Sally Quinn decided that the world needed another fawning biography of Ben Bradlee, and it’s clear from the excerpt in New York magazine that Jeff Himmelman was the guy to do it:
I recited the things Sally had told me to say—we can take it slow; I can do some preliminary work and see if it turns into anything; if there’s no book there, then we won’t force it—and when I was through, he looked at me blankly.
In the post-coital glow of their initial lovemaking, Bradlee gave Himmelman some boxes of old Post memos, and Himmelman found that Bradlee wasn’t sure that all the Post Watergate reporting was 100% accurate–he had a “residual fear” that some of the details were made up. This precipitated a Woodward hissy fit:
On Sunday night, at 10:45, another e-mail came in, this one from Sally. Bob had come over to their house, and he was agitated. He wanted to be there the next morning when I came to look for the tape.
At 8:30 on Monday morning I called over to N Street. Sally picked up and told me what had happened. When she and Ben had gotten home from dinner the night before, there had been an urgent message from Bob on their machine. She called him back, and he ended up coming over and staying for nearly two hours. As soon as he arrived, it was clear that he was deeply worried.
The way Bob saw it, the publication of those quotations from Ben would undermine his own legacy, Ben’s legacy, and the legacy of the Post on Watergate. I asked Sally what to expect when I got there, and she said I should expect for Bob to make a loyalty argument—to him, to Ben, to the paper.
To make a long, long, long story short, judging from Woodward’s reaction (not Himmelman’s reporting), the parts of his and Bernstein’s Watergate reporting that sound a little too smooth probably are. What’s really notable is the way that town
venerates acts as if the last time some real journalism was committed by reporters at the Post was almost 40 years ago.