Fear: Trump in the White House

fear - trump in the white house

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.

—                         —                        —

I have read several political memoirs and biographies over the last few months and enjoyed all of them. There is always so much drama in American politics that it truly gives rise to the term “politi-tainment”. Fear, Trump in the White House appealed to me specifically because it was written by Bob Woodward, who has a long history of writing presidential biographies and is a respected investigative journalist. I figured that this would potentially be the most neutral book yet out of all the “tell-alls” to have hit the bestseller shelves in the last two years.

I learned a few new things about the Trump administration, and about Donald Trump himself, in this book. Some sections reinforced my negative impressions of him as a person and as a leader, while other points softened my judgement.

One point that comes across more clearly than anything else is this. Donald Trump is bull-headed and emphatically does not care about logic, truth, or the consequences. He regularly is quoted as responding “I don’t care” to aides and advisors, when their arguments conflict with his intentions. And while President Trump experiences extreme tunnel-vision on some topics, he is usually easily distracted in the short-term, much like a small child.

Trump does seem to care about his campaign promises more than anything else, and is dedicated to ramrodding them through in order to pacify his base. This is peculiar to me, as he regularly pivots and changes his mind on the fly about a vast variety of issues, and even conservative Republicans in Congress are reported to have begged him to let certain points go. But for whatever reason, Trump is committed to achieving those points that he was elected on and that dedication is to be commended, even if I don’t agree with his political views.

Generally, I believe that Trump cares more about being famous and being perceived as powerful, than anything else. He certainly isn’t a martyr, nor is he interested in governing to improve his country.

Woodward’s book is very factual and dense at times. There isn’t a strong narrative like other recent political memoirs I have read, such as Becoming by Michelle Obama or A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. Mainly for this reason, I didn’t enjoy Fear nearly as much.

Fear tends to jump between news highlight reels at times, a symptom of the the vast quantity of news Trump’s team generates. He even addresses the notion that Trump and his team purposely flooded news agencies with so many juicy stories during the campaign and early days of the Presidency, both so that they would dominate the news cycle and so that otherwise major stories would be quickly pushed aside for the next headline, rather than receiving more thorough coverage and deeper journalistic investigation.

Touching upon Trump’s personal life, Woodward confirms the President and First Lady sleep in separate bedrooms, long a suspected belief of many, and also describes Trump – though briefly – as a terrible father. There is extremely limited mention of Baron, Donald Jr and Ivanka Trump, as well as quite a bit of talk of Jared Kushner throughout the book. There is no mentioned of the President’s other children.

Another point that surprised me through Fear, was the significant amount of cooperation between Trump’s lawyers and the Special Counsel’s office in the first year of Muller’s investigation. I did not anticipate this and wish that I knew the behind the scenes status today.

Overall, I feel that the book finished in a weird place. It covers the campaign and approximately the first 18 months of presidency in the White House. However, it ends there. I just naturally assumed that this type of book would either cover the campaign and/or cover the entirety of Trump’s first term of office.

* * *

xx

Advertisements

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

Former FBI Director James Comey shares his never-before-told experiences from some of the highest-stakes situations of his career in the past two decades of American government, exploring what good, ethical leadership looks like, and how it drives sound decisions. His journey provides an unprecedented entry into the corridors of power, and a remarkable lesson in what makes an effective leader.

Mr. Comey served as Director of the FBI from 2013 to 2017, appointed to the post by President Barack Obama. He previously served as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, and the U.S. deputy attorney general in the administration of President George W. Bush. From prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart to helping change the Bush administration’s policies on torture and electronic surveillance, overseeing the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation as well as ties between the Trump campaign and Russia, Comey has been involved in some of the most consequential cases and policies of recent history.

—                         —                         —

I LOVED this book!

I listened to the audiobook during my commute this week and found myself lingering in the car in my driveway, or sitting in the parking lot at work to eat my lunch, just so that I could keep listening.

There is so much information and misinformation out there right now, especially in the realm of American politics, that I didn’t know how I felt about the firing of Director Comey. I knew I didn’t respect how it was done, but then Trump can always be counted on to show little to no class. But as to the substance behind the firing? I just didn’t know what to think.

This book has completely made up my mind.

Admittedly, I am only receiving one opinion – that of James Comey. However, his arguments are clear, concise and logical. In his book, he comes across as confident but still possessing of humility. He admits when he was wrong, and when he could see another person in his position making a different call, and still find it justified.

In the end, Director Comey was caught in the middle of the nasty crossfire of partisan politics in the lead-in to – and following – 2016’s election. There really was no win there.

Listening to this book makes me hope that in the near future, after the Russia investigation is completed, Robert Mueller will also write a book. And that it will be read by Mr. Comey. All else aside, the former FBI director has a very soothing voice and is a great companion during the daily commute.

I highly recommend this book and have just passed it over to my Mum to read, as she and my Dad were both interested when I told them about it 🙂

* * * * *

xx