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Fear: Trump in the White House

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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.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published September 11, 2018

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About the author

Bob Woodward

122 books2,481 followers
Robert "Bob" Upshur Woodward is an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post. While an investigative reporter for that newspaper, Woodward, working with fellow reporter Carl Bernstein, helped uncover the Watergate scandal that led to U.S. President Richard Nixon's resignation. Woodward has written 12 best-selling non-fiction books and has twice contributed reporting to efforts that collectively earned the Post and its National Reporting staff a Pulitzer Prize.

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Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,076 followers
April 20, 2019
About a quarter of the way through this comprehensive history of everything leading up to the election of Trump and all the current events, Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs who is the president’s top economic advisor, attempts to explain our economy to Trump. He brings him copious research and data and finally makes it as simple as possible by asking: which would you choose—to go into a mine and get black lung or to make the same salary doing something else? He is attempting to intrude into Trump’s belief that our trade agreements are disgraceful because we’re losing manufacturing jobs—despite the data that more than 80 percent of our jobs are not in manufacturing and that a trade deficit is not a bad thing since it allows people to spend more money on what they’re spending it on anyway—services. Nothing seems to penetrate.
Several times Cohn just asked the president, “Why do you have these views?”

“I just do,” Trump replied. “I’ve had these views for 30 years.”

“That doesn’t mean they’re right,” Cohn said. “I had the view for 15 years I could play professional football. It doesn’t mean I was right.” (138)

Multiply this thousands of times and apply it to all government issues (foreign policy, trade, immigration, etc.) and you begin to understand the problem of a person who never tells the truth because he lacks a basic understanding of what truth is and how one discerns it. Nor can he learn. No amount of correction penetrates: he is told repeatedly that Iran is in compliance with its nuclear weapons agreement, yet he insists on his belief about cheating; he’s given the world history that makes South Korea’s partnership crucial to world peace, yet he wants to disrupt the relationship; he’s presented with statistics proving that steel tariffs will weaken our economy, but he wants what he wants, etc. Nor can he understand the intricate symbiotic relationships between national security, foreign policy, and immigration. In other words, we have elected a man who lives in a fantasy and who therefore bollixes the efforts of anybody who operates according to facts, and when those facts are inconvenient, he dismisses them as “fake” and the people who spew them as “stupid.” He places no value in experience and expertise, ignoring advice derived from those things as he inexplicably disseminates information that is Russian-derived propaganda. And naturally this constant whirlwind of ignorance as a management style has created a whirlwind of people spinning out of control while they simultaneously try to control or please him.

There is little new news in this book (except for a harrowing account of how close Trump came to declaring war with North Korea, with no understanding of the ramifications of doing so!), but Woodward is every much the historian that Doris Kearns Goodwin is writing about past presidents, and this book is an alive blow-by-blow meticulous record that will be studied by students who have not yet been born—if we live to see that future. (I am not usually a history buff, so sometimes the details become overwhelming; but I made the choice to be a student when I read both Doris Kearns Goodwin and this book, and that choice has me applauding the value of the detail for posterity.)

There is nothing mean-spirited about this book. Everybody is presented at times sympathetically—even Trump in his albeit fleeting upset about the chemical-weapons-killed babies in Syria; Jared and Ivanka (who have a miniscule role in this book) come across on the side of DACA kids and the Paris Climate Accord; advisor Rob Porter is heroic in slow-walking terrible orders from Trump; Lindsay Graham is a great deal-maker willing to find ways to make sane things happen; General McMaster tries so hard to do a good job. And this even-handedness highlights the horror of the chaos—everybody is working against each other, undercutting somebody else, running around secretly to “save the world” or “fight for the president.” The horror of this book is that our president has no understanding of truth and has evoked absolute pandemonium in the White House and subsequently all over the world, creating problems where none existed—in trade, in immigration, etc.

For me the value of this book is to better see the whole story, which for some reason makes it both more and less horrifying. It is an alarming story that will result in either the destruction of the world (via WWIII) by a child president who is incapable of learning or understanding the consequences of his hyperbole, or the activation of all of us who love the planet and want peace.

However, in my opinion, Trump and his minions are not the threat to our lives. It is the great apathetic public who refuse to vote let alone know the story that is so well written here. Those who most threaten our security are the people with fixed beliefs like Trump, who shrug and are bored by talk about the relationship between their ability to walk down the street and troops stationed in South Korea, and although I think this is a wonderful and necessary book, I know that it will never be read by those who most need to recognize their peril.

4/20/19 Addendum
The publication of the redacted Mueller Report has validated much of this book: the out-of-control ignorance of our president, his disinterest in and blatant flaunting of the law, as well as how he seems to slip away from so much legal culpability because his staff simply refused to carry out criminal orders. And as the news breaks, so too is my dismay validated by the complete disinterest of those with fixed beliefs and no interest in facts who dismiss the report without even reading it.
Because it has come up in my review thread comments that probably will not be read by many people, I would like to reiterate and elaborate on my sense of the tone of this book: It is not only even-handed and steady, but there is a compassionate undertone. Woodward is not out to get anybody. In the acknowledgements and the front-of-book personal note, he shares about his researcher and collaborator, Evelyn M. Duffy, and his wife, Elsa Walsh, "known widely as the Kindness Lady." He attributes to Evelyn a noble work ethic and a reverence for authenticated fact-based journalism, which is palpable in this book. And to Elsa he acknowledges "not just an unselfish appreciation for each person but a reverence for each." This best describes the compassion I sense in Woodward's writing and his approach to even those people with whom he disagrees. All this adds to the reader's sense that he is telling truth.
Profile Image for Will Byrnes.
1,310 reviews120k followers
September 29, 2022
…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - Franklin Delano Roosevelt Inaugural address – March 4, 1933
Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear. - Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016
FDR was correct. The fear that gripped the nation in the Great Depression may have had a basis in reality, but acceding to that fear could have hindered any attempts to make the dire economic situation better. Would Roosevelt feel the same way today? Do we have nothing to fear but fear itself? Well, we do have a very concrete problem that generates a fair bit of concern, anxiety, nervousness, and yes, fear. The guy in the White House. The fear that Roosevelt addressed was a concern that the nation, under the weight of the latest in a series of economic collapses, might not be able to recover from it soon enough to matter, leaving the nation impoverished, riven with internal strife, and in danger from external enemies. The fears we contend with today include a widespread concern about a declining standard of living, a whipped-up concern about minorities, both foreign and domestic, distrust of those who worship differently, or not at all, confusion about increasing gender fluidity, and diversity. But there are specific fears that center on the guy in the Oval Office, both of the incoming and outgoing sorts.

Bob Woodward - image from the Washington Post

As illustrated in the opening quote above, (which is the opening of the book as well, the Trump quote, that is) Donald Trump believes the application of fear in dealing with people and nations is the proper course. Threats, bullying, and intimidation are the favorite irons in his bag. In the application of this approach, it is distinctly possible that he might miscalculate to the point of sparking economic mayhem, or even war. But the other element of fear that should terrify us all is his fear for himself.

Donald Trump has paid vast sums of money to see that his under-the-covers philanderings remain under cover. (“You’ve got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women,” he said. “If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you’re dead.”) He is terrified that the world might see what an empty vessel he truly is. You may recall his conversation with the Mexican president in which Trump pleaded with El Presidente to give him some political cover so he would not have to face his supporters with the news that building the wall was really only a campaign scam. He is afraid that he will be shown to be a mobbed-up front-man, a tool for the Russian mafia, living large by laundering their ill-gotten rubles. He is terrified that he will be exposed as an asset of the Russian government, impacting American foreign and domestic policy in ways that advantage his Russian handler. Where those fears become kinetic is in how he attempts to protect himself. He has done his best to shred the two American institutions that might hold him accountable, the justice system and the fourth estate, waging war on truth itself.

Trump has been griping about the media, well the media that is not Fox, Infowars, Clear Channel, Rush Limbaugh, or any of the far right-wing outlets that serve as a public relations propaganda support system for him, at least since his campaign. It has always seemed clear that the intent here is to erode the standing of news organizations that were likely to expose his many misdeeds. His attacks on judges handling suits against him, on the FBI, which was investigating his campaign’s potential ties to Russia, and on the Justice Department, which controls the FBI, and under which the Special Counsel was appointed, are all attempts to undermine the authority of agencies that are likely to bring his crimes to light and him to justice. If he can persuade the American people that the cops and judges are all corrupt he might get away with his particular responsibility for decades of money-laundering, at the very least, and quite likely a traitorous alliance with Putin, whether entered into willingly or via blackmail. Fending off investigators, public and journalistic, is an existential challenge for him, driven by his fear of exposure.

The focus of Woodward’s book is on one particular form of fear, the concern the people who work for Donald Trump have that he might do serious damage to the United States, and even to the world, either in his handling of potentially fraught negotiations, domestic or international, (there is particular attention paid to dealings with South and North Korea that illustrates this very well) or in his need to preserve his freedom, and privilege, by destroying respected norms and institutions. He is Godzilla, and we are all Tokyo.


Another substantial element is the chaos that is the White House, where established lines of communication and authority are regularly crossed, where the staff are constantly on the edge, wondering when the next absurd and/or dangerous presidential action may require their intervention, to try talking him out of it, slow him down, or make the requisite paperwork vanish.

A third theme that permeates is Trump’s flaws as a leader, his lack of intellectual curiosity, his adherence to preconceived notions regardless of research and advice that would lead a flexible human to a more informed opinion, (for example, accusing Iran of violating the treaty despite his own people telling him that they had not) his inability or unwillingness to take in more than a minimum amount of information on pretty much any subject, suggesting an attention deficit disorder.

You have probably heard quite a few quotes from this book, as coverage of its contents has been widespread. Perhaps the most significant are in the prologue
It was no less than an administrative coup d’état, an undermining of the will of the president of the United States and his constitutional authority.
In addition to coordinating policy decisions and schedules and running the paperwork for the president, Porter told an associate, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.”
Another strategy was to delay, procrastinate, cite legal restrictions, Lawyer Porter said, “But slow-walking things or not taking things up to him, or telling him—rightly, not just as an excuse—but this needs to be vetted, or we need to do more process on this, or we don’t have legal counsel clearance—that happened 10 times more frequently than taking papers from his desk. It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually.
…the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.
As with Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, Steve Bannon has clearly offered the author considerable information on the goings on inside the White House. It is also clear that there are many other insiders who have talked to Woodward. One must always wonder, of course, where reporting events accurately leaves off for these sources, and where reputation embellishment begins. Thankfully, Woodward has gone to great lengths to corroborate diverse accounts to arrive at an accurate picture. I would be inclined to take what is reported in this book as the best obtainable version of the truth.

Here are some other details that are worth remembering.
-----Reince Preibus, as head of the GOP, had invested heavily in analytics and big data, over $175 million, and was very effective in using the drill-down intel to target neighborhoods with battalions of volunteers in the 2016 election. The intel even allowed targeting of individuals.
-----It was in 2015 that the NSA first found that Russia was looking at US voter rolls.
-----After pussygate, while almost all of his advisors urged Trump to drop out of the presidential race, there were two who urged him to stay in, Bannon, which is no shock, and Melania, which is, given the general view that she wanted no part of a presidential run.
-----Woodward also reports that, while Trump and Melania operate in pretty much separate spheres, there is genuine affection between the two. Color me skeptical.
----- It was interesting to learn how much influence and access Lindsay Graham had at the White House, which goes a long way to explaining how Graham could have pulled such a 180 on Trump. Graham had called Trump a “race-bating xenophobic bigot” in 2015, but in 2018, Graham said “He’s not, in my view, a racist by any stretch of the imagination.” It’s enough to give a guy whiplash.
-----Fascinating to read about Trump’s lawyer John Dowd and his dealings with Trump and Robert Mueller.
-----It was somewhat alarming learning of the sundry notions that were floated by presidential advisors re how to deal with North Korea’s acquisition of ICBM capability.
-----And also alarming, although not at all surprising, to read of John Kelly’s avid hostility toward Dreamers.
----- His people manage Trump’s time so he gets home after the weekend news on CNN and MSNBC goes into softer mode at 9pm.

Much of the book goes into specifics on the hirings and firings that keep the doors of the White House in need of constant oiling. Sometimes the idiocy is mind-boggling. Trump, early on, passed over John Bolton for a significant position because he did not like his moustache. Not that I have any particular fondness for Bolton, myself, but you do not base such decisions on the quality of someone’s facial hair. I mean he hired Ty Cobb, for god’s sake, or had him kidnapped from another century.

Gripes – Woodward sticks by his public position that the Steele dossier was a “garbage document” and that Comey should not have presented any of it to the president. It is unclear on what Woodward bases this position, given the solidity of the investigator, and the ongoing verification of information reported in that document.

