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 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 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 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 hemlokgang
I appreciate the lack of melodrama in this book. Lots of gaps from various publicized moments are filled in as well. There are no particular surprises in my opinion. The primary picture of President Trump is that of an ill-prepared, narcissistic man with the attention span of a gnat, who doesn't bother prepping for anything, whether it is a dinner menu or the economic value of partnering with allies, or nuclear issues with North Korea. Above all, he is a pathological liar, and I think that is not really news at this point.… (more)
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 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 KurtWombat
This book was like drifting through a party of interesting people most of whom you don’t like and overhearing just parts of their conversation. Then your friend whispers a word or two of educated conjecture to fill in the gaps. You feel like you know what’s going on, and maybe you do, but the bull often piles up high at parties and no one is interrupting the chat to get at the facts. I don’t doubt that much of what I read in this book is true but I am willing to admit that part of the reason for that feeling is based on my personal expectations that the worst about Trump is likely true. There is a heaping helping of insider info here about the first year of the Trump presidency that should make anyone feel anywhere from uneasy to downright fearful about the future. This I suspect if one of the reasons for the title. Most likely the title refers Trump’s campaign strategy of scaring voters rather than appeal to the better angels of their character. The one-word title also stands as a stark demarcation between Trump and the previous administrations message of HOPE. When this book was published, much of the media coverage focused on how staffers working within the White House were guiding Trump away from trouble as best they could by maneuvering around him or taking advantage of his short attention span to simply remove items that might allow him to do harm. The book covers Trump’s first year in office and these activities are very much in evidence. Also, you can see the steady change of the guard around Trump as people are fired, resign or hauled off to the hoosegow. The climate grows more intemperate after these changes and the worst seems to be coming. This simmering angst inspired a nod to Hunter S. Thompson by wondering if the sequel to FEAR might not just be entitled LOATHING. This book reads fast--moving from one scandal to another pulling you along like the Lusitania looking for a torpedo. As often happens in life one is left with the hope of a strong cleansing rain that will eventually come and wash the mud from our faces, out of our eyes and away from us for good. But hold on, it’s going to be a minute.… (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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 prudencegoodwife
Scary. Confirms through research what we hear nightly on many news outlets.
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 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 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 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 Judiex
Haven't you sometimes wanted to be a fly on the wall? Bob Woodward's new book FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE gives you that opportunity.
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.”
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LibraryThing member N.W.Moors
Fear is the much-anticipated book by Bob Woodward about the first part of the Trump presidency. I didn't find much new, but I've followed Trump and news about him closely. I'm sure others were surprised by a lot in the book.
The only thing that did surprise me was how much influence Rob Porter had. I suspect he was the source for many of the anecdotes, but up until now I thought of him as the 'wife-beater' and not someone who had that much power.
Woodward is one of the deans of American newspapers, so he had access to a lot of sources, though it did seem that Porter and Bannon made the bulk of the contributions. The weight of the Woodward name is what gives this particular book its power.
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LibraryThing member RobertP
I desperately wish and hope that Woodward is wrong. Sady, given his reputation, he probably isn't.




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