“Fear” paints a terrifying picture of Trump administration

Bob Woodward wows

Emily Sweet

Looking at renowned journalist Bob Woodward’s recent release, “Fear,” a deep dive into the Trump administration, is frankly intimidating. If one can move past the initially overwhelming and dense writing style, Woodward’s new book delivers an informative and eye-opening insight into Trump’s’ journey through presidency, and is worth the commitment of reading.
“Fear” was released on Sept. 11, and has maintained relevance since it first hit the stands. Especially moving towards the midterm elections, politics are a hot topic of conversation. The book was highly anticipated by many because of Woodward’s extensive portfolio and admirable reputation in the world of journalism, which he lived up to with this recent release.

Woodward’s use of a narrative style closely mimics that of “All the President’s Men,” a nonfiction novel he wrote alongside journalist Carl Bernstein in 1974, exposing the Watergate scandal and corruption in President Nixon’s administration. “All the President’s Men” was rated by Time magazine as one of the top 100 nonfiction books of all time, and Woodward himself was a finalist the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting in 1987. Though it is up to interpretation how similar the content of Woodward’s two most talked about books are, the style of “All the President’s Men” and “Fear” are almost identical. Because Woodward has proven himself credible and accomplished, reading “Fear” without having to worry about fact checking is a nice plus.

Published on Sept. 11,
Published on Sept. 11, “Fear” delves into the interworking of President Trump’s administration.

As Woodward has demonstrated in the past, he has no issues writing informative and investigative nonfiction; however, clocking in at 420 pages, “Fear” is jam-packed with information. About halfway through, 27 pictures are printed matching key names from the work to their faces, and honestly,

it was a relief to see. It takes time to adjust to this fast-paced and information-heavy read, but if one can move past the underwhelming amount of flowery language, making it through the book itself and understanding the concepts are not difficult (coming from someone who is by no means an expert on politics).

What separates “Fear” from other nonfiction and political writing cannot be fully attributed to Woodward, considering the political climate is ever evolving and captivating, especially in the last two years. With that being said, Woodward is able to deliver the most entertaining and engaging account of the Trump administration I have read thus far. Unlike James Comey’s “A Higher Loyalty,” which was released last spring, Woodward is able to set himself aside from the novel and use his platform as a well-known and respected journalist to recount his findings rather than his personal experiences. Woodward does an excellent job of utilizing his sources, notably former chief of staff Reince Priebus and former staff secretary Rob Porter. It is evident from Woodward’s vivid accounts of many meetings and interactions among administration members that his research is thorough and reliable.

Woodward also excels in making complicated issues understandable for his audience. As someone who knows little about foreign affairs, I was able to read and retain much of the information about the Iran Deal and fighting in Afghanistan, which were discussed in some detail throughout the novel.

Admittedly, not every reader finds a political, substantial novel to be an enjoyable read, but the actual information within “Fear” is what makes it so compelling. For example, the efforts by Trump’s administration to simply work with him consistently demonstrate his own persona and how normalized the ideas of working around an atypical President have become in the Executive branch. When staff secretary Rob Porter came onto the staff, he met with Jared Kushner who said, “You’re going to have to learn how to handle [Trump]. How to relate to him.”

Fully engaged, President Trump talks with former chief of staff, Reince Priebus.
Fully engaged, President Trump talks with former chief of staff, Reince Priebus.

Understanding the unique aspects of Trump’s administration, such as the integration of his family into his presidency, is partly what makes the novel so compelling. The most interesting case comes in the form of Ivanka Trump, who according to “Fear” often oversteps her boundaries based on accounts from Trump’s cabinet members. In one instance, Woodward recounted a story from Steve Bannon in which he and Ivanka got into an argument over her rights to be in the White House, saying, “You’re nothing but a fucking staffer! You walk around this place and act like you’re in charge, and you’re not. You’re on staff!” It is anecdotes like these that shine through “Fear” and provide insight into our government’s inner workings.

The main area where Woodward occasionally lacks is moving between ideas and setting the scene too quickly. Because there is not much sensory description, at times the narrative of the book can seem a little random, but for the most part, it stays in a clear chronological order. For example, on page 174 Woodward moves from discussing FISA wiretaps to Melania’s feelings for Trump within two paragraphs. This abrupt transition can be off-putting at times, but all in all does not take away from his message.

Overall, “Fear” instills just that. It paints a vivid picture of the cracks within Trump’s administration relating to nearly every position and aspect of our government. It is worth a read for the sake of understanding the tumultuous political atmosphere of the last two years and for the sake of delving deeper into politics. It’s not a light read, but it is an important one.