You have probably heard/read this, but here are some of the lovely things said about Trump by his own appointees
-----Cohn had witnessed this for over a year—denial when needed or useful or more convenient. He’s a “professional liar,” Cohn told an associate.
-----He’s a fucking moron,” Tillerson said so everyone heard.
----- Trump had failed the President Lincoln test. He had not put a team of political rivals or competitors at the table, Priebus concluded. “He puts natural predators at the table,” Priebus said later. “Not just rivals—predators.
-----The president’s unhinged,” Kelly said
-----Trump normally wouldn’t listen long or very carefully to his national security adviser but it had gotten much worse, McMaster told Porter. “It’s like I can’t even get his attention.”
-----Cohn realized that Trump had gone bankrupt six times and seemed not to mind. Bankruptcy was just another business strategy. Walk away, threaten to blow up the deal. Real power is fear… Applying this mind-set from his real estate days to governing and deciding to risk bankrupting the United States would be a different matter entirely.
----- In a small group meeting in his office one day, Kelly said of the president, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in crazytown.
“I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.
-----McMaster said that he believed Mattis and Tillerson had concluded that the president and the White House were crazy. As a result, they sought to implement and even formulate policy on their own without interference or involvement from McMaster, let alone the president.
----- In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying “Fake News,” the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: “You’re a fucking liar.”

The man really commands loyalty in his people. And then there are the insults, the abuse to which he subjected that staff, regardless of their level of loyalty to him. It is amazing anyone will even speak to the man. I will spare you those.

It is obvious that there is a clear and present danger to all Americans from the man currently resident in the White House, a man who is not only unfit to hold this highest position in the nation, but a man whose dull intellect, exuberant venality, core-deep corruption, contempt for American values and laws, authoritarian inclinations, and unsurpassed greed have made him the worst president in the history of the nation. His rigidity and ignorance have caused even people who share the political values he espouses to engage in activities that are probably criminal in order to spare the nation the downsides of his ill-informed, and often darkly-intentioned decisions. Fear is not the only thing we have to fear. We have just cause to fear what Donald Trump might do with the gigantic instrument he has been charged with operating. While busying himself looting the national treasure for himself and his pals, while paring back sane restrictions on polluting industries, while dismantling much of the mechanism of government that produces and distributes factual information for the nation, while engaging in border practices that make us remember the 1930s and 1940s, he is also busy tearing down respected institutions, shredding political and moral norms, and making the USA the laughingstock of the world.

So, President Roosevelt, it is most certainly NOT THE CASE that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. There are plenty of fear-generating people, nations and events on our planet that can justify our fears. But the one that supersedes all, for the moment, is Donald J. Trump. He is a danger to us all, and, as the investigations into his dark deeds progresses, he is only getting more paranoid and desperate. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
We must especially beware of that small group of selfish men who would clip the wings of the American Eagle in order to feather their own nests.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, State of the Union Address, Jan. 9, 1941

Review first posted – 9/21/18

Publication date – 9/11/18

=============================EXTRA STUFF

Links to the author’s personal, Twitter and FB pages

September 5, 2018 - I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration - by Anonymous

-----September 15, 2018 - New York Magazine - Bob Woodward on the ‘Best Obtainable Version of the Truth’ About Trump - by Olivia Nuzzi
-----September 5, 2018 – CNN - 13 totally bananas moments from Donald Trump's phone call with Bob Woodward - by Chris Cillizza. – a fun piece
----- September 14, 2018 - The Guardian - Bob Woodward: 'Too many people are emotionally unhinged about Trump'
- by David Smith
----- September 14, 2018 - KQED.org – Washington Week Washington Week episode: ‘Fear’ inside the Trump White House - with Robert Costa – Woodward’s final line in the interview - “He’s really disabled. He can’t tell the truth.”

Items of Interest
-----October 15, 2018 - A nice short video that puts the current danger into historical context - If You’re Not Scared About Fascism in the U.S., You Should Be
-----February 22, 2019 - Atlantic Magazine - The Alarming Scope of the President's Emergency Powers - by Elizabeth Goitein - When push comes to prosecute or impeach, do you really expect Trump to accede to the rule of law? This alarming article points out the many tools available to Swamp Thing that might be misused to keep his crooked ass out of jail. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
-----March 7, 2019 - NY Times - Nicholas Kristof offers an optimistic perspective on the unlikelihood of a Trump Reich - We Will Survive. Probably.
-----March 14, 2019 - NY Times - Donald Trump’s Bikers Want to Kick Protester Ass - building a brownshirt militia - this is really bad
-----But Lawrence O'Brien Lawrence O'Brien thinks it's just gas. Sure hope he's right.
Profile Image for Michael Ferro.
Author 2 books214 followers
September 19, 2018
Unlike FIRE AND FURY, Bob Woodward's work is backed by the validity of two Pulitzer prizes and numerous accolades for his inscrutable reporting. One of the key men responsible for helping to shed a light on (and bring down) Nixon and his atrocities, I can think of few other journalists who are needed more in our modern political realm than Woodward.

That said, FEAR scared the shit out of me. Move over, Stephen King, Bob Woodward has written the most terrifying book in years. Never has it been so crystal clear as it is within these pages just how unfit and batshit insane our president is. From his rambling tirades, to his painful ignorance, to his absolute steadfast intentions to push for his own interests and casting aside the greater needs of our country, Woodward paints an revoltingly intimate portrait of a man who conned an entire country and seems determined to watch it all burn in his wake.

Let me make this clear: I don't want things to be like this; I don't live to read about the salacious and cringeworthy acts of our president—I take no joy in this. I just want a competent, compassionate president who has the greater interests of our country in their heart. Woodward's intricate and detailed reporting gives us incredibly specific examples of our president's malfeasance and the shock and awe not only among our allies, but within his own White House. The bottom line: none of this is normal. We, as Chief of Staff General Kelly himself said, have gone off the rails—this is Crazytown. There is no way that this is sustainable. Either we will tear ourselves apart as a nation, or one of the president's nonsensical actions will do the job for us.

One of the most important books of the year. Woodward gives us the facts—the rest is up to us.
Profile Image for Peter.
472 reviews2,556 followers
July 8, 2019
“Cohn realised that Trump had gone bankrupt six times and seemed not to mind. Bankruptcy was just another business strategy. Walk away, threaten to blow up the deal. Real power is fear.”
Donald Trump is probably the most divisive President in US history and has created a polarised nation between those believing he is honestly and strategically playing a role to achieve gains for the US, and those who think he’s destructive, stumbling from one, sometimes self-imposed, incident to another.

The world that shaped Trump is one of privilege and wealth. His business style is one of brash authority where he doesn’t need to placate others, and if he makes a mistake, it costs money but is not life and death. As US President, one of the most powerful men in the world, he is responsible for global politics, economics and national security, and IT IS a matter of life and death. The big issue I wanted answering is, whether Trump is equipped with the capability, integrity and selfless ambition to form a Government and serve his nation. He is required to shoulder the expectations of ALL citizens to deliver prosperity and security to his country and play his role on a more and more inclusive world stage. Is he doing this?

Bob Woodward sets out a journalistic-style, piece-by-piece book, that draws a picture of a leader that is erratic, unpredictable and will say and do anything to remain a popular public figure. The image of Trump is of a president that lacks knowledge about his area of responsibility, someone who lacks integrity, someone who cannot analyse a situation in depth and bring comprehensive diverse advice to inform a coherent defendable but definite decision. He will make irrational decisions with little appreciation of political structures, legislature or legal agreements.
“Despite almost daily report of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was. Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic. He would get in a bad mood, something large or small would infuriate him”
Trump is presented through the various incidents covered in the book to show a lack of understanding on economic strategies and how they affect domestic and global markets, and how little candour and loyalty he has when it comes to building a team that can cohesively deliver the Government’s plans. His turnaround in staff is deeply concerning and his history of turning apparently close friends into enemies is shocking. In particular the Clintons, Steve Bannon (Trump’s Chief Strategist) and Gary Cohn (Director of National Economic Council).

With Trump’s impulsive and unpredictable approach, this can be advantageous in certain instances and can achieve results. For example, the NATO agreements on moving each member country to honour it’s committed financial contribution, or the rapid consolidation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, showing unity against Iran. It would be a great tool to have at your disposal when diplomacy drags in the quagmire of debate and negotiation. However, if it becomes the norm, it becomes predictable and playable. Woodward describes a White House environment where advisors, aides, appointed officials, and Government staff are constantly berated while they protect the President/Country by hiding executive order documents to prevent serious international consequences. Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State), after one of the senior staff meetings, says to Reince
“I just don’t like the way the president talks to these generals. They don’t deserve it. I can’t sit around and listen to this from the president. He’s just a moron.”
Chapter by chapter, the narrative covers the period from pre-Republican nomination to recent times, through issues involving, immigration, racial divisions, tax reforms, North Korea, South Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, NATO, and the numerous trade deals. Unfortunately, there are no real revelations that we may have hoped for. The sad result is that our greatest fears about Trump, his bullish, disrespectful and offensive character, and his inability to constructively contribute to a domestic and international political and economic agenda have a solid foundation, and are not just a front. The pace of these events and the dialogue are a little slow but there are moments of interest that are engrossing, and then it’s gone again.

It’s almost impossible to be unbiased in considering Trump and his position as President of the USA. I haven’t read other books on Trump but when this account became available from Bob Woodward, my perception was that if there is an opportunity of reading a considered account of Donald Trump as US President, where the veracity of the background research and sources are validated, this would be it. There are obvious debates over those sources being played out in the news and Woodward’s own agenda, but I feel it slightly irrelevant, as there were no surprises or startling insights that would cause me to change my perception of Donald Trump. Whether open-minded pro-Trump supporters will see their President in a different light, is an interesting question.

I would recommend reading this book as it does provoke interest and debate but don’t expect any great revelations. I may just be cynical, but I’m still not convinced I’ve heard the whole truth and I’m just wondering what hidden agendas are at play by sources providing material for this book.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.9k followers
November 20, 2019

The thing you should know about Woodward and Bernstein is that Woodward was never much of a writer. No, Bernstein, he was the writer. Choosing the right word, arranging the facts in a persuasive array, concluding with a rhetorical flourish: these are contributions Bernstein made that gave the work of Bernward and Woodstein its sophistication, its polish.

Of course, Bernstein was a heck of a reporter too, but the two of them were different. Bernstein was mercurial and intuitive; Woodward was indefatigable and relentless. Bernstein knew instinctively what would move the reader; Woodward was the boy who got things done. (Speaking of getting things done: in addition to their collaborations, Woodward has to date completed seventeen books. Bernstein has completed three.)

Still, for all his strengths, Bob Woodward has always been a plodder. For example, he introduces his “characters” with predictable adjectives: Bannon is “aggressive, certain, and loud,” Kellyanne Conway is “feisty,” Mitch McConnell is “wily.” He does not paint a scene well, and he seldom tries. Instead, he lets his dialogue do it for him.

It is the dialogue that gives his books their strength. Woodward is known to make audio recordings when he can, and stenographically record everything else. His dialogue has the ring of authenticity. If not completely accurate, each scene undoubtedly reflects the memory—however self-serving—of his principal source for the particular event. And, given Woodward’s methods, you can be sure each source is backed up by one or two others.

In Fear, it is not difficult to see who these sources are. Predictably, they seem to be big-time players already ejected from the administration: Bannon, Priebus, Cohn, Porter, McMaster, Tillerson, and Dowd, with an occasional scene contributed by a peripheral player, such as Lyndsey Graham or Chris Christie.

The sad fact, though, is that little is to be learned from Fear, in spite of all the hype. The value of the usual Woodward book is that Bob—because of his sterling reputation—has a knack for getting on record sources other people can’t get. But this is an unnecessary virtue when you are writing about a White House where everybody leaks all the time.

I’m not saying you don’t learn things from the book. You learn, for example, how Mattis (in conjunction with McMaster and Tillerson) saved us from WW III by saying “no” to Trump, how Gary Cohn and Rob Porter forestalled economic meltdown by stealing papers from Trump’s desk, and how Dowd (unsuccessfully) tried to rescue Trump from Trump. And of course you learn how stupid and erratic and childlike everybody thinks Trump is. But if you’ve read Fire and Fury, if you’ve been following the Times and the Post, then you know most of this stuff anyway.

