Fear: Trump in the White House

by Bob Woodward

Hardcover, 2018

Call number

973.933 WOO



Simon & Schuster (2018), Edition: 2nd, 448 pages


With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump's White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president's first years in office.

Media reviews

For page after dumbfounding page, Fear reproduces, with gobsmacking credulity, the self-aggrandizing narratives of factitious scoundrels. Didion was absolutely right to class Woodward’s work as fundamentally a kind of “political pornography.” But Fear is to Woodward’s previous oeuvre of political pornography what Fifty Shades of Grey is to Twilight: vampiric fan-fiction repackaged as middlebrow smut.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mhg123
A frightening expose of an Administration going over a cliff and taking the entire country with it. Don't expect sensationalism, Woodward is a professional. Not only is this book a confirmation of what we already know, it's an expose of what is REALLY frightening happening behind closed doors. Although Woodward strips the emotion out of his writing, as it should be, it is absolutely frightening. This is an administration seemingly bent on destroying the very fabric of the nation. Columnist Richard Kagan wrote: "This is how fascism comes to America, not with jackboots and salutes (although there have been salutes, and a whiff of violence) but with a television huckster, a phony billionaire, a textbook egomaniac “tapping into” popular resentments and insecurities, and with an entire national political party — out of ambition or blind party loyalty, or simply out of fear — falling into line behind him."… (more)
LibraryThing member LyndaInOregon
Bob Woodward's scathing portrait of the Trump presidency is unlikely to change many minds. Trump opponents will believe every scurrilous detail; Trump supporters will dismiss it whole cloth. And since, if there's anyone out there who is actually attempting to judge this president with unbiased intent, his/her voice is not being heard, one questions why Woodward felt it necessary to produce this 300+ page indictment.

Money, of course. That's a big one. Since it sold 750,000 copies on its first day of release, Woodward is in line for an immense paycheck. Journalistic pride, for another. He obviously believes that five years from now, he will be able to point and say "See? Was I right?" Which of course will thrust his journalistic reputation even higher. And maybe -- just maybe -- he really believes the American public needs to understand just what a wacko they placed at the helm of their nation.

To say that Trump does not come off well in this book is like saying Hurricane Katrina caused some flooding. Woodward paints him as a pathological liar, a pathetic bully, a racist, and a man with all the emotional stability of a 14-year-old and the reasoning ability of someone half that age. Over and over again, Woodward reports attempts by Trump's staff to guide him away from his own worst impulses, often without success. He presents uncounted instances where the President made a public statement, accurately reported, and then denies having said any such thing. He outlines hair-raising incidents, particularly in Trump's dealings with South Korea's Kim Jong Un, that have brought us -- and are continuing to bring us -- to the brink of nuclear war.

There must have been times when, researching this work, Woodward felt like he was playing Whack-a-Mole. Problems thought resolved pop up again, and as soon as a journalist (or staffer's) attention was diverted to Problem A, Problem B popped up again.

The book's biggest weakness lies in its very attempt to be comprehensive. There are simply so any characters coming and going through the book, just as they have come and gone through Trump's staff, that it's virtually impossible for the reader to identify any through-flow narrative. Woodward would have done everyone a favor by including a huge fold-out graphic naming each name, telling when and to what purpose they joined Trump's camp, what the major areas of conflict where, when and how they left, and who replaced them. The palace intrigue here is worthy of ancient Rome, and the body count approaches that of Mario Puzo's "Godfather" saga.

Reading this thing is like watching a slo-mo train wreck, and it's impossible to turn away, even though you realize that as you've read the last page of the book, cars are still leaping off the rails, tumbling through the air, and smashing down to crush bodies and landscapes in an unending cataclysm.
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LibraryThing member JBD1
Very much a Woodwardian book: a series of barely-connected vignettes without much narrative structure to hold things together. Like most other Woodward books recently, nearly all of the good bits get leaked before publication, too, so most of the surprise was already gone by the time I got my copy. That said, there still seemed to be plenty of opportunities to provide frightening insights into the operations of the Trump administration.… (more)
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
I was surprised at how policy-driven this book was. Unlike Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury, where Bannon seemed just about the only source, many former insiders obviously talked to Woodward - sources who were in the most critical meetings. Not clunkily written, as I had feared; it was just an excellent piece of journalism.

