Tell-all books about President Donald Trump are flying unto the book shelves like a covey of birds, one right after another, in these closing weeks before the election on November 3. They reveal new and critical information about Trump as president, much of it most devastating. The worst may be Bob Woodward’s book Rage, set to be released tomorrow. What Woodward is doing reminds me of Bolton’s books.
John Bolton was President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor for seventeen months until Bolton resigned, though Trump, in his signature style, says he told Bolton “you’re fired.”
John Bolton then wrote a book about his turbulent time in the White House. Entitled The Room Where It Happened, it was published on June 23, 2020. Bolton’s main point in his book is that Trump did indeed direct his underlings to put political pressure on Ukraine to force it to investigate former Vice-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter for activities in Ukraine while Hunter worked there, and Bolton says Trump did indeed withhold the $391 million from Ukraine for months that Congress had directed to go there. If this could have been proved during the Congressional, impeachment proceedings against President Trump, the Senate may have impeached him, which it did not.
So, Bolton knew this information about Ukraine all during the impeachment proceedings and refused a subpoena from the House to testify about it. Yet Bolton delayed telling the American public about it until it came out in his book on June 23rd. Critics were quick to accuse Bolton of dereliction of duty to country for the sake of financial greed. Now, some are accusing Woodward of the same.
Bob Woodward is America’s most distinguished journalist. Until this year, he had written many bestselling biographical books about several U.S. presidents. One, titled Fear, is about President Donald Trump. It alleges he governs primarily out of fear.
Woodward is a particularly important person regarding Trump’s presidential tenure since Woodward and Carl Bernstein, his associate at The Washington Post, broke open the story about Watergate that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in disgrace.
Woodward’s second book about President Trump, Rage, will be released tomorrow. We already know a lot about it since news outlets were given copies last week and have been reporting its details.
In Fear, Woodward had invited Trump to interview for that book. Trump claims he didn’t get that message and wished he had done so. Thus, according to Woodward, and Trump has now acknowledged it, Woodward did nine hours of eighteen telephone interviews of President Trump for this book Rage starting in February this year and then months afterwards. Woodward says Trump even “started calling me at night.”
Thus, Rage consists of much Woodward quotation of Trump from these interviews. But Woodward doesn’t just have a book about it–he audibly recorded all of the interviews at Trump’s approval. Thus, the news outlets have been both reporting what Trump said as well as playing the audible recordings of Trump’s voice, matching the details.
What makes this astonishing is two things: (1) that Trump would agree to be interviewed and recorded by the crafty Woodward, and (2) the striking parallel between the Butterfield Tapes–recordings of Nixon’s voice in the Oval Office that became the final straw that brought down Nixon’s presidency–and these recordings of Woodward’s interviews with Trump. The former, the Butterfield Tapes, have always been regarded, and rightfully so, as “the smoking gun” that ended the Nixon presidency. Now, these Woodward recordings are quite liable to be “the smoking gun” as well.
Why? President Trump said to Woodward in these interviews, starting way back in February, that this so-deadly, novel coronavirus that was beginning to the sweep the nation and world was way worse than the flu; yet President Trump was telling the American public repeatedly that there was nothing to it and that it would soon be gone like the flu. He was always trying to “downplay it,” as he said to Woodward, so as to prevent public “panic.” But in reality, that was a lie.
This reminds me of President L. B. Johnson lying about the numbers of our soldiers dying in the Vietnam War in order to try to comfort the American public and reduce public opposition to that war, for which Johnson later resigned.
But like Bolton, critics are now accusing Woodward–who has always had an impeccable reputation as an ethical journalist–of shirking his duty to tell the American public these facts about what Trump believed so that thousands of lives could have been saved among the now almost 200,000 Americans who have died from this coronavirus that causes the disease designated COVID-19.
Woodward has now tried to defend his decision to withhold this information, like Bolton did, and release it in a later book. Woodward says he needed to know who had told Trump the virus was that bad. I have always respected Woodward, but I say “no he didn’t.” I see no justification for withholding because of that. The president of the USA had said that, and to me, that’s all that counts.
Woodward’s second reason justifying his withholding this information is convoluted and thus difficult to understand. He says it he needed to be responsible to the public by being able to present the overall picture and that that would take time for further investigative reporting. Woodward says he needed to present “the best obtainable version of the truth” and thus not to rush individual revelations into publication, which he could have done by reporting it in The Washington Post even though he was now retired from that newspaper. I’m not sure what to make of this one. So, Woodward decided the best time to release this information to the public was a few weeks prior to the election in order to present the overall picture. Yet in the meantime, tens of thousands of Americans were dying from COVID-19. I think these two reasons given by Woodward likely will be debated for years to come, at least among journalists.
(See my new, innovative, and somewhat provocative book, Moses Predicted COVID-19, that is only 130 pp. and thus a quick and easy read.)