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The man who toppled Nixon
At 67, Bob Woodward remains one of the world's top investigative reporters and non-fiction writers. Best known for uncovering the Watergate scandal - which brought down President Richard Nixon - with his Washington Post colleague Carl Bernstein, Woodward is an indefatigable and prolific journalist. After 39 years with the Post, 16 books and two Pulitzer Prizes, Woodward shows no sign of hanging up his boots. Obama's Wars looks like the beginning of a series of books on the US President's term, reminiscent of his uneven trilogy of the Bush presidency.
Woodward typically works on his books with a bunch of young reporters and interns who assist him. For Obama's Wars, he depended on information supplied by more than 100 people involved in the Afghan war and homeland security during the first 18 months of President Obama's administration. A lot of the book, he says, derives from written records - meetings and personal notes, memos, chronologies, letters, PowerPoint slides, e-mails, reports, government cables, calendars, transcripts, diaries and maps. Typically, sources are interviewed a number of times and conducted on "background" without divulging their names.
Woodward also met President Obama for a 75-minute-long interview to cross check some of the information. As the two walked out together at the end of the interview, Woodward writes, the president said: "Sounds like you've got better sources than I do. "
Woodward's past books include a trilogy of the Bush administration, an inside account of the Clinton White House, a rivetting investigation into the secret wars of the CIA and a eulogy to Alan Greenspan. But he will be best remembered for the gripping All The President's Men - co-written with Bernstein - on the Watergate scandal. The book was made into a critically acclaimed film directed by Alan Pakula. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played Woodward and Bernstein respectively. Woodward's first Pulitzer was shared for the Post's coverage of the Watergate scandal;and his second for coverage of the 9/11 attacks.
Many of his peers call Woodward the best reporter of his generation. His critics say that many of his interminable accounts of meetings - evidently lead nowhere and begin to tire readers. Christopher Hitchens has called him a "stenographer of the stars". Joan Didion finds Woodward's books notable for a "scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured". Woodward soldiers on nonetheless. His books on the Bush presidency may have been eclipsed by a crop of more nuanced and better investigated books on the Iraq war - by Thomas Ricks, for example - but Woodward remains an old fashioned fly-on-the wall reporter, honing the time-tested tools of investigative journalism.
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