Woodward, the #1 international bestselling author of Fear: Trump in the White House, has uncovered the precise moment the president was warned that the Covid-19 epidemic would be the biggest national security threat to his presidency. In dramatic detail, Woodward takes readers into the Oval Office as Trump’s head pops up when he is told in January 2020 that the pandemic could reach the scale of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans.
In 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward over seven volatile months—an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind—the president provides a self-portrait that is part denial and part combative interchange mixed with surprising moments of doubt as he glimpses the perils in the presidency and what he calls the “dynamite behind every door.”
At key decision points, Rage shows how Trump’s responses to the crises of 2020 were rooted in the instincts, habits and style he developed during his first three years as president.
Revisiting the earliest days of the Trump presidency, Rage reveals how Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats struggled to keep the country safe as the president dismantled any semblance of collegial national security decision making.
Rage draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses as well as participants’ notes, emails, diaries, calendars and confidential documents.
Woodward obtained 25 never-seen personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a “fantasy film.”
Trump insists to Woodward he will triumph over Covid-19 and the economic calamity. “Don’t worry about it, Bob. Okay?” Trump told the author in July. “Don’t worry about it. We’ll get to do another book. You’ll find I was right.”
In his follow-up memoir from the Trump years, Woodward does a brilliant job of summarizing his seventeen interviews with Trump. They were carried out in depth, over a period of time, and he was able to show the patterns that govern a man who is clearly out of his depth in his role as president.
From his attitudes toward all the events of his presidency, he reveals a tendency to look outward and to blame others and outside forces that were out of his control. Paranoia often characterized his actions.
Numerous vivid interactions carried this reader along on the journey, visualizing events as the author shared them, and sensing how, while being objective, he might have been hoping he could somehow guide the course for this presidency. It was soon apparent that this man is not one who listens or can be directed by experts, not even when he considers them “friendly.” His suspicions control his actions and misdirect him.
As Woodward concludes Rage, he characterizes the presidency as one “riddled with ambivalence, set on an uncertain course, swinging from combativeness to conciliation, and whipsawing from one statement or action to the opposite.” The author also sums up that Trump has enshrined personal impulse as a governing principle, and as a result, is the wrong man for the job. An opinion that many of us share. This book earned 5 stars from me.