Having written about every president since his groundbreaking work on Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Bob Woodward has seen a lot in Washington over the years. But he’s never covered someone quite like Donald Trump.
The legendary journalist was more than up to the task to tackle the current administration with his latest book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Woodward takes an inside look at the Oval Office, having spent hundreds of hours interviewing members of the Trump administration to find out what’s really going on.
Bob Woodward talks 'Fear' ahead of Boston trip
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Ahead of his book tour’s stop in Boston at The Wilbur on Dec. 11, Woodward admits to Metro that he was pretty shocked by what he was hearing from officials inside the White House. He was especially surprised to learn that members of the administration were actually taking papers off of Trump’s desk so he couldn’t cause trouble over issues like NAFTA or climate change.
“I had many holy s—t moments,” Woodward says. “The book shows that people in there working for him were so alarmed, they stole papers off his desk so he wouldn’t sign orders that would jeopardize national security.”
Taking a step back from the day-to-day coverage of Trump’s tweets and rhetoric, Woodward wanted to explore what the president is actually doing when it comes to his policies on important issues. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist found that Trump is “focused on short-term matters and not long-term strategies for the economy or national security or foreign affairs.”
But what shocked Woodward the most was his lack of awareness and concern for military strategies. Woodward writes in “Fear” how Secretary of Defense James Mattis had to explain to Trump why the U.S. has hundreds of thousands of troops deployed around the world.
“Trump said, ‘Why are we doing this? We’re being played for suckers,’” Woodward says. “Mattis had to tell him, ‘Look, we’re doing this to prevent World War III.’ That shocked me.”
While Trump’s mantra of fake news and his consistent attacks on the media – including Woodward himself – are troublesome, Woodward isn’t too concerned about the future of journalism, at least not yet.
“He’s attacked us, but hasn’t closed us down,” Woodward says. “The First Amendment is still operating. A lot of people have taken his bait and become emotionally unhinged about him – and there’s grounds for that – but the response should be to do the reporting to explain what he’s up to.”
As for physical threats of violence against the media by Trump’s zealous supporters, Woodward believes journalists should be cautious, but notes that a full-scale attack has thankfully not happened yet.
“I think it’s wise to be vigilant, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Woodward says. “Let’s hope it doesn’t.”
Having covered the last nine men to take the Oval Office, or as Ken Burns once told Woodward, 20 percent of the presidents to ever lead the country, don’t expect to see him slow down anytime soon. Woodward notes how “there’s been a surge in power within the presidency” over the decades, which is why he jumped at the opportunity to cover Trump and would do so for future administrations as well.
“Journalists have the greatest job in the world actually,” says Woodward. “We get to have momentary entries into people’s lives when they’re interesting, and get the hell out when they cease to be interesting.”
“Each successive president of those nine has had more power,” he adds. “Presidents can start wars. They can establish, improve or fail to improve the conditions of the economy for everyone in the country. So, a chance to write about another president, for me, was obvious.”