WASHINGTON—The White House on Sunday attacked investigative journalist Bob Woodward, accusing the reporter of pursuing an agenda in researching his new book "State of Denial," which portrays the Bush administration in an unflattering way.
Appearing on the ABC news program "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Woodward had "already formulated some conclusions even before the interviewing began" with current and former top administration officials.
Excerpts from the book were published Sunday in The Washington Post, where Woodward is an assistant managing editor. They included allegations that President Bush gave rosy public reports about Iraq despite intelligence reports that expressed concern about the rise of the insurgency and the ability of the United States to bring stability. The book also alleged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was warned about Osama bin Laden just months before the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Two earlier Woodward books, "Bush at War" and "Plan of Attack," were widely considered sympathetic to the White House. But Woodward's third book on Bush's conduct of the war on terror alleges that the president and his team deliberately mislead the public about the on-the-ground reality in Iraq.
On Friday, White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the book as cotton candy, suggesting it was light and just repeated old news and views. Sunday, Bartlett took a decidedly more hostile tone, cautioning, "I'm not going to use the word agenda," but then suggesting just that.
Bartlett, special counselor to the president, complained that Woodward wouldn't listen to what he was being told during interviews with administration officials, noting that "their points weren't getting across."
The White House aide also challenged the veracity of one of the book's most controversial assertions. Woodward reported that former CIA Director George Tenet and Cofer Black, the State Department's former anti-terrorism chief, went to Rice on July 10, 2001, in an unscheduled meeting, with intelligence that showed that bin Laden planned to attack the United States.
At the time, Rice was the president's national security adviser. Woodward reports that she gave the two intelligence leaders a brush-off.
Rice, said Bartlett, "believes this is a grossly misleading characterization of the meeting," adding that such a forceful appeal "in her mind didn't happen."
In recent weeks President Clinton, angered by Republican suggestions that he didn't do enough to thwart bin Laden, accused the Bush administration of doing nothing during eight months in office to prevent the terror attacks on New York and Washington.
Bartlett confirmed Woodward's assertions that former chief of staff Andy Card went to the president after re-election and suggested he replace the unpopular defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. And, he confirmed more recent news reports that others are urging Bush to fire Rumsfeld. Critics accuse Rumsfeld of using too few troops and bungling the post-war period in Iraq.
"The president has confidence in Don Rumsfeld," said Bartlett, during another Sunday morning interview on the CBS program "Face the Nation."
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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