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If you like Bob Woodward's story, you might also like:
Tom Clancy,
Sam Donaldson,
David Halberstam,
Nicholas Kristof,
Charles Kuralt,
Colin Powell,
Dan Rather,
Neil Sheehan
and Mike Wallace

Bob Woodward can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Bob Woodward's recommended reading: All the King's Men

Bob Woodward also appears in the videos:
A Leader of Character

Media and Social Responsibility

Related Links:
Bob Woodward
Watergate Papers
Bradlee Remembered

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Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward
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Bob Woodward Interview (page: 5 / 7)

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  Bob Woodward

Mr. Woodward, in your book, Shadow, you talk about how Nixon's presidency affected the presidents who've come since. How would you summarize that?

Bob Woodward Interview Photo
Bob Woodward: This is a book I did in 1999 that took the five presidents after Nixon -- Ford, Carter, Reagan, the first Bush, and Clinton -- and analyzed the Special Prosecutor law, and showed how that, and the new climate of Congressional activism and media activism, meant the Presidency was going to be forever altered. It was going to be scrutinized and examined. Each of these Presidents had their own way of responding. Most of them didn't realize that the world had changed. They wanted to have a whole Presidency where they could do what they wanted and no one would examine them or scrutinize them, and they got in trouble, a lot of them, because of this.

Do you see President Clinton's impeachment related to Watergate?

Bob Woodward: Certainly. If you didn't have the Independent Counsel, which was a direct outgrowth of Watergate, you never would have had Ken Starr, you never would have had a criminal investigation of Clinton.

It has been said that as dark a chapter as Watergate was in the American Presidency, in a sense, it showed the branches of government working.

Bob Woodward: Yes. That's the standard cliché about Watergate: the system worked. And it did. It took a long time, and if you examine the sequence, you could identify hundreds of points where the road to full disclosure would have been -- the thread would have been cut. So it's not inevitable that the system works. In fact, it probably doesn't work that often.

Mr. Bradlee, do you think there could be another Watergate today? It seems that there are very few long, extensive investigations into corruption where an editor lets reporters work on a story for a couple of years.

Ben Bradlee: How about the Boston Globe and the Catholic Church? There's an example of incredibly good reporting over a long, protracted time period, laced with denials by the highest people in Boston society -- the Cardinals and the priests. I know a lot about that story because my son was the editor at the Boston Globe who ran that investigation, and I think that's a perfect example of how newspapers can persist in the face of denials and correct wrongs. That's why we all joined this business.

Mr. Woodward, there is an interesting scene in the book and in the film All the President's Men where you tap out a story and Carl Bernstein immediately starts rewriting it, and you're miffed. Tell us a little bit about what actually happened.

Bob Woodward: We would frequently do competing drafts of stories and put it together. I recall in that incident, I did one, he did one, and I looked at his, and I realized his was better, as was almost always the case. He was a much better writer.

That's an astonishing thing for a journalist to say. One doesn't think of humility as a common quality of journalists for some reason.

Bob Woodward: That's not humility, that's realism.

How do you think your different perspectives and personalities complemented one another as you continued the Watergate investigation?

Bob Woodward: Well, we looked at it differently. There was competition. Who's going to get what lead and put it together? Sometimes I was thought to be the more cautious one, but Carl (Bernstein) could be cautious, and I could be aggressive or overly aggressive. It taught me the benefits of collaboration, and that collaboration is a wonderful thing. I now do my books alone, but I have a full-time assistant who is kind of my collaborator. A man named Mark Molsey on the last book and the next book; I've done 11 books.

Are you and Bernstein still friends?

Bob Woodward: Yes, we are. We talk all the time. We're much better friends than we were at the time.

Was he the more experienced journalist at the time?

Bob Woodward: Oh, yes. He'd started at age two, I think. Maybe it was 16, but he had fully a decade-plus of experience under his belt.

What about you? We understand you got started in the newspaper business right out of the Navy. What did you do in the Navy? Were you in intelligence?

Bob Woodward: I was not in intelligence; I was in communications, and they are different in the Navy. Some people think I was in intelligence. I'm sure it would have been more interesting.

I didn't like the Navy, I didn't like Vietnam, I didn't like the war, and was disappointed in myself that I didn't figure out how to adjust to being a part of this that I didn't like, and so I didn't quite have the guts to run away or stand on principle. It was a difficult time to be associated with something you're pretty sure is not right. You can't prove it's not right, but you think it's not right. And my last year, I served in the Navy here in Washington and lived over on P Street and decided I would get a subscription to a paper called The Washington Post that had a young, very feisty editor named Ben Bradlee, and started reading the Post, and during that year, 1969-1970, you could just feel the energy in the newspaper. You could feel that they took not an adversarial position toward government, but a position of skepticism, a position of there is accountability reporting. Why did this happen? How did it happen? What's secret? What's not known? What does it mean? In a sense, there were the two worlds: of the Navy, where all the opposite principles seemed to prevail; and then there was The Washington Post there at my doorstep every morning, kind of saying, "Wait a minute. What's the government up to? What is this secret government we have?

When you began to work as a journalist, what was the reaction of your family? Did they support you, or did they think it was a little strange?

Bob Woodward: I was going to go to law school after five years in the Navy, so I was age 27, and I got a job at a weekly paper in Montgomery County, Maryland for $110 a week. And I called my father, who was a judge at that point, or about to become a judge, and said, "I'm not going to law school," but have this job at a newspaper he had never heard of. And my father, a man of great restraint, nonjudgmental in fact, said probably the severest thing he has ever said to me. He said, "You're crazy." And at the same time, it was my decision. So he didn't think it was a good idea. He always saw me as a lawyer. To a certain extent, I always saw myself as a lawyer. And I was going on an unknown path, and that concerned him, but when I got into it and then went to work for the Post, he was quite supportive.

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This page last revised on Sep 22, 2010 17:21 EST
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