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Published: Friday, 10/18/2002

Woodward: Advisers temper Bush's fervor

Washington Post's Bob Woodward autographs one of his books for Toledo Mayor Jack Ford at the Great Hall. Washington Post's Bob Woodward autographs one of his books for Toledo Mayor Jack Ford at the Great Hall.

When asked by last night's Authors! Authors! speaker, most of the 900 audience members admitted to not having voted for President George W. Bush and to opposing war with Iraq.

But their hunger for insight into the White House at a time when war plans are being made went largely unappeased at journalist Bob Woodward's talk in the Great Hall of the Stranahan Theater, the second in this season's series, sponsored by the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library and The Blade.

Like President Kennedy during the Cuban missile crisis 40 years ago, President Bush has pushed the United States to the brink of war with Iraq. “I'm pretty convinced Bush is serious about it,” said Mr. Woodward, an assistant managing editor at The Washington Post. At times when President Bush has been on fire with desire for something to happen, his advisers have calmed him.

“People say, `not now,' and he's able to manage that,” said Mr. Woodward, 59. “The interesting question with me as a reporter is, how do they make those decisions?”

If, with whom, and when the President and his advisers decide to attack is the topic of his new book, Bush at War.

It examines their struggles to figure out how to strike Afghanistan in the three months after the 9/11 attacks.

Researching the book, to be published next month, Mr. Woodward read notes from National Security Council meetings, classified documents, and memos.

He interviewed key players. And in August, he went to the President's Texas ranch where he asked him 300 questions in 21/3 hours.

He said President Bush is not bent on taking care of unfinished business with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein dating to the 1991 Persian Gulf War when his father was president.

He has observed that the President has a habit of starting and stopping sentences. “He'll start it going northeast, stop, and then shift over about 20 degrees. And when you hear it, it seems inarticulate,” he said, adding that the comments make more sense when they're studied.

“I can't and won't make a judgement about Bush,” he said. “I'm ducking because it is my business to not make judgments and editorialize.”

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