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CNN Larry King Live
Interview with Bob Woodward
Aired September 08, 2008 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, could the presidential election hinge on the Bush White House's handling of the war?
Bob Woodward's new book makes explosive exclusive claims about highly classified information, revealing the reason behind the surge and its impact.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What frustrated me is that, from my perspective, it looked like that we were taking casualties without fighting back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Decisions and disagreements exposed -- what do they mean for the man or woman who could one day be our next commander-in-chief?
Bob Woodward for the hour is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's an old friend and a frequent guest on this program. He's Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, associate editor of "The Washington Post," a number one "New York Times" best-seller. And this is going to be one.
The new book is "The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008".
Before we get to the book, Bob, how do you react the those critics who say that if you get access to someone, they come out better than if you don't?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "THE WAR WITHIN": Well, this book provides lots of critical information about the president and the key people around him. And they've been trying to push back by quoting some sections of the book. But it's a narrative that comes from them, secret documents and also people at the middle and lower levels. It's kind of a comprehensive, total universe picture of what happened in the last two years.
KING: And would you agree that the surge, successful as it is, a reaction to failure?
WOODWARD: Well, that's an interesting question. For at least six months, the president knew it wasn't working. He was trying to figure out what a new strategy should be. What is interesting, if you try to sum all of this up, is that he never found a way to level with the American people and say, look, I know it's not working.
We're going to fix it. He would go out and say it's tough, but then he would say things like we're absolutely winning, we're winning -- when he knew we were not, when the generals knew we were not.
I know we spoke while you we were writing the book and you didn't have a title then. And titles come hard. Tell me about "The War Within".
WOODWARD: It was picked by the Simon & Schuster publisher, David Rosenthal. He read the book and said this is really about a second front in Washington, where the military, the State Department, intelligence people and the White House could not reach agreement. And not only are there the usual battles -- this is a very contentious issue -- there is this sense where Bush can't get the team together. He can't get them to sit down and say, hey, look all of you, we've got a mess on our hands. Let's try to fix it.
There is this participation on his part and then he's not at lots of key meetings.
KING: Let's go back to June 14, 2006. President Bush was just back from that surprise visit to Maliki in Iraq.
Here's a little of what he said in the Rose Garden.
KING: OK. I'm sorry. We had an audio problem there.
But, basically, he was in -- he got Maliki to agree, didn't he?
WOODWARD: Well, this is his first meeting. His is June 2006.
KING: Oh, yes.
KING: This precedes the surge meeting.
WOODWARD: Yes. And he said he was encouraged, but of course what's going on behind-the-scenes in secret here is people on the White House staff are saying we've got to review the strategy, it's not working. The Iraq deputy has concluded that the strategy they have of training the Iraqis and turning it over to them is indefensible. He's telling the president that life in Baghdad is hell, contrary to what the military is telling the president.
So this is one of these disconnects between what's really going on and what we are being told. KING: Also in 2006, the president took an optimistic game in his public comments about Iraq. But as this audio from the interview that you conducted with him in late May of this year indicates, his daily briefing reports paint a bleaker picture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: In order for a just society to emerge, there has to be security. What happened was, was that we assumed that politics would make the society securer. And what happened was people chose sides, because the state wasn't giving them the security they needed and, therefore, politics could not go forward.
WOODWARD: Exactly what happened.
WOODWARD: And when did you realize that...
WOODWARD: Is that evolutionary, also?
BUSH: It is. Absolutely.
WOODWARD: I understand.
WOODWARD: I understand. Where...
BUSH: But it becomes apparent when you're picking up -- the report is saying 25 people murdered here, 30 peoples' throats slit here, 55 here, ethnic cleansing, refugees, neighborhoods that were once, you know, mixed are now pure. I mean it was -- it was -- it was beginning to accelerate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bob, was he surprised that there we were a lot of people in Iraq upset?
WOODWARD: You mean with all of the violence?
KING: (INAUDIBLE). Yes.
