Fear - Trump in the White House
Bob Woodward

by

Sharon Fleming

Context

Introduction

Fear: Trump in the White House is a non-fiction book by Bob Woodward about the presidency of Donald Trump. It offers an unprecedented inside-the-room look of the White House through the eyes of President Trump’s inner circle. The book depicts a White House with relentlessness infighting and a work culture that is so toxic as well as volatile that many of the President’s key advisors and cabinet members became accustomed to working around their boss, whom they describe as both uninformed and unstable. From the Oval Office to the Situation Room to the White House residences, the author utilizes confidential background interviews to portray the manner in which some of the President’s top aides see him as a danger to national security and have chosen to circumvent him.

The title of the book is derived from a remark made by the then-candidate Trump during a 2016 interview with Woodward along with the Washington Post’s political reporter Robert Costa. Trump stated that “Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, ‘Fear’” (Rucker and Costa para. 8). 

A dominant theme in the book is the stealthy machinations utilized by individuals in President Trump’s close circle, to control his impulses and prevent disasters from occurring to him personally as well as the United States as a whole.

Context

Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House was released on September 11, 2018. The author based the book on numerous in-depth interviews with administration officials and other principals. The book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses and participants that were carried out in “deep background,” implying that he could utilize the information obtained but cannot reveal the individuals who gave it. Woodward’s account is also drawn from personal diaries, meeting notes and even government documents (Rucker and Costa para. 5).

In the first week of its publication, Simon & Schuster, the book’s publisher, confirmed that it had sold 1.1 million copies (across all formats) of the book, making it the fastest opening in the history of the company. This is partly because it is written by Woodward, who has been reporting this type of behind-the-scenes stories for numerous years, and also because it contains hair-raising tales of top officials working behind the scenes to foil, as well as undermine, a president who they consider to be unstable. After its release, the book took the number one spot on The New York Times Best Seller list (Duffy para. 1-2).

After copies of the book were leaked to reporters, Trump told the Daily Caller that some parts of it may have been made up. He stated, “It’s just another bad book” adding that the author has had numerous credibility problems. The White House press secretary, Sarah Sanders described the book as “nothing more than fabricated stories” (Weiland para. 2-3).

Fear tells a story similar to mainstream media reporting as well as other 2018 books. It is one in a series of insider accounts published this year, all of which have drawn the ire of the West Wing. Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ and former White House advisor Omarosa Manigault Newman’s ‘Unhinged’ also reported this kind of hostility as well as interpersonal feuding depicted by Woodward in the book. Trump reacted to these two books with a series of tweets targeting the authors (Weiland para. 2-3).

About the author

Bob Woodward was born in 1943 in Geneva, Illinois, United States as Robert Upshur Woodward. He is an investigative Journalist, an actor, and a writer. Woodward has worked for The Washington Post since 1971 as a reporter and is currently an associate editor there.

As a young reporter for The Washington Post, Woodward teamed up with Carl Bernstein to carry out an original news report on the Watergate scandal. These investigations resulted in several government investigations and consequently the resignation of President Richard Nixon. Gene Roberts, one of the most influential editors in recent history, termed Woodward and Bernstein’s work as “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.” 

Woodward went on working for The Washington Post after the Watergate report and has since written 18 books, 13 of which have topped best seller lists.

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