Bob Woodward reveals 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.
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.
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.
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.
Just amazing that this cruel, weak, lazy narcissist still commands such power. Terrifying.
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.
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.
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.
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.