conscience of the military," Woodward replies. "And he came out and said, 'We need to get out of Iraq as soon as it’s practical' and that sent a 10,000 volt jolt through the White House."
"Here’s Mr. Military saying, 'We need to get out,'" Woodward continues. "And John Abizaid went to see him privately. This is Bush’s and Rumsfeld’s commander in Iraq," Woodward says.
"And John Abizaid held up his fingers, according to Murtha, and said, 'We’re about a quarter of an inch apart, said, 'We’re that far apart,'" Woodward says.
"You report that after George W. Bush was reelected, his chief of staff, Andy Card, tried for months to convince the president to fire Don Rumsfeld. Why?" Wallace asks.
"To replace him. Because it wasn’t working. Card felt very strongly that the president needed a whole new national security team," Woodward says.
"You write Laura Bush was worried that Rumsfeld was hurting her husband. Andy Card told her the president seemed happy with Rumsfeld. And the first lady replied, quote, 'He’s happy with this but I’m not.' And later she said, 'I don’t know why he’s not upset,'" Wallace remarks.
"What’s interesting, Andy Card, as White House chief of staff every six weeks set up a one on one meeting with Laura Bush. Set aside an hour and a half to talk about what’s going on, what are the president’s anxieties? Smart meeting," Woodward explains. "And in the course of these sessions the problem with Rumsfeld came up. And she voiced her concern about the situation."
But Dick Cheney wanted Rumsfeld to stay. Why?
"Well, Rumsfeld’s his guy," Woodward says. "And Cheney confided to an aid that if Rumsfeld goes, next they’ll be after Cheney."
Cheney stunned Woodward by revealing that a frequent advisor to the Bush White House is former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who served Presidents Nixon and Ford during the Vietnam War.
"He’s back," Woodward says. "In fact, Henry Kissinger is almost like a member of the family. If he’s in town, he can call up and if the president’s free, he’ll see him."
Woodward recorded his on-the-record interview with Cheney, and here’s what the vice president said about Henry Kissinger’s clout: "Of the outside people that I talk to in this job I probably talk to Henry Kissinger more than just about anybody else. He just comes by and I guess at least once a month," Cheney tells Woodward. "I sit down with him."
Asked whether the president also meets with Kissinger, Cheney told Woodward, "Yes. Absolutely."
The vice president also acknowledged that President Bush is a big fan of Kissinger.
"Now, what’s Kissinger’s advice? In Iraq, he declared very simply:
'Victory is the only meaningful exit strategy.' This is so fascinating. Kissinger’s fighting the Vietnam War again. Because in his view the problem in Vietnam was we lost our will. That we didn’t stick to it," Woodward says.
He says Kissinger is telling the president to stick to it, stay the course. "It’s right out of the Kissinger playbook," Woodward says.
In his book, published by CBS sister company, Simon & Schuster, Woodward reports that the first President Bush confided to one of his closest friends how upset he is that his son invaded Iraq.
"The former President Bush is said to be in agony, anguished, tormented by the war in Iraq and its aftermath," Wallace says.
"Yes," Woodward replies.
Asked if the former president conveys that message to his son, Woodward says, "I don’t know the answer to that. He tells it to Brent Scowcroft, his former national security advisor."
"You paint a picture, Bob, of the president as the cheerleader-in-chief. Current reality be damned. He’s convinced that he’s gonna succeed in Iraq, yes?" Wallace asks.
"Yes , that’s correct," Woodward says.
Woodward interviewed President George W. Bush for the first two books for hours.
"And do you know what? There are people who are gonna say, look Woodward is savaging President Bush because he wouldn’t see him for this book," Wallace remarks.
Woodward says that's not true. "He did not, and I asked. And I made it very clear to the White House what my questions were, what my information was. What could he say? That the secret chart is not right?" Woodward says. "That these things that happened in these meetings didn’t occur? They’re documented. I talked to the people who were there. Your producer, Bob Anderson, has listened to the tapes of my interviews with people to make sure that it’s not just kind of right, but literally right. This is what occurred."
And Woodward says that no matter what has occurred in Iraq, Mr. Bush does not welcome any pessimistic assessments from his aides, because he’s sure that his war has Iraq and America on the right path.
"Late last year he had key Republicans up to the White House to talk about the war. And said, 'I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me.' Barney is his dog," Woodward says. "My work on this leads to lots of people who spend hours, days with the president."
"And in most cases they are my best sources. And there is a concern that we need to face realism. Not being the voice that says, 'Oh no, everything’s fine,' when it’s not," Woodward adds.
I've always thought Bob Woodward was a straight and narrow, unimaginative dullard. That is his best defense against the Bushies' assaults. He doesn't pretend to have any particular insight into the people he's covering and doesn't offer anything other than their own words and physical evidence. He's always been just a stenographer, taking down (or taping) the participants' words, gathering the documentation, etc. That's what he's done in `State of Denial.'
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