“Shadow,” the title of Bob Woodward’s newest book, is reminiscent of
a radio thriller of yesteryear that opened with “Who knows what evil
lurks in the hearts of men? The shadow knows!”
The book is good news and evil news. The good news: The book enhances
public understanding of President Clinton’s peccadilloes. What Shadow
says seems to be true.
The evil is, Woodward seems privileged with omniscience. But he
doesn’t tell the “whole” truth. As a paradigm for aspiring investigative
reporters, Shadow’s powerful subliminal message is “It’s not what you
know. It’s how many secret leakers you have in your stables.”
Shadow tells sinful truths. For example, it reveals that Bob Bennett,
Clinton’s attorney in the Paula Jones case, told the president:
- I find your explanation about one of the women frankly
unbelievable. … This is what impeachment is made of. … Your
political enemies will eat you alive if there’s anything in that
deposition that isn’t truthful. There can be no fudging or finagling,”
Shadow exposes that:
- Bennett believed he had located the real problem Clinton faced in
a deposition the next day. It was not Kathleen Willey, the former White
House volunteer … [or] Monica Lewinsky, the former White House intern.
… No. Bennett believed, he had smoked out the real liability –
Marilyn Jo Jenkins, a beautiful marketing executive whom Clinton had
known for more than a decade. …
She had met with Clinton in his basement office in the Arkansas
governor’s mansion four times. … Clinton had placed 59 calls to
Jenkins’ home or office. Arkansas state trooper Danny Ferguson had
brought gifts from Clinton to Jenkins. …
Clinton had denied to Bennett that he had a sexual relationship with
Jenkins. Bennett was not buying it.
Shadow also unveils secrets of such other high priced lawyers as
Sam Dash, David Kendall, Charles Ruff, Kenneth Starr, John Podesta,
Lanny Davis, and Bernie Nussbaum. Many leaks are apparently violations
of existing laws that shield confidences and work products of attorneys.
Assuming that Woodward didn’t get these verbatim quotes from electronic
flies on White House walls, we can believe Woodward’s own explanation:
- The interviews in the Clinton sections were conducted on
journalistic ground rules of “background” or “deep background,” meaning
the information could be used, but the sources of the information would
not be identified.
Shadow’s ground rules are based on a self-proclaimed “newsman’s
privilege” — that doesn’t exist in most democratic societies. His
over-privileged sources are not shielded by our Constitution or any
federal statute — as are FBI informers as well as grand jury and some
congressional witnesses. In reality the Constitution protects the
people’s right to know.
But Woodward spins the First Amendment into his own star spangled
veil of secrecy. He convinces his leakers that (like Susan McDougal) he
will stay in jail rather than tell a grand jury the truth about his
Shadow is subtitled “Five Presidents And The Legacy of Watergate.” As
in “All the President’s Men” and his other prior books (such as “The
Brethren,” which reveals secret confidential conversations of Supreme
Court Justices, wives, and clerks), Woodward denies the public any right
to know the identity of his secret sources — even those who have leaked
unlawfully. In short, Woodward ignores Madison’s famous warning:
“[Secrecy in a democratic government] will end up in a tragedy or a
farce, or both.”
Reading Shadow also reminded me of my own experiences as a House
Judiciary Committee investigator of Watergate. In retrospect, by bugging
the White House, Nixon was partly the architect of his own fate. But it
was Woodward and the Washington Post who brought him down.
As George Stephanopoulos (himself one of the Washington Post’s
favorite sources) recently wrote in praise of Woodward, “His apparently
omniscient [books] had toppled a president, exposed the cloistered
corridors of the Supreme Court, unveiled the operations of the CIA, and
revealed a White House at war in the Persian Gulf.”
In 1974, we first learned of the Nixon tapes from the Washington
Post. Reportedly, Senate staffers had stumbled on their existence while
interviewing Nixon aide Alex Butterfield. But it was not until after
Nixon’s resignation that Woodward revealed the truth. The discovery of
the incriminating tapes was the result of a leak from Woodward’s “Deep
Throat” — that Woodward passed on to the Watergate Committee counsel
In 1998, again on a government payroll, Dash also became a leaker. As
an “ethics consultant” to Ken Starr he apparently betrayed his client’s
confidences. He told the New Yorker that Starr’s private practice
“smells.” Presumably, he is also a primary source for Shadow.
