It's a while since I've posted a book review, gentle reader, so I'll make amends with this one.
The author, Bob Woodward, has impeccable credentials as an investigative journalist. Along with Carl Bernstein, he produced extensive and forensic reporting on the Watergate scandal, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon.
He has also written 19 books on US politics, most of them best sellers.
He is a navy veteran, and a Yale graduate and his writing style is direct. His style reminds me of the work of a good police roundsman - no nonsense and sparse.
Because of his celebrity status, Trump was happy to give him unfettered access and he has used it to good effect.
Woodward's narrative recounts some gobsmacking behaviour, not only on the part of Trump, but also on those working for him. He cites examples of senior officials hiding memos by removing them from Trump's desk. They were doing this, because they believed he had absolutely no idea of the consequences of policy decisions made on the basis of many of his decisions, which seemed to be driven by whims or obsessions. His termination of the Korea Free Trade Agreement was a case in point.
Trump was determined to abolish it and a memo was drawn up to that effect. The paperwork was hidden, until he could be persuaded to modify, rather than terminate it. In this case the strategy worked. (Trump had roundly condemned the agreement prior to election).
Trump's senior officials were also bewildered with the freedom he gave his family in terms of access and decision-making in the White House. Woodward recounts Trump's daughter Ivanka's indignation at being told she was "just a staffer" by Steve Bannon, who at the time was Trump's Senior Counselor.
Bannon had a strong agenda of his own, and Woodward claims he used Trump to advance it. This seems to have been borne out subsequently by Bannon's fall from grace, and most recently his indictment on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering in connection to the We Build the Wall campaign.
Trump has bulldozed through a bewildering array of advisors and political appointees. The turnover rate is unprecedented. The more notable include National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Their tenures have been brief and chaotic. By May this year, there have been 415 White House staffers dismissed or resigned.
Woodward puts this down to Trump being unprepared to continue to employ anyone who disagrees with him. He paints a picture of senior military men, such as James Mattis and H R McMaster being unwilling to kowtow, and leaving the administration as a result.Perhaps the most telling reflection on Trump's style is this quote -
Real power is - I don't want to use the word - fear. (Trump 31st March 2016)
I'd recommend it.
(Fear, Trump in the White House, Bob Woodward, Simon & Schuster, 2018).