Reading Fear: Trump in the White House is a terrifying timeline reminder


Bob Woodward’s new book about the Trump administration, Fear, chills not just in terms of the details it has, but in how short a time this has all happened.

Since a not-insignificant amount of new details contained within Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House came out last week and at the beginning of this week, reading the book doesn’t necessarily carry a level of dread about what’s going to be revealed next. Much of this doesn’t seem new, though I’m not the first person to notice that.

With a momentous book like this, it’s hard not to be impacted by the media, both social and more traditional, particularly because I read about politics pretty frequently. I used to say that I enjoyed it, but not so much anymore. Others have also disputed the veracity of the book, though Woodward is standing by his reporting and his sources.

The strength of Fear is not that it just lays out what’s transpired, but also how quickly. Time’s always been relative anyway, but the meme from 30 Rock where Jack Donaghy tells Liz Lemon what day of the week it is feels particularly useful all the time.

The first chapter opens in 2010, after a 2017 prologue, and then immediately skips forward to 2016 in chapter 2. That’s 40 chapters to cover some (not all) of the events leading up into this year. To put it mildly, that seems like almost too much, if we were talking about normal years. We are not.

And in that sense, Fear is an important book. It seems more codified than the articles coming out pretty much every day about what’s going on in the world of politics, and presidential politics in particular, though Woodward acknowledges those articles. It’s hard to comment on the writing style. It’s fairly standard Woodward, though, like others (including Axios) have noticed, it’s fairly clear who some of his sources are.

Ultimately, it’s not a surreal experience so much as an almost reflective one. “Here is what is going on,” Fear says, “in this span of time. So what is next?”

dark. Next. Woodward's interview on The Late Show

What is next, indeed.