4 out of 5 stars ★★★★☆
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.
The book told me a lot of what I already knew. It confirmed that there are a lot of issues that go on behind closed doors in terms of the staff. Trump is absolutely unfit to be president. He’s unfit to run a business. He’s unfit to make his own decisions in day to day life. He acts tough, but it’s a facade because he’s really just dumb as nails. It’s baffling how far privilege will take a person. I kept comparing this to Fire and Fury because it covers nearly the identical time period. The Fear timeline is through March 2018 of the presidency. Fire and Fury had it’s problems, with factual correctness and biased reporting, but least with Fear there is much less of an issue when it comes to factual correctness.
Please enjoy some select quotes that are bananas throughout this review.
“Before we go to lunch,” Graham said, “I want to apologize to you for a very fucked-up Republican majority. Congress is going to fuck up your presidency. We have no idea what we’re doing. We have no plan for health care. We’re on different planets when it comes to cutting taxes. And you’re the biggest loser in this.”
The sources in the book were made up of different people, but it was obvious from direct quotes that a lot of material came from Rob Porter (White House Staff Secretary), Gary Cohn (Chief Economic Adviser), Steve Bannon (Chief Strategist), Lindsey Graham (Senator from South Carolina, Republican), and John Dowd (former attorney to the President). There were other sources, but no one else but John Dowd could have provided the first hand account of working with Mueller! I’d say this was a much more well rounded account of what was happening in the White House. We get the staff dynamics, we get the ins and outs of the schedule, we see very clearly how Trump behaves and makes decisions.
“Decisions are not final–and therefore may not be implemented–until the staff secretary files a vetted decision memorandum signed by the President…On-the-fly decisions are strictly provisional.” Memo from Rob Porter.
Prior to being in the White House, NO ONE EXPECTED HIM TO WIN within his own campaign. Because of this the transition team was horrible: consistant and chronic under-staffing and barely any organization within the team directly working with the president. Within the staff there were groups who were constantly undermining one another, especially Jared and Ivanka, who were not quoted in the book directly, but have a profound influence over Trump’s day to day activities. Rex Tillerson also started working separately from the team so that he could actually do the job he was hired to do (apparently he was effective, but I don’t have a lot of sources either way to support this, and he left so there’s that).
“Trump’s memory needed a trigger–something on his desk or something he read in the newspaper or saw on television. Or Peter Navarro sneaking into the Oval Office again. Without something or someone activating him, it might be hours or days or even weeks before he would think, Wait, we’re going to withdraw from that, why didn’t we do that? Without a trigger, it conceivably might never happen.”
Remember that New York Times Opinion piece a while ago about how there’s a group of people on staff who are undermining the president’s decisions and taking things off of his desk? Those people are not heroes. The people working for the president knew he was unfit for office and instead of taking steps for impeachment, they let him cause chaos in the world. For fucks sake, they were only delaying the inevitable. Disorganization + staff leaving = 35 day government shutdown.
“Mattis and Gary Cohn had several quiet conversations about The Big Problem: The president did not understand the importance of allies overseas, the value of diplomacy or the relationship between the military, the economy and intelligence partnerships with foreign governments.”
Here’s a takeaway that I didn’t get from Fire and Fury, the president lies A LOT. John Dowd, the president’s own lawyer tried to coach him for an interview with Mueller, that we know wasn’t going to happen. Dowd asked three of Mueller’s questions and Trump was in a fit. How is this person president!?
“It seems clear that 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.”
Another takeaway from the book is that Trump doesn’t understand economics, diplomacy, or military strategy. He admired generals and military officials, but when it came time for those military greats to explain to Trump the ins and outs of their decision making, Trump was not interested. He doesn’t want to learn anything. He won’t listen to anyone but himself and Fox News. He has allegedly read one book (see quote below).
“I just met with the generals. I’m going to go with the generals.” [Trump said to Graham.] “Well Mr. President that’s probably the smartest thing any president could have done.” “That was a hard one,” Trump said. “It’s the graveyard of empires.” It was a reference to a book by Seth G. Jones on Afghanistan. “It’s my luck the only book you’ve ever read was that one,” Graham joked. Trump laughed along.
Also, can we just confirm that Lindsay Graham is a fucking snake. Graham was in his office trying to explain things and get on his good side, but he and Mitch McConnell are just as complicit in the government fuckery as Trump. They had the majority in the senate and they did nothing.
Dowd: “I told you he was an idiot. I told you he was a goddamn dumbbell. What are we dealing with that idiot for? He can’t even remember X, Y, Z with respect to his FBI director.” Dowd was are that he had illustrated the president was “clearly disabled.” “John, I understand,” Mueller said.
Writing this review just made me so angry that we are in this position to begin with. There are so many things wrong with the presidency. He’s supremely under-qualified, easily manipulated, a liar, ignorant, and a racist. I’ve never been so embarrassed to be an American during this time.
“But in the man and his presidency Dowd had see the tragic flaw. In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, the 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.””