RAGE – Bob Woodward

RAGE is Bob Woodward’s follow-up to his 2018 book FEAR focusing on the second half of Trump’s presidency.  RAGE examines Trump’s relationship with Kim Jong-Un and North Korea, the outcome of the FBI’s Russia Investigation, the Black Lives Matter movement and of course, COVID-19.

It is absolutely astounding how poorly Trump and his administration responded to Covid-19.  I cannot imagine a worse person to handle a pandemic.  Trump’s many interviews with Bob highlighted his early attempts to constantly play down the seriousness of Covid-19 despite Trump having the data from his advisors supporting just how deadly Covid-19 could be.  Given Trump’s obsession with the economy, he seemed focused solely on protecting Wall Street and keeping the markets up rather than protecting the American people as the Pandemic wore on.  Sure, he backed a shut down in mid-March, but even from the first day of the shutdown, he targeted Easter 2020 as a reopening date and would eventually speak out against lockdowns before long.  This was further harmed by relentless mixed-messaging from both himself and his administration politicizing PPE, the virus itself and lockdowns by calling them all a hoax and a tactic by his political adversaries to ruin his chances for re-election.

And therein lies the biggest issue. His fragile ego and relentless competitiveness cared more about winning re-election than doing what is right.  He seemed more terrified of a public loss to Biden in the fall than making the hard decisions required to get the country back on track safely.

Woodward does a deep dive into the relationship between Trump and Kim Jong-Un and just how close the United States and North Korea came to a full-on war.  While North Korea is not to be sympathized with, Trump would further inflame tensions on Twitter with grade-school rhetoric.  Thankfully, things cooled off and the two leaders would attempt to move toward a peaceful coexistence.  The letters written by both Trump and Jong-Un are presented as-is and are, in a word, hilarious.  But in the end, I suppose they helped to cool tensions.  I found it ridiculous when Woodward would sit in the Oval Office to interview Trump and Trump would haul out these blown up photos of Trump and Jong-Un smiling and saying “Jong-Un never smiled before he met me.”

I appreciate Bob Woodward publishing the interviews verbatim and letting Trump’s words speak for themselves, but holy shit were they insane to listen to.  The random stop/start of sentences that seem to go nowhere – erratic speech patterns alongside a limited vocabulary – where he repeats talking points and just straight-up lies.  Bob would often press Trump for answers when he tried to skirt the issues.  One of the more maddening moments focused on Trump’s attempt to set a precedent for a sitting US President to ask foreign governments to investigate political enemies.  Ultimately this controversy would lead to his first of two impeachments.  Woodward only wanted Trump to answer if the request of a sitting President was appropriate and Trump continued to dodge by throwing mud at Biden saying the US should be allowed to investigate “corruption”.  It went back and forth for several minutes and became infuriating to listen to.

Trump disparaged Woodward’s first book because Woodward hadn’t actually spent time with him.  Trump wanted to correct that and allowed himself to be interviewed for Woodward’s follow-up.  But I suppose it didn’t matter as Trump would then complain to Woodward during said interviews that Woodward was going to “screw him” anyway or make him look like an idiot.  Believe me, Trump didn’t and doesn’t need anyone’s help.

While it angered me to no-end, I’m glad I took the time to read both of Woodward’s books about Trump’s time in office.  But I’m drawing the line here though – I can’t read another book about this man.  Maybe I could bring myself to read something about the period of time after this book was released and the end of Trump’s term, but it’ll have to wait a few years as I need to distance myself from this circus.

In the end, Bob Woodward sums it up perfectly in his epilogue: When his performance as President is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.

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