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Is Woodward Calling Bush a Liar?

"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. . . .

"Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds. . . .

"Mr. Woodward's first two books about the Bush administration, 'Bush at War' and 'Plan of Attack,' portrayed a president firmly in command and a loyal, well-run team responding to a surprise attack and the retaliation that followed. As its title indicates, 'State of Denial' follows a very different storyline, of an administration that seemed to have only a foggy notion that early military success in Iraq had given way to resentment of the occupiers."

William Hamilton picked up the story for this morning, writing: "Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card on two occasions tried and failed to persuade President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a new book by Bob Woodward that depicts senior officials of the Bush administration as unable to face the consequences of their policy in Iraq. . . .

"Woodward writes that Bush considered the move, but was persuaded by Vice President Cheney and Karl Rove, his chief political adviser, that it would be seen as an expression of doubt about the course of the war and would expose Bush himself to criticism."

On CNN, Jack Cafferty had this to say: "President Bush is absolutely certain that the United States is on the right track in Iraq. That's according to this new book by Bob Woodward. In fact, Bush is so sure that he supposedly told a group of Republicans gathered at the White House quote, 'I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney are the only ones supporting me', unquote.

"Apparently it doesn't matter that almost two-thirds of Americans oppose the war in Iraq. That only a quarter of this country thinks we're winning the war in Iraq. And that most Americans think the situation in Iraq has degenerated into a civil war, 65 percent, as long as Barney supports him."

Quite the Turnaround

The new book may also write a new chapter in Woodward's storied career.

Famous for being half of the reporting team credited for exposing the Watergate scandal and bringing down the presidency of Richard Nixon, Woodward went on to become the quintessential Washington insider, publishing scores of stories and books based on highly-placed confidential sources.

His first two books on Bush -- "Bush at War" and "Plan of Attack" -- were largely flattering depictions of the president.

Woodward's image took a major bruising last November, (see my November 16 column ) when it was revealed that he had kept secret for more than two years that he was the first reporter to whom a senior administration official leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Woodward apologized for failing to tell his superiors at The Post. But the irony of a journalist sitting on information like that, along with murmurings in Washington about what he had given up in return for the unparalleled access to the Bush White House, combined to raise doubts about his reportage.

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