The Woodward Thing
We've had a spate of books come out about the Bush administration, the latest being Bob Woodward's, a man who carries a reputation of, shall we say, dramatizing the mundane (maybe so far as putting words in the mouths of his subjects, although direct evidence of this is not wholly clear). So the media's pulled two points out of the book: that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia was briefed on the Iraq attack plan before Colin Powell, and that said Bandar made a secret deal with Bush to lower gas prices right before this year's election.
Now, I think both propositions are highly probable. OK, they happened. It didn't help the Bushies' stonewalling attempts when Prince Bandar himself popped up to call into Woodward on Larry King last night, and his "refutation" began with the words "Everything you said is true..." That's never the best way to deny something. What the Prince said was is that the President hadn't made up his mind about Iraq, but Cheney and Rummy decided to show him the attack plans anyway. Um, isn't that worse? "We haven't decided if we're going to do this, but take a look, isn't it STUNNING? Yeah, sure it's a total violation of national security, but look at this part where we blow up Saddam's palace, isn't that cool?" It makes Cheney and Rummy look like a pair of 5th-graders with a copy of Penthouse that they can't stop showing to their buddies.
But here's the deal, I don't believe you can parse two sentences out of a 300-page book and allow that to stand in for the whole work. I guess that's to be expected in our post-literate, post-information age. It's all about that one killer sentence that either side can use as their talking point for the next news cycle. Full disclosure here: I'm a TV editor. I deal in soundbites. I'm part of the problem. OK, scratch the last thing. But the point is, I can take a two-hour interview and depict the interviewee in virtually any manner I choose. So I never pass judgment on these things until I've actually read the whole book. After all, Plan of Attack is apparently on the White House Recommended Reading list right now.
What this does bring up is how beholden we remain to Saudi Arabia, and have been since FDR's secret handshake with the King in the 40s. Washington's relationship to the Sauds reminds me of a battered wife's relationship to her husband. "No, just because they fund international terrorism and found all the madrassahs that indoctrinate young terrorists worldwide, just because bin Laden and 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, that doesn't mean they're not our ally! Bruises on my face, those aren't bruises on my face! I fell! Saudi Arabia said to say I fell!"