... we knew all this already, didn’t we? ... Rage offers some fresh details and confirmation of old assumptions, but little that is likely to surprise anyone or change any minds. These incidents have lost their power to shock. What makes the book noteworthy is Woodward’s sad and subtle documentation of the ego, cowardice and self-delusion that, over and over, lead intelligent people to remain silent in the face of Trumpian outrages ... Rage was written in a hurry, and at times it shows ... Still, Woodward’s prose offers readers that delicious, vicarious sense of being an insider, right there in the room with Bob, a witness to presidential sulks and boasts ... If Rage breaks little ground, Woodward nonetheless eventually becomes the favored recipient of the ultimate nugget of Trumpian philosophy ... ''Want to know something? Everything’s mine. You know, everything is mine.'
... despite his 49 years reporting on Washington politics, 19 previous books, and two Pulitzer Prizes, Woodward comes off...as surprisingly naïve ... These are painful chapters to read that will elicit rage in many readers. The willful blindness from which [administration officials] each suffered in accepting Trump’s appointments, and their failure to blow the whistle once they witnessed firsthand the damage Trump was causing our country, entitles each to his own chapter when Profiles in Complicity is written ... 'Even people who believe in him somehow believe in him without believing what he says.' That is the baffling reality of Trump’s presidency ... Woodward offers no analysis here, so readers are left to dwell on the tragedy of it all ... Woodward, a daily newspaper reporter at heart, moves from one story to the next, spending little or no time offering any incisive analysis of these enablers ... Rage provides additional firsthand evidence that since taking office Trump has posed a 'clear and present danger' to the people of the United States and beyond ... Judging Rage on its own terms, the book is an important contribution to documenting the Trump presidency. Woodward is adept at getting people to trust him and talk on the record, including Trump himself.
Readers who pick up Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, and are tantalized by the promise on its dust jacket of 'an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind,' will quickly get schooled in a lesson that apartment hunters in New York often have to learn: A window can be only so vivid if it looks out onto an air shaft ... The Trump that emerges in Rage is impetuous and self-aggrandizing—in other words, immediately recognizable to anyone paying even the minimal amount of attention ... One half of Rage reads like...a typical Woodwardian narrative of very serious men soberly doing their duty, trying their darnedest to keep the president focused and on message ... So far, so tedious. Enter Trump ... Woodward ends Rage by delivering his grave verdict ... It’s an anticlimactic declaration that could surprise no one other than maybe Bob Woodward.
... typical of Woodward’s White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim ... What is so hard to decipher about these early sections is to what extent Mattis, Tillerson, and Coats were as naïve as Woodward portrays them, to what extent they feigned cluelessness in order to justify their willingness to work for Trump, and to what extent their depictions are Woodward’s own infantilizing spin, intended to create bildungsromans out of the lives of men in their sixties and seventies ... Whether Woodward and his sources are aware or disengaged, cynical or naïve, takes on extra importance because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to understand his malignancy ... there is such a thing as too much access: chapter after chapter shows Trump ignoring questions and ranting about the media, Obama, and his poll numbers ... Acceptance of how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged to ... Those who read Rage now will get some sense of the hectic and turbulent nature of decision-making within the White House. But, years from now, the book is less likely to serve as a reminder of what it felt like to experience our age and more a sign of why it came about.