WOODWARD: Well, you know, what -- he knew. That's the point. He was getting the detail. He was troubled by it. And as he expresses there, not only are there the words, but there's the emotion of distress. OK. And then he goes on to say, OK, it's not working, in his position, what do you do?
The problem is just -- for instance, the next month, July 2006, Steve Hadley, the national security adviser, wants to ask a series of questions of Don Rumsfeld, who's the secretary of defense, and General Casey, who is the Iraq commander at that time. The president gives permission and then there is this intense meeting with questions about do we know what we're doing, what is the strategy for Baghdad?
The CEO -- the president is not there.
KING: You assert in your book that: "The president rarely was the voice of realism on the Iraq War."
The obvious question, then, is why?
Was he not well-informed?
WOODWARD: No. He wanted to fix it, but they didn't want to come out and say, hey, look, this is a mess. They said it was difficult. But you compare the public language with the private language and the memos and the discussions and the meetings, and it's -- it couldn't be more different.
And, you know, the question of why is, as I say in the book, I think -- I never questioned the president's sincerity here, but there was an avoidance of conflict within the team in the White House and the cabinet.
He never -- as best I can tell from everyone, including himself. I asked him, I said, "Did you ever say to General Casey -- did you ever say to Rumsfeld, hey, this isn't working? Hey, Don."
And the president said, "I don't remember those meetings -- discussions. I don't have any recollection of that."
Well, here is where the rubber meets the road in war. This isn't preparing for war. This isn't the aftermath of a war.
WOODWARD: This is right in the guts of a war.
KING: The book is "The War Within".
Coming up, what does the book tell us that we must know about our next commander-in-chief?
Back with Bob Woodward after this.
KING: Our guest, Bob Woodward.
The newest book is "The War Within".
You also write, Bob, that: "The president was engaged in the war rhetorically, but maintained an odd detachment from its management. He never got a full handle on it. Over these years of war, too often he failed to lead."
Who was running the show?
WOODWARD: Well, as the president -- the president was ultimately deciding. But one of the points he kept making in these interviews is that Steve Hadley, his national security adviser, drove all of this.
Let me give you a key example. We're in these interviews in the Oval Office about four months ago and the question becomes what -- where did the idea of five brigades -- about 30,000 troops to Baghdad, the surge, the increase?
And in the conversation, Hadley says well, that idea of five brigades -- because the Army officially was only asking for two brigades -- Hadley says it comes from his -- Hadley's -- discussions with General Pace, the chairman of the joint chiefs.
The president says -- and I think it's one of the tape clips -- he said, "OK, I don't know this."
And then he says that he's not in these meetings. I'll be happy to hear -- that's what he said. And then he said he's got other things to do.
Now, this is the key pivot point in these decisions -- in this decision on the surge and he's not there and he's telling me I should be happy that he's not there and he's got other things to do.
WOODWARD: Now, he does have other things to do, but this is a war -- when the intelligence and everyone is telling him it's failing, it's not working and it's hell.
WOODWARD: I don't understand that disengagement. I've done this for 37 years of reporting. This isn't a source. This isn't somebody thinking that they saw...
KING: This is (INAUDIBLE)...
WOODWARD: It's right out of the president's own mouth.
KING: Both McCain and Obama spoke about Iraq in their convention acceptance speeches, although from very different perspectives.
Watch this, Bob, and then I want to ask you about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: While Senator McCain was turning the sights to Iraq, just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract from the real threats that we face.
OBAMA: When John McCain said we could just muddle through in Afghanistan, I argued for more resources and more troops to finish fight against the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fought for the right strategy and more troops in Iraq when it wasn't the popular thing to do.
MCCAIN: And when the pundits -- and when the pundits said my campaign was finished, I said I'd rather lose an election than see my country lose a war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bob, you've described, in "The War Within," as a case study of commander-in-chief in action or lack of it.
Based on Bush's performance, what would you be saying of asking of these two candidates?
WOODWARD: How are you going to be commander-in-chief?
