... 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.'
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.
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.
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.
... 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.