Rage by Bob Woodward is not quite a biography of Donald Trump, rather more of a series of interviews scaffolded by USA entering the COVID pandemic. Bob Woodward is able to entertain us because of his special access to Donald Trump that gives us an intimate insight into the warped thinking of Trump. Woodward’s journalistic skills keep him on the right side of Trump as he asks serious questions of Trumps management of North Korea and the COVID pandemic. Ultimately he runs in to the same brick wall we all get to see of narcissism, arrogance and distraction.
What Woodward’s book lacks in what happened in the White House (read John Bolton’s book “The Room where it happened”) he makes up for with access to key figures such as former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who embellish the plots within the book. But Trump craves publicity and Woodward’s book can give him that.
Woodward focuses on two key plots for his book: North Korea and the beginning of the COVID pandemic. Whilst it is tightly focused, Black Lives Matter, and other associated stories, only have a light touch. This allows Woodward to keep the attention of the book on Trump himself: his personality, scheming and style of leadership. For a more closely examined account of the events then other books like John Bolton’s, provide a more vivid interpretation.
Woodward is patient and persistent with Trump. He listens politely, correcting Trump’s assertions when he gets the chance. Trump throws repetitious answers, distracting deviations, narcissistic responses and mild bullying, which begin to grate after a number of interviews. Plus a concentration span that Dr Anthony Fauci reckons to be “a minus number”. The interviews are set out verbatim – after a few interviews we learn nothing more new about Trump himself only more about his lack of management of crises – especially when they worsen like the COVID pandemic.
Woodward keeps returning to a phrase used by Trump that there is dynamite behind every door – how that is probably the most self- aware thing he has said and which was the COVID pandemic. Managing such challenges is the maker of true and historic leaders and Trump wants to be that history maker. In the end, Woodward pulls out of Trump that COVID got in the way – he had it in the bag with the booming economy before COVID ruined it for him.
The other oft-used phrase is “I bring rage out,” in people, Trump tells Woodward – is that not another way of saying he knows how to wind people up – whether it is against Antifa or for the right wing groups? Trump is not even sure about this: he tells Woodward that he’s uncertain whether his gift for enraging people is “an asset or a liability.”
Despite Woodward having access to trump’s love-in letters to Kim Jogn-Un of North Korea we already know that Trump has a soft spot for autocratic dictatorial leaders. And Mueller’s fudge on impeaching Trump also adds little more than how Trump expresses puerile hatred for anyone who gets in the way of his naked thirst for unbridled power.
Whilst Woodward is undoubtedly an intelligent analyst of how world leaders could and should govern – his questioning of Trump about his management of the oncoming COVID pandemic raises frightening questions of the amateurism of Trump’s approach – he saves his own damning thoughts until the very end. I was asking for a deeper analysis than the summary.
Woodward’s book is brief look into the mind of Trump and it is not pretty. At times Woodward is overly descriptive of the political environment – which is more suited to American readers only. Trump may be divisive – but that still leaves nearly half of USA in thrall to him, yet I learned little about that charisma and magnetism.