much like its predecessor FEAR (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2018), legendary WASHINGTON POST journalist BOB WOODWARD's second book on the TRUMP ADMINISTRATION entitled RAGE (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2020) provides a third-person perspective of events within the WHITE HOUSE based on deep background interviews. what separates this book from its predecessor, aside from its timeline (as this book covers time up until SUMMER 2020), is the actual participation of PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP himself. not liking how he was depicted in the first book and confident of his persuasive abilities, TRUMP spoke with WOODWARD seventeen times from DECEMBER 2019 through JULY 2020, many off the cuff with the president initiating the call himself. it was unprecedented opportunity for both.
that is not to say i learned anything per se reading his words. as WOODWARD states of his experience, "at times, talking to him meant being talked at." that comes across in spades throughout the conversations. WOODWARD asks carefully constructed questions crafted intently for the sake of posterity and TRUMP repeatedly offers a world salad of ramblings and half truths. it isn't shocking, you just get the sense that he doesn't care about facts or information. makes perfect sense when you learn that ANTHONY FAUCI, the director of the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES once stated that "his attention span is like a minus number." it seems that WOODWARD has infinite patience and endurance throughout the proceedings as he often rephrases his questions multiple times in order to draw out some semblance of a coherent thought from TRUMP, most often to no avail. in the end he felt that they were essentially "speaking past each other, almost from other universes."
this tic seems to be a rhetorical device aimed at wearing down his perceived adversaries with brute repetition. it is essentially GASLIGHTING. and it works. in FEAR there is a constant theme of TRUMP impulsively and maybe even obsessively bringing up the same topics over and over again with his secretaries. the repetition of having the same discussion multiple times most definitely word down former cabinet secretaries like GARY COHN, JAMES MATTIS, DAN COATS and REX TILLERSON as well as former CHIEFS OF STAFF REINCE PRIEBUS and JOHN KELLY. this book showcases how that same tactic plagued his administration into further mismanagement with the rise of CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC and the NATIONAL PROTESTS that erupted in the aftermath of the senseless killing by MINNEAPOLIS police of an innocent unarmed black man, GEORGE FLOYD. it would be an interesting aside if its consequences were not so dire.
as i write this our national death toll in the UNITTED STATES from COVID-19 is at 204,000 and continuing unabated. as WOODWARD soberly states near the end of his interviews in a first-person aside to the reader, "Trump never did seem willing to mobilize the federal government and continually seemed to push problems off on the states. There was no real management theory of the case or how to organize a massive enterprise to deal with one of the most complex emergencies the United States had ever faced."
it is hard for me to read this book with the proper distance and perspective as its events are still fresh in my mind. i appreciate the fact that WOODWARD is able to present the administration's perspective effectively, while choosing to interject only when facts run counter to the narrative being presented by such. in this manner both books are great tools for gaining insight into their process or lack thereof when creating policy and making important decisions. i only wish the credo that TRUMP's senior aide and son-in-law JARED KUSHNER presents that "controversy elevates message" wasnt true. fact-checking means nothing in this post-truth digital hell-scape where social media platforms essentially incentivize disseminating disinformation.
the moral failures of this administration will stain us long after he departs the WHITE HOUSE, whenever that may be. as SOUTH CAROLINA SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM is reported to have said to TRUMP in the aftermath of his photo op at the nearby ST. JOHN's CHURCH, the president had the opportunity in the wake of the wave of protests to react in the mold of either "George Wallace, Robert Kennedy or Richard Nixon."
it is to what will be our eternal dismay that he chose GEORGE WALLACE.
RAGE is an incredible book that is quite harrowing to read but well worth the effort. this book will prove to be important for people to read down the road for insight into the mind of our current fearless leader and how we collectively lost our way as a nation.