Just amazing that this cruel, weak, lazy narcissist still commands such power. Terrifying.
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LibraryThing member Unkletom
This is the first book on the inner workings of Donald Trump's administration that I have read. I chose this book because I believe Bob Woodward's reputation assures that he will provide the most unbiased report possible in this hyper-partisan environment.
The book provides a frightening look into the Trump Whitehouse and into the mind of our president. Some parts seemed repetitive but I believe that was due more to the repetitive nature of conversations in the Oval Office than to poor editing.… (more)
LibraryThing member Clara53
Fascinatingly detailed account - with actual conversations on essential topics of government policy, all reflecting Trump's questionable knowledge of any subject related to governing and his impatient and immature reactions to his advisers - not that we didn't know all this already, but at the same time, another poignant proof, in much, much detail. If it were not for such a credible journalist as Bob Woodward I would be skeptical about how such detailed conversations could have been obtained. I listened to the audio version - very well narrated by Robert Petkoff.… (more)
LibraryThing member johnleifer
Extremely well-documented and frightening account of life in the Trump White House. Irrespective of party affiliation, Woodward's book does little to build confidence in our current administration.

LibraryThing member cmt100
I didn't expect to sit down and read this from cover to cover, but I did. (Full disclosure: I was snowed in.)

Woodward is such a damn good reporter (no surprise here). Many reviewers here said it was a good read but they didn't really learn anything new. Although I'm a faithful news reader and watcher, I learned a lot--about how Trump thinks, how he interacts with the staff trying to help him, and the way he makes decisions.

None of which was reassuring.
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LibraryThing member bm2ng
This is a very well-written terrifying look at the process of making Trump president in very manipulative and frightening ways. Frightening because it shows how easy it was for nefarious people to manipulate American voters into voting for the inept, unqualified man that is now president. It is terrifying to believe that such an incompetent man is now the leader of our nation all because he was marketed to the lowest common denominator and got him elected.… (more)
LibraryThing member flourgirl49
Woodward's book confirms what we already knew - Trump really IS a moron. He's an arrogant, ignorant, reckless, dangerous, malignant man, and we should all be afraid, especially if he gets re-elected.
LibraryThing member writemoves
To be honest, there is nothing that can shock me about the ineptitude, corruption, silliness and stupidity by Trump or anyone else in his administration. How anyone with any self-respect or intelligence could work for an individual of limited abilities and unlimited faults, is beyond me. Woodward describes a president who won't read briefing books but gets his information watching cable TV, especially FOX News.

20 or 30 years from now, some student or historian will read Woodward's book and wonder how the hell the presidency had gotten to that point. As much as they will wonder about Trump, they will also wonder about the people who worked for him and why they put up with Trump's insults and incompetency...

I skimmed through much of the book as there were sections that were just too painful and upsetting to read. Obviously Woodward did a great job in researching the book and contacting members of the administration and getting their perspective.

Again, if you are a Trump supporter, you will have no interest in reading this book – – you will label it as fake news just as any other criticism of Trump is considered.
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LibraryThing member justagirlwithabook
Where do I start with this one? Rather than focusing on the topic, can I just say that Bob Woodward's writing is just good. I found myself thinking that being an investigative journalist would be like attempting a ridiculously large puzzle while only being given a small card table to put it all together on. So in other words, I don't know how they do it, but I admire and appreciate their using their talents to help shed light on our world, its events and people.… (more)
LibraryThing member wb4ever1
FEAR, by Bob Woodward, is an excellent rough draft of history, this history being the rise of President Donald Trump and his first year in office. It would be an easy book for Trump’s acolytes and sycophants to dismiss as “fake news,” and call it a smear job, except that to read but a few pages is to know that Woodward brought all of his reporter’s skill to bear, and got people – especially people close to Trump – to talk about what they saw and heard. Conversations are recounted verbatim, and details are recalled that could only have come from people in the room. And some common threads emerge, threads that knit a portrait of man as ignorant as he is supremely self-confident, as self absorbed as he is devoid of any motivation other than self interest of the moment, lacking any moral center; in its place, a savage cunning, a keen eye for opportunity, and a finely honed ability to spot weakness. This proved to be enough to elect Donald Trump President in 2016, and make possible what came after.

Woodward’s book, which comes in at just over 350 pages in hardback, is presented in a series of anecdotes that touch on the greatest hits of the early Trump era: the Access Hollywood tape, the capitulation of the Republican establishment, the Muslim travel ban, the firing of James Comey, the border wall, Charlottesville, North Korea, illegal immigration, tariffs, Syria, NATO, and tax cuts. And time and again, we see one high ranking member of the administration after another utterly fail to reign in the President, who rules by whim, impulse, and tweet. But hanging over it all, is the shadow of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the question of collusion. Toward the end of the book, the spotlight is increasingly on lawyers and the special prosecutor, as serious questions are raised as to the possibility that the President of the United States conspired with a hostile foreign power to gain the office. Of course, Woodward cannot give us any definitive answer, but the one thing he does definitively prove is that Trump is a liar, one who is quite capable of committing any of things he is alleged to have done.