I’d like to end with a brief passage. It is not central to the book, not even germane to the coprological cataclysm that is the Trump White House, but I liked it because it told me something I did not know: why Kim Jung Un is a more effective leader of his nation than his father Kim Jung Il.
The elder Kim had dealt with weapons test failures by ordering the death of the responsible scientists and officials. They were shot. The younger Kim accepted failures in tests, apparently absorbing the practical lesson: Failure is inevitable on the road to success. Under Kim Jung Un, the scientists lived to learn from their mistakes and the weapons programs improved.
Profile Image for Matt.
3,821 reviews12.8k followers
October 27, 2020
I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #31 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

While the talk of the 45th President of the United States (POTUS) seems to be an endless cycle of conversation, insults, and downright headaches, I approached reading this book with an open and curious mind. I chose to let Bob Woodward —a highly esteemed journalist in his own right—guide me through some of his findings during the early period of the Trump presidency.

Woodward explores Trump’s candidacy and first year or so in the Oval Office, tackling some of the more controversial events and topics that came to light. Woodward offers the reader some insights into this time, where Trump was fuelled by a passionate hatred of President Obama and how he would do anything to derail or dismantle programs put in place, making promises at rallies and seeking to enact them as soon as he had a presidential seat.

There was also much talk of his attempts to make his own mark in the military, trade, sanctions, and even diplomacy, all guided by his Trump-centric mentality. Woodward clearly points that Trump was not alone, as he had a number of well-meaning—as well as completely useless—advisors around him, many of whom tried to guide him in a certain direction. While I may not agree with their politics, Woodward presents these advisors as those who sought to educate and guide Trump towards what could be done for America and how the Jenga blocks needed to be inched in a certain direction in order not to make things come cascading down, thereby heralding catastrophe.

The few sycophants who emerge from the text are those who are useless to the larger process, but entirely what Trump felt he needed on a daily basis. Armed with his narrow view on the world and with his Twitter account as a billy club, Trump tried to fix all things in a few characters, which usually failed to bring about presidential diplomacy.

If Woodward offers a single theme in this book that echoes throughout the pages of well-documented chapters, it is that Trump wanted to do things his way and will rarely follow the narrow and calculated path asked of him. A renegade to some and completely rogue to others, there is reason to fear.

America’s enemies are ready and willing to strike, which evokes added concern, when the man with his finger on the button treats it like his own personal toy, rather than listening to the reason of those who seek to advise.

Woodward should be applauded for this book, as he seeks to offer insights through the eyes of others, rather than rallying his own personal attacks with little substantive proof. Recommend for those who want a glimpse inside the West Wing without the baseless attacks of a jilted few who feed only negative information to sell books.

I have heard much about this book before I even began the opening sentence. Some loved the book for its openness and exploration of a number of topics, while others hated it for not revealing new smoking guns or additional finger pointing. Still others criticized it for poking fun at the POTUS in any way, as we should bow to him and allow him to create America in a new image.

I found the book to be intriguing in many ways and took much away from it. While I have read a few books on the Trump presidency—is it not indicative of something that so many pieces have come out so soon after he made it to the Oval Office?—there are themes that come out in all of them. These include: obsession with television portrayals, refusal to read background materials for essential decisions, preconceived notions of effective governance, and a hatred for all who oppose him.

What this book helped me see was that all of these and other perspectives were further solidified through the interviews Woodward undertook with those closest to Trump. This was not Woodward standing atop a soap box and issuing criticism dreamed up in his own mind, he used the words and sentiments of many who were ‘in the trenches’ to garner a better understanding for the reader. Call me naive, but I cannot see Bob Woodward as one who is all that interested in using weak information to build his arguments. Woodward has shown time and again that he asks the tough questions, but seeks to be fair in his delivery. First hand accounts serve as the foundation of this book’s narrative momentum, which I applaud.

There are moments of praise for Trump and others of complete mockery, but when they come from within, can be really call it a smear campaign by liberal media sources? I have never hidden my sentiments on this topic and while I try to get some of my foundation through reading and trying to better understand the situation, I am also an outsider. I admit to being happy that I have the right to expand my horizons and to better comprehend that which I argue against from my side of the (unwalled) border. Freedoms to express my sentiments cannot be taken, nor should they, so long as I am not fanning unfounded hatred for the sake of personally harming others. Worry not, Woodward handles this discussion in the book when he speaks of the supremacist rallies in the summer of 2017.

This was the first book I read on the subject where I was attacked by both pro- and anti-Trump folks. The former group sought to criticize me for reading about the negativity of the POTUS and how it all lies, while the latter bemoaned that I would waste my time reading about him at all. It is this ignorance that has pushed for me to seek a better understanding of the situation. I find many readers seek to ‘trump’ the ongoing discussions, in hopes that people will stop talking and trying to better understand things as they evolve.

Should we, as citizens of the world, live in fear until 2020? Might the type of behaviour exemplified in this book lead to horrible things? There is that possibility, but it could also be a rallying cry for American voters to turn out to cast their ballots, while Intelligence agencies work to plug some of the gaping holes that permitted outsider influences in elections past.

I encourage Bob Woodward to return to this topic after the Trump presidency has ended (however that will come about), as I would read that book, which can explore the entire experience in a single arc. Until then, I encourage all readers with an interest to give this book a try, ignoring the trolls on both sides who hurl insults at your choice. (Note, since reading and reviewing this book the first time, Woodward has added to the Trump White House series, my next major read, RAGE).

Kudos, Mr. Woodward, for giving me something about which to think. I feel enriched about what you have presented and look forward to where things will lead from here.

Love/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/...
Profile Image for Matt.
936 reviews28.6k followers
December 6, 2021
“In 2016, candidate [Donald] Trump gave [journalist] Bob Costa and myself his definition of the job of president: ‘More than anything else, it’s the security of our nation…That’s number one, two, and three… The military, being strong, not letting bad things happen to our country from the outside. And I certainly think that’s always going to be my number-one part of the definition.’ The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world. What follows is that story…”
- Bob Woodward, Fear: Trump in the White House

In deciding to read and review Bob Woodward’s Fear, I broke two of my personal rules.

The first has to do with time. Specifically, how long it takes for the “news” we ingest each day to become “history.” Typically, a decent number of years – sometimes decades – must pass for us to even approach a full understanding of a momentous historical occasion. This passage allows reason to overtake emotion; gives historians an opportunity to ferret out evidence; and provides the full measure of clarity that comes with hindsight.

That time is clearly missing here.

Covering less than half of President Donald Trump’s first term in office, the stories recounted in Fear are obviously rather fresh in everyone’s mind. More than that, we are still living with the aftershocks of the former president’s tumultuous administration. Memories are still very vivid. Wounds are still very raw. It is hard – bordering on impossible – to guess what this half-decade of bruising campaigns, discarded norms, fractured electorates, and unbridgeable divides will mean in ten or twenty or fifty years. The Republic will probably still be here, but that no longer seems like a given.


The second rule has to do with discussing – or even mentioning – politics on the internet. To me, an online political discussion seems about as productive as covering myself in rotting fruit and physically embracing a large nest of murder hornets.

That makes it hard to talk about Fear. It is about politics. More specifically, it is a scathing indictment of the forty-fifth president. Roughly fifty percent will accept everything in the book as a given, the other fifty ignore it as fake news. There is little hope for anything meaningful in bringing it up in the first place. If politics can still ruin family holidays, you can imagine what it does to complete strangers basking in the perceived anonymity of the worldwide web.

Thus, before going any further, I want to emphasize that this review – and my rating – is based on Fear as a work of literature, nothing more.

To that end, Fear is a very average book, bordering on the disappointing.


Given that I didn’t much like it, I should begin with the question of how I chose it. The answer: after minimal thought.

There is a massive cottage industry of Trump takedowns. Close your eyes and point your finger. Now open your eyes. You’re pointing at a book about Trump. These run the gamut. Some are serious pieces of journalism. Others are insider tell-alls. Some strive for integrity, others traffic in unsourced gossip.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to ever read a Trump book. I planned to put my head down, ignore them all, and then wait fifty years, by which point I’d be long dead and never have to think about this period again. Of course, I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t ignore the world swirling about outside my door. However unlikely, I wanted to try to comprehend what we’d just been through.

I picked Woodward’s book based solely on his reputation. After all, this is the man who – with Carl Bernstein’s help – broke the news that forced a president out of office. The knock on Woodward is that he is part of the establishment, a brand unto himself, prolifically churning out inside-politics bestsellers year after year. It is this establishment-ness, though, that makes Woodward so good. He has the sources. Everyone, it seems, wants to talk to the guy who gave us Deep Throat and All the President’s Men.

It also helps that Woodward’s books are so massively overproduced that if you wait a couple years, you can get a beautifully unread hardcover copy for less than a coffee at Starbucks.


Fear begins in 2010, with a brief episode in which Steve Bannon opines that Trump will never run for president. It ends in March 2018, when Trump attorney John Dowd resigns in the midst of the Mueller Investigation. The fact that Woodward covers such a relatively long span in less than 400 pages should let you know just about everything there is about the depth of coverage.

My entire – mostly negative – reaction to Fear can be boiled down to this: it is glib. Woodward’s style reminded me of Frogger, with that desperate frog navigating a hazardous river by jumping from lily pads to logs, all the way to the other side. Instead of lily pads and logs, Woodward skips from one scene to the next, at a pace so frenzied that you barely notice the complete lack of context.

There is nothing resembling a thoughtful narrative here. It is the written equivalent of a clip show, a series of scenes strung together, mostly comprised of allegedly-verbatim dialogue. There is a lot going on in these pages, including tensions with North Korea, Trump’s threats to leave NATO, Trump’s threats to overturn trade agreements, Trump’s fixation on trade deficits (involving his threats to impose tariffs), Trump’s insult to decency after the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, the passage of the tax bill, and the slow-moving cloud of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Woodward uses each of these vignettes for one purpose: to shock the reader with some jaw-dropping quote either by or about Trump. To be clear, I have no problem believing these things were said, as they have been reported elsewhere. Moreover, the chaotic nature of Trump’s administration is well-corroborated and no longer a secret. The trouble is that – as a reader – I felt like I was getting the highlight reel without any feel for the whole game. Every page seemed like it was designed to be Tweeted. Heck, even though I hadn’t read this before, it was exceedingly familiar, mostly because the juiciest excerpts had already appeared in The Washington Post and other outlets.

One of the many results of this style is an absence of prioritization. For example, with regard to North Korea, Woodward seems to have some real insights into the dangers posed by Kim Jong-un, and the important relationship between the United States and South Korea. Instead of digging into this issue, though, it gets brought up, dropped, and left behind, all so that Woodward can tell us about Trump insulting Jeff Sessions.


Missing is any thoughtful analysis. Missing is any sense of how these scenes connected together. Missing is any meaningful portraits of the characters involved. If someone – it won’t be me – actually picks this up in fifty years, they’re not going to have any idea of what’s going on, and not simply because this is the tale of an inherently disordered presidential administration. It’s because Woodward has decided that he doesn’t need to include all that boring old stuff like background, setting, and subject-matter exploration. He knows – or thinks he knows – what his readers want, which is Trump’s chief-of-staff calling him an “idiot.”


This is very much a book designed for a specific moment. Published shortly before the 2018 midterm elections, it became an instant bestseller, its highlights – by which I mean lowlights – splashed across the media landscape. If you read it upon release, I am sure that it was suitably horrifying to look behind the curtain.

Now that the curtain has been rolled back, we are left with a book that doesn’t seem to have much heft. It is not poorly written, for Woodward is a polished writer. Indeed, it’s incredibly readable, and I inhaled it the same way my kids inhaled their Halloween candy, with similar results.

It’s just not going to last.

Oftentimes we talk about the “first draft of history,” those volumes that come out in the shadow of big moments, that try to outline what happened, and that give us an initial impression, which can then be amplified, challenged, and changed.

Fear is far too slick to be the first draft of anything. It’s more like the press release for the abstract of the first draft of history. There will be far better titles in the years to come, ones that will obsess less on the insane things that were said, and focus more on the policies those words engendered. This future book will ponder not just what the hell happened, but what it all meant to a country that no longer knows itself, if it ever did.
Profile Image for Cecily.
1,137 reviews4,182 followers
September 11, 2020
I don’t read many non-fiction books, and almost never politics, let alone foreign politics. But more than two years of slavishly, horrifiedly(!) following a spectrum of US news sites and tweeters has changed that.

First, I read and reviewed Fire and Fury (my review HERE), as one of the early headline-grabbing books of Trump’s regime.

Then, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (my review HERE), as it was refreshingly fun, and with a good, positive message. And much later, but in a slightly similar vein, A Ladybird Book About Donald Trump (my review HERE).

Next up was The Faith of Donald J. Trump: A Spiritual Biography (my review HERE) as it’s at the rotten heart of what I most despise.

And now this. Because it’s by Bob Woodward: a multi award winning journalist and biographer of nine presidents, red and blue. There’s a detailed index, notes, explanations, and no gossip. No analysis either. Just reportage “from multiple deep background interviews with firsthand sources”.

