“State of Denial” by Bob Woodward. Read by Boyd Gaines. Abridged, 7 hours, 6 CDs. Simon & Schuster. $29.95.
This book is difficult to take. I loaded it onto my iPod and listened to it at the gym while TV screens showed captions on CNN and Fox announcing new Iraqi and American casualties in Iraq.
Among the many outrages recounted in the book — advisers too timid to give President Bush bad news, distortions and manipulations by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (especially in terms of troop requirements), Bush and Karl Rove exchanging fart jokes — what stands out most is Bush’s insistence on body counts of enemy dead as a gauge of progress.
Woodward points out the fallacy of body counts with the example of the Vietnam War, which left more than 1 million Vietnamese and 58,193 Americans dead — and the U.S. still lost.
Woodward does the United States a great service with this hard and necessary look at the inner workings of the Bush administration.
Gaines does a good job in reading the book by giving a straightforward performance to highlight Woodward’s words and quotations, without resorting to impersonations.