A key question is raging around Bob Woodward's new book “Fear: Trump in the White House”, published by Simon & Schuster on September 11:
Did Bob Woodward wildly exaggerate and fabricate findings or is the Trump White House, and more importantly, the president himself, wildly dysfunctional?
An answer in partisan mode is no answer at all. Here, as a friendly outside observer (disclosure: I am European), I will try to clear up the issue.
The book, in a sober style, convincingly depicts an administration in the midst of a “nervous breakdown”, with aides running to contain damage. He reports this unforgettable comment from Reince Priebus: “When you put a snake and a rat and a falcon and a rabbit and a shark and a seal in a zoo without walls, things start getting nasty and bloody. That’s what happens.”
Among the revealing anecdotes:
- Gary D. Cohn, former Goldman Sachs President then working for Trump as Chief Economic Adviser, removes a letter from Trump’s desk in the Oval Office to stop him from signing it - a letter that authorized withdrawal from the trade agreement with South Korea; Cohn said afterwards that he did it “for the country”, as the trade agreement vitally underpins US-South Korea cooperation, a pillar of US policy to contain North Korea;
- Chief of Staff Kelly exploding in a meeting: “We’re in crazytown, I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had”;
- an exasperated Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, after a discussion with Trump last January about the nuclear standoff with North Korea, tells colleagues “the president acted like — and had the understanding of — a ‘fifth or sixth grader.’”
What is most unsettling about Trump is not so much his level of understanding about issues, bad as it is, but his systematic misperception of reality.
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