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


Who's going to want to be secretary of defense on the eve or in the midst of a moment where the president has said we're going to start withdrawing in nine months from now, where the president, as we now know, has said that this has to be a plan where we hand over and get out of Afghanistan? There can be no wiggle room. Hard sell.

SAWYER: Hard sell. The president was surprisingly, as I read your book, surprisingly -- had surprising equilibrium about McChrystal and the famous Rolling Stone article.

WOODWARD: Yeah, because he was able to pick Petraeus to take his place, and Petraeus is the general.

SAWYER: But he didn't seem to take it personally. You sort of see him at his word when he says, I just don't -- I don't get -- I don't react like that.

WOODWARD: That's Barack Obama.


SAWYER: So tell me about the moment that the national security advisers are saying that he -- that he'll be there and everyone else will be gone.

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...

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