Book Habit Blog - Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

by Mike

There is no way to review Fear without making someone angry. Donald Trump is the most divisive public figure of my lifetime (65). Nixon does not come close. I have yet to read a middle-ground perspective on him or the two years of his Presidency.

However, unlike the Trump books by Comey, Wolfe and Omarosa, Woodward seems to have no agenda other than to get the facts right. Fear is not a brief for his own defense (Comey), poorly sourced and gossipy (Wolff), or an attack framed as a redemptive narrative (Omarosa). None of the Administration officials quoted has refuted specific scenes or quotes. They know that Woodward has the interview tapes and meticulous notes as befits a top-flight journalist. Fear then is the first reliably sourced, detailed portrait of Trump in office. The best histories of this time will be written after we have years of perspective and of Trumpian consequences behind us. Fear will be a significant contribution to those books.

There are surprises here: Trump telling his military advisors they they have been “the architects of this mess in Afghanistan”, that they “keep talking about there’s ISIS all over”, but the United States “can’t be everywhere.” He sounds like any liberal critic of the Wars – even though he decides to go with the generals and their theory of winning as keeping the status quo in Afghanistan.

Trump seems unable to separate himself from his business model – a CEO of essentially a family New York City real estate business: “Trump has no understanding of how government functioned. At times he would just start drafting orders himself or dictating.” He cannot imagine that his power as the President is constrained by law.

Woodward is superb at showing how the political infighting between advisors and various parts of the government never stops, especially when the President is a man led more by impulse and instinct than planning. His people spout venom, make personal attacks, engage in one-upsmanship, and plot like junior Machiavellis to make sure others take the blame if Presidential actions on trade and defense go south.

Without exaggeration, every page contains something you did not know before reading this book. Fear is worth your money and time.