Behind Trump is many a name from the news: Reince Priebus, Kellyanne Conway, John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Michael Flynn, John Dowd, Rob Porter, Hope Hicks, Jeff Seissons; along with Trump’s children and son on law, Jared Kushner. All of them in some way come to grief in their dealings with their President, some much more than others. But I must admit that I gained some grudging admiration for Steve Bannon, for though his politics are abhorrent, he read the political landscape in 2016 better than anyone else, and almost alone except for the candidate, saw the road to victory over Hillary Clinton when everyone else had given the Republican candidate up for dead. Most of these people were sources for Woodward, clearly determined to get their side of events out before the public as fast as possible.

Sadly, FEAR, is already dated, as the events it covers have faded into the past, and most of the participants who are still part of the administration at the end, have left since publication. But have no fear, there will no doubt be sequels, and sequels to the sequels before the Age of Trump ends.
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LibraryThing member smichaelwilson
Nearly two years into the Trump presidency, the only truly surprising aspect of Bob Woodward's inside look into this atypical (to say the least) administration is how unsurprising are all of the surprise revaluations within. Trump has worn himself on his sleeve since he rode an escalator into the primaries, and the only people who claim he is anything else beyond the cultural running joke of the last four decades are the people who have supported and defended him for exactly those reasons.

Like Woodward's previous works, Fear is exhaustively researched and documented; the last 20% of the book is comprised almost entirely of footnotes and sources. Those proclaiming that Fear is little more than "fake news" willfully ignore the fact that at least half of the material in this book is a matter of public record, and there isn't a passage about Trump's actions or behavior that feels out of character or beyond the realm of possibility.

Fear doesn't necessarily expose the Trump administration as much as it confirms what we've already experienced, helping to reject the hopeful mantra taken up by more and more people as a psychological defense, "This can't really be happening." Woodward reminds us that it is, and expertly makes us face our Fear.
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LibraryThing member prudencegoodwife
Scary. Confirms through research what we hear nightly on many news outlets.
LibraryThing member nyiper
For those of us who have watched our government go about an incredible attack by the person in charge at the moment, Woodward provides an up close view that steps inside the doors of the White House with the people closest to Trump. We see him with his actual words and people's actual descriptions --- it's been out there in the news but this gives a better framework and timeline at the same time it provides a somewhat better understanding of how people think who try and work with Trump. Unfortunately, the book is being read by those who already agree that he should never have been put in this position and it is not being read by those who would learn, perhaps, but once again, not believe, the "truth" about "their president."… (more)
LibraryThing member brangwinn
Woodward provides what the previous tell-all White House books lack, serious reporting and documentation. The story hasn’t changed, it shows the US president as a person lacking the skills necessary to be president.
LibraryThing member Gingermama
This well-researched book gives background on events both before and after the 2016 presidential election. Many of the players from early in Trump's presidency have already left the stage, but I'd still recommend the book to anyone who'd like to understand a bit more about how we've gotten to this point.
LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for: I’m not sure. I guess, anyone from the US who wants a little bit more of the story?

In a nutshell: A bunch of people who have worked in (and possibly still do work in) the White House tell their tales of a completely inept President and some horrifying policies.

Worth quoting:
“In the car, Trump described his advisers, ‘They don’t know anything about business.’”
“Trump gave some private advice to a friend who had acknowledged some bad behavior toward women. Real power is fear. It’s all about strength. Never show weakness. You’ve always got to be strong. Don’t be bullied. There is no choice.”

Why I chose it: This seemed like a sad, appropriate choice for the BINGO category, and also something I should probably read.

Meh. I don’t think this book was that interesting. I mean, from a historical perspective, it’s an important book. And the fact that the journalist was able to gather such detailed insight into this presidency and administration is amazing and necessary.

But it’s not a good read.

It’s basically like reading a diary. There’s no real through line at all. I guess maybe that’s what happens when you write the story while it’s still unfurling itself? The main point is that Trump is just woefully inadequate and obviously completely unqualified to do much of anything, let alone run the government of a nation of 350 million people. Also, he’s a racist. And very, very lazy. And a great example of why you don't want a business leader running the government.

There! You don’t have to read this.

A couple of complaints I have, and why I chose the title to this post that I did. Obviously Bannon was a source, as was Porter. You know, the white supremacist and the wife beater. And I get that they had insider information that Woodward wanted to tell the story; there were just moment throughout the book where I almost forgot what horrible people they are. And while some people might think that’s a good thing, to get the full story, I think that’s a bad thing. Because I think we need to recognize that everything Bannon does is colored by his white nationalist views. His motivation is clear, but other than his introduction and a couple of sections on ‘globalization,’ it could be easy to forget what a horrible person he is. And I’m not okay with that.