The most revealing so far is Mary L Trump's psychological analysis of her dysfunctional family, Too Much and Never Enough (my review HERE).

Fear is a Liar

Real power is - I don’t even want to use the word - fear.” - Candidate Trump, in an interview.
Trump weaponises fear, deliberately:
Real power is fear. It’s all about strength… You’ve got to deny, deny, deny.” - Trump to a friend accused of sexual misconduct.

Image: “Fear is a Liar” - graffiti. Source.

What does the fearmonger fear?

He pivots and lies instinctively, compulsively, and maybe sometimes unconsciously. Even in private, on trivial matters, and regardless of how easy to disprove. That’s why his lawyer didn’t want him to talk to Mueller.

There’s plenty to fear from a fact-averse White House that is as unpredictable as its nominal head: one minute threatening “fire and fury” on North Korea from his bigger nuclear button, and a few months later declaring he “fell in love” with Kim thanks to a “beautiful letter”. Trump’s dysfunctional regime is one long nervous breakdown, and, with key documents being swiped from the Resolute Desk before Trump can sign them (the big scoop of this book), there has perhaps been an “administrative coup d’état”.

Cast Aside Fear

Is Trump a puppet (whether of Putin, Bannon, the Mercers and other 1%ers, the Saudi royals, or the Faith and Freedom Coalition and other fundamentalist conservative “christians”) or is he the master manipulator? I’m not sure which would be more alarming, let alone which is true.

All presidencies are audience driven, but Trump’s central audience was often himself.

Staff despair of his TV and Twitter habits, but he knows their power, and harnesses it:
This is my megaphone… This is who I am. This is how I communicate. It’s the reason I got elected.
Trump gets printouts of his most popular tweets to spot what works. The showman knows what he’s doing in this medium, and thus controls the public discourse and news cycles.

For the narrow period covered, this book is thorough, and it’s reasonably well-written. But it's old news. The worrying aspects of Trump’s personality and behaviour have long been in plain sight; this book adds context and examples, but nothing new. It will doubtless be referred to thirty years hence and beyond, but it’s not history yet.

There is certainly the fear of the title. But somehow it's dull. Maybe I have fear fatigue.

Image: “Cecily is finished with Fear” - GoodReads auto-generated status.

Focus on Hope

Did staffers speak to Woodward to salvage some integrity, especially those who left it too late to leave Trump’s regime untainted? (With hundreds of pages of detailed notes, plus hours of recordings, I’m sure their identities will eventually be proven.)

It’s not what we did for the country… It’s what we saved him from doing.” - Gary Cohn.

That gives hope to those who still fear what this unpredictable and unprincipled president might do.

Image: “Hope” by George Frederic Watts. Source.

I’ve seen this beautiful picture in London. Hope is blinded, seated on a globe, and clutching a lyre with a single remaining string. It is apparently a favourite of Obama’s after it was used in a sermon, and the pastor said the woman in the portrait had the audacity to hope - an idea Obama used as the title of his autobiography (my dusty review HERE).

Hope isn’t about fluff and rainbows. Hope is most powerful in times of need. In times of fear.

"Real power is hope. It’s not all about strength… You’ve got to hope, hope, hope. And act when, where, and how you can." - Cecily.
Profile Image for Mackey.
1,074 reviews363 followers
September 27, 2018
If Bob Woodward's latest book doesn't put a little fear in your heart, then you're not paying attention.

I'm a Watergate kid. I grew up with the Watergate hearings on our television - along with Vietnam, of course - every single day. We knew who John and Mo were and Senator Sam and the entire mesmerizing, horrifying bunch. But the pair we knew best were Woodward and Bernstein. To me, they were heroes who met in dark alleys to get the scoop and had the power to bring down the president! Of course, that was a different era when high crimes and federal laws actually were important and breaking those laws meant you would indicted and incarcerated or, in the case of Nixon, forced to resign. Thankfully. And sadly. We no longer live by the same standards today. :(

If you're looking for commentary on the meat of this book, there are plenty of other reviews out there to read. You already know what it is about. I'm not going to discuss politics or who is right and who is wrong. Everyone who reads this review already will have their mind made up - and that is sad. Just as Woodward listened to Deep Throat and wrote about that informant's information and kept that source a secret for decades, he again has listened to informants and recorded the despicable acts committed by an entire group of people but namely, Donald Trump. There is enough information in the book, credible information, to impeach Trump. However, it is doubtful in this age that it will be done. No one cares. Americans don't care. Americans can get riled up until hell freezes over regarding political parties but that is not what this is about. It is about an incompetent man in the white house; a man who broke laws to get there, one who is putting this nation in jeopardy with his tantrums, insidious postings to twitter and inability to lead a nation that once was the greatest in the world.

For the record, I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. This country doesn't have a party for me and my political ideology. Again, that is not what this is about. The book - the one being read and reviewed - was written by a capable journalist whose facts are very succinctly laid out. Yes, his sources are protected - AS THEY SHOULD BE. Journalists have gone to prison for keeping a source's identity unknown. That does not negate their information and the information presented here, in the book, is spot on. I wouldn't expect anything less from Bob Woodward!

Profile Image for Peter.
89 reviews49 followers
October 6, 2018
Occasionally Goodreads members review a book using non-conventional criteria to protest bad behavior by the author on the site, or to protest the author or the author’s subject. One star because they hate the author or their subject. Five stars because they love the author or their subject.

My review is not that kind of review. Otherwise stated, my rating should not be conflated with an endorsement for or a demonstration against Woodward or Trump.

Instead, this is simply a book review.

Reading this book was neither enjoyable nor informative. A friend, Mike who commented below, pointed out what became painfully clear, Woodward gives a remedial lesson on every topic before he rehashes the news of the last 24 months. Don’t we all know what NAFTA is? Aren’t we all aware of the ongoing trade war as well as the Russia investigation? And at this point, don’t we all know what narcissist means? Apparently Woodward doesn’t believe so. He defines the word for us and seemingly did it without the use of a dictionary.

Perhaps I would have been willing to suffer through all these things if there were a lot of new information in here. There is not. Ninety-five percent of the facts in here come straight from the pages of our daily newspapers while maybe five percent is new information—information that was teased to us and put in every article about this book. Sometimes in Hollywood they put all the good stuff in the trailer. Same thing here.

If Woodward was able to put the Trump presidency and all its horror into some kind of historical or political context that has not been reported before--bring his wisdom to bear--that might have made the book worthwhile. Unfortunately, Woodward offers no lessons, just rehashes information and news.

Spend your time and money on a Washington Post subscription. Most worthwhile breaking news ends up there anyway.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
September 28, 2018
I have to say, I'd enjoyed Michael Wolff's book much more than this one. Simply because it was so much easier for me to indulge in Wolff's narrative of chaos and stupidity.

What Woodward's serves up here is harder for me to accept. The gist? The president gets what he wants and has plenty of enablers and supporters who will make any of his wants come true. I don't know how others see it, but it's clear to me the real pushback Trump ever got had to do with tariffs and South Korea. Yeah, his staff calls him names behind his back, so what? They go along with his bullshit anyway. I don't know why the White House needed to rebut anything written in this book. It portrays Trump as a man who will go after his goals with relentless stubbornness. No amount of information, common sense, expertise will distract him. You and I may have an issue with his view of the world where America's only purpose should be making money, and more money; his inability to understand complexities of geopolitics; or his use of power as the only diplomatic tool. But Trump's supporters love it!

What depressed me the most not that the book draws Trump as the small, limited person that he is, but that he will achieve most of what he aims to achieve, because he has the likes of Lindsey Graham and Mike Pence around to help him. And he will do so while tweeting disgusting garbage about women, people of color, asylum seekers, et al. There is no resistance in the White House, let's not kid ourselves. This is America now; and it can be changed only by people voting in the next election.

As far as the writing itself goes, I found the book to be very messy and poorly organized. I am guessing it is well sourced, but the main sources work here mostly to repair their public image. It's clear Cohn, Porter, Priebus and Bannon were the main spillers of the beans.

Now I am going to watch Brett Kavanaugh's hearing and get even more depressed.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,883 reviews16.6k followers
January 28, 2020
The ghost of Richard Nixon prowls the halls of the White House and pauses in front of the portrait of Kennedy.

He’s at it again, you know, that little s*** Woodward. Can’t leave well enough alone.

What’s that you say? He’s a journalist? Ha! He’s a journalist the same way I’m a Fuller brush door to door salesman. He’s a hitman, out to get those in power.

Sure he made coin on my misadventures, now he’s got his crosshairs on Trump. Yes, I know, there’s some truth to it, but he’s also a muckraker from way back.

Oh sure, I get your idealism, but we don’t all have your father’s whiskey money and your Irish good lucks. Got nothing to do with it? Are you really that naïve? Woodward wants to sell copy, that’s how the real world works Jack, or have you forgotten?

He talked to Trump aides and people in the administration? Well sure he did, and focused on the all the bad. But Jack, what about all the good? What about the fresh new ideas and the inspirations? What? Well, you’re a ghost too, Kennedy, don’t forget that!

What’s that? Trump is verbally abusive and condescending? Well, Jack, he’s got to be tough, it’s a brutal world out there. I was around a lot longer and let me tell you, it didn’t get any kinder or gentler after you left.

Corruption? Well … you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break some eggs. What? You know full well what that means!

Where’d the title come from? He said it was from a quote from Trump, that “Real power is fear”. Well, of course I get the reference, we were all a bulwark against all the bad out there, and Trump’s no different! We had the goddamn Soviets to contend with and Trump has that little Korean guy. Well of course there’s more to it than that, there’s the pursuit of power and getting what you can and crushing your opponent and standing tall in the arena. Oh, well, sure, responsible government is too, sure it is. Hope and inspiration? This isn’t a Dickens novel, Jack!

Woodward shines a light on the new partisan politics and it’s gotten bad, Jack, not like when we were in power. I mean, you were my opponent, but not my enemy, there was respect. Nowadays … well, it’s ugly. 2016 was the worst presidential election year ever. I’m just glad Ike didn’t live to see this. Oh! Good evening, general, but you know what I mean.

Trump’s a billionaire who’s lost touch with the common man? But he ran on a populist agenda, for God’s sake! Well maybe. Consider this Jack, if you took dollars and converted them to seconds of time, a million would be about eleven days whereas a billion is like thirty YEARS?? I know, right? You may be right about that. For all your family’s ill-gotten gains, Trump’s fortune makes you look like a cloth fabric wearing Republican.

AND WHAT IN GOD’S NAME IS A TWEET?? I don’t know either! Does not sound presidential!

What’s that? Jameson or Tullamore Dew? Stay on track, Kennedy!

Well, sure, I guess it is important to read, but I don’t have to like it, and I sure as hell still don’t like Woodward!

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,730 followers
September 17, 2018
Since All the President's Men there really hasn't been a Woodward book I've enjoyed. I once owned a bunch of his Clinton, Bush books, but I found them obnoxious and DC proximity porn. While I think some of the information gleaned by Woodward for this book is worth the proximity porn, I still don't like his style. I'm also not a fan of the actual writing of this book. It doesn't flow.

Does it convince me more that Trump is a danger, an idiot, self-absorbed, reckless, without a moral compass, lacking empathy, compassion, loyalty, etc.? Sure. But I figured most of that out from JUST Trump's tweets. There are some nice quotes from various Trump-enablers calling Trump various versions of dumb, but still, not anything new. We've caught glimpes and shadows of this already (see Comey's book, see the Wolff book, etc).

Anyway, I'll write more later, but I'm done with Trump for the night.
Profile Image for Heather.
36 reviews3 followers
December 3, 2018
i am going to read the hell out of this book (as soon as it is beamed to my kindle).
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books376 followers
January 25, 2021
Never forget....



They all knew....

“It is not necessary that people be wicked, but only that they be spineless.”

― James Baldwin



I am not a Trump defender. Quite the opposite. But this story is better suited as a Philip K. Dick novel come to life, that would truly capture the insanity of what's happening. I have written some of that story below. But first a word about the puzzling Woodward book. A missed opportunity.....

This book is a failure. It started out promising, but drops like a lead balloon about 25% in. After that, he has very long chapters on topics that anyone who is keeping up with what’s going on in the U.S. and the world already know— Hezbollah and the Middle East, Syria, The Afghan War, NAFTA, Tariffs, Russia, China, Mueller. Woodward introduces each subject as if it's new to the reader, when it's yesterday's news. I did not learn a thing from that part of the book. And it reads like an extended Wikipedia article in the same bland style.

There was some interesting material in the beginning, much of which has already been used to promote the book in newspaper articles. But it did stimulate my thinking about what kind of book should be written about Trump.

What’s really happening is like something out of a dystopian Philip K. Dick novel and was actually anticipated by David Foster Wallace in Infinite Jest. (See link below).