Woodward’s writing has the mouthfeel of gravel. In Rage, he serves up heaps of that inimitable Woodward prose ... He doesn’t do depth. People shuffle in and out of the Oval Office and other rooms of great importance bearing little more than fourth-rate Homeric epithets ... A lack of anything remotely resembling literary ability has long been excused on the grounds that Woodward is a first-rate reporter, and first-rate reporters cannot afford the luxury of craftsmanship. The reliance on cliché is a necessity. But nobody wins when we go easy on the Bob Woodwards of this world. Lazy writing is lazy thinking, and lazy thinking is what got us into this whole mess. The greatest achievement of Rage is that its deadening incoherence is a pretty close approximation of what it has felt like to be in Washington in 2020. To be perfectly clear, he has no feel for the city itself, or for anyone who doesn’t have a West Wing pass ... The senseless drumbeat of news—that Woodward does gets right, page after page ... If anything, the chaos should have pushed Woodward to condense, clarify, forge a cohesive story ... Need it even be said that the challenge in interviewing Trump is not getting him to talk, but gleaning anything meaningful from the conversation? Credit goes to whoever on Woodward’s “team” figured out how to season a series of nothing-burgers into what looks and smells like filet mignon ... Woodward is an access journalist ... Such a lack of moral curiosity is especially troubling in our debased times, when the cover of neutrality is daily abused by partisans and charlatans. Only it should not be surprising, for it has marked Woodward’s approach for ages ... Rage...is a testament to what Woodward thinks of himself.
I mention all this simply to point out that the book’s one headline-making revelation is noteworthy only if you already believe that any terrible thing in the world is probably in some way the fault of Mr. Trump. But if that is your outlook, you don’t need a hefty book to tell you that Mr. Trump is a terrible guy. What is the point of Rage, then? ... I find it easy to ignore the author’s consensus-liberal interpretations of events and enjoy the books for what they are: aggrieved cabinet officials and senior White House staffers anonymously grousing ... There is some of this in Rage, but not enough. And the sources rarely reveal anything worth knowing ... What ruins the book—what makes it one long retelling of what everybody already knows—is the presence, on the record, of the president of the United States ... unbearably boring, like reading transcripts of White House press briefings ... Mr. Trump has turned what might have been an engaging book into a dud.
Rage gives the reader the context for...major political events. But it also provides insights into the interactions between the president and those close to him ... essential reading for anyone hoping to understand Trump and his place—as cause and consequence—in American politics.
Trump’s attempt at introspection aside, this can, in fact, be a difficult book to rage at. On the one hand, at this late date, rage at Trump’s behavior is often akin to being thrown into a conniption over the conduct of a clown, and on the other, Rage itself is an unbearably stale read. Now, sure, nobody is buying Woodward’s books to enjoy literary playfulness or peppery prose on a free Sunday afternoon. And because of his earned reputation (have you deposed a president?), his access (seventeen interviews!), and meticulous (usually recorded and on the record) approach, he cannot be dismissed, and we can be certain that just about everything in the book is true - so it is practically self-recommending. But how on earth do you hand such a book to an educated member of the electorate when they must flog themselves to even reach the chapters on the COVID pandemic? ... that Woodward lacks graceful and stylish prose is but one problem. There is, most notably, a jarring dissonance in what Woodward is trying to do, with what he is used to dealing with, and who his subject actually is. That is, Woodward is used to interviewing men who are stewards of an office. That is what they are. The men of his books alter the shape of that office, they bring their own management styles, and their own varied domestic and foreign policy ends. That is who they are. And what Woodward does is build a narrative about the interaction between the two based on extensive insider accounts. What we have in Trump is a man who is utterly one dimensional and who cares for himself above and to the exclusion of everything else, including that office ... in this job [Woodward] has never been all that good at stringing together that narrative. His analysis is typically thin. His bias is a kind of Washington establishmentarianism. And his approach has always been more transactional than he would prefer to admit ... the most interesting thing about the book, unfortunately for Woodard, is that the dissonance, the mismatch between Woodward and Trump, accentuates all these problems with his writing ... What Woodward doesn’t seem to understand is that Trump isn’t capable of being who or what he wants him to be and he insists on trying to sit him up straight ... reliable and will likely be useful for research. But for the general reader, the tradeoff between slugging through slapdash, lackadaisical writing and obtaining dependable information is probably too severe. Now, as an example of Woodward’s limitations? Most certainly.
... another alarming and deeply reported account of turmoil, dysfunction, and recklessness within the Trump administration ... Woodward provides helpful fact-checks to Trump's distortions, big...and small...and tries, in vain, to get Trump to articulate a coherent strategy of governing ... This devastating report will leave a lasting mark.