When Jay Carney liked hard-nosed Bob Woodward

February 28, 2013
Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. AP photo.
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward. (AP)

Bob Woodward has been a thorn in the White House's side this week.

And there was a time when White House press secretary Jay Carney liked that just fine.

Witness this piece, which Carney wrote as a reporter for Time magazine in 2007. At the time, Woodward was reporting that then-CIA Director Michael Hayden had contradicted the Bush administration's claims of progress in the governance of Iraq during an appearance before the Iraq Study Group.

Carney wrote at the time:

Poor Mike Hayden. As luck would have it, the CIA director’s weekly briefing to the president took place this morning. One imagines Bush was holding the front page of the Washington Post and scowling when Hayden walked (sheepishly?) into the Oval Office.

...

I guess Hayden had some explaining to do this morning.

Sure enough, when NBC’s David Gregory asked Bush about the Woodward story at today’s press conference, the President briefly got that sour-mouth look he gets when he’s peeved. Here’s part of the exchange:

Q Mr. President, you’ve said many times this war at this stage is about the Iraqi government creating a self-sustaining, stable government. Last November, your own CIA Director, according to The Washington Post, told you about that government: “The inability of the government to govern seems irreversible. He could not point to any milestone or checkpoint where we can turn this thing around.” And he said, in talking about the government, that it’s balanced, but it cannot function.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes.

Q When you heard that, since that point, you think of how many hundreds of soldiers have been killed, how much money has been spent. Why shouldn’t people conclude that you are either stubborn, in denial, but certainly not realistic about the strategy that you’ve pursued since then?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, it’s interesting, it turns out Mike Hayden — I think you’re quoting Mike Hayden there — was in this morning to give me his weekly briefing, and I asked him about that newspaper article from which you quote. His answer was — his comments to the Iraq Study Group were a little more nuanced than the quotation you read.

Oh, now we understand. It’s a “nuance” thing.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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