It’s a horror fantasy come true.

Trump has lived in a make-believe world his whole life. He got to play out that fantasy on his show “The Apprentice.” In spite of the phony drama of those shows, that many viewers somehow take as real, what happens does not matter, there are no real-world ramifications.

Then one day, in our PKD novel, the earth tilts on its axis and this nasty fellow, aka Agent Orange, steps out of his pixilated simulation into the material world. At first he’s confused. What happened? How did he get here?

But to his delight, he discovers he has real power, in fact he is the most powerful person in the world. He can do whatever he wants. Hire people on the spot, regardless of qualifications, and fire people on whim if he happens to be in a bad mood.

Agent Orange doesn’t know anything about the world. He was the C student who always figured life was only about making money. His dad taught him that. He has no use for eggheads or research. The main thing is to be decisive, to act. And to lie as much as necessary to get what you want. It’s become such a habit that it’s pathological. The world is his game board, he must move the pieces as he sees fit.

He hires a defense minister because he wears a uniform and stands “ramrod straight.” This officer has a secret SEAL mission he has always wanted to implement. Now is his chance. He wants to do a raid in Yemen. Agent Orange knows that all Muslims are evil and ISIS is bad, so go for it general!

At dawn on a Sunday morning, the raid goes into action. But, sadly, it does not go as planned. During a 50-minute firefight one SEAL is killed, three wounded. Civilians, including children, die. A $ 75 million Marine MV-22 Osprey lands hard, disabling the plane. It’s destroyed to keep it from falling into the hands of the enemy.

The SEAL’s death is a waste. But telling the truth is out of question because his widow is devastated. Everything in this world happens for a reason, so his death must have purpose. So, Agent Orange recognizes him in Congress and calls him a hero. Everyone stands and claps. The widow cries. Her life is changed forever. She should still have her husband. But at least she has a medal and a flag.

Though Agent Orange knows nothing about economics, his followers think he’s some kind of finance genius. A worried staff member brings in the president of a famous bank to try to educate the dear leader. His ignorance is shocking. He expresses surprise when the banker tells him that tech is costing jobs and will likely cost more in the near future. He better have a plan. Agent Orange is alarmed and confused. You mean I can’t bring those manufacturing jobs back from overseas? Sorry, no, the banker tells him, it will never happen. But Agent Orange promised the people. Oops.

He travels to North Korea to meet a leader he admires, because he has complete control over the country and has military parades. In advance, he has a movie produced about their future partnership that looks as if it were created by the Church of Scientology. The photo op in North Korea seems to go well. Agent Orange comes back and his fans hail his negotiating skills. But soon spy satellites show that North Korea has accelerated their nuclear development.

Agent Orange is shocked. He’s had enough. He orders a missile strike. That’ll show ‘em. One of this ramrod straight generals is stunned. He runs to meet with a notorious right wing, militarist Senator to come meet with Agent Orange to convince him to rescind the order. The Senator is very obsequious to Orange because he knows that’s the only way Orange will listen. He wants to give him an alternative to pushing the button. He takes a page out of the old Kissinger playbook about working through China. Orange thinks this would work because he believes China loves him. It probably won’t work, but at least there’s not a missile on the way.

Speaking of Korea, why do we own all that “shit land” in South Korea that includes a bad golf course?

Well, it’s part of the agreement for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, the ramrod straight generals tell him. The system would help protect South Korea from a North Korea missile attack. You know, like how we protect Israel? More crucially, it could be used to help protect the United States.

“It’s actually a very good deal for us,” ramrod straight General McMaster says. “They gave us the land in a 99-year lease for free. But we pay for the system, the installation and the operations.”

It costs too much, says Agent Orange. This is a terrible deal. Put it in Portland, OR.

Syria is another thorn in his side. These complicated situations really frustrate Orange. Diplomacy and tactics are a pain in the ass. Always look for the simple solution, his dad always told him. Good. He orders the covert assassination of Assad. That’ll fix it. Again his staff has to scramble to talk Orange off the ledge. But this is his way: playing by ear, acting on impulse. This worked in the casino business, although he did go bankrupt a few times.

But Agent Orange’s fans are still happy. He’s the same bold, decision maker he was on TV. What’s not to like? Others don’t care for him personally, but that’s okay, they’re getting what they want for their businesses: corporate tax cuts, deregulation, increased defense budget and Supreme Court nominees who will reverse Roe v Wade.

The evangelicals are particularly excited about the Court. They actually don’t know the Bible very well. This reviewer, who knows the Bible backwards and forwards, can attest to that. They simply listen to their pastors who freely mix politics and faith.

As to helping the poor, can’t go for that. It’s their own fault they’re poor. What about aid to unwed mothers who won’t be able to have abortions? Not our problem. We just want to save the babies. Besides we want to go back to the Christian nation America once was, just like the Founders, who were mostly evangelical, wanted. (Um, you’re thinking of the Puritans). The Framers, as they are more properly called, were Enlightenment Deists who did not believe in a personal God. They also instituted a strict separation between Church and State because they saw what a disaster it was in Europe when they were mixed.

What’s a Deist?

Agent Orange is emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable. Members of his ever-changing staff have to scramble to block his most dangerous impulses. The executive office is having a nervous breakdown in front of the whole world and Russia, North Korea and other enemies are only too ready to exploit it and feed the chaos through cyber-attacks. But Agent Orange still admires their leaders. If only he could muzzle the media the way they can.

But “The Apprentice” watchers are so happy. They’re getting everything they hoped for. This is more than they could have expected. We’re getting rid of those criminal immigrants who threaten to destroy our country. The police have the black population under control and more of those predators are in jail. And gun rights are no longer threatened, we can take them anywhere we want, including to church and on to college campuses. We are more than ready to shoot the bad guys when they show themselves. He’s making America great again! Yay!


the fake Trump created by "The Apprentice"....

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” said show editor, Jonathan Braun. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.”



President Trump says he and Kim Jong Un “fell in love” after the North Korean leader wrote him “beautiful letters” and characterized the U.S. as having “a very good relationship” with North Korea.

update: 1/2/19: now back to square A with Kim....



David Foster Wallace character.....



Bottomline: this Woodward offering made me miss Christopher Hitchens.
Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,505 reviews230 followers
November 15, 2019
Fear is the establishment's answer to Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury. Where Wolff is a gossip rag arsonist who relied heavily on Steve Bannon's version of events, Bob Woodward is, well, he's Woodward. He took down Nixon and has written books on every subsequent president. Fear relies on hundreds of hours of transcribed interviews on deep background, and reading between the lines its easy to huess his sources are mostly "responsible adults" who have left the administration: Priebus, Porter, Cohn, Tillerson, Dowd, and Senator Lindsey Graham. The picture he paints of Trump is less salacious, but no less damning.

According to these men, who were once close to Trump and who have fallen from grace, the president is an idiot, a rage-filled child, a reckless gambler, a lazy slob addicted to cable news, a bullying narcissist, and an inveterate liar. If there is any fixed star in Trump's universe, it's that if you're not screwing someone, you're being screwed.

Woodward covers the first year or so of Trump's presidency, focusing on the intrigue around the oval office, and the seesawing attempts to find a strategy on Afghanistan, North Korea, and trade. The results are either wise men restraining the worst impulses of a mad king, or an administrative coup by the Deep State, depending on how you feel. The book opens with Gary Cohn stealing a memo off Trump's desk to prevent him from blowing up a vital US-Korea trade agreement, which is probably the most dramatic example, but again and again, his aides have to reign in Trump's emotionally driven decisions, ranging from declaring victory in Afghanistan and turning it over to Erik Prince and the mercenary army formerly known as Blackwater, starting a nuclear war with North Korea, or demolishing the post-1945 consensus on free trade, no matter the cost. Of course, these men are not some Obama-holdover Deep State. They're men Trump appointed, praised, and mostly refused to fire. Despite that idiotic anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, they are not the resistance inside the administration. They are Trump's instruments, and his dishonor stains them.

The revolving door outside the Oval Office is interesting, but Woodward doesn't have much to say about the things that really matter about Trump. How much racism comes from him, and how much from ethnonationalist ghouls like Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller? The Mueller investigation drives Trump crazy, but is there fire beneath all the smoke? What of the real harms that dismantling the 'administrative state' of EPA regulations, educational standards, and SNAP assistance brings? What about the judges? How about the dead of Hurricane Maria? The utter nonsense spewed at ongoing campaign rallies? What is up with Jared Kushner? Is there, contrary to all the evidence, any actual depth to the man?

The only humanizing touch is that Trump refuses to meet with the families of soldiers killed in his military adventures. I can understand that moral cowardice. I'm not sure how any ostensible patriot can square that cowardice with their support of the man.

Woodward's book doesn't reveal any deep truths. We all knew Trump was incompetent, incapable of empathy or foresight, the meanest creature to ever occupy the White House. What it does reveal, in chilling clinical detail, is how bad the situation really is.
Profile Image for Jill.
1,189 reviews1,690 followers
September 30, 2018
I'm not finished. I'm coming back to it. But for the moment, I hate this narcissistic sociopath so much that it's actually causing me anxiety to read about him. Hopefully, when he's fitted for his orange suit, this will be easier reading.
Profile Image for Michelle.
147 reviews239 followers
October 31, 2018
What's most shocking about “Fear: Trump in the White House" is that none of it is shocking. Anyone who has seen Trump in action should not be surprised by many of the horrifying revelations in this book. What is absolutely shocking, however, is the fact that his behavior is common knowledge among those in power in D.C. Yet they allow the biggest national security threat we face to continue to occupy the Oval Office, which violates their oaths to defend and uphold the Constitution.

After reading this book, I did not see any evidence that Bob Woodward believes there is a better version of Trump within the realm of possibility. I was impressed with his objectivity, as he simply recounts interactions (meetings on a wide variety of topics with many high level officials). My take, the theme that runs through almost every section of the book, is that Trump is mentally unstable, volatile, erratic, petty, chronically dishonest, and not very bright -- unless you like idiot savants who manipulate and use other people to personal advantage. Woodward just lays it out there for the reader without interjecting himself into the mix.

I have no doubt that everything that Woodward has set to print is verifiable fact. For those that doubt the truth, he has a simple answer: audio tapes of hundreds of hours of interviews with his sources. If you want proof you can understand, turn on the TV, pick a channel, any channel, and watch Trump in action. Unfortunately, I also have no doubt that there are people who, no matter the proof, will bury their heads in the sand and cry conspiracy.

I have read "Fear" not for new information, but out of interest in how this might influence the most important election of my life. Woodward is credible, and I know that there are Americans who will read this book and will pause. Midterms are looming... Read this book no matter what you have read about this book!
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,782 reviews14.2k followers
April 2, 2019
Another audio I started eons ago, but at that time I had read Fire and Fury and another about the same subject. Frankly, I was sick of reading about him at that time, still am, but in my efforts to clear my audible shelves, I started over with a grin and bear it attitude. Not that there's anything wrong with it, the narrator was good and Woodward a respected journalist. It was well presented, but anyone who reads the news or watches it knows almost everything inside. Since I have been fearful since the start of his reign, this did not elicit much more fear than that which I already had. Just a relief to finally finish, and this is the last book that I intend to waste my time with concerning this subject.
Profile Image for Andrew Smith.
1,081 reviews620 followers
July 30, 2022
I’m always somewhat sceptical about books written by investigative journalists concerning political figures, particularly when they don’t feature conversations carried out directly with the politician himself or herself. What’s the agenda here and what are the political inclinations of the journalist? But this book is penned by Bob Woodward, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was at the centre of the Nixon Watergate exposure. Surely Bob wouldn’t make it up – would he? And the blurb with this book claims that he draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. Ok, that sound pretty authoritative. The focus here is on how Trump makes decisions on major domestic and foreign policies and on the relationships he has with his senior team. It’s explosive stuff.

Without straying into the detail of the text I’ll summarise my take:

- Trump comes across as a fly-by-the–seat-of-his-pants operator. His mind flip-flops from one topic to another seemingly at random. He’s obsessed with news coverage, especially when it directly involves him. He’s hot-headed, knee-jerk in his decision making and is over influenced by members of his family, notably his daughter and son-in-law. He often (maybe usually) makes important decisions without heeding the advice of his team and then proceeds to announce the outcome via Twitter, which might be the first his team get to hear of it.

I suppose little or none of this comes as a surprise – it’s exactly what I would have expected, based solely on what I’ve previously read about the man or witnessed via news coverage.

