Woodward’s ‘peril’ and Trump’s banality being insane


The ex-president.
Photo: Andy Jacobsohn / AFP via Getty Images

When Bob Woodward first reported, breathlessly, the fragile mental state of an retiring President, it was a national sensation. His portrayal and that of Carl Bernstein of a drunken and unbalanced Richard Nixon in the years 1976 The last days shocked the country at the age of three television networks and zero social media platform. In Woodward’s new book, Danger, co-written with fellow Washington To post reporter Robert Costa, it’s no surprise that Trump is portrayed as out of his rocker – this has been reported in detail almost every day for years, and consistently demonstrated by the former president’s own statements and demeanor.

There are a few unseen details in the new book. While it was previously reported that Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, believed Trump was preaching “the Führer’s gospel,” that Milley had sought to reassure his Chinese counterpart that Trump was not considering launching a military strike sudden against the people. The Republic of China was new. The senior American general would have even gone so far as to demand the cancellation of military exercises which, according to him, would fuel Chinese paranoia in the aftermath of the January 6 attack on the Capitol. (Details originally extracted fueled media fury around Milley by implying that he had become a thug.)

The irony, of course, was that Trump had never considered bombing China. Instead, he focused on other issues like his dissatisfaction with the design of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier. In particular, according to DangerTrump found the placement of the flight command center on the aircraft carrier’s deck to be aesthetically unpleasant and would deny it to military officials.

Yet while Trump was not interested in starting World War III, he was actively trying to overturn the 2020 election results. There are some new details in Danger about the games those around Trump played as they tried to manage him in the aftermath of the election, like the way Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned Milley one evening to express the need for the two to act together to protect the country. “We have to stand side by side,” he told the general. “We are the last of the Mohicans.” (The next day, Pompeo was smiling at reporters about a “smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”) Mitch McConnell reportedly went so far as to set up a return channel to communicate with Joe Biden after the election in order to avoid a direct phone call. it would anger Trump.

Throughout, Trump was an object of contempt for many in his orbit. Woodward and Costa report that Milley thought the president was in mental decline, Attorney General William Barr compared him to a deranged character from Dr Strangelove, and McConnell loved to tell senators a story that ended with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s punchline calling Trump a “fucking moron.”

Trump only takes up half the book, however. The other half is a series of episodes from Joe Biden’s presidential campaign and a chronicle of Biden’s early days in the White House. It’s a much more conventional story than that of Trump’s last days. There are details inside the room that one would expect from Woodward’s work. This includes mistakes Biden made during his campaign, such as when he alienated Delaware Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester by taking her support for granted (a mistake quickly corrected). Or how Biden almost forgot to pledge to nominate a black woman to the Supreme Court during the presidential debate ahead of the South Carolina primary – one of the pledges he made to seal the member’s crucial endorsement. Congressman Jim Clyburn (who apparently had to slip backstage to remind Biden of this during a commercial break).

Woodward and Costa also report that Biden believed President Obama was pressured to send more troops to Afghanistan in 2010 by a cabal that included both senior military officials and the then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Danger confirms the new president’s distaste for living in the White House, which he has compared to “a tomb”. The book further reconstructs, in great detail, the Biden administration’s negotiations with Joe Manchin that garnered the senator’s support for the American Rescue Plan Act, the $ 1.9 trillion spending bill passed in Canada. March.

But the two halves of the book don’t quite fit together. The transition from Trump to Biden is shocking. One president has regularly broadcast live TV shows, the other is sometimes cranky in private about Morning Joe panels. Trump’s dysfunction is too well known to be shocking at this point, and it makes reporting on Biden mundane.

In 2018, an internet prankster tweeted a fake book excerpt about Trump’s alleged love for the Gorilla Channel, a makeshift TV channel created by wizards that only broadcast videos of monkeys fighting. A lot of people believed the snippet and the story to be real. That Trump was obsessed with watching gorillas fight didn’t seem so far-fetched compared to what was appearing on New York headlines Times or Washington To post most days.

Then again, the idea of ​​a president urging a crowd to besiege the U.S. Capitol should have been as absurd as the idea of ​​spending 17 hours a day watching videos of gorillas slapping each other. This is what makes any behind-the-scenes look at Trump’s White House so ultimately unsatisfying. There are many newly reported details in Woodward and Costa’s book, but the most shocking events in Trump’s final days in power did not happen in closed meetings or private conversations – they were. broadcast live on cable TV.

After all, it becomes difficult to reveal that the Emperor has no clothes on after he spent half a decade tweeting that he was naked.

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