You're Back, Bob! Woodward's Book Bisects Bushies by Robert Sam Anson Plan of Attack, by Bob Woodward. Simon and Schuster, 468 pages, $28. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Welcome back, Mr. Woodward. Your friends were worried that maybe "Deep Throat" or Judy Belushi or Bill Caseyâs widow kidnapped you in some parking garage, hauled you off to a secret lab in Langley and implanted a chip in your noggin that turned you into a stenographer for whoever was throwing the best Georgetown dinner parties. How else to account for whatâs been churned out under your name the last decade or two? The Agenda, The Choice, Maestro, Shadowâthose were icky enough. But making out Dubya to be George C. Marshall and George S. Patton rolled into one in Bush At War? That wasnât the old Bob Woodward, co-bringer-down of Nixon; it must have been a suck-up doppelgÃ¤nger. Plan of Attack, thank goodness, proves our anxieties misplaced: The Bob Woodward who helped ensure that thereâd be a Bill of Rights left for John Ashcroft to violate wasnât body-snatched or imprisoned in Area 51 with the Roswell aliens. In that patient, grinding Midwestern way of his, heâs just been working a plan, lulling the High and Mighty to sleep, making them think he was a court eunuch, waiting for the moment when the nation truly needed him again. Now itâs arrived. And in the manner of Cincinnatus dropping his plow or Clark Kent finally finding a phone booth, the Bob Woodward of yoreâthe one Robert Redford played in All the Presidentâs Menâhas returned, and further invitations to the Bush White House are kaput. How good is this book? Well, if discomfort caused is the measure of greatness achieved, forget about the PulitzerâMr. Woodward deserves a Nobel. Itâs been sweet Schadenfreude to watch all the squirming. There was Condi Rice trying to convince Fox News that Mr. Woodwardâs got it wrong about Colin Powell and Dick Cheney loathing each other so thoroughly they no longer speak (they were "very friendly" whenever she lunched with them); and White House spokesman Scott McClellan declining comment on Mr. Woodwardâs report that Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar promised Dubya heâd drop oil prices to grease the November election ("You can ask Prince Bandar," advised Mr. McClellan by way of kiss-off); and Colin Powellâfriend and primary source of the author through three booksâdenying most everything written by Mr. Woodward (with whom, the Secretary of State assured us, heâd only had a couple of phone chats anyway, and he only took those calls on White House ordersâwhich he famously follows undeviatingly). And Mr. Woodward? Heâs been as unruffled as a Presbyterian deacon at a triple funeral whilst making his 60 MinutesâLarry King LiveâToday Show rounds. Locked away in his safe is the source of his serenity: three and a half on-the-record hours of the President blabbing on tape. George W. Bush, you might imagine, has been kicking anything within Residence Quarters reach ever since the A.P. scooped The Washington Post on the about-to-be-detonated literary W.M.D. According to Mr. Woodward, he didnât just cooperate and command the whole of the executive branch to do the sameâthe book that became Plan of Attack was the Presidentâs idea. Truth is, Mr. Bush probably feels fine. The passages that have all of Manhattan and West L.A. a-snicker (not checking with Dad because "there is a Higher Father that I appeal to"; praying to "be as good a messenger of His will as possible" while going about freeing the world) will play swell out in the red states, and in big chunks of the blue ones, too. Moreover, if thereâs one character in Plan of Attack whoâs in command, who doesnât suffer doubt, who asks tough questions, sniffs out phonies before their next sentence is out and wonât let nobody lead him around by the nose (except Dick Cheney), itâs George Walker Bush. For Kerry voters, thatâs as amazing as it is alarming. The good news, Senator, is that Mr. Woodwardâa Nixon voter whose high-school valedictory was on the wisdom of Barry Goldwaterâs The Conscience of a Conservativeâdelivers other stupefactions that Bob Shrum will want to take a close look at. In the High Crimes and Misdemeanors category, thereâs the $700 million swiped from fighting the war in Afghanistan in order to finance planning to fight one in Iraq that nobody knows about yet. Then thereâs the lying about when the decision to go to war was actually made (January 2003, not March 2003); George Tenet assuring a skeptical President that the C.I.A.âs case for W.M.D. is a "slam-dunk"; the briefing of everybody (including Karl Rove, so he can reschedule fund-raiser dates) that the war is a goâwhich elicits a "whoopsie!" from Condi: We forgot to tell Colin. But the best, maybe, is giving Prince Bandar an advance peek at the ultra-secret Iraq war planânever mind that his helpful highness represents the home address of 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers. Who does this? As with everything else involved in driving the U.S. to a current total of nearly 700 K.I.A.âs and counting, Mr. "powerful, steamroller force" himself, Richard Cheney. (Just coincidence, of course, that the Vice President has a more than passing interest in a commodity that Saudi Arabia possesses more of than anyplace else on earth. And, no, itâs not sand.) Every good story requires a villain, and for Plan of Attackâthe best yarn to come along since, well, Mr. Woodwardâs first bookâthe author casts Mr. Cheney, whoâs so well suited to the part you can almost hear the Dracula music every time he tiptoes into the narrative. Thereâs all kinds of evil-doing your reviewer could tip you to, but that would spoil the fright. So letâs leave it at a single malefaction: Marines are approaching Tikrit, American kids are dying, and God knows how many Iraqi mothersâ sons. And who do you suppose decides itâs the perfect occasion for a celebratory dinner party? Clue: He lives in the same house Al Gore used to. Wife Lynne, no pansy herself, only has a walk-on, but itâs priceless. During a rushed swing through the Gulf States, Mr. Woodward writes, the Second Lady found herself lunching with the favorite wife of the Emir of Qatar. When do the children in Bahrain start school? asked Ms. Cheney, trying to make nice. Came the answer: This isnât Bahrain. As his tragic hero, Mr. Woodward has Colin Powell. The Secretary of Stateâs arguments about the lame-brainness of the impending enterprise canât be listened to because a) they have to be solicited first; b) nobody bothers to (including the Commander in Chief); and c) Mr. Powellâs not one to push. Whether this is due to military schooling or fear of career blemishes, Mr. Woodward doesnât say. The upshot, in any event, is that Mr. Powellâthe sole veteran of combat in an armchair posse itching for itâis left without much to do, other than enlist Congress and the U.N. in backing a war he privately believes will be catastrophic.