Now, what both of the candidates said there is basically true about their own positions. Interestingly enough, in the case of McCain, going back to 2003 -- five years ago -- he was agitating and pounding the table, "We need more troops."
I asked the president four months ago, gee, here's John McCain, saying we need more troops, we need more troops all the time. And this is finally your decision. So he was right.
And the president was kind of cool about it and said well, we don't know and history will have to judge.
The sacred duty in the Constitution is being commander-in-chief. You are the boss. Presidents real fast learn they're not commander-in- chief of the economy, they're not commander-in-chief of the environment, but they are of the military. And the president, in this case, asks a great deal of every soldier who goes over there -- every Marine, everyone in the service -- says not only risk your life, but it's a 24/7 operation.
The president, as commander-in-chief in this war he started, should be on duty 24/7. And there should be a feeling, when it's not working, that a maximum intense effort is going to be made. And when I asked him if there was a deadline, he said this is nothing you hurry.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Bob Woodward.
The book is "The War Within".
Lots to come.
Don't go away.
KING: We're with Bob Woodward.
His newest, "The War Within".
You write that: "George Casey, the former commanding general in Iraq, was troubled by the president's regular requests for body counts. Casey ultimately decided that Mr. Bush did not understand the true nature of war."
And here's what the president told you about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: You know, what frustrated me is that, from my perspective, it looked like that they we were taking casualties without fighting back, because our commanders are loathe to talk about, you know, our battlefield victories.
(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: What did you make of that remark, Bob?
WOODWARD: It lends credence to Casey's worry. The president went on to say that he wanted some sort of tally and he likes body counts, because that way he knows that American servicemen and women are being killed, but he doesn't know that the other side is.
WOODWARD: And he just says, "I wanted to know we were fighting."
KING: By the way, did all of this surprise you?
WOODWARD: Well, the sad -- no, it didn't. Because I...
KING: It didn't?
WOODWARD: ...I had lots of notes of meetings and knew that Casey was very concerned about whether the president...
WOODWARD: ...understood this.
WOODWARD: Now, at one point...
KING: But did...
WOODWARD: ...go ahead.
KING: Go ahead. WOODWARD: I'm sorry.
KING: No, did his indifference surprise you?
WOODWARD: Well, I don't think it's indifference. I think he got this view that we have to kill lots of them and that we will kill our way to victory. And, of course, General Petraeus, the current commander, says you can't do that. We are in Iraq to stabilize the country and turn it over to the Iraqis. You can't launch these kinds of massive operations that are mass killing exercises.
KING: White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who admits she has not read the book, says she doesn't think your conclusions about the Bush administration and the surge are necessarily supported by the facts.
And here's part of her comments from earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sometimes in Washington when you can't attack the results of something, you attack a process. I would submit to you that President Bush initiated and oversaw a very comprehensive, thorough, well-managed process that, in some cases -- and some people might say that it was too slow in its development.
But when you are making a decision, when you are asking young men and women to put their lives on the line, that it was the right type of assessment.
It was sober. It was very clear-eyed. It was brutal in terms of the amount of hours.
And I also take issue with the notion about a war within. I can't Imagine that anybody in Washington would be shocked that if you bring people together to talk about one of the most difficult problems in our time, that they might have a disagreement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: I'm not shocked. And as she said, maybe it took too long. And if you go into the details of this meeting by meeting, secret document by secret document, you see all kinds of things.
Let me give an example. In August 2006, General Casey has launched an operation to stabilize Baghdad. And it's called Operation Together Forward. And he reports -- of course, this is in a secret document to the president -- that 33,000 buildings have been cleared. That's a small city. And that the take from that is 70 detainees.
Now, that means they clear 500 buildings to get one detainee, who might be innocent, might be somebody from Al Qaeda. If you look at -- if you know anything about clearing buildings in an urban environment, it's among the most dangerous things that military people can do. It was -- and then the intelligence reports came along and showed that the extreme militia or Al Qaeda moved back into the buildings as soon as the U.S. did this.
