Journalist and best-selling author Bob Woodward delivered the keynote address for DistribuTECH Conference & Exhibition 2013. The Washington Post investigative journalist and writer of twelve national bestselling nonfiction books related some of his experiences with political icons such as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.
“Your job is to make energy policy more rational and reasonable and efficient. In my business, my job is to figure out what is going on,” Woodward told conference attendees in his remarks.
Woodward also mentioned his talks with Hillary Clinton, who he said he believes will run for president again someday.
“She is going to run, and I think she’s going to run with an intensity that will make some of the other campaigns look like light efforts,” he said.
He predicted that the second half of Obama’s presidency will be strongly influenced by international events.
“If you try to forecast the next four years, obviously you can’t, but foreign affairs will truly dominate the Obama presidency. Which is why they need desperately to get their financial house in order,” he said.
Obama’s recent nomination of Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Panetta as defense secretary reveals much about how Obama views the world, he said.
“(Hagel) said Obama, his friend, that you have to question every assumption that is more than 10 years old. All the old assumptions are out of date. You have to question the Pentagon and the military and what we are using them for,” he said. “This explains why Obama picked him because the two share a similar philosophy.”
Woodward said he believes the most pressing issue of the day is financial reforms and cutting spending — something he said affects everyone in the room.
“If I were to answer the question about what we should worry about the most, I would say we should worry the most about secret government. Problems can be solved, but secret government only gets more secret. Nixon tried it, and in the end it did not work. Democracies die in darkness, and secret government will do us in if there is one thing that does us in.”
Despite the dire need to solve financial problems as he sees them, Woodward said he is not certain any of the major players in Washington are seriously engaging one another to that end.
“There are all these squabbles you read about: the fiscal cliff, sequestration — which sounds like something that happens in the doctor’s office when you bend over. But it is just a mess, and it’s baffling that they haven’t found a way to close the deal with Republicans,” he said
Woodward said the most important test leaders face is whether they have the strength to make a decision that could hurt them politically, but that is still the right move to make for the country at large.
“There is a failure to identify what is the larger national interest. This is really at the core of what political life should be and too often is not,” he said.
Woodward used Gerald Ford and his presidential pardon of Richard Nixon as an example of a decision that only made sense in hindsight.
“So why did Ford pardon Nixon? What really occurred?” Woodward got his answer by asking Ford personally.
“He said he knew that Nixon was going to be investigated further, tried, maybe sent to jail, there would be 3 more years of Watergate. The country couldn’t take it. Ford said he didn’t do it for Nixon or for himself, but because he thought it was in the greater interest of the country,” he said.