Bob Woodwardâ€™s new book, â€śFear,â€ť does not paint a different picture of the early Trump White House than the one that has already emerged from credible news organizations in daily reporting on President Donald Trump. Rather, the book fills in details of a presidency led by an ignorant, impulsive and dishonest narcissist - and the people around him who enable or restrain his worst instincts.
Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, Woodward, a Post associate editor, describes the desperate measures that staff took to prevent the government from descending into chaos. Former National Economic Council director Gary Cohn reportedly swiped documents off Trumpâ€™s desk, which may have kept the United States in the North American Free Trade Agreement and a South Korean trade pact. Perhaps not coincidentally, Trump has ramped up trade wars against allies and adversaries alike since Cohn left.
Then there is Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who apparently complained about the presidentâ€™s ignorance on foreign affairs and slow-walked unhinged presidential orders until things could cool down.
These revelations highlight the dilemma facing public-spirited people working in Trumpâ€™s executive branch. The United States would probably be worse off without the service of Cohn, Mattis and other adults. But in the long term, does normalizing a man they know is unfit do more damage?
Trump and other administration officials have attacked the Woodward book.
They will have trouble impunging his credibility. Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary for President George W. Bush and no ally of the mainstream media,tweeted, â€śIâ€™ve been on the receiving end of a Bob Woodward book. There were quotes in it I didnâ€™t like. But never once - never - did I think Woodward made it up. . . . Woodward always plays it straight.â€ť Woodwardâ€™s reputation precedes him. So does Trumpâ€™s.