TRANSCRIPT: Bob Woodward Talks to ABC's Diane Sawyer About 'Obama's Wars'


WOODWARD: This is right at the moment of decision for the strategy last year. And some of them are meeting and they're -- they realize that in 2012, when Obama is running for reelection, quite likely, he'll be the only one left, that Gates, the secretary of Defense, will be gone...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: McChrystal will be gone -- of course, it turned out he -- McChrystal was gone sooner. Petraeus will be gone. Admiral Mullen, the chairman, will be gone. So he is going to be left with it totally on his shoulders. And Tom Donilon, the deputy national security adviser, says, "My God, what are we getting this guy into?"

SAWYER: That they have led him into. Everybody has led him into this solitary responsibility.

WOODWARD: And that he's holding the bag at the end...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: And others might be kind of a -- a moment of oh my god.

SAWYER: You know, the -- I know that it's lonely for every president, but did you feel the loneliness in this decision-making more -- as a more acute?

WOODWARD: No, because he's so talky. And he calls Colin Powell in and he talks to his advisers...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: He talks -- asks the colonel, what do you think?

In a sense, there's a little bit of Bill Clinton in this, of, you know, turning to the person -- and the janitor in the room, well, what do you think we ought to do?

So it was inclusive, there's no question about that. One of the tensions with the military, the military kept saying we need to train 400,000 Afghans to meet this counter-insurgency formula, which is kind of an abstraction, which Obama didn't buy into at all. And they made presentations to him.

And he said I -- I -- guys, what is the evidence that this is either necessary...

SAWYER: Possible?

WOODWARD: -- or doable. And they didn't really come up with a good answer. And so he said to them, he said, this presentation strains credulity. And he said no, we're not doing it.

SAWYER: You do get the feeling several times he's pushing and saying you can't to prove me this is the case and -- and for -- for a president who's still new at this to be pushing on the 400,000 troops and saying, do you really believe it's possible, given the defection rates...

WOODWARD: Yes, as one person said it -- in terms of the police attrition rate in Afghanistan is so great, it's like pouring water in a bucket with a big hole in it -- more runs out than goes in. So he's -- there's an intellectual engagement here.

SAWYER: But when you look in, does the -- does the whole shape of the White House change when you know the occupant inside and you know his mind?

WOODWARD: Well, it's kind of permanent, isn't it?

It -- it's beyond the individual. What's so interesting is there's the Situation Room over there...

SAWYER: Right.

WOODWARD: There's the national security adviser, there's the Oval Office, there are the political advisers, there's this kind of hot house of action. And one of the things you find is Obama drives them. He really -- I want answers. What about this, what about that?

And it's not exactly a relaxing job for him or for the people who work there.

SAWYER: Where do you rank this tension, military and White House, against any other administration?

WOODWARD: Well, it's pretty high, because we're in this war and it's a Democratic president who didn't start it. He's adopted it.

SAWYER: A post-Vietnam president.

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