The public eagerly awaited the publication of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage.
Woodward’s first book on Donald Trump, Fear – Trump in the White House was released almost a year to the date of Woodward’s latest book. As with his first book, the title of his latest publication is derived from a conversation that Woodward had with Trump in March 2016, “I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have… I don’t know if that’s an asset or a liability, but whatever it is, I do. I also bring great unity out, ultimately. I’ve had many occasions like this, where people have hated me more than any human being they’ve ever met. And after it’s all over, they end up being my friends. And I see that happening here.”
One of the key differences between the two books is that for the first book, Woodward worked using outside sources, never talking to the president. Apparently, Trump aides felt it would be better if he did not talk directly to Woodward. However, for this second book, the president insisted on being interviewed. The president consented to 18 interviews lasting 9 hours. The interviews took place in the Oval Office and at night on the telephone.
The interviews provide a vivid window into Trump’s mind. Much of the first part of Rage deals with Trumps relations with former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, former Defense Secretary James Mattis, and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The balance of the book deals with Trump’s mishandling of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, Woodward obtained 25 never-seen personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a “fantasy film.”
Since the interviews were all recorded, it is difficult to claim that Woodward twisted Trump’s words; however, even actual recordings of his voice do not prevent Trump supporters from claiming that the president was misquoted.
Ultimately, Woodward addresses the question of Trump’s fitness for office. As Woodward concludes his book:
Elsa [Woodward’s wife] suggested looking at a previous president who wanted to speak directly to the American people, unfiltered through the media, not just during troubling times but during a major crisis. The model was Franklin D. Roosevelt. Over his 12 years as president, FDR gave 30 fireside chats. His aides and the public often clamored for more. FDR said no. It was important to limit his talks to the major events and to make them exceptional. He also said they were hard work, often requiring him to prepare personally for days.
The evening radio addresses concerned the toughest issues facing the country. In a calm and reassuring voice, he explained what the problem was, what the government was doing about it, and what was expected of the people.
Often the message was grim. Two days after Japan’s December 7, 1941, surprise bombing attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR spoke to the nation. “We must share together the bad news and the good news, the defeats and the victories– the changing fortunes of war. So far, the news has been all bad. We have suffered a serious setback.” He added, “It will not only be a long war, it will be a hard war.” It was a question of survival. “We are now fighting to maintain our right to live among our world neighbors in freedom and common decency.”
FDR invited the American people in. “We are all in it–all the way. Every single man, woman and child is a partner in the most tremendous undertaking of our American history.” Japan had inflicted serious damage and the casualty lists would be long. Seven-day weeks in every war industry would be required.
“On the road ahead there lies hard work–grueling work–day and night, every hour and every minute.” And sacrifice, which was a “privilege”….
…For nearly 50 years, I have written about nine presidents from Nixon to Trump–20 percent of the 45 U.S. presidents. A president must be willing to share the worst with the people, the bad news with the good. All presidents have a large obligation to inform, warn, protect, to define goals and the true national interest. It should be a truth-telling response to the world, especially in crisis. Trump has, instead, enshrined personal impulse as a governing principle of his presidency.
When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.