White House says new Woodward book shows 'decisive' commander in chief

White House says new Woodward book shows 'decisive' commander in chief

The White House says the new book by famed Washington journalist Bob Woodward, "Obama's Wars," paints a picture of an "analytical, strategic and decisive" wartime president and "does not reveal anything new" about the administration's war strategy.

After excerpts of Woodward's book containing revelations appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post late Tuesday night, a senior administration official responded that the full picture is one of a president asking hard questions to make difficult decisions about Afghanistan — not simply a White House badly divided over strategy.


While the early previews of the book, due out Monday, focus on intense infighting among Obama's national security team leading up to the president's decision on a strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the official said "the debates in the book are well-known because the policy review process was covered so exhaustively."

"The president comes across in the review, and throughout the decision-making process, as a commander in chief who is analytical, strategic and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security and his role," the official said.

The official pointed to specific passages from the book that show Obama focusing the Afghanistan review "around central questions," "pressing on intelligence reports," "preparing relentlessly" and "pushing to get the right strategy."

“The president repeated that he wanted the graph moved to the left," Woodward wrote. "Get the forces in faster and out faster, ‘You tell me that the biggest problem we have now is that the momentum is with the Taliban and the reason for this resource request is that the momentum is with the Taliban. But you’re not getting these troops into Afghanistan’ for more than a year. ‘I’m not going to make a commitment that leaves my successor with more troops than I inherited in Afghanistan.’”

Another administration official downplayed some of the tensions revealed in the excerpts, saying "this book does not reveal anything new related to our strategy in Afghanistan."

"The fact that there was a vigorous debate surrounding the development of our strategy in Afghanistan is nothing new," the official said.

And despite Woodward's reporting that top national-security officials harbor doubts about the possibilities for the success of Obama's strategy, the administration official said the president remains focused on the strategy he put in place.

"We are focused on supporting our strategy in Afghanistan and succeeding in our effort to break the Taliban’s momentum and build Afghanistan’s capacity," the official said. "The book underscores the importance of our efforts in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda worldwide."

Republicans reacted to the book's excerpts by saying that one quote in particular — that Obama needed a firm deadline to begin withdrawing troops otherwise "I can lose the whole Democratic Party" — is troubling.

"That’s what it’s all about folks, politics, pure politics," Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye said in an e-mail Wednesday morning. "Unfortunately, the White House has opted not to hold a press briefing today, conveniently shielding itself from questions about the president’s comments, but this is an issue that surely will not go away."