Fear: Trump in the White House
Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 2nd edition (September 11, 2018)
Reviewed by Dr. Wesley Britton
I’m pretty sure this was the first time I ever picked up a new book anticipating a depressing reading experience.
That’s because, like many Americans, I watched the election results of Nov. 9, 2016 with amazement and horror. I saw my country go insane. In the months and years since Trump’s inauguration, I’ve seen a narcissist, often paranoid president looking at the world through Trump-colored glasses. Policy wise, it’s been clear he has protectionist, populist, and nationalist views. It’s been clear he operates on the fly, often responding emotionally to any perceived threats or attacks. He’ll lie at the drop of a hat.
And all of this has been publicly chronicled on a daily basis since the presidential campaign. So Bob Woodward’s controversial new book doesn’t offer many surprises, other than the minutiae of who said what to whom and when. For me, I occasionally felt a glimmer of hope when I realized Trump has had some clear-headed advisors who’ve butted heads with more right-wing ideologues, although usually for relatively brief periods.
The greatest surprise for me was reading claims that some of these more clear-minded advisors found all manner of tricks to keep Trump from signing potentially dangerous documents, notably curtailing long alliances with countries like South Korea. True, as others have noted, this means unelected members of Trump’s inner circle have subverted the will of our elected president. I admit, I’m glad they did. I realize this places me inside a serious moral conundrum, but I’m too far away from any offices of power for my thoughts to matter.
Woodward’s uncited sources provide great specificity to all the conversations and actions the interviewees shared with Woodward, although not every issue of the Trump presidency was covered. There’s no discussion, for example, of the president’s ban on Muslim travelers to the U.S. But, without question, the most controversial aspect to the book is the lack of attribution to the “anonymous sources.” As Woodward has been assuring us in interviews the past few weeks, all his notes, memos, diaries, and tapes will ultimately be open to public scrutiny when he donates them all to a library archive.
Till then, I think Bob Woodward has built up enough of a record that give him serious credibility and trust. Also, the book is a straight-forward bare-bones narrative of information with little obvious editorial postulating, although it’s clear who he thinks are the heroes and who are the villains.
My one hope is that Trump supporters will take the time to read this and not respond like the Morgan County Library in West Virginia which has refused to shelf the book. On what grounds? No one is saying.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Sept. 18, 2018 at BookPleasures.com: