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Published: Saturday, 10/12/2002

Woodward to speak at `Authors! Authors!' session

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Bob Woodward won't wager on whether President Bush will order a U.S. attack on Iraq.

“I try to stick to my reporting and try to find out what happened in the past and tend to avoid making predictions,” he said.

But the Washington Post journalist will lend his insights about how President Bush and his staff approach a military crisis Thursday at 7 p.m. at “Authors! Authors!” in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater.

In his 11th nonfiction book, Bush at War, to be published next month, Woodward examines how the executive branch responded to the al-Qaeda attacks in the 100 days following Sept. 11, 2001.

“And when you see and look at how they deal with Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, it provides some indicator of how they might deal with Iraq or some other countries, or if there are more terrorist incidents,” he said.

Late last year he had a private interview with President Bush in the Oval Office, and co-wrote a series of articles for the Post. As an assistant managing editor at the Post, he helped run the newsroom for months after 9/11.

At his Toledo appearance, Woodward, 59, will also speak about the presidency. “Going back to Nixon and Watergate and some of the presidents I've written about,” he said. “And about journalism and where I think it is, and some of its problems and some of the things that we do well.”

Woodward co-authored All the President's Men and The Final Days with Carl Bernstein, the reporter with whom he investigated the Watergate scandal from 1972-74. Their efforts were rewarded with the 1973 Pulitzer Prize. He keeps in regular contact with Bernstein, who is writing a book about Hillary Clinton.

Woodward went on to operate the Post's investigations unit.

“Now mostly I run the paper on some weekends and do editing of the whole paper when other editors are out of town. I do my own reporting and then I help people with stories occasionally as an editor,” he said.

Since February, he has worked on the Bush book at his home office with his assistant, Mark Malseed.

“He does research, drafting, editing, interviewing - everything I do,” said Woodward, who has an enormous appetite for work. “I did this book very quickly, the bulk of it in three or four months; some of those really 14-15 hour days, 20 in a row sometimes.”

He has often written with others. “I think collaboration generally is a good idea. Just two minds, or three, or nine. Sometime when you're taking a complicated subject, it helps to have a collaborator.”

Sharing his Georgetown home are his wife of 13 years, Elsa Walsh, a writer for the New Yorker magazine and former Post reporter, and their 6-year-old daughter. He has a 26-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

Woodward was born and raised outside of Chicago. His father is a retired appellate judge, and his late mother was a homemaker. He graduated from Yale University in 1965 and spent the next five years working in communications for the U.S. Navy, but was not dispatched to Vietnam.

His book topics, which are often initially serialized in the Post and then other newspapers, have included the U.S. Supreme Court, the CIA's covert wars from 1981-87, and the Persian Gulf War. He has also profiled Dan Quayle, Bill Clinton, and Alan Greenspan. And he wrote about the cocaine-fueled life and times of the late actor John Belushi, who grew up in Woodward's hometown of Wheaton, Ill.

Woodward's journalistic approach has been criticized by essayist Christopher Hitchens, who wrote in Salon magazine that high-profile insiders who talk to the reporter come out in print looking better than those who don't. “This method involves a trade-off between sources and methods, where anonymously donated high-grade information will at least ensure that the source has his or her side of the story narrated.”

But Woodward says what's important is the quality of the information a reporter obtains and presents.

Besides work, Woodward reads a lot and golfs a little. He gives a dozen speeches a year, donating the money to a foundation created by him and his wife. About 5 percent of the funds are given away annually, primarily to charities in the Washington, D.C. area.

Authors! Authors! is sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library. Tickets are $8 at all library branches and at the door. Information: 419-259-5266. The Stranahan Theater is at 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.



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