Review: State of Denial, Chapters 1-11

By: Jonathan Simmons

Bob Woodward’s State of Denial is a detailed account of the Bush administration’s conduct during and preceding the Iraq War.  Though Woodward’s tone is largely dispassionate, the facts reported, and the manner in which Woodward selects and presents his information, add up to a clear indictment of the administration.

The unflattering portrait Woodward presents of figures in the administration derives largely from the words of his sources, and the manner in which he positions them in the text. Woodward’s opening chapter, for example, closes by saying that Richard Armitage “told … Powell that he was not sure Governor Bush understood the implications of the United States as a world power.”

Woodward’s critique of Donald Rumsfeld is particularly damning, and again, Woodward makes his case largely through the words of his sources, as when he paraphrases Marine Commandant General James Jones: “Rumsfeld’s self-importance and arrogance infected everything, Jones concluded.”

There are a few places where Woodward makes statements that come off as opinion, though they may essentially summarize facts presented earlier in the text. In chapter five, for instance, Woodward writes, “Rumsfeld’s micromanaging was almost comic.” Chapter two ends with the words, “… despite all the tutoring, Bush had no plan for foreign affairs. He held no ‘so-help-me-God’ convictions.”

Woodward’s political leanings are made clear in State of Denial, which cannot be called an unbiased account of the Bush administration. But Woodward’s case against the administration is supported by careful research, and the harshest words against the administration to be found in the text come not from Woodward, but from his sources. State of Denial may not qualify as objective – indeed, it may be one-sided –  but such is the quality of Woodward’s reporting that it would be difficult to argue that it is not factual.

Published in: on March 24, 2011 at 2:32 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Very good, Jonathan! That’s what I wanted.

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