Thursday, September 23, 2010

discounting Woodward

Bob Woodward's new book is out. Here's a very informative review. I've ordered it; I'll read it, especially looking for things to assign students to illustrate the policy process. But I won't believe it all.

Insider books are valuable for the rest of us because they are the first draft of history and are available long before the reflective memoirs and declassified documents. Woodward usually has excellent access to the key players, who try to spin him to see things their way. You can usually tell who is a source, because they tend to get sympathetic treatment and favorable adjectives. Those who refuse to cooperate do so at their peril, for their side of the story doesn't get included.

Woodward's style is narrative, not analysis or assessment. That leads him to emphasize conflict, whether or not the conflict, which is inevitable in policymaking, was deep or persistent. But since I read newspapers and mystery novels, I enjoy finding out 'who shot John."

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