Bob Woodward, 448 pages

I haven’t experienced a more polarizing individual in my life than President Donald Trump.

Real estate mogul. WWE wrestler. Reality TV sensation. Womaniziner. President.

A family member of mine posts more anti-Trump content than seems humanly possible. Sometimes I wonder what this person does all day. I mean, the posts come from fake Twitter accounts, Trumps actual Twitter account, CNN, MSNBC, and other liberal sources so either this family member has a feed set with anti-Trump tags, or he or she spends A LOT of time searching for anti-Trump articles.

On the other hand, I have another good friend that is the Yin to the previously-mentioned family member’s Yang. This person is pro-Trump all the way and posts an equal amount of pro-Trump content every single day. According to this person, Trump has never said or done anything wrong. Ever. “Fake News!” to any quote, Tweet, or recording of Trump doing some pretty reprehensible stuff.

Both of these people must not have a social media policy at work because they are both all over it during work hours and their jobs have nothing to do with politics.

And here’s the deal. I love them both!

I’m no political expert

To be frank, I try not to pay much attention to politics and the media because it is a shit-storm of… well… shit (sorry mom). I paid more attention to politics in college, but it left me angry and paranoid all the time. I was more argumentative and constantly barraging my friends, wife, and in-laws with:

“The Constitution is being ripped apart in front of our eyes!”
“Can you believe how much money we spend on ______?!”
“Did you hear (insert every conspiracy theory you’ve ever heard here)?”

These types of outrageous conversations have been reduced, and I’ve taken a step back from getting all worked up about every issue. My political philosophy at this point is Don’t hurt people and Don’t take their stuff (the title of an interesting book written by Matt Kibbe)

With that in mind, I came across Fear: Trump in the White House and thought, “why not?”

There is no such thing as unbiased

If someone is putting together a book, article, or statement on politics and they say they are unbiased:

I went into this book assuming that it was going to be a liberal smear piece written to scare readers into believing that Trump would usher in WWIII, all minorities would be sent to jail, and we would all lose our jobs.

The book spends most of the time covering the period from the year leading up to the 2016 election through 2018 so it kind of misses record stock market numbers, COVID-19, crazy stock market turmoil, and the Black Lives Matter protests.

True to the book’s title, it does make the case against Trump, but the author does work in some good stuff about President Trump as well.

After finishing the book, I had a tough time reconciling what I read.

Disclaimer: I’ve never met President Trump or his staff. I can’t make character judgments on the man behind the scenes. All I have to go on is what he tweets and what he says along with quotes from those around him.

Bob Woodward does his best to give context around all conversations and quotes, but who knows, maybe there’s an axe to grind and it’s all twisted a bit. I don’t know. I was pretty convinced as to the validity of the conversations discussed in this book.

The Good

The President of the United States has A LOT to deal with.

  • Here are a few of the decisions placed on President Trump’s plate, most of which have decades of history, nuanced background, and details you’d never even think of:
    Nuclear issues in Iran
    Sanctions on Iran and Russia
    Nuclear issues in North Korea
    Troops in South Korea
    The War in Afghanistan
    Consoling the families of fallen soldiers
    Tariffs and Trade talks with several countries
    Immigration
    Tax reform
    Speech after speech after speech
    Hiring high level positions, appointing high level people, and firing a lot of them
    Investigations into his campaign and personal life
    Twitter

    There are top secret discussions that we will never know about going on at the same time that should be kept secret to protect our country’s interests.

    I don’t care who you are, that is a lot to deal with and try to sort out in the middle of the countless press conferences, events he has to attend, and recreational time. No matter what you decide on any of these issues as the President of the United States, you’re going to piss off half of the country.
  • Trump cares about those in the military and their families.
    This book gives an impressive look into President Trump’s handling of fallen soldiers. The author points out that Trump’s brand is power, refusing to admit guilt, and showing no sign of weakness, but Trump gets emotional when it comes to fallen soldiers and these interactions are hard for him. It is made very clear that he cares deeply about our soldiers and he is visibly shaken when he has to welcome the bodies of those killed in combat, especially those with young children. There are several instances of Trump wanting to get our troops out of a war that doesn’t make sense to him.
  • The guy has accomplished several things that his predecessors struggled with. The author points specifically to Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, and China. I’ll let you read the book to get more details on that, but the author does point out that in some areas where President Obama was weak, President Trump has been able to be pretty strong.

