Originally published September 23, 2018
If fear were a fashion accessory, Washington, D.C. and the rest of the United States would be running circles around Paris and Milan.
Bob Woodward’s most recent presidential fare, Fear, is in many ways outright terrifying. It’s not even that Donald Trump is a bad president. He is. No — the notion that should keep up at night isn’t that he doesn’t understand basic economics or the military or domestic policy.
No — it’s that somewhere in that vacuum of a space between his ears, he knows that he does not understand 1/100th of the shit that comes his way every day, but he’s so unbelievably insecure, he will lie about what he knows until he quite simply falls over dead. There is no room in his universe for someone that knows more and can perform better than him.
I don’t know Woodward, but I could hazard a guess the book is named “Fear” not just for the emotions he stokes on an hourly basis with both his fan base and his opposition, but also because that is how Trump likes to move through his world. He just doesn’t feel powerful unless he is scaring the bejeezus out of someone, whether the person is a foreign leader or a foreign-born worker here in the States.
He wants to make you scared. He lives and breathes for that sole purpose. To him, instilling fear is just another day at the office.
“Fear” begins with Steve Bannon joining the effort for Trump’s candidacy for President and ends in early 2018 with the exit of John Dowd, one of Trump’s attorneys handling his role the Mueller investigation. As a result, while Trump is the central figure, the story is bookended with two strong-willed personalities that support Trump’s journey. Bannon is cited regularly through the text, and pretty much is the Devil. Rounding out Satan’s Clubhouse are Wilbur Ross, Stephen Miller, and pretty much the entire team that makes up the Republican leadership in Congress. They’re just plain awful people.
It’s a sad day when the accused domestic abuser, Rob Porter, is about the only sane person with any kind of sway over Trump. I’d include Hope Hicks in that group, but honestly, I think she just played to Trump’s ego. If she had stood up and denounced something like Charlottesville in his presence, my guess is her stock would have tumbled immediately.
Dowd, to his credit, did what any good attorney would do for his client (imploring him not to sit down with Mueller), and when the client wouldn’t listen, he exited with as much grace as he could.
I appreciate the fact that despite what Trump’s opposition thinks, Woodward really doesn’t pull an opinionated punches — it’s simply straight up reporting of what took place from day to day, based on interviews with what I assume were people in the room. (Maybe Reince Priebus, Porter, Cohn and others?) The only people Trump and the Republican leadership can blame for coming off as just the worst are themselves. Woodward isn’t providing commentary. He’s just laying out the story as told to him.
Anything of consequence when it comes to shocking revelations has already been reported on, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading the book. I think context is important to the relevance of so many Trumpisms, and that’s what reading the whole book gives you.
Or, you can always wait for the movie. I know I won’t miss it.