Joan Didion had the answer:
‘As any prosecutor and surely Mr. Woodward knows, the person on the inside who calls and says “I want to talk” is an informant, or snitch, and is generally looking to bargain a deal, to improve his or her own situation, to place the blame on someone else in return for being allowed to plead down or out certain charges. Because the story told by a criminal or civil informant is understood to be colored by self-interest, the informant knows that his or her testimony will be unrespected, even reviled, subjected to rigorous examination and often rejection. The informant who talks to Mr. Woodward, on the other hand, knows that his or her testimony will be not only respected but burnished into the inside story, which is why so many people on the inside, notably those who consider themselves the professionals or managers of the process—assistant secretaries, deputy advisers, players of the game, aides who intend to survive past the tenure of the patron they are prepared to portray as hapless—do want to talk to him.’
Joan Didion wrote those words in The New York Review of Books back in 1996. Then there is this critique written by John Cassidy in The New Yorker in February 2013:
The real rap on Woodward isn’t that he makes things up. It’s that he takes what powerful people tell him at face value; that his accounts are shaped by who coöperates with him and who doesn’t; and that they lack context, critical awareness, and, ultimately, historic meaning. In a 1996 essay for the New York Review of Books, Joan Didion wrote that “measurable cerebral activity is virtually absent” from Woodward’s post-Watergate books, which are notable mainly for “a scrupulous passivity, an agreement to cover the story not as it is occurring but as it is presented, which is to say as it is manufactured.”
Or there is Frank Rich in The New York Times Magazine in August 1999:
You almost have to feel sorry for Bob Woodward. Yes, he is a best-selling millionaire author who has been deified by Robert Redford and satirized by ”Dick” on-screen, but even millionaire authors sometimes must cry all the way to the bank. With each passing year, Woodward gets less respect. The reviews of his books have become more dismissive, with this summer’s best seller, ”Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate,” even coming in for harsh criticism on the op-ed page of his own newspaper, The Washington Post. Woodward’s previous book, an account of the Dole-Clinton race titled ”The Choice,” was deconstructed by Joan Didion as ”political pornography” in The New York Review of Books. Other critics routinely argue that while Woodward’s facts almost always hold up, they are spun and slanted by his sources or distorted by you-are-there re-creations of ”actual” dialogue that is as human as the audioanimatronic Presidents at Disney World. Woodward’s most hyped recent revelations — Hillary Clinton communing with Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill Clinton’s anguish over his daughter reading the Starr report — are hardly smoking guns to rival those with which he and Carl Bernstein nailed Richard Nixon back in the heady era of ”All the President’s Men” a quarter-century ago.
Understand now why people like Trump are eager to talk to Bob Woodward?
(Thanks to CG for sending me down this road.)