Bob Woodward
From Trump's McDonalds habit to his bullying actions, Woodward has created a detailed account of what goes on in the White House. (Image via Red State)
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Bob Woodward

Remember that reporter who covered the Watergate scandal? He’s back, and he’s got sources.

It goes without saying that although Donald Trump has only been in office for just under two years, it feels like it’s been an eternity. The seemingly endless display of controversies and scandals alongside the revolving door of White House employment paint a picture of a president that doesn’t quite know what he’s doing, a president who is trying to hold it all together for the sake of his public image.

Though the Trump administration has tried to maintain its facade of stability through constant public reassurance and attacks directed at media’s alleged dissemination of “fake news,” which the president seems to interpret as being everything that’s not Fox News, that hasn’t stopped some from trying to expose the situation for what it really is.

Journalist Michael Wolff started the trend with his book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” which included somewhat hilarious anecdotes about the administration’s inner workings, including the assertion that Trump reportedly eats McDonald’s because he’s afraid of being poisoned.

Just last month, former Trump aide Omarosa Manigault Newman released her account entitled “Unhinged,” which made some similarly outrageous, yet not unbelievable, claims.

For the most part, the Trump administration has been able to skirt around the passing fervor that surrounded these books with the classic denial of every unflattering detail, followed by the quest to discredit the authors and their sources as being liars or agents of the liberal media. So far, it seems to have worked just fine. But that could change thanks to Bob Woodward.

Bob Woodward
Woodward’s book quickly became a bestseller, with Amazon claiming to be sold out at one point. (Image via NY Post)

Woodward’s new book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” has already proven itself to be just as buzzworthy as its predecessors, so much so that Trump has already taken to Twitter to call it “a scam” composed of “made up” quotes.

While this is to be expected, there’s something new about the situation as a whole: the author. Michael Wolff and Omarosa both had somewhat shaky credibility. After all, Wolff had some critics in the journalism community and Omarosa at one point contradicted claims that she made in her book.

But “Fear” is the brainchild of one half of the Woodward and Bernstein team, whose reporting at The Washington Post on the Watergate scandal is credited with taking down the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. So maybe it’s no surprise that the book has become the fastest-selling adult title since 2015.

In a narrative that proves itself to be as blunt as it is unwavering, “Fear” portrays Trump as being completely incompetent, immature, potentially unstable and prone to acting like an adolescent bully. He’s quoted as calling personal attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani “a little baby that needs to be changed” and referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a “dumb Southerner.”

One anecdote even reveals that former economic advisor Gary Cohn swiped several documents off the president’s desk in order to prevent him from signing them. Though the administration has sought to discredit the book entirely, Woodward said in a New York Times podcast that he was contacted by a key person in the Trump administration who, after publicly saying otherwise, affirmed the information in the book as being “1,000 percent correct.”

Bob Woodward
After interviewing staff of the Trump administration, there is a clear sense that the White House is in constant chaos, trying to maintain a united front despite a less-than-careful president at the helm. (Image via The Nation)

If this were any other president, there might be reason to think that these claims are completely made up. But the saga of the Trump administration stopped being realistic a long time ago. Despite what he likes to think, Trump isn’t revered as the savior of America by anyone other than perhaps the most loyal of his remaining supporters. So, if the claims made in “Fear” are believable and rather unsurprising, then in a lot of ways it doesn’t make sense for it to be such a media phenomenon.

It’s because Woodward’s name evokes an eerie feeling that the Trump administration is plummeting towards a scenario that mirrors the Watergate scandal. There’s already enough to make you feel unseasy, from break-ins at Democratic information strongholds to close presidential aids admitting to wrongdoing.

Both situations even saw talks of firing the special councils appointed to investigate, although Trump has not followed through on that like Richard Nixon did. Now, the same legendary reporter who covered Watergate writing a detailed account of the inner workings of an administration, calling it all lies.

To be fair, Bob Woodward’s account doesn’t seem to amount to anything that could directly lead to impeachment. It does paint a portrait of an administration in crisis that is being held together by those who recognize Trump’s own incompetence and the damage it could do to the reputation of the presidency and the country as a whole.

Coincidentally, the media storm surrounding “Fear” just happened to coincide with the release of an anonymous New York Times op-ed purportedly written by a senior administration official. In the piece, the author claims to be a part of “the resistence” taking place within the White House, aided by other key players within the Trump administration who are covertly sabotaging what they feel to be the leadership style of someone who is wholly incompetent to hold office.

Since its release, the public has frantically tried to figure out the identity of the mysterious author. It’s a frenzy that resembles the post-Watergate race to identify “Deep Throat,” Woodward’s key source who ended up being Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI at the time of the investigation.

Bob Woodward
Bob Woodward became a trusted name after his report of the Watergate scandal with fellow journalist, Carl Bernstein. (Image via Times of San Diego)

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant stream of news involving the Mueller investigation and potential scandals related to Trump’s personal conduct. But regardless of how many details you know about either one, Bob Woodward wants you to know that this is not normal. This is, as he says, a “pivotal point in history.”

Political scandals are nothing new, but even though this administration wants all of the attention to be focused on Trump’s policies and so-called achievements, it’s imperative to understand that the White House is in a state of complete and utter chaos. It’s been said before by former aids and insiders, but it’s now coming from one of the most influential journalists of the modern era. If that doesn’t terrify Trump, then nothing else will.

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Candace Baker

University of Texas at Austin

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