biographies, Bob Woodward, Donald Trump, New Releases, presidential biographies, Presidents, US Presidents
Fear: Trump in the White House
by Bob Woodward
Simon & Schuster
Release Date: September 11, 2018
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Each year there seems to be at least one presidential biography released whose release is so highly anticipated that it seems worthy of mention. Last year’s most notable new release was Ron Chernow’s “Grant” while 2016 saw “Bush” by Jean Edward Smith and “Destiny and Power” by Jon Meacham.
This year’s most compelling (and clearly unconventional) new release is the controversial “Fear: Trump in the White House” by Bob Woodward. It is being released today and is already a best-seller…
No matter what you think of POTUS #45 or the interminable controversy surrounding his administration, Woodward seems the perfect person to author a detailed behind-the-scenes diagnostic of Donald Trump’s life in the White House.
Woodward, of course, has earned two Pulitzer Prizes and is best known for his co-coverage of the Watergate scandal. Whether this book proves sensational but shallow -or- judicious and devastatingly revealing remains to be seen. Buckle up – it promises to be a wild ride!
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Selected third-party reviews and links:
- Washington Post review dated Sept 6, 2018 (by Jill Abramson)
- New York Times review dated Sept 5, 2018 (by Dwight Garner)
- The Atlantic article dated Sept 4, 2018 (by David Graham)
- Slate review dated Sept 9, 2018 (by Isaac Chotiner)
- The (UK) Guardian review dated Sept 8, 2018 (by Lloyd Green)
- The (UK) Telegraph review dated Sept 9, 2018 (by Rob Crilly)
- Bob Woodward’s personal website…and he’s on Facebook and Twitter!
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From the publisher:
“THE INSIDE STORY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS ONLY BOB WOODWARD CAN TELL IT
With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.
Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.”
J. Gonzalez said:
Fear will make Woodard a ton of money and it beautifully fits a liberal media narrative on Trump. However, you can hardly put it on the level of a great book like “Grant” with a straight face. It is more on the level of an upscale version of “Fire & Fury” being that is unsourced. Woodard is quoting people who are actually alive and he did not even bother to contact them for verification or even to obtain their insight. It is hard to take these kind of books too seriously, no matter which side of the aisle you are on politically.
Had there been another “Grant” or “Power and Destiny” this year, Woodward’s book would have gone unmentioned here. But given the comparative lack of competition, this has become the most-hyped and oft-discussed presidential book of the year by an author with some earned credibility. But if you were to posit that it will never be on my list of great (or even “conventional”) biographies you would undoubtedly be correct 🙂
Woodward doesn’t write conventional biographies. He has his shtick, and it has held up pretty well in works like his book on the first 18 months of the Clinton presidency. With Trump we’ll have to wait until the archives are opened in a decade or two. In the meantime, Woodward presents one perspective of an insider account.
Pete Tanner said:
Come on …..the book is being widely disputed by people quoted. Did you notice your suggested reviews are all “left wing” publications. At least you should wait until a bio is widely reviewed by unbiased historians.
Thanks for your comment! It has not escaped my attention that a few of the people quoted in this book have “pushed back” – relatively few in a hard way, somewhat more in a soft way. But that’s hardly the point.
Like a seedling reaching for immortality, the truth (whatever it happens to be) will eventually reach daylight – if it hasn’t already. It’s not my self-imposed responsibility to adjudicate…just to observe and report. And, here, I’m simply reporting the publication of this year’s most-hyped and most-discussed “new release” of the year.
Frequent visitors to this site will have undoubtedly noticed that I work diligently to keep my personal politics out of my reviews and off this website. After all, a great presidential biography should be great irrespective of whether it’s being read by someone whose political tendencies lean left or right…or falls squarely in the center of the political spectrum. And I neither endorse nor admonish Woodward’s book. After all, I haven’t even read it.
But if you have a list of “unbiased historians” to share, please let me know! Nearly every author whose work(s) I’ve read has a point of view – some subtle, some quite obtuse – and it has almost become a “second job” for me trying to analyze and untangle conflicts, bias and prejudice in presidential biographies 🙂
Steve – Well put. Books like Woodward’s are the first draft of history.
Woodward is a highly paid gossip operating as a high priest to the Left, while pretending to be a non-partisan journalist. His book, like all the gossipy and possibly totally fallacious stories in the Times, Post and other left-wing organs that vilify Trump uses unsubstantiated sources. WHat a joke. Bob should read a good biography sometime to see what they are like. The best critique of the book so far was from General Mattis who said with a smile that he “usually enjoys fiction” but not Bob’s latest novel. I wouldn’t waste my time reading it and think less of this list by seeing it included as a “biography”..
On which list here did you see this book included that you now think less of? The list of “new releases” (which is just a list of new releases related to the presidency) or my list of best presidential biographies (where it does not appear at all – either as a book I’ve rated or even one I intend to read)…?
I just completed The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. It may not be as juicy as Woodward’s book and may not get the headlines, but the underlying facts about Trump’s transition are quite illuminating and disturbing.