There were people sitting there who saw that this wasn't working who were saying that it wasn't working, but it was presented as this success.
WOODWARD: Even in a statement last Friday, Steve Hadley cited Operation Together Forward as a positive. Well, in fact -- and this is a case where the military told the truth -- a couple of months later they publicly said these operations failed.
KING: All right. You discuss other factors in the success of the surge. And one of the things that's gotten a lot of attention was the discussion of top secret operations. You wouldn't discuss it last night on "60 Minutes."
I understand -- I didn't see "The Washington Post" today -- there's a little more explanation of it in "The Washington Post" -- that we have things we are doing that are -- for want of a better word -- incredible in assessing and learning knowledge of the enemy.
Can you tell us a little bit about it?
WOODWARD: I would love to. As a reporter, all my instincts say let's tell the story. When I learned about it, asked senior people in the White House -- senior people in the military. They said -- it wasn't a matter of request. They said you can't write about this. This will get people killed. This accounts for a good portion -- there's a debate about what proportion -- but a good portion of our success.
And when you look at the data and you see what they can do in these operations, it's astounding. I somewhat compare it to the Manhattan Project in World War II, which led to the atomic bomb.
KING: With the atom bomb.
WOODWARD: It was a big explosion.
WOODWARD: In this case, there's not going to be a big explosion. There's going a drop off in violence and targeted killing of people who are the enemy leaders. And if you look at the chart, it's a ski slope right down, in a matter of months, cutting the violence in half. This isn't going to happen with the bunch of joint security stations or the surge. These top secret operations, which someday in history will be described to peoples' amazement.
KING: When will we learn of them? WOODWARD: I don't know. I mean, that's -- that is up to others. I sat with a four star general and described what I knew about this. And I rarely have seen the blood actually drain from somebody's face. But did in this case. And he said you just cannot write about them.
And I see why. And -- but it's a factor in all of this. It is a wonderful example of American ingenuity solving a problem in war, as we often have.
KING: And it's being used right now?
WOODWARD: It certainly is.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more.
Lots more to go with Bob Woodward.
The book is "The War Within". It is just published.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Some say the gains we are making in Iraq come too late. They are mistaken. It is never too late to deal a blow to Al Qaeda. It is never too late to advance freedom. And it is never too late to support our troops in a fight they can win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you think about the Iraq War?
That's tonight's quick vote question. Go to cnn.com/larryking and tell us.
Our guest is Bob Woodward.
The book is "The War Within".
We have an e-mail question from Margie in Asheville, North Carolina: "Mr. Woodward, do you think it's in the country's best interests for you to divulge the existence of these secret operations? Even if you don't give any details, aren't you kind of giving the enemy a heads-up?"
WOODWARD: The enemy has a heads-up because they've been getting wiped out and a lot of them have been killed. It's not news to them.
As I said the other night, if you we were a member of Al Qaeda or the resistance or some extremist militia, you would be wise to get your rear end out of town. It is very dangerous.
And by not giving the details, the operations can go forward. KING: By the way, the president will announce tomorrow he's bringing home 8,000 combat support forces over the next several months.
WOODWARD: Well, there are reports saying he is going to keep the number that are there until the end of the year, and those 8,000 are going to come out in the early part of next year. I'm not exactly sure what's been decided. But whatever the decision about 8,000 troops might be, there are 140,000 troops there.
KING: In place.
WOODWARD: That is a massive land army. This is a war that's not over. We have always been surprised in Iraq, since the invasion, when there was no -- there were no weapons of mass destruction. It's been violence by the insurgency, Sunni/Shia violence, the homegrown al Qaeda rising up. General Petraeus, who's still commander there, is keeping that massive army there because, as he has said, it is fragile and reversible. The next commander in chief is going to get the job of dealing with the Iraq war.
KING: You report in the book that there's a lot of intelligence -- a lot of -- they learn a lot about Maliki all the time. Is that true?
WOODWARD: Yes, indeed. That --
KING: They spy on him?
