Trumping Woodward

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006; 12:48 PM

Well, supersleuth Bob Woodward has himself been scooped.

Poised to unveil the contents of his new book on Sunday with a triple rollout--"60 Minutes" interview and excerpts in The Washington Post and Newsweek--Woodward woke up this morning to see the highlights splattered on the front page of the New York Times.

Is it weird for the Times to vacuum up the news from the latest blockbuster written by the assistant managing editor for its chief competitor? Sure. Is there anything untoward about it? Not at all. The Post has done the same thing to other publications and authors.

And how did the Times's Julie Bosman score the super-secret book, "State of Denial"? This is fiendishly clever: She bought one at retail price. (Reporter David Sanger doesn't say where or how.)

So here is the Times's take on Woodward's take on the war in Iraq:

"The White House ignored an urgent warning in September 2003 from a top Iraq adviser who said that thousands of additional American troops were desperately needed to quell the insurgency there, according to a new book by Bob Woodward, the Washington Post reporter and author. The book describes a White House riven by dysfunction and division over the war.

"The warning is described in 'State of Denial,' scheduled for publication on Monday by Simon & Schuster. The book says President Bush's top advisers were often at odds among themselves, and sometimes were barely on speaking terms, but shared a tendency to dismiss as too pessimistic assessments from American commanders and others about the situation in Iraq.

"As late as November 2003, Mr. Bush is quoted as saying of the situation in Iraq: 'I don't want anyone in the cabinet to say it is an insurgency. I don't think we are there yet.'

"Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is described as disengaged from the nuts-and-bolts of occupying and reconstructing Iraq -- a task that was initially supposed to be under the direction of the Pentagon -- and so hostile toward Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, that President Bush had to tell him to return her phone calls. The American commander for the Middle East, Gen. John P. Abizaid, is reported to have told visitors to his headquarters in Qatar in the fall of 2005 that 'Rumsfeld doesn't have any credibility anymore' to make a public case for the American strategy for victory in Iraq."

And here's a juicy tidbit: Bush and Cheney would not be interviewed.

"60 Minutes" also provides some tantalizing hints in a news release:

"According to Woodward, insurgent attacks against coalition troops occur, on average, every 15 minutes, a shocking fact the administration has kept secret. 'It's getting to the point now where there are eight, 900 attacks a week. That's more than a hundred a day. That is four an hour attacking our forces,' says Woodward.

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