ABC's Diane Sawyer spoke with author Bob Woodward about his new book, "Obama's Wars" in an interview that first aired on "World News" on September 27, 2010. Below is a transcript of their conversation.
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: "Obama's Wars." Is President Obama going to like this book?
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR, "OBAMA'S WARS": Don't know. People are going to read it very differently because it's so intimate. It goes on for pages: this is exactly what he said, this is what the advisers said, this was the contradictions, this was the dilemma.
I suspect in the White House they're going to be shocked that somebody is so much into narrating their business in detail. They're used to controlling the message, this is what happened, rather than a simplified message.
SAWYER: You talked to 100 people, countless documents. You have details of some 40 meetings with the president and his advisers. Details of them.
Were people just eager to talk?
WOODWARD: I had the luxury of 18 months. And you go back and get a little piece, and then talk to other people and get a document.
Let me tell you a story. At the beginning of the project, one of the president's top advisers said to me when I said I want to do this book about the war, particularly Afghanistan, he said, "You're not going to find many Deep Throats around here." And by the end of the process, he was reading his own notes of the top-secret meetings.
SAWYER: What is your elixir? What is it – what is it you did, really, that got them to tell you these things?
WOODWARD: This is politically neutral. I'm not taking a position for or against the war or Obama. That this is really neutral inquiry.
SAWYER: Why "Obama's Wars"? Why not "Obama's Health Care"? Why not one of the other topics that will go down as with his stamp on it, his name on it?
WOODWARD: Well, the wars are going to go down with his name on it. The reason war is not like anything else -- health care, the economy -- vitally important, but we are defined as you travel around the world by our wars, who we decide to go to war with, how we wage that war. And perhaps in a more important way, I think we're defined to ourselves by who those wars are.
He also takes it seriously. He spends countless hours on it, and I think as the research here shows, it's a weight on his shoulders.
He writes a letter to the family of anyone who dies. And you can't do that week after week and not realize that this is not -- this is your choice, your war.
SAWYER: I guess there are people who think that some choices are so compelled, they're almost not choices anymore. Did he have choices when he came in? Real choices?
WOODWARD: Well, the war was going on. He promised in the campaign he was going to devote more resources to it.
But one of the things you find in looking at this meeting by meeting, memo by memo, is that the military had their idea of what they wanted to do. Forty thousand more troops last year. And they were, like I put it, five blocks of granite: Hillary Clinton; Secretary of Defense Gates; Admiral Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs; Petraeus, who was then CENTCOM commander; and then General McChrystal.
They said 40,000, and the president pushed them in this most direct way -- I want options, you promised options. And he never got them.
SAWYER: Before I go, I want to go into all of these meetings -- before we do, just a personal question. Of all the things you learned, what surprised you the most? Surprised you the most?