Friday, September 14, 2018

Review of Bob Woodward's Fear

I read Bob Woodward's Fear and found it mildly interesting. You already know the story, but you get some more detail about how things work in the Trump White House. Trump himself is incapable of making consistent decisions, easily forgets things, and has already formed opinions he won't change even when they are obviously factually wrong. His staff believes in his mission, or at least most of it, and are exasperated a lot. Many do not respect him as a person.

Trump sees everything through a hazy film of profit, which he clearly does not really understand. He wanted to "take" minerals out of Afghanistan as if such a thing were actually possible with no infrastructure (aside from what a bad idea it would be). He sees war prevention as a bad deal where you make no money. A number of policy discussions involved staffers telling him facts and him responding, "I don't give a shit about that." He does not understand policy and has no interest in understanding it.

Steve Bannon was clearly an important source and he comes off as the reasonable one. Really. He's the one trying to set up rational processes, get people to work together, trying to avoid war, telling Trump to spend more time with his wife and son, etc. to a point that is quite hard to believe, as if he had dictated them. Same goes for the entire last part of the book, which is a lengthy discussion of Bob Mueller's investigation, based solely on the recollection of Trump's lawyer John Dowd. It's self-congratulatory, there is no case, and the like. But basically, Trump cannot testify because he is incapable of telling the truth. He literally lies all the time.

Lindsey Graham comes off as a foreign policy ultrahawk who left to his own devices would likely start several wars. John Kelly is a hothead with a short attention span. Hilariously, Rex Tillerson comes off as a guy trying to fill State Department positions but not getting good people. I don't think Woodward understands the State Department very well.

Most of the insider stuff shows the normal infighting that every administration has to some degree. The difference is that they spend a lot of time trying to show Trump how stupid his ideas are, and preventing him from signing stupid decisions. This is the country we now live in.


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