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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Just amazing that this cruel, weak, lazy narcissist still commands such power. Terrifying.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
We're all familiar, too familiar perhaps, with all the events that have taken place since the election of November 8, 2016. In this book we learn what went on behind the scenes. .Each of the forty two short chapters highlights a particular time or subject: domestic, international, economic, etc. The main foci are the personalities, the people that were hired to staff the administration and cabinet, the people who left the administration, and the interactions among them, especially as they related to Donald Trump. The f-bomb shows up in almost all the conversations.
Six years before the election Steve Bannon, a producer of right-wing political films, and David Bossie, longtime House Republican investigator and conservative activist, learned something about the kind of man Donald Trump was: a chameleon. They tried to tell him some of the problems he would have running as a Republican. For one, he had donated money to pro-choice candidates and spoke out in favor of movement.. Bossie told him he had to be pro-life and against abortion. Trump said that he was against abortion and pro-life. When told he had a pro-choice record. He said "That can be fixed. You just tell me how to fix that. I’m–what do you call it? Pro-life. I'm pro-life, I'm telling you."
He also had not voted Republican primaries. Trump insisted he " voted every time since he was 18, 20 years old." Not true. Eighteen-year-olds did not get the right to vote in United States until 1971 when Trump was in his late 20s. Trump was shocked to find out that there are records of who votes every election. Also 80% of the donations he had given had been to Democrats. At first he denied that, then said he had to do that as bribes to run his business.
One commonality is the effort some of the people around him made trying to get Trump to understand the reasons specific treaties and policies were in place and what would happen if he dismantled them. They were often unsuccessful. He didn't understand how our government works or his role in it. Worse yet, he didn't want to learn. As Army Lieutenant General HR McMaster was told by Steve Bannon when the General was to meet with him the first time, "Don't lecture him he does like professors. He does like intellectuals. Trump was a guy who ‘never went to class. Never got the syllabus. Never took a note. Never went to a lecture. The night before the final, he comes in at midnight from the fraternity house, puts on a pot of coffee, takes your notes, memorizes as much as he can, walks and eight in the morning and gets a C. And that's good enough. He’s going to be a billionaire. Show up in your uniform.”
After the election, when Trump was trying to close the borders to immigrants, Gary Cohn, president of Goldman Sachs, spoke in favor of open borders. "The employment picture was so favorable that the United States would run out of workers soon. So immigration had to continue.' We have many jobs in this country that Americans will do.'" Trump did not understand that if the government borrowed a lot of money through issuing bonds, the US deficit is increased. Trump's solution: print more money.
In January 2017, Trump ordered a raid in Yemen. It was a disaster. He went to the ceremony when the first combat casualty’s body in his administration was brought home. He was rattled and said he would never make any more trips to Dover. Later on, when he spoke with Goldstar families, he spent a lot of time speaking to them, talking about information he read in their personnel file. The problem was he was making it all up, saying what he thought they want to hear.
Early on there was disagreement among the aides and staff about how to accomplish their goals. “We need to select the winning issues,” Stephen Miller, a policy advisor and speech writer, said. They should run on the issues that were bad for the Democrats. Son-in-law Jared Kushner strongly disagreed and favored bipartisanship, negotiation and compromise with the Democrats. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus thought they knew how to work Congress to get the votes. “A real estate developer from New York City like Jared didn't know much about politics.” Kushner responded that most of the legislative discussions in the White House involved Priebus acolytes from the combative Republican national committee, or from former Senator Sessions office or from conservatives. None of them had experience negotiating bipartisan agreements are getting deals done. Extremists and people try to score political points were running the legislative intent agenda.
Gary Cohn, National Economic Council Director tried to explain that the US absolutely needed to trade with China. If you Chinese and you want to really destroy us, to stop sending us antibiotics. “You know we don't really produce antibiotics United States? Some major antibiotics are not produced in the United States, including penicillin China sold 96.6% of all the antibiotics used here. We don't produce penicillin.”
After he resigned (for reasons spelled out in FEAR), Trump’s lawyer John Dowd told him “They not going to impeach you….They’re a bunch of cowards, the whole town. The media, the Congress. They're gutless.”
When Trump complained about the media. Dowd replied, “You're the one that didn't give up your tax returns. You've already run one round one.” He did not tell him what he really thought, “You’re a f...ing liar.”
On the last page, there is a telling statement that has happened at the same time the book came out. Things “happened that could change the ball game dramatically. Former top aide comes clean, admits to lying, turns on the president. Dowd didn’t think so but he had to worry and consider the possibility.”
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.