... the authors illustrate key aspects of Trump’s threat to democracy ... Even if you already know the outlines, the details — many of which have already found their way into the press — deepen one’s sense of how serious, even global, that danger was and how thoroughly Republicans enabled it ... The strength of any Woodward book is its inside sources, but this reporting serves different purposes in each part of Peril. In the Trump half, hair-raising anecdotes show the 45th president behaving much as one expected, or a bit worse. In the Biden half, Woodward and Costa paint, for the first time, a clear picture of how the 46th president operates and what he hopes to achieve in the aftermath of Trump ... here the book is most illuminating: Biden regards the -ism, not the man, as the real threat; Trump put the nation in peril because he evoked and organized a darkness that was already there. And his behavior is more shocking because it serves no purpose greater than salving his own obscure hurts; he is no historic visionary but simply someone who wants the perks of the presidency ... As rich as the book is, it leaves some vital stories untold — for example, the 20-day delay by General Services Administrator Emily Murphy, under evident political pressure from the White House, in releasing funds lawfully allocated to Biden’s transition team and giving its members access to federal agencies.
Some of these landmarks are familiar...But other meaningful moments highlighted here have the quality of discovery ... Some pages of Peril read almost like a screenplay ... most of these detailed exchanges that provide so much of the life of the book are re-created from the shared recollections of 200 other participants whom the authors interviewed ... the authors' perspective on Biden remains far more positive than their view of Trump, caught in the crosshairs here as in Woodward's earlier books ... Ultimately the book compares two men, two presidencies and two utterly different approaches to human relationships. Trump is the more compelling figure, the sun within his own universe and the driving force in national politics. Biden seems less sure of himself, less forceful in debate, often more importuning than commanding ... perhaps what stands out most in each of the book's 72 mini-chapters is the contrast between how the two men treat their immediate circle of staff and associates.
... hurtles through the past two years of dizzying news ... The note about this book’s sources is nearly identical to the notes in the previous two books. The authors interviewed more than 200 firsthand participants and witnesses, though none are named. Quotation marks are apparently used around words they’re more sure of, but there’s a seemingly arbitrary pattern to the way those marks are used and not used even within the same brief conversations...And as usual, though the sources aren’t named, some people get the type of soft-glow light that suggests they were especially useful to the authors ... The unfortunate truth is that disorder is dramatic. In the wake of the riot, Peril loses force. A protracted recounting of security efforts leading up to Biden’s inauguration feels considerably less urgent after the fact. Even more fatally for the book’s momentum, Woodward and Costa devote 20 pages — a lifetime by their pacing standards — to behind-the-scenes negotiations for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package...Sources may have given Woodward and Costa every detail of these negotiations, but the authors weren’t obligated to use every last one ... The book mounts a final rally, helped by circumstance. In light of recent events, a late section closely recounting Biden’s decision to end the American war in Afghanistan is plenty absorbing ... Like an installment of a deathless Marvel franchise, for all its spectacle Peril ends with a dismaying sense of prologue.
... a more virtuous bowl of schadenfreude than Michael Wolff’s racier Landslide, published earlier this year. Call it cornflakes to Wolff’s Cap’n Crunch. In either case, it’s not good for me, but it’s so hard to pass up ... Books like this are shaped by their sources, and those sources always have their own agendas ...
In counterpart to Trump’s mercurial narcissism, Peril presents an almost ridiculously glowing portrait of Biden ... Only twice do the authors offer anything in the way of personal criticism. Sometimes it seems Biden is 'testy.' Sometimes he misspeaks. But that’s about it. At any moment, I expected him to untie a swooning maiden from the railroad tracks. While this is reassuring, it’s also a bit dull. Which may indeed be the point ... I can’t judge the accuracy of the authors’ depiction of Biden, but I have no doubt that Woodward himself has much invested in the political establishment. Peril portrays the political events of the past year as a battle between the evil of Trump’s self-serving chaos and the orderly virtue of the system he promised to blow up. Biden’s election represented a return to that system and its protocols, which is more or less why I and more than 81 million other Americans voted for him. Still, is it really necessary to get quite so starry-eyed over business as usual? The old ways definitely look good compared with the past four years, but their shortcomings were one of the reasons Trump happened in the first place.
