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Video: Woodward book details White House backstabbing

  1. Transcript of: Woodward book details White House backstabbing

    BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: to the West Wing of the White House , specifically the president who works there. He was elected on a slogan of "Yes,_We_Can," and he came into office on a wave of change sentiment. Barack Obama has said many times, ' We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.' But a new book by veteran journalist Bob Woodward is painting a picture of a White House full of egos and political calculations and arch enemies, just like the kind we've seen in years past. And it all surrounds the debate over the war in Afghanistan . Our own Andrea Mitchell here with us tonight in our studios with more on this. Andrea , good evening.

    ANDREA MITCHELL reporting: Good evening, Brian . Well, if the quotes in Bob Woodward 's book are accurate, then the Obama White House pits political advisers against the generals, and caught in the middle the commander in chief, making life-and-death decisions on war and peace . There's more back stabbing in Bob Woodward 's new book than a Shakespeare play. The vice president says of diplomat Richard Holbrooke , "He's the most egotistical bastard I've ever met," although the right guy for the job.

    MITCHELL: The national security adviser Jim Jones calls the president's inner circle "the water bugs," "the politburo," "the mafia" or "the campaign set." General David Petraeus tells aides White House official David Axelrod is a complete spin doctor, most of this in-fighting over the war plan for Afghanistan . Finally the president blows up. November 25th, 2009 , only days before announcing his decision, the military asks for 4500 more troops. Woodward writes that the president erupts, saying, "I'm done doing this. We've all agreed on a plan and we're all going to stick to that plan. I haven't agreed to anything beyond that." Six days later, his big speech at West Point .

    President BARACK OBAMA: The review has allowed me to ask the hard questions and to explore all the different options.

    MITCHELL: The next day, the president explains why he added a timetable to begin withdrawing, telling Republican Senator Lindsey Graham , 'I can't let this be a war without end , and I can't lose the whole Democratic Party ."

    Mr. MICHAEL BESCHLOSS (NBC News Presidential Historian): You really want to see this kind of conflict and disagreement. Through history that usually makes the best strategy, especially in a war.

    MITCHELL: But the book reveals that the success of the war strategy rests largely on an unreliable ally, Afghanistan 's Hamid Karzai , who US intelligence reports is increasingly delusional and paranoid, manic depressive. The US ambassador to Afghanistan reports to the vice president, Karzai is "off his meds. He's off his meds." Largely absent from the bloodletting, Hillary Clinton . Woodward says Axelrod argued, "How could you trust Hillary " for the Cabinet ? The president replies, "I think I know her pretty well. If she's going to be on the team, she's going to be loyal." Woodward interviewed all of the key players for the book, including the president and vice president. Woodward quotes the president as telling him that he continues to believe that he can absorb a terrorist attack, even while doing everything that we can to prevent it. Well, that statement has now angered conservative critics like Liz Cheney , who calls it an alarming fatalism that the president needs to explain.

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