WOODWARD: Yes. People say they even know everything he says, somebody else says. Well, you can't ever know everything that somebody says or what they're thinking in their head. But this is a spying operation on another country's leader that is an ally, somebody we deal with daily. A number of people said to me, we spend all this time trying to figure out what Maliki is doing and it accounts, in part, for why we haven't focused enough on what we're doing.
Spy on your enemies. Go to it. It's something that goes on in every war. The level of effort spent spying on a friend like Maliki, too many people said it really doesn't make sense and it's not clear it's useful to President Bush, who talks to Maliki regularly.
KING: You contend the president has locked in the current strategy in Iraq, so much so that even after he leaves office, it's going to be hard to change it. Is that true?
WOODWARD: Yes, that is, because he has put General Petraeus, who moves up in about -- in about a week to be the central commander. And then General Odierno will be the Iraq commander and these are people who have been very successful in Iraq. They're popular and respected in the Congress. And Petraeus is one of the people who really understood the war, and figured out what to do. So he will be general commander. As my old boss at the Post used to said, he's fireproof. They can't fire him or change him unless he voluntarily wants to leave. He has a very fixed view about what to do, what the strategy should be, and that they should maximize the number of forces there.
KING: You eve done multiple in-depth interviews with George W. Bush, and been on this program to discuss all of them. In fact, you did a total of 11 hours just on Afghanistan and Iraq. How has he changed, Bob?
WOODWARD: He is -- still speaks with confidence, but some of the bluster is gone, some of the certainty. A couple of times in these recent interviews, he spoke of winning and then immediately corrected himself to say we had to succeed in Iraq. And when I asked, what are you going to say to Obama or McCain when they succeed you and come into the Oval Office here on January 20th, 2009, whoever that is, what's -- you're going to say, in terms of describing what they should think about in terms of the Iraq war, this thing that you're handing off to them. The president said he would tell them -- he would tell the new president, don't let it fail. Which, of course, is very different than all of this talk about victory and winning and transforming the world with democracy. Don't let it fail means kind of let's hang on.
KING: Why -- you often have been very critical of him in your last book, very critical of him. Why do you think he talks to you?
WOODWARD: I think I presented his side. I have presented what occurred. You know, a number of people have read this and said, well, it -- yes, it was slow. Yes, as the White House press secretary said, it was brutal. But he made a decision that has led us to a much better condition, and if you are of the Karl Rove view of politics and life in America, which is everything gets measured by outcomes, you could look at this and say it's a positive.
I thoroughly present the president's views and his words. At the same time, after doing four books, good friends and editors at the "Washington Post" and Simon and Shuster said, look, you may know as much as about this as anybody on the outside. You need to tell us what you think, what your conclusions are. And my conclusions are tough and it goes to the question of what are your expectations of a president who started a war three and a half years into it, when it's failing, and he says there's no hurry. When he is not at some of the meetings, when he will not get the chief players here all together and knock their heads and say, we have to fix this.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Bob Woodward. Incredible. "The War Within," don't go away.
KING: The book is "The War Within." The guest is Bob Woodward. The caller is from Richmond, Virginia. Hello.
CALLER: How are you?
KING: Fine. Go ahead.
CALLER: I haven't heard Mr. Woodward mention Dick Cheney at all, and I'm just wondering what his opinion on what influence he's had on Bush. It seems to me, he is running the war machine out of the basement.
WOODWARD: Well, my reporting on this shows that he's very influential vice president. But remember, Cheney was Rumsfeld patron. He suggested that Bush make Rumsfeld Secretary of Defense. And it turns out, as the strategy wasn't working, and the president decided to replace Rumsfeld, he did not consult Cheney, but called him in a day or two before it was announced and said, I'm replacing Don. Rumsfeld. And Cheney was surprised and said with whom? The president said, with Bob Gates. And Cheney said, well, I disagree. But obviously, it's your call.
WOODWARD: This is not somebody running something from the basement or anywhere else.