The statement that “Woodward seems the perfect person to author a detailed behind-the-scenes diagnostic of Donald Trump’s life in the White House.” is nonsense. He is the perfect person to author a salacious, fallacious, gossip-ridden, biased and slanted fear-mongering – judging by the title alone – account of a great president for left-wingers and other fanciers of fantasy to stoke the fires of their own fear and hatred of what they imagine him to be. In time it may rank with Mein Kampf as a propaganda tool for those suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, and in that sense be a valuable gauge of one faction of public sentiment. Pulitzer prizes are awarded to the left by the left for the left and mean as little as Obama’s Nobel prize or an Academy award, just as all the “reviewers” of Fear cited by you are disqualified by virtue of their well-known bias. Jimmy’s World was the high-water mark of Bob’s “journalism”, but for some reason that gets little mention in the left-wing media. I just finished Grant, which was exquisite. I hope Bob reads it. He could learn what an and in-depth biography is like.
If by chance you’ve read the book and published your own critical-but-objective review I’d be more happy to share the link here so everyone can benefit from your perspective. (Yes, seriously…)
I have *not* read the book but I do have several friends and colleagues who currently work inside, or in close proximity to, the Trump administration. So while I’m not sure about your particular source(s) of insight into the current admistration and its portrayal in Woodward’s book, I’ve certainly heard a great deal (both positive and negative) about the Trump White House and its inner-workings.
But despite my own political opinions (which I’ve worked assiduously to keep out of my reviews and off my site) I’m unwilling to “bash” a book based only on its author or title. And if I refused to read every presidential biography which was authored by someone of “well-known bias” I think my list would be a great deal shorter than 240 books…and I’d be finished by now 🙂
I appreciate the invitation to link a critical review to this forum, which I respect and enjoy, but I will not read Fear. I objected to the book being in this forum because although Bob’s leftward bias is known, he is presented, duplicitously, by himself and leftward media as an objective author in his critiques, which are actually just disguised attacks, of right-leaning politicians. Though he is as widely acknowledged as CNN, for example, as a “reputable” source, his take is as biased as their presentation of the news and deserves to be in the ratings tank with them. Fear is presented, like the news, to scare people and has a political motive, not a truly informative one. The Fifth Risk by Micheal Lewis is of the same ilk, which a number of reviews confirm. Like Fear, it is written to disturb people, as one reader in this column said he was by it, while meeting their gossip and fantasy quotients. Woodward books are the first drafts of propaganda, that historians must eventually wade through for the possibility of any substantiated facts. In Grant, Meachem took pains to carefully cast doubt on the many accusations without documentation of Grant’s drinking; rumors, in a word. That would have been an apt title for Bob’s book if he was interested in truth. To me, he is so biased and deceitful about it that he is too corrupt to be considered a historian. Aside from that, however, I agree with your point that there are no “unbiased historians”. I think that point may be may not be fully appreciated by enough readers, or historians, and it is so fundamental to our perspective in reading all these great books you have given us. If no one can get away from their own bias, or viewpoint, perhaps the closest we can approximate “reality” is to read reviews from established left and right sources, if possible. Someone noted all the reviews of Bob were left-wing. Were you unable to find any right ones? Lastly, I want to say that you were correct, and I was mistaken, in assuming you had put Fear on you recommended list. Thanks for pointing that out. Thank you for safeguarding this list in ways that may not be readily apparent to all, including your discretion in regard to you own personal views.
Michael Barone in the WSJ would be a ‘right’ one:
I read Barone’s review. Thanks for the link. He did not pan nor rave about the book, but seemed to take Woodward at face value, noting the “juicy quotes” and the “denials”, which is an implicit way of saying he hasn’t a clue if the quotes are true. I suspect his review is also without praise or criticism because he doesn’t take the book that seriously. Whether anything Woodward says is true or not, and there;s no way no know, Barone does not fear Trump nor find him disturbing, even after reading the book. He does point out at the end however that it strains credulity that Woodward, a man of insatiable curiosity about conspiracies such as Watergate, has nothing to say about the Obama-Clinton dossier conspiracy, which underscores my point that that Fear is so one-sided or slanted, not to mention unsubstantiated, it cannot be considered to be a balance and accurate story. I like General Mattis’ review, “While I generally enjoy reading fiction, this is a uniquely Washington brand of literature…” “a product of someone’s rich imagination.”
Given this morning’s events and Mattis’s resignation, I wonder if his review of Woodward’s book will change.
David L Cook said:
I’m an avid reader of this blog as I make my way through presidential biographies. I’ve read 9 bios of DJT, including “Art of the Deal”. The definitive bio is yet to be written. But taking it all in and reading what presidential historians have said of the Trump presidency, history will not be kind to DJT.
I find the attack of Woodward rather odd. Especially in that DJT allowed himself to be recorded in the interviews. Calling Woodward a left wing hack shows more the bias of the accuser than Woodward. They guy is not perfect but he sure has been a respected and award winning journalist. Hacks don’t get Pulitzer Prizes. I for one am grateful for the work that he and Bernstein did during Watergate. So give the guy credit where credit is due.
Do you plan on reading “Confidence Man” by Maggie Haberman?
I definitely do, but not as a formal part of this particular journey. It’s just too soon to be reading about 45 and my first book about him will probably be a comprehensive birth-to-death exploration of his life. But that may be quite a wait…