More than likely Woodward himself had also once been a leaky
government employee. As a young Navy officer he had been a coordinator
of top-secret information among the CIA, the Chief of Naval Operations,
and the White House — where he came to be mistrusted by Nixon
After press disclosures of the secret bombing of Cambodia, Nixon
suspected that bureaucrats who were his political enemies were leaking
to such pro-Democrat editors as Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post. To
ferret out the leakers, the president’s men brought in Howard Hunt,
Gordon Liddy and other White House “plumbers.”
Woodward then left the Navy and soon become a cub reporter for the
Post. A few months later, the plumbers were arrested breaking into
Watergate. Since Woodward apparently had close ties to leakers whom the
plumbers didn’t know about, Bradlee assigned the story to Woodward.
It was the Washington Post’s managing editor who gave Woodward’s high
level-leaker a code name derived from an X-rated film (that a federal
judge found to have a “redeeming social value” and refused to enjoin.)
But, because Woodward had limited writing skills, Bradlee assigned Carl
Bernstein, a more experienced journalist, to assist him. From then until
now Woodward’s books have been co-authored.
These days, after reading Woodward’s resume an aspiring investigative
reporter might well decide that a stint with the CIA is far more
rewarding than literary talent and a graduate degree in journalism. A
fledgling might also ask, What’s the best way to get a stable of
My answer is this: Follow the example of the Washington Post. Keep
your leakers well groomed. Help them enhance their public images.
Gratify their egos and appetites. Invite them to private high-society
There are other devices which in my experience are not uncommon, but
which I advise against. These include offers of sexual favors or money,
or both. I recall two such offers that I refused (and in retrospect
perhaps should have reported to the FBI).
One came from a seductive TV newswoman. She came into my office,
sidled up to me, and asked, “Darling, do you have anything you want to
leak to me today?” A less salacious offer came from a repugnant
investigative reporter. He suggested that I “name the price” for leaking
the contents of secret White House tapes to which I had access.
After reading Shadow it seems to me that a tinge of evil may lurk in
Woodward’s heart — and that he is really an apologist for Clinton. In
short, Shadow’s main point is “other presidents have done it too.”
Similarly, the Washington Post (which was opposed to impeachment)
reminded its readers that Thomas Jefferson (a widower) enjoyed sex with
a young slave woman, who also served as his daughter’s nanny.
Woodward’s new best seller reveals that (like Nixon) all five of our
post-Watergate presidents have been less than truthful about their own
scandals. Yet Shadow veils a naked truth: No prior president, not even
Nixon, is known to have embraced the evil of perjury.
In reflecting further on Woodward’s apology for Clinton, it also
seems to me that Congress and the courts should reaffirm the rule of law
both for presidents and the media. Perhaps the best way to set an
example for journalists and White House leakers would be for Congress to
put Woodward under oath and ask a few questions: Who was Deep Throat?
Who were Shadow’s secret sources? What did Woodward or the Washington
Post’s publisher do to get leakers to inform them rather than
congressional investigators, the FBI or a grand jury?
If Woodward insists that the Congress, the FBI, or even a grand jury
have no right to know, he should be cited for contempt — and jailed
until he tells the whole truth. But will the present Congress ever do
that? I doubt it.
Dating from Watergate, if not earlier, media kings and queens have
enjoyed a form of sovereign immunity. They are allowed to groom
congressional leakers — and to bestow secret benefits on them. Woodward
now also personally enjoys the unique distinction of grooming leakers
from both the Supreme Court and the highest level of the Washington bar.
Sadly, Shadow obfuscates a Clinton legacy that differs from that of
all other presidents. The truth is that, with the support of the
Washington Post and most of the media’s moguls, the Senate has granted
sovereign immunity to a perjurer.
Jerome Zeifman formerly served as chief counsel to the House
Judiciary Committee. Comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org