Woodward book reveals 'crazytown' White House

Bob Woodward's new book called "Fear: Trump in the White House" paints a portrait of a dysfunctional White House under President Trump.

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 10:05 AM
Updated: Sep 5, 2018 10:09 AM

Bob Woodward's charges that top national security staff find themselves compelled to protect the world from President Donald Trump should, in any normal time, precipitate an almost unprecedented national emergency.

The revelations, in the veteran reporter's new book, are so stark and shocking because they flesh out a narrative that the President's critics have long advanced -- that he is simply not fit, by intellect, temperament and knowledge, to be the most powerful man in the world.

For any other President, such charges would trigger a national debate, action from within the administration to address the national crisis and perhaps hearings on Capitol Hill, even compered by the President's Republican allies. Certainly, any conventional commander in chief would be pitched into an immediate political crisis and might see his approval ratings splinter.

Yet the lesson of Trump's presidency is that controversies that would hollow out a normal White House often leave him untouched. At least they don't alter the political realities that prop up his rule --- a loyal, immovable base of grassroots voters who embrace his aggressive attempts to discredit any person or organization that attempts to judge him and a Republican Party unwilling to risk its own fortunes by crossing him.

The question now is, does that equation hold -- following Woodward's reporting? After all, his account is based on the judgment of top administration players themselves that there is an "unhinged" "liar," a "fifth grade" intellect and an aggrieved and abusive "Shakespearean king" raging in the Oval Office.

A President, who prizes loyalty and self-image above all, is left exposed and isolated in his own White House, viewed with contempt by those who serve him and open to ridicule by others who see his swaggering, domineering brand as a front for inadequacy.

The most serious question raised by Woodward's new book is the idea that the people in the Situation Room alongside Trump view him as so lacking in sophistication and judgment that they take extreme measures -- described as an "administrative coup d'etat" -- to sidestep the threat they perceive he poses to national security.

Given the rich texture of a book stitched with conversations and comments from top officials that drip with disdain for the President, there must be significant doubt whether top White House and administration staffers can just brazen out the storm and go on as before.

While some critics have questioned Woodward's methods in the past, his credibility of a lifetime of reporting, and the sheer volume and staggering nature of the revelations contained in "Fear: Trump in the White House," are strong arguments as to its authenticity.

Trump responded to the crisis by adopting the aggressive methods he always uses to rebut criticism and by living up his maxim to hit back hard.

But there was also a surreal twist to his push back -- as he tweeted out denials to bizarre allegations that he used offensive language to describe his Attorney General and highlighted take downs by conservative media.

"The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions "mentally retarded" and "a dumb southerner." I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!" Trump tweeted late on Tuesday night.

Notwithstanding the carefully worded denials of those quoted, Woodward's revelations -- which he stood by Wednesday morning in the face of withering White House criticism -- must raise questions about the extent to which top officials owe the public an explanation.

If key figures such as chief of staff John Kelly, former top economic adviser Gary Cohn and Mattis are really intervening regularly to avert national security disasters, should they not make their worries known to the American people and the Congress? Or is the continued service of some top subordinates, despite the personal and reputational cost, an act of selfless patriotism that could avert further damage?

There could also be political implications from the new Woodward blockbuster.

If his version of events, backed up by exhaustive interviews and tapes, is a real reflection of the situation, how much longer can Republicans, who have shielded Trump for nearly two years, continue to defend and sustain him?

Then there is the impact on the President's mood and psyche. He has already given every impression of wallowing in fury and resentment. Now, with his inner circle of aides apparently dumping on him, he is likely to be even more brittle and alone.

That could translate into fury on Twitter, even more volatile reactions to key global controversies and ever more fervent attempts to change the subject -- emotions that often translate into diatribes against top targets such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions or special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe.

Bipartisan presidential tormentor

Woodward's books have often specialized in debunking the illusion of a highly competent president and the cult of infallibility that sprouts around the Oval Office.

His new offering, which comes out next Tuesday, is slightly different -- and that may make it even more damaging -- since it appears to confirm in detail and documentation many previous accounts of an off-the-rails presidency and a mercurial commander in chief.

Still, the immediate reaction of those quoted lambasting their boss by Woodward was damage control. Kelly denied calling Trump an "idiot." The President's former lawyer John Dowd refuted a claim that he had warned that his client's lies would end up with him in an "orange jump suit." Mattis said he had never used "contemptuous" words about Trump -- such as the claim the commander in chief had the intellect of a fifth- or sixth-grader, which was reported by Woodward in the book, obtained by CNN.

There was no comment from Cohn, who was said to have taken a document off of Trump's desk that could have jeopardized a missile early-warning system on the Korean Peninsula, saying, "Got to protect the country."

Trump followed up the sequence of administration denials with a tweet -- his tested method of signaling to supporters that any criticism is all just a partisan plot.

"The Woodward book has already been refuted and discredited by General (Secretary of Defense) James Mattis and General (Chief of Staff) John Kelly. Their quotes were made up frauds, a con on the public. Likewise other stories and quotes. Woodward is a Dem operative? Notice timing?"

Given that the White House is being portrayed in the throes of a "nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world," Woodward's book could also manifest itself as useful intelligence for America's foes who want to test Trump.

