We’ve been hearing the buzz surrounding Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump presidency, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” for the last two weeks.
After it was released on Sept. 11, I managed to get my hands on a copy and read it from cover-to-cover. While both the White House and various Trump supporters have trashed Woodward’s book as not telling the full story (Woodward rarely does), I’m one of the few who believes that the book makes Trump look good and makes the so-called “Deep State” — particularly the special counsel investigating claims of Trump-Russia collusion, Robert Mueller — look like a pack of partisan hacks.
First, despite his claims to the contrary, it is clear that Woodward sought to impugn President Donald Trump. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, Woodward has been a scion of the Washington establishment — the swamp — that Trump claimed he was sent to drain.
In the opening pages of his book, Woodward literally says the Trump presidency was suffering “a nervous breakdown.” Woodward, who has no psychiatric training whatsoever — and who consulted no one with any medical background — makes copious insinuations that the president is “unhinged” or is taking the country into “crazytown.” Throughout the entire ordeal, the “mainstream” media has continued wafting the scent of either impeachment or removal from office under the 25th Amendment of the United States Constitution into the nostrils of unsuspecting Americans (most of whom have benefited greatly from the Trump Administration’s policies).
Second, Woodward’s book portrays a Trump who not only defies personal manners but who is also a villainous figure, constantly pitting his advisers against each other and existing in a permanent state of flux when it comes to decision-making. In fact, Woodward’s portrayal is likely so popular because it meshes well with that which many others in the “mainstream” media have been claiming about Trump (that he lacks any moral fiber and is completely non-ideological).
And, yet, as I read through the book I was less shocked by Trump’s brash behavior and more appalled by the arrogance of his so-called “advisers.”
What’s more, I became incensed at the way that the permanent bureaucracy in Washington, D.C., actively resisted him since taking office. If anything, Trump’s behavior was consistent with his behavior for most of his adult life. Unlike other politicians I’ve voted for over the years, Trump was exactly who I voted for. However, it is clear that Trump was completely overmatched by a combination of sycophantic advisers who were either incompetent and/or naïve, and other, more wily advisers who were outright opposed to Trump.
Throughout the book, I found Trump’s constant probing and pushing of the Washington bureaucracy refreshing.
During national security discussions, no matter how vitriolic he may have been, Trump comes across as a man deeply concerned with the sad state of leadership in our most important national defense institutions.
In the fight over the strategy for the War in Afghanistan, Trump insisted that the generals were “f-cking up” everything. They had almost 20 years to win and they weren’t. Even as Trump was demanding a strategy from his military advisers, they were too busy trying to lecture him about how the status quo was actually working. In fact, contrary to what the generals may believe, the status quo is not working — which is precisely why Trump won in the first place.
On issues, such as trade, Trump was constantly having to run the gamut of his pro-free trade advisers to get simple executive orders pushed through. As I wrote elsewhere, it was downright insubordination on the part of the president’s key advisers (like the now-former head of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn, or the now-former president’s staff secretary, Rob Porter).
While Trump may have berated his key advisers — from Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster — he was right to do so. Each time he snapped it was because they had done something incredibly stupid from a policy perspective; they had either slow-walked or implemented a presidential policy half-heartedly.
All the meanwhile, Trump’s ire (and level of distraction) ratchets up alongside the aforementioned Robert Mueller special counsel investigation into claims of collusion between Russian intelligence and Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.
The last few chapters are dedicated to the Mueller probe. What one learns is that Trump’s attorneys bent over backwards to provide more than one million documents to Mueller’s team; that those documents were carefully sorted and meticulously compiled for the special counsel — something that is unheard of in a legal case, such as the special counsel’s investigation — and Mueller was playing Trump’s legal team.
It became clear to Trump’s lawyers that Mueller had no evidence connecting the president with claims of collusion. So, the special counsel investigation expanded to cover any aspect of the president, his family, or the Trump Organization’s dealings for the past 40 years. What’s more, Mueller refused to end the investigation until he could speak with the president.
After realizing that all Mueller wanted was to get Trump to perjure himself under oath, Trump’s attorneys finally put their proverbial feet down, and tried to get Trump to back off. No one in Trump’s legal circle believes that the president is guilty. What they are worried about is hot temper getting the better of him under oath and him misstating something for Mueller to hang a case on.
When meeting with Mueller, Trump’s legal team became convinced that Mueller was “unaware” of the specifics of either the investigation he was presiding over or the fact that the Trump legal team had been uncannily open and cooperative with them (when, in retrospect, they should have stonewalled on everything).
Yes, Woodward’s book makes Trump look bad from a personal standpoint. But, most people who voted for Trump did not want a wallflower. They wanted someone who was going to break up the establishment and, as the slogan said, make America great again. The book proves that Trump has attempted to do as much but that he is simply outnumbered in Washington.
But, on the key strategic and economic questions of our time, Trump’s instincts have been correct. He asks the right questions of his advisers and is understandably crestfallen when they — the purported smartest people available — either have nothing substantive to offer or fall back on the Washington wisdom that got the country into the mess it’s in presently. What’s more, on the issue of his innocence vis-à-vis collusion with Russia, it is clear to anyone involved that the president did nothing wrong and Mueller really is on a witch-hunt.
In his attempt to make the president look like he’s having a nervous breakdown, Woodward’s book actually makes Trump look like he’s a good president fighting against an entrenched bureaucracy that’s behaving extra-constitutionally to stymie the will of the American people — with a bogus investigation to back up the “deep state” in its mission to “resist” Trump’s necessary policy agenda.
That’s the real scandal of the book. Trump isn’t having a nervous breakdown at all. Washington, D.C. is. That’s good for America.
Going into November of this year (and into 2020), the American voters must give Trump the necessary backup he needs to beat back the shadowy administrative state and keep America from becoming just another social democracy.
Brandon J. Weichert is a geopolitical analyst who manages The Weichert Report: World News Done Right and is a contributor at The American Spectator, as well as a contributing editor at American Greatness. He is a former congressional staffer who holds an M.A. in Statecraft and National Security Affairs from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., and is currently working on his doctorate in international relations.
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