FOR THE WEEK OF SEP. 17, 2018
A book by Bob Woodward and an insider’s anonymous essay give behind-scenes White House views
Read any new story about President Trump and summarize the main topic.
Now find coverage of another federal arm – Congress (the legislative branch) or courts (the judicial). List two facts.
Look for an example of reporting that has inside information about government or an elected official. Does it benefit the public? How?
Two writers in Washington, D.C., spill White House insiders' views of President Donald Trump. One is well-known – Bob Woodward, an associate editor at The Washington Post who has a new book titled "Fear / Trump in the White House." The other is unknown publicly and provokes national attention with an anonymous New York Times commentary headlined “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” The paper says the writer is "a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure." The back-to-back publications this month spur fresh discussions about the president’s decision-making process, interactions with top appointees and his personality.
Woodward’s instant best-seller, which sold about 750,000 copies on the first day, is by a longtime Post reporter and editor who has written books about each president since Richard Nixon (1969-74). Columbia Journalism Review describes "Fear," based on hundreds of hours interviews, as "a devastating portrait of a presidency lurching from crisis to crisis." There are colorful accounts of name-calling – both by Trump and by aides speaking about him behind his back – and descriptions of staffers hiding documents from Trump. The president says "the book is a scam” and describes his White House as a "smooth-running machine." The author responds: “I've done hundreds of hours of interviews with people. . . . These things happened."
Separately, the unnamed New York Times contributor describes secret, coordinated efforts by concerned aides to work around the president, who's called "impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective" by the senior official. "Like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," he or she writes. "We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump's more misguided impulses."
The book writer is defended by a former White House press secretary for a Republican president. "I've been on the receiving end of a Bob Woodward book," tweets Ari Fleischer, who served from 2001-03 under George W. Bush. "There were quotes in it I didn't like. But never once -- never -- did I think Woodward made it up. Anonymous sources have looser lips and may take liberties. But Woodward always plays is straight." His reliability also is cited by fellow author and veteran journalist James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine: "Over millions of words, and thousands of quotes and anecdotes, in 20-some books, the vast majority of what Woodward has reported has either stood unchallenged, or been acknowledged long after the fact as having been correct."
Trump tweets: "The Woodward book is a scam. I don't talk the way I am quoted. If I did I would not have been elected president. These quotes were made up. The author uses every trick in the book to demean and belittle."
Author says: "The truth will emerge on this." – Bob Woodward
Vice president says: The book "shows a complete misunderstanding of how this White House works. What President Trump provides for this country every day is strong and decisive leadership in the Oval Office." – Mike Pence on "Face the Nation" (CBS), Sept. 9
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