Bob Woodward’s new book – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – exploded onto the political scene on Tuesday morning. It included anecdotes like: President Donald Trump’s aides purposely keeping information from him in order to protect the country; a failed mock-interview in preparation for a potential sit-down with special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia; and Trump lashing out at aides, most notably Jeff Sessions, referring to his attorney general as “mentally retarded.”
All of this is salacious. And makes for great headlines.
But what’s truly worrisome for President Trump and his administration is that the portrait Woodward paints of a chaotic, dysfunctional, ill-prepared White House is all strangely familiar. It’s the same vision of the White House that Michael Wolff wrote way back in January in “Fire and Fury.” It’s the same picture that Omarosa Manigault-Newman constructed in her memoir of her year in the White House. It’s the same story that White House reporters at CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and virtually every other mainstream media outlet has told of the Trump White House.
Sure, Omarosa could be a disgruntled former aide trying to make money while exacting revenge on her enemies. Sure, Michael Wolff could have been misled by a few sources with scores to settle with Trump. Sure, reporters could get a detail or two wrong. Sure, Woodward could have cast a scene or two in ways that are less than favorable to Trump.
But how could all – and I mean all – of the reporting on this White House reach a striking similar conclusion? The portraits of Trump drawn by Wolff, Omarosa and Woodward are all eerily similar to one another – a man hopelessly out of his depth in the job, but entirely incapable of understanding how desperately out of depth he actually is. A man motivated almost entirely by personal grievance. A man willing to humiliate people who work for him, to play staffers against one another, to scapegoat underlings to keep blame off of himself. Someone who has so much self-belief that he rarely adequately prepares for situations involving international diplomacy and national security. Top aides who view that their jobs are primarily keeping Trump from causing serious harm, and grousing every step of the way about the man.
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And now Bob Woodward – without question the preeminent political reporter and chronicler of the White House in the last four decades – has written a book that confirms every bit of the portrayals we’ve seen about who Trump is, who he surrounds himself and how he conducts his business.
The consistency in those storylines is virtually impossible to explain in any other way than this: It’s true. To believe otherwise, you have to convince yourself that not only the entire daily media but also the likes of Wolff and Woodward all got together and agreed on how to portray Trump across tweets, stories and books. Which is, of course, beyond ridiculous.
The Point: What Woodward’s book does is confirm all of the negative stories we’ve already heard about Trump and his administration. This isn’t the work of a reporter with credibility problems or a press-loving former aide. This is the story. This is the President and how he really acts and thinks.