Subcultures spawn defining rituals: fans of Insane Clown
Posse have the Gathering of the Juggalos; practitioners of radical
self-realization congregate at Burning Man; and for the national
journo-politico elite and its legion of camp followers there are the
publication of Bob Woodward's inside-the-Beltway, memo-and-tell, docudramas.
Woodward's latest, Obama's
is scheduled to be in bookstores Monday, September 27. But some New York City
booksellers already have it on sale.
Following pre-publication protocols, copies of OW were obtained by either
stealth or arrangement by the two news organizations -- the New York
Times and the Washington
Post -- most likely to fan the
flames of publicity to a fever pitch.
The theme? Afghanistan: should we stay -- and for how long; or should we go -- and how fast?
My favorite juicy bit is General David Petraeus saying that Team
Obama was "fucking with the wrong guy" when he felt he had been done dirt. Oh,
yes, this came after a glass of wine. Makes you wonder what the general really
In stark terms, this is a story about President Barack Obama (the
commander in chief) at loggerheads with his uniform service chiefs (the alleged
hired help). Obama's chief adversaries: Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Petraeus, the onetime Iraq commander now running the
show in Afghanistan.
The military brass, according to OW,
are a gang of insubordinate subordinates (Surprise! Surprise!), failing to give
Obama the exit plan he repeatedly requested. (Maybe the prez wasn't polite
enough? Did he say, "Please"?)
There is no mistake that the military wanted an open-ended
engagement in Afghanistan and the White House didn't - and still doesn't.
Some highlights: retired Marine General James Jones, the
president's national security advisor, calls Obama's political team the "campaign
set," the "mafia," the "politburo," and -- my
favorite -- the "water bugs" . . . Before
naming Hillary Clinton secretary of state, political aide David Axelrod asked
Obama was he sure he could trust her . . . "I'm not doing ten years," Obama
told Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Clinton . . . "I'm not doing nation
building," Obama also said in OW.
"And I'm not spending a trillion dollars." (Then why did he give the impression
during the presidential campaign that Afghanistan was a "good" war - as opposed to the "bad" war in Iraq?) . . . Two
days after Obama was elected, one of the nation's top spies told the president
that the US had developed the capability to react to developments on the ground
with greater speed than was widely realized, "They talk, we listen. They move,
we observe. Given the opportunity, we react operationally." . . . US
intelligence says Afghan President Hamid Karzai is a diagnosed manic-depressive.
(Is it better to have an "ally" on meds as opposed to drugs? I wonder.) . . . The
CIA has a secret 3000-member-strong army in Pakistan (I knew about the secret
army, but not its exact troop strength.) . . . During an interview with
Woodward, Obama said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we
can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we can
absorb it and we are stronger." (That's a relief.)
A key part of the Woodward ritual is the press and speculation it
generates. Here is some of the shrewdest to date:
John Dickerson explains in Slate
that "Obama Is a Cheney Realist: What Obama really meant when he said American
can ‘absorb' a terrorist attack."
In the New
Republic, Derek Chollet asks, "Did the White House Play Woodward?"
two deadliest gunslingers, Mike Allen and John Harris, size up "Obama's Woodward
Out of London comes this short but sharp blog post from the
left-wing New Statesman:
"Petraeus won't be rushed out of Afghanistan." And in the conservative Spectator,
Alex Massie analyzes the ménage a tois of "Obama vs. Petraeus vs. Bob Woodward."
Peter Kadzis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow
him on Twitter @kadzis.