Whisper it low: Could Rage, out in book shops this week, be the very first Bob Woodward book in an age thats actually worth reading?.
My response: Yes, however just 50 percent of the thing. Only after Woodward, at age 77, has an Alice in Wonderland epiphany halfway through, and that changes the way he interviews Trump. At long last, with uncommon sincerity, Woodward becomes a noticeable character in his own decades-long story– and actually checks his own privilege..
Theyre strange things, Woodward books. They inevitably break news, due to the fact that Mr. I-Broke-Watergate convinces every source in Washington to speak to him eventually, and they usually have something jaw-dropping to state when the tape-recorders on. (In the case of Rage, its Trump spilling his brains on COVID-19; the president kept calling Woodward because he seethed at being neglected of Woodwards previous book, Fear.).
So we purchase them, anticipating some solid Pulitzer-worthy story. We proudly show them on the shelf for a week or a month or three, since who has the time? Then we crack them open one evening, long after the news storm has actually passed, and we understand: Holy cow, this person can not write..
Woodward confessed in a 1989 interview that good analysis eludes him. (Rage is the only book that will ever expose how many Diet Cokes Trump consumed as his helicopter circled around a foggy landing zone in the Korean demilitarized zone: two.).
We likewise uncover this inconvenient fact: Bob Woodward is an old-school facility Republican. His political lean must come as not a surprise; its right there in the film about Woodward and Bernstein lowering Nixon, All The Presidents Men. (Robert Redford as Woodward says hes GOP and voted for Nixon in 68; Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein looks, incredulous). And it comes out in every book he composes; no matter how much Woodward declares to be an old-school just-the-facts-man unbiased reporter, his choices of source and subject speak volumes..
Worry, which I explained in 3 words– bad, uninteresting, phony– remained in lots of parts a love letter to Woodwards preferred Trumpian sources. Lindsey Graham, Kellyanne Conway, and even Steve Bannon came out of it glowing whiter than white. Graham gets the periodic mash note in Rage too, but the bulk of Woodwards ballpoint hearts are now engraved beside former deputy chief law officer Rod Rosenstein, former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, and Trumps previous Defense secretary, retired General Jim Mattis..
I regret to report that Woodward, who admired both Mattis and Lt. General H.R. McMasters “ramrod-straight” posture in Fear, is at it once again: “Mattis had a stoic Marine exterior and attention-getting ramrod posture, however his brilliant, open and welcoming smile softened his presence.” People, get a space..
To read the first half of Rage is to believe that really little deserving of attention occurred in this administration prior to the coronavirus outside of its irregular diplomacy with North Korea. Woodward repeatedly blanches at the idea that Mattis might have had to shoot down a North Korean nuke, possibly. It is to accept Russian election disturbance while eliding the extremely clear reality that the interference was to assist Trump. It is to dismiss the Mueller report and all its open concerns even as you report that Rosenstein deliberately set out to limit the examination..
Woodward is not even a Never Trumper Republican; by personality, he seems to be a Maybe Trumper. At one point, for no narrative reason, he explains Dan Coats Indiana Republican other half fumbling with whether to vote for candidate Trump in 2016.
Go Into the Cheshire Cat.
(In the case of Rage, its Trump spilling his brains on COVID-19; the president kept calling Woodward because he was mad at being left out of Woodwards previous book, Fear.).
Something remarkable occurs with his Trump discussions from this point forward: Woodward really starts fact-checking the presidents declarations. That does not stop Woodward boarding a quick train to Never Trump Town, where he will arrive at the end of the book. In the books most surprising minute, Woodward shares some of his own evolution with Trump: “My daddy was a legal representative and a judge in Illinois. Mattis comes out versus Trump in June 2020, describing him as a “danger to the Constitution” after Trumps negative church photo-op with active responsibility military on the streets of Washington D.C.; Woodwards epiphany, coincidentally or otherwise, appears to have come around the very same time.
Is Trump a cat with the ability to vanish in thin air? His son-in-law believes so.