One thing is certain: against this carnage-filled backdrop Bob Woodward’s latest book is aptly titled indeed ... meticulously researched. Quotes fly off the page. The prose, however, stays dry ... This is a curated narrative of events and people but it comes with a point of view.
Woodward and Costa treat the early days of the Biden presidency with kid gloves, and you can feel why: nobody in America’s political establishment wants anything else broken. Understandable, but this does not make for incisive reporting. So a man who may well be too old for the job, whose decisions on Afghanistan are open to all manner of questions, is portrayed with gentleness bordering on reverence ... Woodward and Costa make a powerful case that America has had a narrow escape. It leaves all Americans, in particular the Republican party, with some thinking to do.
Peril has been written in haste and it shows. It is episodic, zigzagging back and forth across 72 chapters in an attempt to cover the first stretch of the Biden presidency as well as Trump’s final months in power. The urgent, staccato prose is effective but far from elegant. As in all the recent Trump books, Woodward and Costa’s account reveals the extent to which the former president was indulged by Republican politicians and aides who knew the election wasn’t stolen, but have enabled him to bamboozle his base and rewrite the history of the Capitol riot. It is not an original take, but important to know anyway ... Scoops are liberally sprinkled around, keeping the reader engaged...And there are some marvellous quotes.
... harrowing if familiar ... Unfortunately, none of these reveals match the drama of those pertaining to Milley, and readers hoping for new insights into the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol will be disappointed. This well-sourced recap feels more rote than revelatory.
... tedious, spending more time stacking up anecdotes like bricks than generating new insights into a presidency that has already received exhaustive coverage. Reading Peril is as much of an endurance test as the reporting behind it must have been ... It’s a lot of ground to cover. Reading Peril creates the sensation of riding a speeding train as scenes flash by outside the windows. Robert S. Mueller III finishes the Russia investigation. Whoosh. Biden wins the South Carolina primary. Whoosh. Trump gets COVID. Whoosh ... The effect is less propulsive than disorientating. In a single paragraph, the authors cover Biden offering the chief of staff job to Ron Klain and his first presidential debate with Trump. Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh ... Things slow down after the election, when the authors hit their stride as they describe Trump’s attempts to hold onto power ... The explosion of violence on Jan. 6 feels inevitable, and the events remain as shocking on the page as they were when they occurred ... This genre of political book aspires to cinematic storytelling, but piecing together these scenes is challenging under the best of circumstances. Often there are only a handful of people in the room where it happens — people who care deeply about how they will be perceived by voters, contemporaries, historians or potential employers...The result feels like an oral history told by people jockeying to burnish their reputations after years of scandal ... The final quarter of the book feels like the beginning of another, as Biden adjusts to life in the White House ... So who is this book for? It’s unlikely to appeal to the casual voter, who’s probably burned out on presidential drama, or to satisfy the political junkie, who knows most of the key stories already. No, this book is for the completist who won’t be satisfied until they know what Trump’s campaign staff was eating in which room of the White House when the election results started rolling in.
In decades to come, what political and media junkies may most recall about Peril — aside from its disturbing details about Trump — is that it defines Costa as Woodward’s successor ... Costa is at least as capable a reporter as Woodward was at 35. Readers don’t need the demeaning sales pitch. The book is proof of the pudding.
Woodward and Costa give us interesting and significant information on the individuals who have shaped US politics ... We also learn a great deal about those who hovered close to Donald Trump—his children and his third wife; Steve Bannon; Bill Barr; and the sycophants at Fox News. We learn not only what they said and did but the idiosyncrasies that help explain their actions ... very comprehensive ... We are fortunate that, despite the diet of distorted alternative facts fed to many Americans, hard-driving journalist-historians like Woodward and Costa can investigate and publish such a well-founded version of recent and current events.
What hasn’t been touched on much in the early media coverage of this book is that it spends a fair amount of pages on Joe Biden, his campaign, and his actions after the election, a welcome, if sometimes bland, counterpoint to the postelection frenzy ... In the continuing flood of books about Trump and the election, this stands out as not just another political tell-all.