Fear: Trump in the White House
By Bob Woodward
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio
Read by Robert Petkoff
No sooner did I finally finish Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged when word of this book came out. Well, I downloaded it immediately on the day of publication and started listening. Given my publication schedule this may have become another forgotten book by the time this review comes out, but what the heck?
Btw, I promised this book would be the next I reviewed, but it took longer to listen to than expected and I forgot I had another queued up to release automatically.
For starters, I would have to have had my head under a rock, no… a whole pile of rocks, to have not heard or read others review and/or release tidbits from this book. As usual, most of them dragged out their data from the prologue and maybe the first chapter or two before the actual book was released. Since then other juicy bits have been discussed, although for the most part, there’s not a lot in here of real significance that we did not already know. I said the same thing in my review of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s book, Unhinged. The difference is that this time the author has a lot more credibility honed on decades of experience. Mister Woodward is a respected journalist who has been researching and reporting for a very long time. His books are only sensationalistic when they contain sensational information and he has not made a habit of manipulating his way into the White House as Michael Wolff did, nor is he a former government employee who was fired and now writing a book about his experiences like James Comey and Omarosa did. The fact that most of them tend to agree on the stories, such as Rex Tillerson calling Donald Trump a moron, tends to give credibility, but none more so far as when Bob Woodward reports it.
If I have a criticism of this book it is that it is obvious that Woodward has been writing newspaper articles all his life. Each chapter is a self-contained story that is about the same length as an in-depth thought piece. I imagine that after his long journalistic career this length is one he is most comfortable with. However, each chapter does not quite connect to the others. Because each chapter is about a single issue or incident. He takes the start and follows that thread either to an end or a good stopping point because some of those threads have still not been resolved, but keep coming up over and over, such as Mueller’s investigation. So, while it gradually works its way forward, it is not entirely chronological and there is little sense of the confused combination of crises, distractions and outrages that have been going on for the last two years. Reading this book, one might almost think that each problem came up and was solved before the next arose instead of so many of them happening at once.
POLITICAL RANT WARNING: (skip ahead if you don’t care to read the ramblings of an Heinleinian anarchist)
Well, one could only wish Bob Woodward had waited to cover the Kavanaugh controversy because I swear to God that something stinks in that one on both sides of the aisle. Admittedly, the stench is different depending on where you stand but, as I see it, neither came out of this clean. I used to think that both parties should be abolished, but now realize that it really would not make a difference, they would just form new parties with the same members. I read the results of a poll once that claimed that the vast majority of Americans think everyone in Congress should be fired… except for their own senators and congressmen (or women). That is why the system perpetuates and why most of them continue to keep their jobs. These days I contemplate how different it might be if the “Two-party system” were abolished. There is nothing sacred about it. There are no laws demanding that Congress be divided into only two parts and maybe if our politicians were forced at times to build a coalition (or not). The two-party system is maintained by the rules of the House and Senate and what passes for US tradition. These are the same rules that were modified in the so-called “Nuclear Option” by the Democrats and then applied to Supreme Court appointments by the Republicans. (Had they kept the necessary approval at 60% we would not have had borderline nominees like Kavanaugh in the first place.
FTR: I abhor sexual abuse in all forms and stand with Dr. Ford, but my strongest objection to Kavanaugh is based on his infantile shouting and crying and whining temper tantrum that he used as a defense. A person who behaves like that in public (keep in mind that he spent days at the Whitehouse being prepared for that testimony so I cannot believe it was not calculated and intentional) does not have the temperament to serve as a judge at any level. His partisan ranting further disqualifies him and his lies under oath about not drinking (his college roommate says otherwise, but for some reason the FBI chose not to ask the question) and the definitions of “Boof” and “Devil’s Triangle,” make him instant fodder for impeachment. No, I don’t think that will happen, but it ought to. The sad thing, however is that the situation were reverse and he was nominated by a Democratic president, the two sides would have just traded each other’s arguments.
Politicians really do not care about ideals as a group. As individuals, I am sure they all have their deeply felt beliefs as to what is best, but as a group their morals are compromised with every deal they make. It’s possible to quantify that moral decay in mathematical terms. Something like Moral Constancy on any given issue (M) equals 1 divided by the Number of Politicians involved (N) or M=1/N. call this the Moral Quotient (of any form of committee). So the Moral Quotient of the US Senate is 0.01 and that of the House of Representatives is 0.00187 if all members are present. Those of you from other countries will have to do your own math and keep in mind that I may be too optimistic!
Now what can we do about it? Darned if I know! Protests don’t seem effective these days. If anything, they seem to be encouraging contrariness and defiance in our politicians. Look at Susan Collins who apparently listened to several victims of sexual abuse from her own state and gave them every impression that she had been convinced to vote against Kavanaugh but then gave an overly long speech top the Senate with a beatific smile on her face as though she had a religious experience in her conversion to Trumpism and promised her vote to Kavanaugh. It was that smile that offended me most. But so long as Americans are blind to the faults of their own politicians, there is very little we can do. Keep that in mind when you walk into a voting booth; not only this November but each and every election.
END POLITICAL RANT (okay it’s sort of safe to come out now)
I have to admit that was nothing important in this book I had not heard before. In spite of the hype, there were no real new bombshells being dropped, but the fact that it was in Woodward’s book rather than Omarosa’s or Wolff’s verified it. Yes, there were a few details the others did not present (and in Wolff’s case he rushed to publication before the really juicy stuff dropped) but one can only assume that we’re still just at the beginning of it all. There are going to be a lot of books forthcoming.
Last month The Plain Dealer one of Cleveland’s leading newspapers – incidentally one I read most mornings while I lived there – asked if Trump wrote a book about his time in the Whitehouse, would you read it? I think I would not. In fact, at the moment I have reached my limit. Only something really different and important would get me to return to this subject. In this constant merry-go-round cycle of crises and controversies, it all keeps going round and round and only those riding the bouncing ponies changes from time to time.
Huh! I forgot after all that I was suppose to write a review of the reading. Robert Petkoff reads the book well. He did not try to imitate the salad of accents related to the people involved as Omarosa did and gave us the text in the same manner a good reader might present a newspaper article; appropriate and easy to listen to. He sometimes attempted to indicate the emotions of the people quoted, but he was not extreme about it. I did not get the impression he was trying to put his personal stamp on the book, just to present it in an interesting manner that allowed Woodward’s words to take center stage.
So, in any other day this might have been an influential book. These days, it is just another book. Well written and presented, but it was quickly lost in the flurry of other controversies that piled on in its wake and, we are not even two years into the current administration even if it does feel like twenty in “Trump Years.” If you have not read it yet, there’s no hurry. Take your time. The facts are not going anywhere and they may mean more when we are closer to 2020. However, it was interesting to listen to.