The Bad

Based on those closest to President Trump and those who have worked with him, he is pretty clueless when it comes to how things operate. I’m not just talking politically (although he doesn’t seem to get that either), but economically and in areas dealing with international arrangements.

There are several gaffes where he attempts to make decisions that are not legal. I don’t mean criminally, I mean trying to get out of or alter treaties and sanctions or use our military in a way that isn’t under his purview.

This is part of the reason he was elected. He promised to drain the swamp and that he wasn’t going to play the political game. He was going to get things changed and get stuff done. That’s all fine and dandy, but as we’ve seen, there’s more to building a wall and getting Mexico to pay for it than just telling them to do that and them agreeing.

Meeting with international leaders doesn’t seem to go well. After such meetings, Trump talks about them being the best meetings and he and the other country leader being best friends, but those cited in the book get different feedback from the leaders themselves.

The book takes the opportunity to point out that some in President Trump’s staff spend a large portion of their time hiding documents from him hoping he’ll forget to sign an impulsive action he had earlier that day. These staffers also try to control his family members, more specifically Ivanka and her husband, as they try to push their own agendas using the President.

At the same time, President Trump despises being corrected or told he’s wrong. Loyalty is most important to him. Even when he is wrong, he expects those around him to be loyal and agree with him. He’s more likely to listen to family with no experience than generals with decades of first-hand experience.

The Ugly

President Trump has done some odd, stupid, and downright terrible things. Most of the terrible came before he was president so pro-Trumpers can back out of that all they want. Look back at what many consider great or inspired presidents and you’ll find that many were scum bags in their personal lives before and during their presidency. JFK and Bill Clinton come to the top of my mind pretty quickly in terms of their extramarital affairs, but both accomplished great things as presidents. I don’t personally believe that a president has to be without sin to effectively do the job, but at the same time, some discretion would be nice.

Get the guy off Twitter.
Several of President Trump’s staffers are quoted as saying that he needs to stop tweeting. Trump appoints officials via Twitter. Some had no idea they were a candidate for a position and Trump sends out a tweet that he’s proud to have this person on the staff. Trump doesn’t seem to have a filter and ends up having to backtrack… speaking of…

Trump straight up lies…
…a lot… and then lies his way out of those lies. Lather, rinse, repeat.
He is recorded and has tweets saying something and he will blatantly deny ever saying things. He defaults to “I never said that,” “Wrong,” or “I don’t remember ever saying that.”

It’s ugly. Try all you want to justify or twist things to make it look like maybe he meant something else, but it takes some cognitive dissonance to ignore.

Now, is he the only politician or president to lie? Heavens no.
Does, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” ring any bells?

It seems like lying is part of the job of any politician and especially the president. The difference here is Trump’s unfiltered, unhinged Twitter usage. Other presidents either didn’t have social media accounts, or, for President Obama, most of his were written (by someone else), vetted, cross-checked, and approved before sending.

The Book Itself

The book is worth the read simply to get an inside look into all the things that go into being president. There are other books that accomplish this, but if you want to get all fired up about President Trump, than pick this one up.

Bob Woodward does a good job of trying to instill fear (the title…) while still showing the good President Trump tries to do. You’ll definitely get more of a Trump’s-an-idiot vibe though, so know that going in.

Fair warning, politicians in general, along with Trump and his staff use incredibly colorful language full of 4-letter words, mostly beginning with the letter ‘F’.

The timelines and topics get pretty jumbled up and bounce all over the place. It’s not a linear, start-to-finish timeline so I got confused a few times.  

I found it interesting to hear the conversations that the president is involved in as well as the ramifications that every decision carries with it.

Buy the book here for the best online book-buying experience courtesy of Amazon. The link is my Amazon Affiliate link so if you buy through the link, you don’t have to pay any more for the book and Amazon sends me a hefty check of I think $0.03, so that’s nice. (It’s not a check. No one, especially Amazon, writes checks these days.)

P.S. In a country of 330 million people, how are my only two options Joe Biden and Donald Trump? Regardless of which party you tend to side with, can we agree that these two are just straight up loony tunes?

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