Bob Woodward, David Petraeus, Roger Ailes, and hidden agendas
Liberal pundits are piling on Fox News boss Roger Ailes now that they know he tried to persuade former CIA director David Petraeus to run for president as a Republican.
Bob Woodward revealed this in an article earlier this week in the Washington Post.
Politico.com's Dylan Byers noted that the Washington broadsheet highlighted this bit of news on the style page rather than the front page.
In a column entitled "If Roger Ailes does it, it isn't a scandal", Byers wrote that the veteran broadcasting executive has largely escaped criticism. "No one seemed to believe that Ailes had breached media ethics," he sniffed.
Ailes, a producer on The Mike Douglas Show in the 1960s, became the chief spin doctor for Richard Nixon during his successful presidential campaign in 1968.
The liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America has also published an article condemning Ailes and skewering the network for its bias.
Normally, I'm a great admirer of the work done by Media Matters for America. But this time, my bullshit detector is starting to go off a little bit.
Recall that Petraeus's career imploded shortly after the presidential election when it was revealed that he had an affair with his biographer.
At the time, I wondered if Obama and his supporters, including the Clintons, might have wanted to finish off Petraeus to clear a path for Hillary Clinton to run for president in 2016.
If the revelations about Petraeus's affair had come out before the election, Obama might have lost to Mitt Romney. The timing of the story was most peculiar.
Meanwhile, Woodward is seen by the public as the crusading journalist who brought down Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.
But since then, Woodward has been granted incredible access by a series of administrations to write fairly positive accounts of their handling of various crises.
Investigative journalist and Bush family chronicler Russ Baker wrote a provocative piece in 2010 highlighting how often Woodward's reporting has helped U.S. spy agencies and the armed forces. Check out this account, which appeared on the Huffington Post site:
For almost four decades, under cover of his supposedly "objective" reporting, Woodward has represented the viewpoints of the military and intelligence establishments. Often he has done so in the context of complex inside maneuvering of which he gives his readers little clue. He did it with the book Veil, about CIA director William Casey, in which he relied on Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, a rival of Casey's, as his key source. (Inman, from Texas, was closely identified with the Bush faction of the CIA.) The book was based in part on a "deathbed interview" with Casey that Casey's widow and former CIA guards said never took place.
Typically, Woodward uses information he gets from his main sources to gain access to others. He then gets more secrets from them, and so on down the line. His stature--if that's the word--as a repository of this inside dope has been key to the relentless success machine that his media colleagues have perpetuated.
Here's another relevant passage from the same article:
Woodward granted former CIA director George H.W. Bush a pass by excluding him from accounts of Iran-Contra, which occurred while the notorious intriguer was vice president under the notoriously hands-off Ronald Reagan. (When I asked Woodward about this for my book Family of Secrets, he replied, "Bush was...What was it he said at the time? I was out of the loop?") Later Woodward got exclusive access to H.W.'s son. He spent more time with George W. Bush than did any other journalist, writing several largely sympathetic books about his handling of Iraq and Afghanistan before playing catch-up with prevailing sentiment and essentially reversing course.
Now, Woodward has revealed that Ailes approached Petraeus in 2011. But when did Woodward become aware of this? After the 2012 election? That's not clear from his article.
It makes me wonder if there's more to this than meets the eye. Because when Woodward is at the centre of a surprising revelation, I've become accustomed to suspecting that someone in the backrooms, including the CIA backrooms, has a reason for bringing it to the public's attention.