The book is also likely to inject new political toxins into the midterm election campaign, as well.

Rough moment

The question it is impossible to answer right now is whether the Woodward storm will thrash through Washington and blow itself out -- as the history of Trump the politician suggests it might -- and things will go back to normal until the next damaging exposés.

Or is the book so credible and corrosive to Trump's image that it helps build increasing disquiet about his presidency to a critical mass that could begin to unpick the political realities and staunch GOP support that have sustained him in office so far?

After all, the book comes out at a rough moment for the President. He stirred widespread disapproval for his refusal to honor Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who died late last month.

The President also perhaps has increased personal legal exposure from the convictions of two people who were once close to him, his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his personal lawyer Michael Cohen.

It's by now a cliché that Trump's loyal base will not desert him, whatever happens. His conservative media cheerleaders are certain to ride into battle to discredit Woodward -- though he is not known as a partisan and has tormented Democratic as well as Republican presidents.

It's possible that yet more unflattering reports about the President's conduct and character could add to GOP difficulties -- especially among more moderate voters in suburban districts that might end up being especially crucial in the battle for control of the House of Representatives.

The very fact of the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, an authentic conservative Supreme Court nominee, this week explains why many Republicans have been willing to ignore previous exposés alleging Trump is incompetent and poorly suited to the presidency.

But there were genuine signs of disgust on Capitol Hill over offensive attacks leveled at Sessions by the President, as reported by Woodward.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter quoted Trump as calling Sessions, who is frequently a target of his rage, as a "dumb southerner" and "mentally retarded."

There is often a disconnect between how Washington and media elites perceive Trump's most explosive comments and how they are interpreted elsewhere -- especially in regions that strongly favor the President and his unchained style.

But the "southern" jibe at Sessions at least appeared to have the potential to offend some of the President's most committed supporters. It certainly didn't sit well with some senators from Trump country.

"I resent that," Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, told CNN's Manu Raju.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who often defends the President, said the feud with Sessions made him uncomfortable and that if Trump had indeed made such remarks it would be "inappropriate."

But while praising Woodward as a good reporter, Graham added: "Most people in the South like what Trump's doing. They're not going to read this book."

Huntsville
Broken Clouds
71° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 71°
Florence
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 67°
Fayetteville
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 70°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 72°
Scottsboro
Overcast
68° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 68°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 89927

Reported Deaths: 1580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson11650225
Mobile8998191
Montgomery6198143
Madison493225
Tuscaloosa391263
Baldwin317522
Shelby300232
Marshall294730
Unassigned263351
Lee249140
Morgan220615
Etowah191425
DeKalb167713
Elmore158437
Calhoun15359
Walker145763
Houston130912
Dallas128023
Russell12201
Franklin118420
Limestone118313
St. Clair118212
Cullman111311
Colbert107612
Lauderdale105312
Autauga101020
Escambia96515
Talladega89013
Jackson8163
Chambers81438
Tallapoosa80478
Dale77619
Butler75135
Blount7223
Covington70420
Coffee7035
Chilton6976
Pike6547
Barbour5625
Lowndes54624
Marion53524
Marengo51514
Clarke4849
Hale44925
Bullock43711
Perry4284
Winston42811
Wilcox4029
Monroe3884
Randolph38810
Conecuh37110
Bibb3643
Pickens3639
Sumter36118
Washington31011
Macon30813
Lawrence3060
Crenshaw2843
Choctaw27312
Henry2433
Greene24011
Cherokee2337
Geneva2260
Clay2165
Lamar1942
Fayette1695
Cleburne1141
Coosa902
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 109627

Reported Deaths: 1073
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby21296285
Davidson19320199
Rutherford604251
Hamilton562147
Knox392634
Williamson323022
Sumner316069
Unassigned29244
Out of TN282312
Wilson206420
Montgomery171111
Bradley170510
Sevier17025
Trousdale15726
Putnam154713
Robertson143216
Hamblen121713
Tipton11049
Blount10987
Maury10665
Washington10382
Madison88912
Bedford86210
Macon83413
Hardeman79411
Sullivan7809
Lake7440
Bledsoe6681
Loudon6493
Fayette6178
Anderson5995
Dickson5871
Gibson5582
Cheatham5445
Dyer5427
Rhea4971
Jefferson4892
McMinn47920
Lawrence4746
Obion4274
Henderson4260
Carter4245
Lauderdale4216
Coffee4112
Warren4004
Hardin3987
Cocke3911
Cumberland3756
Greene3695
Haywood3695
Smith3613
Monroe3569
Roane3561
Giles3449
Hawkins3244
McNairy3105
DeKalb3041
Franklin2854
Marshall2632
Weakley2603
Lincoln2511
Carroll2263
Hickman2260
Crockett2233
Wayne2141
Claiborne2120
Henry2110
Campbell2071
Marion2064
Chester1921
White1913
Grainger1680
Polk1661
Johnson1600
Decatur1591
Unicoi1360
Overton1341
Union1180
Cannon1170
Jackson1071
Grundy1012
Humphreys1013
Scott1010
Meigs960
Sequatchie940
Benton921
Morgan791
Fentress740
Hancock741
Perry740
Stewart700
Clay620
Lewis561
Houston550
Moore420
Van Buren320
Pickett221

 

 

Community Events