KING: So Cheney and Rumsfeld's influence went down?
WOODWARD: Yes, it did.
KING: Both of them.
WOODWARD: Because the strategy, which was Rumsfeld's strategy, train the Iraqis and we will get out. He religiously repeatedly his little mantra of we need to get the back -- our hand off the back of the bicycle seat and let the Iraqis go solo, go on their own.
KING: Yes. Both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden spoke about Iraq and the men at the top of their party's tickets in their convention address. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), ALASKA: Our nominee for president is a true profile in courage. And people like that are hard to come by. He's a man who wore the uniform of his country for 22 years and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who now have brought victory within sight.
SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he says we can't have no timelines to draw down our troops from Iraq? We must stay indefinitely. Or should we listen to Barack Obama, who says shift the responsibility to the Iraqis and set a time to bring our combat troops home?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bob, one of them is going to be a heart beat away and no one knows the workings of the presidency and inside the White House more than you. What do you make of their potential?
WOODWARD: Well, they -- Biden has been around for a long time. Sarah Palin has not. Whoever becomes president, whoever becomes vice president, one of the items on the agenda should be repairing the relationship with the top military brass. The reporting, and it's laid out in the book, where the Joint Chiefs are sitting around. They're not only out of the loop, they aren't being consulted. The head of the Army, the chief of staff of the Army, General Schoomaker says, at one of the chief's meetings that he feels like Nero watching Rome burn. He wonders why outside people are being consulted and not the chiefs.
This is where in our constitutional system the rubber meets the road, the civilians to the military. They have a dysfunctional relationship. It is not working well. Even ten months into Bob Gates' time as Secretary of Defense, the president, to send a message of support to General Petraeus, as the Iraq commander, didn't use the defense secretary, didn't use the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He used a retired general, Jack Keane, to send this message. Gates didn't know this was being done. Steve Hadley, the National Security Adviser, did not know that this was being done.
Somebody's got to think about this. People have to develop personal relations. They have to feel they are part of the team, addressing the same problem.
KING: If it's Sarah Palin's, it's going to be pretty tough, don't you think, to go from mayor, governor of Alaska into this threshold?
WOODWARD: It would be tough for anyone. It would be tough for Joe Biden. People have learned to be commanders in chief, and some have done it very well who didn't seem to have the background. One I think of is Abraham Lincoln.
KING: Yes, that's right. Just -- he was a state senator. Right? In Illinois.
WOODWARD: And he -- well, he had been in Congress and --
KING: And lost.
WOODWARD: And lost the race for the Senate and won the -- his party's nomination and became president and oversaw the Civil War.
KING: Good point.
WOODWARD: But the learning curve -- it is not just the learning curve. It's somebody has to make an effort. There has to be time against the problem to learn who these generals and admirals are.
KING: We have to take a break. You stated it well. What might McCain or Obama learn from Bush's performance as commander in chief? We'll ask that next. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Back to Bob Woodward and "The War Within." A call from Atlanta, Georgia. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. My question is the secret technology that you spoke of, if it's so good, why don't we use it to catch bin Laden. Did you ask the general about that?
WOODWARD: Very good question. I don't say it's technology. I would say it's operations, and the White House released a statement last week saying there are newly developed techniques and operations. So we'll see. Maybe they can use it on bin Laden and, all of a sudden, the September or the October surprise is going to be the apprehension or the death of bin Laden.
KING: Without telling us what they are, can these operations in Iraq be replicated in the future in other places?
WOODWARD: I'm sure they can.
KING: We have an e-mail question from Norm in Sarasota County, Florida. "I know this book is about the president and his administration. But where has Congress been in terms of Iraq policy? Has there been any checks and balances in this whole thing." Bob?
WOODWARD: That's a great question. I talk about Bush's relationship with some of the Democratic leaders in Congress, Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid. It's not a very good relationship at all. As you may recall, at one point last year, Senator Reid said the Iraq war was lost. I asked the president about this.