- Woodward paints a picture of a man with narrow and outdated views, someone who is living in the past when it comes to issues such as the country’s switch from it’s historical position as a manufacturing giant to a much more service focused economy. He has a black and white protectionist view - if he doesn’t feel that it helps America then he’s against it. And he’s a hard man to move because his attention span is short and he refuses to listen to detailed presentations or read briefing papers. He’s pretty much all about the money, no matter what the issue. The result is that his policies are often contradictory and ever changing

Is this the sort of person you’d want leading your country, particularly given the degree of executive power he’s able to exert when compared to, say, a British Prime Minister? The scariest example of his do-it-all-yourself approach is the escalating series of Tweets he directed to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un concerning the size of the ‘red button’ on their respective desks. World War 3? Yeah, we’ll have some of that if you keep rattling my cage!

- So what of his man management skills? Well, what man management skills! He’s a hirer and firer of epic proportions. The hiring seems to be done on gut-feel and the firing is almost always down to differing views on something – i.e. Trump doesn’t work with anyone for long if they don’t share his views on what needs to be done. He’s direct, rude and profane. He’s a classic narcissist and is totally lacking in empathy and sympathy.

Ok, so he’s a tough guy to work with, does this make him a bad leader? I think the answer is yes, if he refuses to listen and won’t change his views no matter what the advice is or the strength of evidence to support that advice.

I kept thinking that there must be an upside to Trump, that as a change agent he might just be the right man to bulldoze through the major initiatives that are needed, to be the leader that will make things happen. But there’s little evidence as yet that he’s able to achieve this as there has been only one significant legislative change thus far under his leadership, that being on on tax reform (as at the date of publication of this book, September 2018). Maybe he’ll yet surprise his detractors and pull something out of the bag, but I fear the odds are against it.

On the evidence of this book, Trump is a simple man – a bully and a liar – who has somehow found himself in a position of incredible power. Will he use it or abuse it? Time will tell, but I know on which side of the fence I currently sit.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,483 reviews7,781 followers
September 27, 2018
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Can you come with me up to New York?”
“For what?”
“To see Donald Trump.”
“What about?”
“He’s thinking of running for president.”
“Of what country?”

If you have ever bothered tuning in to the fake news, or read any failing publication or interacted with another human being in the past few years at all, nothing contained within the bindings of Fear will be new to you. I’m not a “let’s talk politics” on social media type of person and I’ve already blurred the lines of my own comfort zone enough by opining on Fire and Fury. I don’t have much more to say about this one . . . . pretty much because they are the same damn thing. Of course Woodward is a “respected” journalist so he claims to present a book full of facts and sources. Yet somehow it seems he just can’t wait to dive in to Pissgate and once again relies on using “deep background,” which although apparently mostly recorded (maybe) still relies a lot on the “I was in the room and heard this guy say this about this” type of telephone game sourcing rather than direct information.

At this point the only thing I’m interested in is what I quoted above. How the hell did we even elect someone like this into office . . . .

Are Americans really so stupid to believe in a snake oil salesman like Trump? Were they just so opposed to the status quo that they were willing to not only rock the boat, but potentially blow the whole motherfucker up in order to be heard? Was he simply the lesser of two evils? I know that’s what Hillary was for me.

As soon as Trump threw his name in the ring I told my husband he never planned on winning. I will stand by that statement until the day I die. Running for President was simply a marketing ploy for Trump. He wanted to revamp his brand and there was no bigger platform in which to do so. His appearances proved it – wheeling steaks, water, etc. onto various stages – remodeling a former post office into a luxury Trump hotel within walking distance of the White House. What I want to know is at what point things changed and he decided he wanted the big prize. I never believed the polls – partly because until a few months ago I still had a landline which received 99.99999% polling calls while our cell phones received about .00001% so I knew there was not a diverse section of society necessarily being reached, at least in my neck of the woods – but also because were people ever really going to admit they were voting for Trump? That’s what’s great about our election process – anonymity. It appears at least some of the powers that be felt the same – requesting donation money be diverted to Republican Senate campaigns generically and away from Trump. But at some point I think Trump began drinking his own Kool-Aid. I will never believe that on election night he expected to lose. What I do think is he had no idea how government operates or what was ahead. It’s clear he still doesn’t. He simply wanted to win and make everyone admit that he’s “the best.” Eventually Trump will no longer be President and actual sourced information will be divulged. Hopefully I’ll stop taking the bait on these damn books in the interim. Until then my new hope will remain that in addition to being 35 years old and a natural born citizen of this country, we also implement a “must be able to pass an 8th grade civics exam” as a requirement for running for Head of State in order to avoid a debacle like this in the future.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,268 followers
November 14, 2020

Liar, Liar, House on Fire (The Moronic Inferno)

This study of the first fifteen months of the Trump White House is relatively sober, compared with the earlier, more sensationalist book by Michael Wolff.

Wolff compiled an enormous number of unflattering character assessments/ assassinations of Trump, whereas Bob Woodward seems to have been more focussed on policy issues and the disputes that surrounded attempts to progress Trump's political and legislative agenda.

That said, there's a sentence that is repeated several times throughout the book, as if it might represent the common judgment of Trump's staff and advisers on his character. The only problem is that nobody in the White House seems to have had the courage to say it to his face. The sentence is this:

"You're a fucking liar."

Equally, Woodward implies that you could appropriate a comment that he (or one of his sources) applied to Hillary Clinton:

"Even when telling the truth, he sounded like he was lying to you."

Vital Weaknesses Revealed, Not Concealed

Trump took enormous pride in his business acumen, his judgment, and his intuition: "Historically, I like following my instincts." However, his instincts led everybody astray, as they did him. They were an excuse for not analysing issues or considering (and taking) advice. His decision-making capacity is illusory. Woodward indicates that Trump's greatest priority was for his staff to put something in front of him that he could sign, whether or not it had any substantive or performative effect.

If nothing else, "Fear" strips way Trump's pretences and reveals just how little comprehension, insight and intuition he had. Woodward undermines Trump's manufactured cult of personality, at least with those outside his base.

Trump was bankrupted at least six times (i.e., his liabilities so exceeded his assets on at least six different occasions that he couldn't repay his debts):

"Bankruptcy was just another business strategy. Walk away, threaten to blow up the deal."

He donned the look of success. He exaggerated and lied about the extent of his wealth and the profitability of his assets, like a crooked fund manager misrepresenting the performance of his funds. He cheated on his wives, his taxes, and his golf. Nothing was beneath him.

He frequently declined to pay contractors. He rarely repaid banks and creditors. He even refused to pay lawyers he used to bully, intimidate and defeat women and men who made claims against him. Litigation, too, was just another business strategy. Only it was conducted in bad faith. Nobody wanted his legal work, no matter how lucrative it might be, because you couldn't be certain you would be paid. Is it any wonder that he complained, "I can't find a good lawyer."

He was constantly at war with his staff, his advisers, his cabinet and members of Congress (especially over Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, sanctions, globalism, free trade, tariffs, tax cuts and immigration, i.e., practically everything on the agenda):

"Harmony could lead to groupthink. He embraced the chaos and churn beneath him..."

"You couldn't talk to him in adult logic. Teenage logic was necessary."

Speaking of juveniles, at one point, Woodward describes Jared and Ivanka amusingly as "like a posse of second-guessers". Reince Priebus, Trump's chief of staff, refers to the other senior staff as "roving interlopers, a band of chaos creators."

The Moronic Dotard

Rex Tillerson famously described Trump as "a fucking moron." Kim Jong-Un referred to him as "the mentally deranged U.S. dotard," which is more evocative than "Little Rocket Man" (which Trump thought of as "my best ever, best nickname ever.")

Woodward quotes a private memo by a senior White House official:

"Many of the president's senior advisers, especially those in the national security realm, are extremely concerned with his erratic nature, his relative ignorance, his inability to learn, as well as what they consider his dangerous views."

However, if you thought what he did and said was aberrant, take note of what he had intended to do, and what his staff and advisers prevented him from doing. Gary Cohn, a former president of Goldman Sachs and the president's top economic adviser, says:

"It's not what we did for the country. It's what we saved him from doing."


Source: WANE 15 News

"How Could You Leave Me Hanging Like That?"

Trump had a constitutional (or unconstitutional?) need to appear strong, and not to appear weak, which he achieved by the naked use and abuse of power. Any disloyalty would undermine his perceived strength. It would compromise his ability to defeat his opponents.

He viewed real power as the ability to engender fear (hence, the title of the book). His only methodology for realising the art of the deal was to terrify his opponents out of their rights, entitlements and expectations.

According to Priebus, Trump's primary defence mechanism was to "maximise aggression to conceal vital weakness." He would never admit to anything he was accused of. His strategy was to lie, deny, deflect. He used the same strategy to avoid accountability and punishment. "You've got to be strong. You've got to be aggressive. You've got to push back hard. You've got to deny anything that's said about you. Never admit."

Reading, Tweeting and Improvising

Trump wasn't a reader, and never read his briefing notes:

"He conveyed the belief that improvising was his strength. He could read a situation. Or the room. Or the moment...Too much advance preparation would diminish his skills in improvising. He did not want to be derailed by forethought. As if a plan would take away his power, his sixth sense."

"Television was Trump's default activity," when he wasn't tweeting, although he frequently indulged in both activities at the same time, sometimes while eating a burger alone in bed. He was ambivalent when Twitter doubled the number of permissible characters from 140 to 280:

"It's a good thing [now he could flesh out his thoughts and add more depth], but it's a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters."


On May 31, 2017, Donald Trump inadvertently tweeted “Despite the constant negative press covfefe...” [This isn't mentioned in "Fear".]

There was widespread confusion about the significance of the tweet and the word “covfefe", and many people were content to assume that it was a misspelling or a typographical error made as he fell asleep.

However, there is another hypothesis that he might have intended to use (but still managed to misspell) the word “kayfabe”, which is used in professional wrestling to describe the practice of presenting staged performances as genuine, authentic, real or true. On the one hand, it means that the conflict or rivalry between two wrestlers is supposed to be (perceived as) real. On the other hand, it is supposed to imply that wrestling as a whole is real and not simply staged.

Whether or not this hypothesis is correct, the word might be helpful in analysing the political environment within which Trump works.

Many commentators and politicians have become concerned about the level of polarisation that has occurred since Trump announced his original candidacy. Politics has been split into a battle between good and evil, your opponent is demonized, to such an extent that violence seems to have become a legitimate response to what was once a war of words.

From Trump’s point of view, politics and the presidency are just an extension of the world of entertainment in general, and wrestling in particular. He thinks it's a game, it’s an artifice, it's not serious, but the audience is supposed to believe that it's real, it's true. The audience is supposed to suspend (ignore or avoid) any disbelief. It doesn't matter that the action on stage is scripted, or even that the audience knows. It's the fact that, nevertheless, the audience believes it to be real or true. It is real or true, if we pretend that it's real or true.

The conflicts that occur on stage are supposed to be real, even though they're wholly staged, fabricated and fictional. Equally, the audience is supposed to continue the conflict off-stage, by way of identification with one character or wrestler, so that they act out the conflict in their own real world. Republicans, conservatives, the Right and Trumpists are the good guys, while Democrats, liberals, progressives, socialists, anarchists, agitators, the Left and the antifa are the bad guys.

So Trump acts like a pied piper, a dog-whistle blower, a puppet-master, pulling the strings, while those in his base perform their role as witting or unwitting puppets, pretending that it's real.



Let's Pretend
[Apologies to Eric Carmen
and Todd Rundgren]

Donald, let's pretend
You're no President Bush,
You never grabbed my tush.
We never had a fling,
I never felt a thing.

Donald, let's pretend
I never loved you best.
I don't say this in jest.
Though this isn't a test,
You're just like all the rest.

Donald, let's pretend
We all know you're clever,
Right can rule forever,
If we just close our eyes,
It might even come true.
Profile Image for Jim.
395 reviews282 followers
September 6, 2018
more dirt on the dirtiest creep to ever occupy the whitehouse... thank you bob!!!


rofl, lol, lmfao, hahahahahahahahahaha, etc....


say it with me - "coup d'état! coup d'état! coup d'état!"


it's gotta be John Kelly



early reviews of the book are... good?

Profile Image for Nadine in NY Jones.
2,813 reviews227 followers
October 17, 2018
I had zero interest in this book until POTUS started a tweetstorm about it last night. Well, now I HAVE to read it. Do you ever wonder if that's actually his goal? Maybe Trump is the Master of reverse psychology. Maybe he hates the Republican Party. Maybe he was actually tired of the USA dominating the world stage and decided to bring it down by exploding from within ...

**** UPDATE (now that I've actually read the book):

The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.

What follows is that story.

This book was a disappointment. Here's the short version: Gary Cohn and Lindsey Graham are Trump's top advisors, Rob Porter is great, Steve Bannon is a man of the people, and Trump is dangerously ignorant when it comes to economics and global relations. There are so many ethical violations and concerns that I have that aren't even mentioned. This is comprehensive in an adulatory way, in a "all us guys are great and let me bend your ear" way.