Additionally, the last chapter focuses primarily on Mueller, and seems to be arguing that Mueller has nothing (at least, that’s how I read it). It obviously comes directly from Trump’s attorney Dowd, who is trying to portray himself positively. Whatever, it’s not surprising that someone might have some selfish reasons for communicating with Mr. Woodward. But what frustrated me was his repeated claim that Trump “doesn’t have time” to participate in the Mueller investigation. A claim that isn’t refuted, but is clearly wrong. Trump DOESN’T DO ANYTHING. I mean, he does a ton of horrible things *cough* Kavanaugh *cough*. But it doesn’t take him any time at all. He doesn’t even start his day until 11 AM. He’s golfed something like 200 days that he’s been in office. He has plenty of time.

As I said, the book is likely very important, but you’ve probably gotten as much out of it as I have if you listened to the evening MSNBC shows the week it came out.
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LibraryThing member kaulsu
Damn! There is so much more I wish he had written about. But s very easy read...and an interesting profile of some of the WH staffers. Nice to put faces to the names. On the other hand, it is a sad book. For a sad time. I hope we survive.
LibraryThing member reenum
Well written and thorough, but ultimately too depressing to keep reading past the 30% mark.
LibraryThing member susan0316
Bob Woodward has written a very disturbing book about Donald Trump. It's not overly written and is nothing but the facts for people to read and make their own decisions. I found it very disturbing and hope that everyone votes in the upcoming midterms - we have to make changes in Washington and REALLY drain the swamp!
LibraryThing member nvenkataraman1
Finished reading in one sitting. Not sure about the point of the book beyond repeating word of mouth and cataloging events. Left with "So what?"

The editing is also terrible and seems forced/rushed. By that I mean, did we not already know all that was repeated or the way things played out? I was looking to understand the rationale for various actions and none of the commentary seemed to cover that satisfactorily, for me.

Also, no answers to questions such as what links a sequence of actions/policy decisions to one another, what's the vested interest of a key player in pursuing an agenda etc. I'm probably not the target audience for this book I guess.
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LibraryThing member lriley
So anyway I've never read any of Woodward's books before. I was kind of expecting a takedown of the Trump administration and IMO I don't think this quite does it. To be honest I think Woodward was more than fair to Mr. Trump in his book and yeah there are the parts where Cohn and Porter are stealing documents off his desk and there's the nifty snake, lion, rabbit analogy of the chaos within from Priebus and then Trump's lawyer John Dowd's thoughts that he (Trump) is a fucking liar and should avoid at all costs testifying on his own behalf because he'll be almost assuredly be caught in a perjury trap. Pundits everywhere jumped all over bits like these but really there isn't that many of them and honestly I think Woodward has a bit of sympathy for Trump. Just to go back to Dowd--yeah, his thoughts are that Trump lies but he also very much seems to think that Mueller is engaged in a witch hunt---possibly just to get back at the POTUS for firing Comey or at least that is the insinuation that I got out of it.

Personally I detest Trump and will be out on Nov. 6 voting for the democrat for congress. I doubt she's going to win as our congressional seat has been pretty red for a long time but you do what you can do. Woodward paints a picture of a politically naive but a somewhat savvy businessman with a history of cutting corners. I have no doubt that there are all kinds of criminal activity to be found investigating the Trump organization. Truth is I have no doubt that you could say the same about GE, GM, Raytheon, Boeing, any major bank especially investment banks, the Clinton Foundation and we can go on and on. Mueller's particular animus towards Trump's showing up his FBI might well be part of the story but if the criminal activity is there well my opinion is he should pay--but that said Mueller should then go to the others or at least as many as he can. Mueller's animosity by the way though doesn't exactly come across all that well--at least to me though I'm a big fan of law enforcement.

So anyway strangely and I think it needs to be said there were occasions (not many) reading this book where I found myself in agreement with the Donald. For instance his wanting us out of Afghanistan. Again and again he is talked out of pulling the troops out by Mattis, Kelly and McMaster. These former very high ranking military officers are so concerned about saving face. They know that we cannot win. They are holding out for the day that the Taliban comes to them willing to negotiate and 'it's all bullshit' is what Trump tells them over and over.

I liked the book. It's not exactly what I expected but it's very readable. I don't think Woodward set out to rake Trump over the coals. He's as deferential in this book as he is in the audio clip explaining to Trump the hows and whys of how it came about without Trump's own input. IMO it's no hatchet job if that's what anyone is looking for.
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LibraryThing member labdaddy4
I have never read any of Woodward's previous books but felt I had to read this one. "Fear" is a very disturbing look into a dark and devious place - all the more troubling in that "the place" is the heart of the executive branch of our federal government. The portrait the author paints is of a shallow, ignorant, mis-informed, vindictive, belligerent, petty, and bigoted man. From the beginning I have been disturbed by Trump - now I am beyond disturbed. This nation should be worried and praying that our democratic and legal institutions can survive this presidency and achieve a major "course correction".

Bob Woodward's reputation speaks for itself. He is one of America's premier investigative journalists and his thoroughness, attention to detail, and honesty have been long respected and revered. While it is very disturbing, this book is excellent and well worth the reader's time.
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