Review: Fear – Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

This book is a penetrating report by Bob Woodward about the current president of the USA, Donald Trump.
Review: Fear – Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward's Fear – Trump in the White House Published by Simon & Schuster. 

This book is a penetrating report by Bob Woodward about the current president of the USA, Donald Trump. It gives a harrowing insight into the decision-making processes of a person who is perhaps the most powerful person in the world. Not once does Woodward express his personal opinion but rather lets the facts speak for themselves. Woodward’s unimpeachable record attests to the accuracy of this report – there is no reason to doubt his veracity.

Most of Fear is concerned with the period from the last months of the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 to March 2018. But a fascinating insight into Trump’s personality is revealed through the account of a meeting he had in August 2010 with Steve Bannon and David Bossie. The meeting was about Trump potentially running for president:

‘First off, there’s never been a guy win a Republican primary that’s not pro-life,’ Bossie said [to Trump]. ‘And unfortunately, you’re very pro-choice.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘You have a record of giving to the abortion guys, the pro-choice candidates...’
‘I’m against abortion,’ Trump said. ‘I’m pro-life.’
‘Well, you’ve got a track record.’
‘That can be fixed,’ Trump said. ‘You tell me how to fix that.’

After the meeting Bannon said he was pretty impressed with Trump even though he and Bossie concluded that he would never run for the presidency.

From the first page to the last Woodward is consistent in his style. He deploys information gleaned ‘from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses’ to report on the meetings, conversations and events. Woodward depicts what happened in considerable detail yet lets the reader draw their own conclusions about Trump and those who are influencing him, or are at least trying to. What becomes painfully clear is that Trump will not be swayed by the facts or rational arguments when it comes to his key issues. His self-belief is both enormous and fragile. His definition of loyalty demands 100% co-operation and agreement as distinct from 100% honesty. Today’s good friend can become yesterday’s greatest enemy. Consistency is not important. The list of his shortcomings goes on.

Gary Cohn and Rob Porter were among those in the White House who tried to bring order to a chaotic administration. ‘It’s pointless to prepare a meaningful, substantive briefing for the president … you know he’s never going to listen,’ Cohn told Porter. The latter ‘tried to prepare organized briefing papers with relevant information, different viewpoints, costs/benefits, pros and cons and consequences of a decision. It didn’t work.’ 

The information in this book was obtained by Woodward as ‘deep background’, meaning the names of his sources can not be disclosed. But most of it must have come from Trump supporters or at least former supporters, although some well known democrats also worked for Trump in the White House. So it is surprising that there is virtually no word of praise for Trump or for any of his attributes; it seems improbable that a person can be elected to such high office and garner so many highly placed supporters without any redeeming features.

During this period Trump was increasingly concerned about the Mueller investigation into Russian election interference and Russia’s possible ties to Trump. He hired John Dowd as lead counsel to advise him on the Mueller investigation. Dowd served in that position for about nine months until March 2018, when he resigned because Trump refused to take his advice. According to Woodward, Dowd had seen a tragic flaw in Trump and his presidency. Dowd was of the opinion that Trump had one overriding problem, though he dared not say it directly to the president: ‘You’re a fucking liar.'

No wonder Woodward has chosen Fear as the title of this book.

4 ½ stars ★★★★☆
Fear – Trump in the White House
By Bob Woodward

Simon & Schuster UK
448 pages 
ISBN 9781471181290 
September 2018
AU$ 45.00

Erich Mayer

Tuesday 25 September, 2018

About the author

Erich Mayer is a retired company director and former organic walnut farmer. He now edits the blog