KING: Hold it right there. We have his response.
KING: Let's listen to what Bush said when you asked him about what Reid said. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOODWARD: Were you shocked when you heard that?
BUSH: I'm not shocked by anything in Washington anymore.
WOODWARD: Is that right? Did you ever talk to him about it?
BUSH: No. You know, I mean, this war has created a lot of really harsh emotion, out of which comes a lot of harsh rhetoric. And, you know, one of my failures has been to change the tone in Washington. And it's the failures of others as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you make of that, Bob? WOODWARD: That's a very rare acknowledgement on the president's part, that he failed at something, and that is to change the tone in Washington. And I think that's quite correct. He and Senator Reid have a almost non-relationship. Speaker Pelosi tried to talk to President Bush after he made the surge decision, and see if there was some common ground. And the president said, I made my decision. You know what my position is. It's clear.
So again, there's a theme here, no communication between -- or inadequate communication between the White House, civilian leaders and the military, the military brass, really no communication with the Congress. The president talks about harsh rhetoric, but it's more than harsh rhetoric. It's very deep feelings about this war.
And, you know, one of the questions I asked myself is who pays the price for this war. I don't mean the money. I mean the lives. And it turns out that it is a very few members of the military, who are volunteers, all of them, and -- I'm sorry, there are large numbers who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan. And they bear the total responsibility for this. They're are surrogates. They're there. We don't have to be there. What do we owe them, do you think, Larry? Probably everything. We owe them everything. What are they getting? A dysfunctional system to figure out what to do, and the branches of government talking to each other and the White House and the military.
KING: How will history assess George W. Bush? We'll ask right after this.
KING: Bob, before we ask how you think history will assess George W. Bush, what do you make of this election, this extraordinary election, with a woman running for vice president, black for president? It's all so close.
WOODWARD: Very American election, and it seems like no one knows what's going to happen. I hope there's some commander in chief training that takes place, that the candidates, both for president and vice president, get asked about the war. This is the biggest thing going on actively in our country. And it is going to sit right on the desk of the Oval Office. And there's going to be somebody new there. And they're going to have to learn a lot about the military and intelligence and diplomacy and working out a strategy and fixing some of these problems.
KING: Well said. How will history assess George W. Bush?
WOODWARD: As you look at this period of the last two years covered in this book, the effort was not enough, given the responsibility that he has as commander in chief. And, yes, efforts were made, things were done. It was brutal. But when you look at it, day by day, sometimes meeting by meeting, and see the disconnection, the dysfunction, the mismanagement, it unfortunately is a very sad story.
KING: Will Donald Rumsfeld be termed a failure? WOODWARD: Well, he had a strategy that was rejected, and they went with the surge. But, you know, there's this factor that we overlook, and that is luck. The top secret operations that were developed have a long history. It's not something that was discovered overnight. People worked hard and quite brilliantly to do all of this. It came online at a time when the surge was really getting enforced in Baghdad and that convergence, they reinforced each other, some of the other factors like the Anbar awakening, the Sunnis coming over and joining the United States. This all came together and it's a lucky, a much more fortunate chapter here.
And Rumsfeld participated in none of that. So, you know, how people are going to look at this -- I tell you, if you want a leading indicator for where the United States is in 20 years, 30 years, find out how this war turned out. And if it turned out well, if there's stability and democracy and less terrorism, we're going to be much better off. If it's the opposite, we'll be hanging from lamp posts, as Condi Rice said to the Iraqi leaders at one point.
KING: Thanks, Bob, as always. Bob Woodward, the book "The War Within." Still time to take our quick vote. What do you think about the Iraq war? Go to CNN.com/LarryKing right now and let us know. And while you're there, download a Larry King ring tone or send us an e- mail. Joy Behar is among the guests tomorrow night. We're going to talk about Sarah Palin and why she has apparently galvanized a whole core of voters. I'm guessing we're going to have a red hot debate over this one. That's LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow, Tuesday. Time now for Anderson Cooper and "AC 360."