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.
Woodward is a fantastic fact-finder who cannot and will not analyze the facts he finds ... And since he refrains from judging what his sources say, he runs the risk of becoming their prisoner, and, at worst, a stenographer to power ... Here he serves his readers almost as well as his sources until, in the end, he doesn’t ... It can test the reader’s faith in humanity to see otherwise unprincipled men depict themselves as defenders of democracy. They want to be seen as unsung heroes, but there are no heroes here ... Fear suffers from Woodward’s deference to his sources and his disrespect for Mueller. I guess that’s because he couldn’t get him to talk. The man leading the most politically charged federal investigation since Watergate is the missing element of this book. An appreciation of the breadth and depth of the special counsel’s work would have given it a counterpoint to the cacophony of crazytown. Instead, Woodward lets [Trump’s lawyer John] Dowd serve as a ventriloquist’s dummy for his own apparent antipathy toward Mueller. We are told without comment that Dowd thought Mueller had no important witnesses against Trump from inside the White House ... No known basis exists for these assertions. Woodward is wrong to accept them at face value ... We have bought the ticket for a frightening roller-coaster ride through the first fourteen months of an appalling administration, but when the ride is over we are back where we began—and we don’t fully understand where we’ve been or what we’ve seen. And that’s because, in the end, this book, like its subject, has power but lacks a moral compass.