Wednesday, September 5, 2018

"Fear" - Bob Woodward's New Book

Author and reporter Robert (Bob) Woodward, journalist for The Washington Post, has won two Pulitzer Prizes, including one for his coverage (along with Carl Bernstein) of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.  His reporting comes with the credibility of a long and storied history that separates his new book, Fear, from previous and more recent books written about the 45th President.  Fear will be available to the public on Tuesday, 11 September, which is Patriot Day in the United States - a fact that I find delightful.   I believe it is 446 pages long, and includes a lot of detail.
  Woodward's book relies on hundreds of hours of taped interviews and dozens of sources in the President's inner circle, as well as documents, files, diaries, and memos, including a note handwritten by the President himself.  Woodward explains that he talked with sources on "deep background," meaning he could use all the information given, but not say who provided it.
  Fear offers a devastating portrait of a dysfunctional White House, detailing how senior aides - both current and former administration officials - grew exasperated with the President and increasingly worried about his erratic behavior, ignorance, and penchant for gross lies. Chief of Staff John Kelly describes the 45th President as an "idiot" and "unhinged," Woodward reports.  Defense Secretary James Mattis decribes the President as having the understanding of "a fifth or sixth grader."  And the President's former personal lawyer, John Dowd, describes the President as "a fucking liar," telling him he would end up in "an orange jumpsuit" if he testified before Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
   The President's closest advisers described him erupting in rage and profanity,and noted that he seemed to enjoy humiliating others.  Regarding Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, that he appointed he said, "This guy is mentally retarded." Then, feigning a southern accent, he said, "He's this dumb southerner."  The President said of Reince Priebus: "He's like a little rat. He just scurries around."  Priebus, who was blindsided when the President announced his firing on Twitter, referred to the Presidential bedroom as "the devil's workshop" and called the early morning hours and Sunday night - a time of many of the President's news-breaking Tweets - "the witching hour."
   The President, however, sees himself as a Twitter wordsmith.  When Twitter expanded it's character count to 280 (doubling from the original 140) characters, the President said, "It's a good thing, but it's a bit of a shame because I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters."
   Yesterday, White House press secretary Sarah Suckabee Sanders said, "This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad. While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, the President has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people. Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results."
   Bob Woodward, however, said he stood by his reporting.  He sums up the state of the 45th President's White House by writing that the President is an "emotionally overwrought, mercurial, and unpredictable leader."  Referring to several instances noted in the book, where staffers removed papers and notes from the Presidential desk, Woodward writes that the staff's decision to circumvent the President was "a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world."

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