Drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents, legendary reporter Bob Woodward investigates the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.
At a moment when feverish talk of presidential impeachment dominates the political discourse, Fear is full of Nixonian echoes ... Fear is an important book, not only because it raises serious questions about the president’s basic fitness for the office but also because of who the author is...His utter devotion to 'just the facts' digging and his compulsively thorough interviews, preserved on tape for this book, make him a reliable narrator. In an age of 'alternative facts' and corrosive tweets about “fake news,” Woodward is truth’s gold standard ... these days Woodward’s flat, reportorial tone seems like the perfect antidote to the adversarial roar on Fox or Twitter. The authority of dogged reporting, utterly denuded of opinion, gives the book its credibility.
Fear depicts a White House awash in dysfunction, where Lord of the Flies is the closest thing to an owner’s manual. Woodward is not describing the usual flavors of palace intrigue that come with the turf ... Woodward’s Fear is big on facts and short on hyperventilation. It is not Fire and Fury redux or Omarosa 2.0. Rather, it is a sober account of how we reached this vertiginous point. Woodward’s words are quotidian but the story he tells is chilling. Like Trump himself, the characters that populate Woodward’s narrative are Runyonesque and foul-mouthed.
It’s not just that Woodward’s self-consciously Serious approach to Serious People sputters and short-circuits when confronted with the ludicrously Unserious figure of Donald Trump himself ... Fear showcases Woodward in his most abject and pathetic role as what Christopher Hitchens, who also saw him for what he was, called a 'stenographer to power' ... Fear is to Woodward’s previous oeuvre of political pornography what Fifty Shades of Grey is to Twilight: vampiric fan-fiction repackaged as middlebrow smut ... Woodward proceeds with a halting, ponderous seriousness ... Woodward has never been a very good writer, but his literary failures have never been more apparent than in Fear, where the mismatch between the prose and the protagonists is almost avant-garde. Many sentences are overwrought to the point of being nonsensical ... The abundance of such mediocre writing poses more than merely aesthetic problems. Throughout the book, Woodward does not clearly or consistently distinguish between when he is quoting people, paraphrasing them, or editorializing ... It’s hard to decide what’s worse about this dialogue—its complete implausibility or its cheesiness, which would get its author banned from a fan fiction message board ... If the 'insider’s inside story' promised by Woodward’s earlier presidential books had any value, it was strictly as a response to scarcity: before social media ... But now everything is predigested, and what’s missing is precisely what Fear lacks: deep historical context, narratives that place the human costs of Trump’s actions above his rhetoric ... For now, all we have are the books we don’t need.