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September 5, 2018

Is Woodward’s ‘Fear’ Merely ‘Fiction’?

Ever since Watergate, Democrats have been eagerly searching for the next Watergate.

Ever since Watergate, Democrats have been eagerly searching for the next Watergate. They’re like drug addicts chasing the next high. They so badly want to take out another Republican president they just can’t stand it. Indeed, impeaching Donald Trump is the focus of more than a few leading Democrats. With that backdrop and to set up November’s supposed “blue wave,” Bob Woodward, the journalist who along with Carl Bernstein uncovered the Watergate scandal that took down Richard Nixon, is set to release a new book: Fear: Trump in the White House.

Naturally, The Washington Post, where Woodward still serves as an associate editor, “obtained” an advance copy of the book. And even with the Senate hearings for Brett Kavanaugh yesterday, Woodward’s book occupied four of the top five slots in the Post’s “Politics” email this morning. Clearly, Jeff Bezos’s tabloid is heavily invested in taking down Trump — or at least exploiting the golden goose for ad revenue.

Like Hollywood movie trailers, part of the book’s advance marketing is releasing salacious tidbits. From the Post’s account:

A central theme of the book is the stealthy machinations used by those in Trump’s inner sanctum to try to control his impulses and prevent disasters, both for the president personally and for the nation he was elected to lead.

Woodward describes “an administrative coup d'etat” and a “nervous breakdown” of the executive branch, with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them.

Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders.

Woodward claims to have taped “hundreds of hours” of conversations with White House officials and staff, and that “there’s nothing in this book that doesn’t come from a firsthand source.” Perhaps he’s got some red meat, but White House officials dismiss it. Defense Secretary James Mattis called it “fiction.” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it’s “nothing more than fabricated stories.” Chief of Staff John Kelly reasserted his contention in May that “this story is total BS.” Trump himself wondered if Woodward “is a Dem operative.”

Then again, Trump does thrive on chaos and the book’s anecdotes do jive with his public taunting of, well, everyone, so it’s hard to say. Yet some of Woodward’s anecdotes that purport to reveal that Trump is unhinged actually show that he’s a pretty good leader, listening to the counsel of his aides and setting course based on the best advice. Either way, White House officials and Woodward are both saying exactly what’s in their best self-interest.

In any case, beyond the strategically marketed excerpt leaks, we won’t know more until Fear actually hits bookstores — on a release date, by the way, that reflects unbelievably poor taste because it’s on Tuesday, September 11th.

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