Journalist Bob Woodward Offers Perspective on the White House
Issue   |   Wed, 09/10/2014 - 05:45
Rob Mattson
Renowned journalist Bob Woodward spoke in Johnson Chapel this Tuesday, offering his perspective on presidential leadership.

Washington Post journalist and best-selling author Bob Woodward spoke to a full house inside Johnson Chapel on Tuesday night. Woodward spoke about Barack Obama, Jimmy Carter and other presidents in a talk entitled “Presidential Leadership from Nixon to Obama.”

“Having tried to understand presidents and politics for more than four decades, I think there is a conclusion that I want to reach,” Woodward began. “We need to think about politics in a new way, which means thinking about ourselves and why we do things and who we are if we are going to get out of the jam that we’re in.”

Throughout the night, Woodward offered his perspective on why the government functions at the level of gridlock and ineffective leadership it is at today. He began by pointing out the importance of giving adequate time to resolve the complex issues we face.

“We see the meetings of the president and the Republicans, and they just aren’t long enough,” Woodward said.
He went on to say that the nature of negotiations is such “that you don’t do it in one hour or two hours; you’ve got to spend all night, all weekend on these things.”

Woodward also elaborated on the “substantial leadership problem in the White house and in Congress,” beginning with his critique of President Obama’s leadership.

“The power of the presidency has increased over time, and Obama has incredible power to do all kinds of things,” Woodward said. “And in a paradoxical way, I don’t think he understands it.”

Woodward criticism of Obama was focused on the leadership of Congress.

“Obama’s the CEO; he’s the president,” Woodward said. “He has got incredible leverage, and as the CEO, he has to find a way to work his will. The president has to do that, he has to get engaged, and Obama has not done that.”

Woodward, who has interviewed many presidents over the course of his storied career, shared some of his observations about Obama’s leadership style and character.

“There is a humble side to Obama,” Woodward said. “He’s quite smart; he realizes where he came from, and I think that realization puts him in a position of: ‘How is it likely and possible that I’ve become president?”

Consequently, despite “the best of aspirations [Obama has] for the country, for himself, and where we’re going, the engagement to get things done is just not happening to him,” Woodward said.

Furthermore, Woodward spoke on how Obama’s intense anti-war rhetoric makes the president seem to him “almost like he’s begging not to fight sometimes.”

Woodward cited the beheadings of journalists by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, otherwise known as ISIS, as examples of how Obama’s anti-war stance may make America’s stance against the terrorist group even more difficult.

Indeed, Woodward said he thinks the president is “just not tough enough,” especially, when according to Woodward, “the job of national security of the president is to literally comfort our friends and scare the hell out of our enemies.”

“At The Washington Post, there’s a saying on how Washington functions,” Woodward said. “All good work is done in defiance of management.”