The fact that Woodward speaks fluent old-school GOP is what makes his second-half conversion all the more powerful. And its why you might consider, if not checking out Rage yourself, then a minimum of mailing it to your political history-loving Republican uncle before the election..
The modification comes when Woodward speaks to Jared Kushner midway through, looking for secrets to Trumps character. Kushner takes him to Alice in Wonderland territory, actually:.
He paraphrased the [Cheshire] cat: “If you dont know where youre going, any path will get you there.” The Cheshire Cats method was one of endurance and perseverance, not instructions.. Kushner was clearly stating Alice in Wonderland was an assisting text for the Trump presidency. Did Kushner understand how negative this was? Was it possible the best roadmap for the administration was an unique about a girl who falls through a bunny hole, and Kushner was prepared to acknowledge that Trumps presidency was on unstable, directionless ground?
Simply put, yes. This appears to be Woodwards very first clue that his president has no ethical center whatsoever, and will say any old shit that appears in his brain, frequently on a repetitious loop. In the words of the New York Times Maggie Haberman, another basically considerate press reporter, Trump will “state whatever he requires to say to make it through ten minute increments of time.” Woodward is a late transform to this notion, since he is patriotically trained to expect more of presidents. He can not believe theres no there there, however … he finally got there.
Something amazing happens with his Trump conversations from this point forward: Woodward in fact starts fact-checking the presidents statements. Its fact-checking of the most milquetoast sort, the kind that constantly provides Trump the benefit of the doubt. There is plenty he doesnt push back on, and alarmingly Woodward still seems to be more gung-ho on the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was developed in a Chinese laboratory than Trump is..
That doesnt stop Woodward boarding a fast train to Never Trump Town, where he will arrive at the end of the book. Trump has a limited number of verbal tricks to deploy, they all depend on interruption, and they look increasingly desperate the longer you keep him talking. Eventually he will attempt to end the dispute by blurting out something pathetically, revealingly conceited, like this: “But the ideas are mine, Bob.
The more Trump reveals himself, and the more Woodward pushes back, the more the author becomes something he never planned but should have been all along– a visible figure in his own journalistic procedure. He has actually stepped out of the shadows where he tape-records and burnishes the legacy of his cherished sources. Lastly, he is self-examining..
In the books most surprising minute, Woodward shares a few of his own advancement with Trump: “My dad was a lawyer and a judge in Illinois. And we understand what your dad did. Do you have any sense that a privilege has isolated and put you in a cavern, as it put me … and that we have to work our escape of it to comprehend the discomfort and the anger Black individuals have in this country?”.
Trump scoffs and lashes out, accusing Woodward of “consuming the Kool-Aid.” Woodward continues, and finally drags Trump to a discussion about systemic bigotry where the president lastly, briefly, hesitantly, confesses its a thing– and has actually been a thing “for centuries plus.” Type of like, say, the 1619 task has been saying all along.
Its too little too late, as far as Woodward is concerned. Trump has actually devoted the basic crime of being an unserious president, and the coronavirus damns him. Mattis comes out versus Trump in June 2020, explaining him as a “hazard to the Constitution” after Trumps negative church photo-op with active service armed force on the streets of Washington D.C.; Woodwards surprise, coincidentally or otherwise, appears to have actually occurred the exact same time. Finally, he abandons obtuse neutrality..
On the very last page of his epilogue, Woodward reaches his Never Trump location. The facility Republican who hoped for the finest from Trump instead understands he is a grifter who has actually “preserved individual impulse as a governing principle of his presidency … Trump is the wrong guy for the job.”.
For those of us who reached that conclusion in 2016, Woodwards plodding pace can be exasperating. But there are many white seventysomething Republicans in America in his circumstance right now, with the scales falling from their eyes in the wake of a virus that Trump plainly isnt safeguarding them from, and checking out Rage might assist speed along their own surprises..
This must be motivated, not discounted. For the sake of the nation, and for us never ever needing to read another Woodward book on Trump, let us hope they vote accordingly..