It should probably come as no surprise (but yes I was surprised - I've never read anything by Woodward before) that Woodward has a very dun-dun-DUNNN writing style.

In a breezy, almost chatty, tone, he details the ongoing fall of our American empire ... sob! It was very readable. Woodward's Trump emerges as a well-meaning good guy who is just kind of clueless and acts without thinking. I was expecting a lot more insight and commentary than I got. I'm kind of surprised Trump bothered to criticize this book so much (it was his excessive criticism that inspired me to read it). Trump comes across like that archetypal befuddled, crass, lewd yet amusing old guy that shows up at family parties and delights in chaos, as not a bad guy but just sort of shooting from the hip. I was left with the distinct impression that Woodward likes and admires Trump.

For example, during the campaign (just after the "grab 'em by the pussy" tape was aired, and the team was attempting to firefight by scheduling an ABC interview and a rally):
The glass in Trump Tower was thick, but they could hear the roaring crowd of Trump supporters in the street—a riot of “deplorables,” who had adopted Hillary Clinton’s derisive term as their own.

“My people!” Trump declared. “I’m going to go down. Don’t worry about the rally. I’m going to do it right here.”

“You’re not going down there,” a Secret Service agent insisted. “You’re not going outside.”

“I’m going downstairs,” Trump said. He headed out. “This is great.”

Conway tried to intervene. “You just can’t cancel” on ABC.

“I don’t care. I’m never doing this. It was a dumb idea. I never wanted to do it.”

Overall I thought this book really soft pedaled things . I was disappointed that Woodward implied (several times) that Trump was a complete neophyte to politics, and he never acknowledges Trump's candidacy in the 2000 Republican Presidental Primary. That was ... weird. Considering that (a) I'm reading this solely because Trump criticized the book so vociferously, and (b) multiple times Woodward acknowledges Trumps skill as a showman and his intuitive understanding of how to promote things, I now suspect that Trump WANTED us to read this book. Because Trump looks pretty good here. Yeah, we see him trying to print more money, but is that really so awful? Sounds more like a childhood fantasy that many of us can understand.

It's pretty clear who his sources were, not only because they have direct quotes, but also because they are portrayed entirely sympathetically: Reince Priebus, Rob Porter, Gary Cohn, and Lindsey Graham are all the stars. Porter is such a star of this show, I'm guessing he must've handed Woodward his detailed daily journals; very little mention of his history of domestic abuse, I guess he didn't journal about that. (And what IS mentioned makes it clear that Woodward buys into Porter's claims of being falsely accused. By TWO ex-wives. Who have nothing to gain by it. Uh-huh. Ok. Good one, Woodward. Way to get to the facts.) And to go by this book, Graham is Trump's main right hand man that he turns to in every crisis, and Cohn is the brains of the entire operation (that is, when Porter is not the brains).

Here is the entire section of the book discussing Porter's domestic abuse:
Porter left the White House on February 7 after two ex-wives went public with allegations that he had physically abused them. One released a photo showing a black eye that she said Porter gave her. Each, one to the press and one in a blog post, gave graphic descriptions of domestic abuse.

Porter quickly concluded it would be best for all—his former spouses, his family and close friends, the White House and himself—to resign. He wanted to focus on repairing relationships and healing.

The New York Times wrote, “Abuse Claims End Star’s Rise in White House” and “Aide’s Clean-Cut Image Belied His Hot Temper, Former Colleagues Say.”

In a statement, Porter said, “I took the photos given to the media nearly 15 years ago, and the reality behind them is nowhere close to what is being described.”

“Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” Trump tweeted.

The Washington Post editorial board accused the White House of “shrugging off domestic violence” and The New York Times said “Trump Appears to Doubt the #MeToo Movement.”

Cohn saw that one of the main restraining influences on Trump was now gone.

I realize that this book is not about Porter. But considering he is mentioned by name a staggering 239 times (the only names that show up more often are "Bannon" and "Cohn"), I would expect more coverage of the abuse than just this brush-off. According to Woodward, it doesn't matter that Trump admired an abuser, what matters is that Cohn lost his ally.

Woodward does make it clear that Trump tends to fall apart under pressure, and he has no grasp of economics. He may drive the entire USA to bankruptcy. Then what?

Probably the most damning quote in the book is this, from Priebus:
“The president has zero psychological ability to recognize empathy or pity in any way.”

A few other faintly damning quotes:
“The president’s unhinged,” Kelly said.


Oval Office business and decision making became increasingly haphazard. “The president just really doesn’t understand anything about that. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” Kelly said.


Cohn realized that Trump had gone bankrupt six times and seemed not to mind. Bankruptcy was just another business strategy. Walk away, threaten to blow up the deal. Real power is fear.

Grievance was a big part of Trump’s core, very much like a 14-year-old boy who felt he was being picked on unfairly. You couldn’t talk to him in adult logic. Teenage logic was necessary.

During Trump’s first six months in the White House, few understood how much media he consumed. It was scary. Trump didn’t show up for work until 11: 00 in the morning. Many times he watched six to eight hours of television in a day. Think what your brain would be like if you did that? Bannon asked.


Cohn realized again what he had said before to others about the president: “He’s a professional liar.”


Trump’s action and mounting threats on tariffs were jarring. Cohn thought that Trump had to know. “But he’s not man enough to admit it. He’s never been wrong yet. He’s 71. He’s not going to admit he’s wrong, ever.”

There is very little discussion of:
- Trump's clear violations of ethics laws, especially the emoluments clause
- Trump's obsession with Trump properties
- the huge amount of time Trump spends golfing at trump properties
- Trump's complete lack of empathy
- Trump's obvious racism and dog whistles to white supremacists
- the staggering number of lies coming directly from Trump (starting with his ridiculous obsession with inauguration attendance numbers)
- Trump's inability to stop criticizing Hillary Clinton, even years after the election
- the unbalanced Electoral system that let Trump "win" in the first place
- the startling 180 from many politicians - like Lindsey Graham and Paul Ryan, who originally criticized Trump. (There are so many quotes here from Graham, he was clearly a source for Woodward. Does that explain the kid gloves?)
- the inexplicable support Trump receives from Evangelicals, despite his own lack of religion (and his pro-choice tendencies, which ARE acknowledged at least)

It's great that Woodward is so unbiased and compassionate, but Trump is unlike any President we've had before, and I think it's time to be bluntly honest rather than bend over backwards to be "even-handed." I wasn't hoping for another gossipy hack job like Wolf's, but I was expecting to see these difficult issues raised. Trump's blatant violations of the emoluments clause has me fit to explode, and I don't understand why it's allowed to continue, nor do I understand why reporters like Woodward don't dig in on that one. Also, Woodward only appears to be even-handed, but he clearly works to present his sources in the best light, leading me to wonder if he's maybe more concerned with maintaining his connection to a source than he is with presenting all the unbiased facts.

For example:
Priebus had his troubles with Bannon but Bannon had fallen in line and was 10 times the unifier that Jared and Ivanka were.

Translation: Bannon and Priebus were good sources for this book, and Woodward worked hard to maintain that relationship, meanwhile Jared and Ivanka refused to talk to him.

It's pretty clear that Woodward finds global issues fascinating, and domestic issues (including Trump's sexual harassment history, general sexist attitude, and blatant racism) to be completely uninteresting and barely worth mentioning. A quick word count in my ebook makes this obvious. But I disagree with the focus, I think Trump's true and shameful legacy will be primarily domestic. On the global stage, he is laughed at. This isn't the book I hoped it would be.

There are also some odd tangents which just felt like padding. In the middle of chapter 22, about escalating tensions with North Korea (a subject which had already been discussed in detail in the Prologue, so I felt like I was rereading the same information), Woodward suddenly goes back in time to discuss - for pages! - the US operation in Iraq in 1998-2003 under Presidents Clinton and Bush. Why?? Is this a book about the Trump Administration or a more expansive book about US history and current events? I skimmed over these tangents.

The very last chapter comes back to the Mueller investigation (and I'm frankly surprised by the amount of quoted dialogue Woodward has here), but it's inconclusive. Much like the Mueller investigation itself continues to be inconclusive, as of October 2018.

The final paragraphs of the book:
Some things were clear and many were not in such a complex, tangled investigation. There was no perfect X-ray, no tapes, no engineer’s drawing. Dowd believed that the president had not colluded with Russia or obstructed justice.

But in the man and his presidency Dowd had seen the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying “Fake News,” the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew but could not bring himself to say to the president: “You’re a fucking liar.”

I thought the great Bob Woodward would be more of a hard hitter. This was comprehensive, but I didn't really learn anything new.

There is sort of an odd note right up front, in an opening author's note, Woodward lavishes praise on his longtime assistant, Evelyn Duffy, concluding with:
Evelyn brought her endless good sense and wisdom, serving as full collaborator and in the spirit—and with the level of effort—of a coauthor.

And that left me wondering why she's NOT credited as co-author?

Word count:
Trump - >1000
Kushner - 80
Ivanka - 39
McMaster - 190
Mnunchin - 48
Mattis - 206
Cohn - 277
Porter - 239
Priebus - 241
Bannon - 389 (and he wasn't even in the Cabinet!)
DeVos - 0
Carson - 0

Graham - 183 (that's a lot of Graham!)
Other prominent Senators:
Schumer - 3
Durbin - 16
Cruz - 0
McConnell - 12
Cornyn - 0
Hatch - 4

And in the global vs domestic front:
Russia - 212
China - 98
Korea - 294
Canada - 8
Mexico - 11
Germany - 9
Trade - 245
Tariff - 90
Climate - 19
Environment - 9
School - 10
Supremacist - 10
Racism/racist - 7

And regarding ethics and scandals:
Mueller - 174
Ethics - 2
Emoluments - 0
Collusion/collude - 28
Golf - 32
Nepotism - 1
Bribe - 2
"Pee tape" - 0

I was unable to easily search for "gun" or "NRA" because those three letters make up several other words, but I can say they were not mentioned much.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
2,085 reviews5,067 followers
November 12, 2020
I'm not really sure where to begin with this book. It's a solid 3.5 read for me and a lot of that has to do with the fact that a good portion of the information covered in this book follows events that were hashed out via the media. What makes it more intriguing is that readers have the opportunity to see a lot of the emotional responses to Trump's first couple of years as president. The emotional responses come from both Trump and his cabinet.

One of the most important connections that I made while reading this book is truly understanding the lack of knowledge that Trump had about anything in regard to American politics. He was determined to run the country as a businessman without understanding important topics such as immigration, the economy, trade policies, foreign policies, treaty agreements, etc. While this doesn't excuse his deplorable behavior, it is fascinating to see how hard his cabinet had to work to keep him from destroying the very framework of this country. Because Trump was rudimentary in understanding some of the most basic facets of politics, I believe that quite a few politicians including Graham (R-SC) took this as an opportunity to coerce Trump into fulfilling their own selfish needs. In an interesting way I saw Trump as a puppet when it came down to decision making. He lashed out when criticized and couldn't seem to understand why we, as a country, were investing money in other foreign countries without getting equal return (he didn't understand that a lot of it was for our own protection and a means to prevent the beginning of WWIII). To be honest, I don't think that Trump even thought he was going to win that election and when he did when he had no idea what the hell to do. He assigned random people with no prior experience to random positions. He couldn't maintain a cabinet to save his life. People would resign or get fired for stupid disagreements and Trumps unwillingness to concede in the face having to admit he made a mistake.

This inability to admit wrongdoing shed some light on the 2020 election and why Trump is having a difficult time conceding. For him, its about maintaining an image of strength. He wants to be seen as a "mans man" which is appealing to a lot of men in this country, but it makes for a very volatile situation in the White House. People were unable to communicate effectively with Trump. Some described it in close relation to working with a 5th or 6th grader. To be honest, after reading this and reflecting on this description of Trump's presidency, I believe that there were people who wanted to do the right thing just as there were people who wanted to use a unintelligent President to their benefit. That's exactly why you see quite a few Republicans who also refuse to acknowledge Biden as President-elect. If Trump maintains power there will be those who will reap benefits from his stupidity. That means extended lengths of time in a political office while maintaining financial comfort. Once he's gone the means of manipulation and persuasion go as well. This doesn't absolve Trump of his crimes, but it shows that there are a lot more guilty parties.

