Osama bin Laden was reading Bob Woodward? It’s not news to Woodward.

May 21, 2015
Category: Uncategorized
Journalist Bob Woodward's book, "Obama's Wars." (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Journalist Bob Woodward’s book, “Obama’s Wars.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

One of our most fabled journalists was not exactly surprised Wednesday with disclosure of declassified government documents that touched on the reading habits of Osama bin Laden.

It included word that at the time of the U.S. raid on his Pakistan compound in 2011, books in bin Laden’s bedroom included “Obama’s War” by Bob Woodward. (New York Times) It’s a chronicle of President Obama’s handling of the war in Afghanistan, which received some good reviews even from the inevitable skeptics of the legendary investigative reporter’s work.

“I heard [about this] years ago,” he said in a phone chat Wednesday. “Somebody in the White House or intel community told me they had found it at his bedside. “

Woodward found no small irony.

“If he looked at it, he would have realized that Obama doesn’t really like war and he probably should have watched out.”

“This [the book] was before the accelerated drone strikes but it was clear that Obama liked something limited, something surgical.”

“A close reading may have sent him back to the mountain,” Woodward said, reiterating the book’s detailing of Obama’s reflexive preference for raids targeted at high-value prey.

Woodward, of course, gained initial fame by reporting on President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. That prompted him Wednesday to wonder if bin Laden would have been well served—perhaps better served—by also reading his work on Nixon.

He recalled Nixon’s Aug. 9, 1974 farewell to the White House staff, following his historic Aug. 8 prime time evening speech in which he disclosed he was leaving office amid the scandal. It was a moment hard to forget for a certain generation of Americans.

After making those final remarks to the staff, he exited and headed home to California in disgrace. But those final remarks, Woodward reminded me, included these:

“Always give your best, never get discouraged, never be petty; always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them, and then you destroy yourself.”

That declaration “is one of the great lines of American politics,” Woodward said of Nixon, whom he called “the hater.”

In the end, “Bin Laden was another one of those people who could not control his hate.”