It’s a rare book that has everything, rarer still for a political book. Political books tend to be multi-hundred page intricate treatises on a particular theme or topic; biographies both hagiographic and belittling; or fluff.
Fear doesn’t have everything. It’s missing the humor that enlivens some political books. Beyond that, it has everything.
For the curious neophyte, it provides a breakdown of how the Trump White House has operated, from its origins in the campaign through the early months of 2018. This is particularly helpful because that group is the true target of this book: people curious enough to wonder what’s going on, but who feel that politics is overly complicated. Woodward breaks it down in small, easily processed chapters and commonly used language. He keeps the “cast” fairly small, so as to be more easily followed by an inexperienced or casual reader.
Astute observers will note that certain names and events are virtually ignored. Ted Cruz is not mentioned in the book, for example; neither is Ron Paul, who has worked with the President on some legislation. Nor is Nancy Pelosi, or Theresa May, or Enrique Nieto. The RNC convention is ignored.
At first it seemed like Woodward was merely selecting what he felt to be key events; as the book progresses, a different reason becomes obvious. Sourcing.
Woodward draws extensively from a handful of sources. Bannon is obviously one, as are Reince Preibus, Gary Cohn and/or Rob Porter, John Dowd, and likely Lindsey Graham. By using only information gained from his sources, he can provide behind-the-scenes coverage of major developments in the White House.
More politically involved readers will likely be left with the sensation that they already knew the information contained within. That isn’t true. Suspicion isn’t knowledge, and the corroboration from within the White House is immensely helpful. We are provided with a view of just how intentionally unstable, dishonest and unreliable is the President.
Woodward goes out of his way to present times when he publicly agreed with or supported the President on a position or policy. Honest Trump supporters might have their memory jogged by those, to when Woodward was being praised by Republican media and even tweeted positively about by the President. For that sliver of Trump fans, it will further establish his honesty in the face of the inevitable attacks and trashing by “conservative” punditry.
Beyond that, there are nuggets of new information to be fished from the book. Melania being described as ruthless and a knowing partner of Trump was one of them, although she is also portrayed as directing most of her energies toward protecting and encouraging Barron. The reader discovers that “lodestar” is commonly used in the White House. We find out that Trump’s tweets did, in fact, come close to triggering a war with North Korea.
And for the Trump fans, because the book is constructed using the statements and beliefs of the interviewed, the Mueller investigation comes off as, if not a witch hunt, at least overblowing the existing case.
Above it all Woodward chronicles a President who is arbitrary, shallow, easily distracted and petty. For anyone looking for a peek behind the curtain at the current Oval Office, this book should be virtually ideal.