This book definitely contains a lot of information about public policy, foreign policy, information related to tax reform, structural information about the American government. It can be dry for those who don't have any interest in that information, but it also includes some very interesting analysis of the personalities that worked with Trump as well as a interesting analysis of Trump's own personality. There is discussion about the tension that surrounded Kushner and Ivanka having such detailed access to various things; there is a deep analysis of the relationship that Trump had with both Bannon and Graham; and there is even a deep analysis of the relationships that Trump had with foreign diplomats that leads up to the accusations of collusion with Russia. I found the drama intriguing and it truly poked an interest in learning more details about Trump's administration.
Profile Image for Lois .
1,871 reviews479 followers
September 14, 2018
This was extremely readable. I listened to this on audio yesterday. It was interesting enough to hold my interest all day. I briefly paused, started a new book I also like but in the end returned to listening to this and finished it.
This isn't my first book on the 2016 Election, chump's campaign or presidency. I've read: Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault Mewman, Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff, What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hacks by Donna Brazile, and Unbelievable by Katy Tur. Most of the previously mentioned books have also doubled as biographies for the authors, with the exception of Fire and Fury. They have been packed full of info about the author I could give zero fucks about and mostly unsubstantiated gossip about the candidate.
I give the most credibility to Donna Brazile who I think told a more narrow and focused tale.
I don't think HRC lied and am not trying to imply that. Her book was about her and not really the campaign as a whole.
This book for me gives the most complete picture of the chump Whitehouse. This does not read like an excited, gossipy, exposé at all. Instead we are taken through events that are thoroughly explained with participants that we are familiar with. The dysfunction of the white house isn't offered as shocking. It's offered as business as usual.
I don't know what to say. I'm not shocked. Chumps antics have made us all jaded. Actions that I once would've found unbelievable became common place long before chump formally took office. I think the world has normalized so many bizarre and embarassing presidential behaviors we've lost the ability to respond appropriately. It's just too much.
So we have the now standard image of the president being managed by his staff. Priebus stealing documents off the Resolute Desk in hopes that chump will forget. It works too. I want to point out that this is how my husband and I handle our toddler grand kids. When they aren't looking we take away obnoxious toys, hide them and hope they forget. That this strategy is successful with the president is humorous and horrifying in equal measures.
What stuck with me was members of his cabinet needing to every single day explain the exact same facts to this man. Only for him to ignore or refuse to look at the facts. His stubborn misunderstanding that the US is a service economy and manufacturing jobs aren't desired by the US workers.
He truly is unable to understand diplomacy. That's frightening. The book goes over how his personal or perceived personal relationships with other World Leaders impacts how he interacts with them. He is convinced President Xi of China likes him and is his friend. He doesn't trust or believe his own advisors over other world leaders. Other world leaders know this and use this knowledge to manipulate him. He's not intelligent at all and doesn't trust the smart people in his own cabinet. It's like a Mad TV skit.
Some advisors try repeatedly to explain why trade agreements and military presence are interwined. Others just do business around him and without consulting him. It's a mess.
He literally does not understand trade agreements or how our nation benefits from them.
He dislikes the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in and is extremely rude to him and even yells at him. He truly does not understand that the primary purpose of our military in South Korea is about the 7 second nuclear warning versus the 15 minutes later warning we can get from Alaska. Why in the world should or would South Korea pay us for that privilege?
He doesn't at all understand how business is even done in this country much less internationally.
He thinks the budget problems can be fixed by borrowing more money or just printing it.
He has the understanding of a toddler.
What this really brought home to me was how extremely corrupt the Republican Party is.
They are just robbing the candy store and taking important papers off this foolish world leaders desk in hopes he'll forget. They are managing him until they run out of patience or he gets mad at them for following the laws and established customs of the POTUS. He fires them for doing their jobs or they quit when they get exhausted from explaining the same thing over and over. The author describes the repetitiveness of this process as 'groundhog day' like the movie with Bill Murray.
Part of the problem is that chump believes he has the solution when he doesn't understand the question or issue. He stubbornly clings to his solution even in the face of facts to the contrary. He is confused and has a bad memory so he just makes shit up as he goes along. He is unconcerned and unfamiliar with the truth.
The very last line of the book is, "You're a fucking liar" in relation to chump.
I tend to give this book more weight than the others I've read. Woodward is a serious and credible reporter. Still I think it'll be at least 25 years or more before we get the real scoop about this presidential shit show.
Profile Image for Faith.
1,901 reviews534 followers
September 11, 2018
Most of the interesting bits of this book have already been revealed in news stories. The book confirms that Trump is a dumb, ignorant, narcissistic, arrogant and mean liar. We already knew that, but his followers don't seem to care. I doubt that this book will help much. When you populate each branch of the government with people who lack integrity, compassion and decency, the checks and balances system won't work. However, at least this author has better credentials and more credibility than others who have written about this chaotic presidency. His writing style is extremely dry.
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,649 followers
September 16, 2018
It's almost worth reading the entire thing just for the last sentence, which is the biggest non-spoiler ever: The president is a F%&*ing Liar.

These are the things this book reveals that we already could have guessed:

1. Our president watches a lot of TV and gets his information and opinions from TV pundits. At one point, he overrules one of Kelly's hires because Lou Dobbs says mean things about her. When he's not watching TV, he's playing golf.

2. The president has no to-do list and only pays attention to what is in front of him. Kelly and Porter and Gary Cohn would have to steal letters and executive orders from his desk so he wouldn't sign them.

3. It's a shit show of different interests and camps and no one knows what they're doing. The Bannon wing pushes populism and I was sort of rooting for this racist piece of garbage because the other options were either Hawks who wanted to bomb Iran and cuddle up to the Saudis or deregulate Wall Street.

4. The biggest takeaway for me of this book was not the ins and outs of the Trump white house--I don't care about the salacious details that Woodward trots out. It was that the GOP agenda was unbreakable even by Trump. This is what Bannon says when he quits--Trump was able to get through the Hillary juggernaut, but not the GOP. Cohn and Ryan get their absurd tax cuts, Mattis gets his hawkish military--all they have to swallow is a Muslim ban. Fair deal.

5. I'm starting to hate these books even though I keep reading them. Trump is not some crazy outlier--he's the symptom of a broken system. He happens to be a terrible human being, but things would not be ok if he were calmer and he lied less. We would still have a broken system.

I want to say that this is the last of these books I am going to read, but I know I won't be able to keep this promise.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,394 reviews4,902 followers
December 12, 2018

Bob Woodward

In this book, Bob Woodward paints a picture of President Trump as a narcissistic bully who belittles people, has little grasp of foreign affairs, and follows the tenets of right-wing firebrand - and former Trump campaign strategist - Steve Bannon, who has three major objectives:

- Stop mass illegal immigration and start to limit legal immigration.
- Bring back manufacturing jobs.
- Get out of these pointless foreign wars

President Trump and Steve Bannon

Woodward also describes a White House in chaos, with the President's cabinet members and advisors working at cross purposes. They undermine each other; furtively exclude each other from meetings; make proposals to the President without going through the proper channels; get into screaming matches with one another, etc. There's also a cabal that surreptitiously removes documents from Trump's desk and purposely delays implementation of his most destructive and dangerous ideas.

If not for cooler heads, Trump might have: given serious thought to assassinating Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong un.....whom he calls 'Little Rocket Man'; pulled all American troops out of Afghanistan; closed United States bases in South Korea; summarily fired Special Counsel Robert Mueller; and more.

Of course, the people around Trump can't guide everything he does. Against strong objections,Trump twice expressed support (or at least sympathy) for the white supremacists who demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia; and he continuously tweets every unwise and insulting thought that pops into his head.

My biggest takeaway from this book, however, is that Trump the businessman wants to run the government like a business: he would like to minimize spending and maximize income. The President hopes to get out of any deal, treaty, or agreement that 'costs America money' even if the pact provides benefits in the form of security; intelligence; good will; or other things.

Examples include:


Trump constantly disparages NATO, calling it obsolete, a disaster, and a waste. He complains that our allies don't pay their fair share, and NATO costs America too much money. To remedy this situation Trump wants to leave NATO, even though Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford insists we have to remain in NATO because "it's terribly important to keep Europe united politically, strategically, and economically." Trump apparently remains unconvinced.

General Joseph Dunford - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs

- South Korea

Trump is furious about the "horrible" KORUS trade deal that results in America's $18 billion trade deficit with South Korea. He also resents the yearly $3.5 billion expense of keeping 28,500 troops in South Korea and the yearly $1 billion cost of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) (missile defense system) on the Korean peninsula.

Trump told South Korean President Moon Jae-in, "You guys are ripping us off. I'm done just giving you guys free money", and indicated South Korea should pay or he would withdraw from KORUS.....and maybe move THAAD to the United States.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster tried to explain to the President that South Korea helps protect the United States from North Korea - which is America's biggest security challenge. They told Trump that Kim Jung-un might have a missile that can reach the United States, and that THAAD could detect a launch in 7 seconds versus 15 minutes from Alaska. Therefore THAAD would protect both South Korea AND America, and help prevent WW III. The bottom line: this isn't a good time to upset the status quo with South Korea.

Trump called this bullshit. He doesn't want to pay for the defense of South Koreans (or anyone else) and asks, "What do we get out of this." When Mattis and McMaster answer that we get a stable democracy in a part of the world where we really it, the President is dismissive.

James Mattis - Secretary of Defense

President Trump and H.R. McMaster - National Security Advisor


Trump wants to renegotiate (or withdraw from) the North American Free Trade Agreement - which governs trade among Canada, the United States, and Mexico; and the Trans Pacific Partnership - a regional free trade deal between America and 11 other nations.

Trump contends these treaties hurt American workers and undercut United States companies because of cheap labor in developing countries. He says NAFTA has sucked the manufacturing lifeblood out of America, while driving United States workers to the poorhouse. Thus Trump wants to undo these pacts AND raise tariffs on imported steel.

White House Economic Advisor Gary Cohn strongly disagrees with these assessments. He told Trump that "80% of American GDP is in the service sector," and pointed out that the average commercial street is much more likely to have Starbucks, nail salons, dry cleaners, restaurants, and banks than Banana Republic and GAP. Cohn told Trump, "If we can buy cheap products [because of the trade deficit] we can excel in other areas, like service and high-tech products. And these industries would provide better jobs for Americans than toiling on an assembly lines, mining coal, working in hot steel mills, and so on.

Gary Cohn - White House Economic Advisor

Many people, including Economic Advisor Cohn and Defense Secretary Mattis tried to persuade the President that trade wars and disruptions in global markets could destroy the shaky stability in the world, and damage America's intelligence community and the United States military. They don't understand why Trump would want to pick a fight with America's allies, like NATO, or friends in the Middle East, or Japan, or particularly with S.Korea.

However, Trump doesn't want to hear it. He says he's had these views for 30 years and isn't going to change them.

- Afghanistan

The President is an outspoken opponent of the 16-year-old Afghanistan War. He's said, "Afghanistan is a total disaster. We don't know what we're doing. They are, in addition to everything else, robbing us blind." Trump frequently rails about wasting billions there and cries, "We've got to figure out how to get the fuck out of there. Totally corrupt. The people are not worth fighting for."

National Security Advisor McMaster maintains that America MUST remain in Afghanistan to prevent another terrorist attack like 9/11, and other Middle East experts assert that chaos would follow a complete withdrawal of troops. Even Senator Lindsay Graham, who (more or less) supports the President publicly, warned, "Pull the troops and Afghanistan becomes Iraq on steroids. There are more international terrorists in Afghanistan than there ever were in Iraq.....the projection of terrorism coming from Afghanistan will exponentially grow."

Senator Lindsay Graham

Trump seemingly bowed to the pressure - and even sent more troops to Afghanistan - instructing military leaders to "win the war."

- Iran

Trump has called the Iran deal negotiated by President Obama "One of the worst deals I've ever seen." The President has often said, "My number one priority is to dismantle this disastrous deal with Iran." Among other things, Trump hates the deal because Iran got money from it. He says, "We gave them $150 billion dollars, and we get nothing." (In reality, this money already belonged to Iran. It was frozen in banks around the world.)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wants to keep the deal as a matter of practicality and principle, since Iran is in compliance - but Trump is determined to scrap it.

Rex Tillerson - Secretary of State

Another issue that concerns Trump is tax reform, and he passed a plan that would benefit corporations and wealthy people the most. One democratic senator said Trump's reforms "will do damage for the next decade" since it will add about $1.5 trillion to the annual deficit over a decade. Tax reform is the only major legislation the Trump administration passed in the first year.

Woodward also covers a variety of additional topics such as: Trump firing FBI Director James Comey; Trump's fury at then Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation (including all of Trump's insults and belittling comments about the AG); Trump seething about Special Counsel Mueller's looking into possible collusion with Russia; Trump obsessively watching what news channels say about him; the constant turnover in the Trump administration; various advisors saying Trump is an idiot and a moron; and more.

James Comey - Former FBI Director

Jeff Sessions - Former Attorney General

Robert Mueller - Special Counsel

I'll continue to watch Trump's presidency with interest, since - much as I'd like to - it's hard to look away.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
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