Chapter 13 of 24 from Bob Woodward

Students Critique Woodward's Interview With Obama

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Bob and a group of students from his Yale journalism seminar analyze his interview with President Barack Obama about his decisions in war.

Topics include: Figuring Out the Assignment • Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward Teaches Investigative Journalism

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We're now going to discuss an interview I did with President Obama about his decisions in war for the book I did of Obama's Wars, and we've got clips galore. Yes. Chris, go ahead. I was talking to Axelrod about linchpin moments, and I've identified, unfortunately, 72, OK. And I have-- I'm worried about the ones [INAUDIBLE].. This will be like Jeopardy. That's right. Quick answers. But there's, you know, it's such a serious matter, and clearly what emerges from the record is you've given it serious attention, to say the least. Correct. Two days after you're elected, McConnell, who's then DNI, comes with the CIA man, Mike Morell, and they brief you in Chicago, give you, kind of, the first real look at the deep intelligence secrets. What was your reaction after that briefing? They-- I'm just going to-- I know that you and Robert talked about this-- Yes. --but I'm just going to preface this answer, with, sir, a general view of how I'm going to approach this interview, Robert. Yes, sir. And that is that the-- you have commentary, or reporting on specific conversations, specific dates, et cetera. My job as President is not going to be to corroborate or dispute particular comments. We didn't get to 72, and it was an hour and 15 minutes. But he says, I'm not going to corroborate, and then-- if you've gone through the transcript-- he does. He actually can't help himself. But now, put yourself in my shoes. You send in all these questions, which he's read, his staff has gone-- pored over in detail, and he says, oh, you have better sources than I do. And then he even goes so far as saying, have you ever thought of becoming CIA director? It was not a job offer. But I left the interview thinking, he's corroborated all of these-- all 72. There was one he kind of half-disputed, so I got what I needed. And this is the nice system of talking to people and getting documents. And those 72 linchpin moments come from those documents. He insists so many times throughout this interview, my job is to provide you mindset, details, you know-- that's not a question for me. What was the purpose, then, of sending him such a technical set of questions? It doesn't feel, to me, as though it's an emotional, what were you feeling, interview. It's much more of a like, this happened, I'm going to, you know? OK, but I did ask him, what did you feel? And what was your reaction when you first had to decide to send troops into harm's way? And he said, you know, that's the hardest thing he does. But that was one of 72. Very good question, and the answer is, I know how the White House works. And I learned because I got to spend 18 months working the Obama White House. And how it works is, somebody sends questions in like this, and the President has agreed to do the interview, and they have lots of staff people going through the top-secret ...

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Bob Woodward was just 29 when he changed a nation. His Watergate reporting with Carl Bernstein helped expose the corruption of the Nixon presidency. Two Pulitzer Prizes and eighteen best-selling books later, the legendary journalist is teaching his first-ever online class for anyone who wants to find the truth. Learn to investigate a story, interview sources, and understand how the news is written. The next history-making story might be yours.

Watch, listen, and learn as Bob teaches investigative journalism in his first-ever online class.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Bob will also answer select student questions.

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Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward Teaches Investigative Journalism