Bob Woodward: The award-winning journalist who busted the Watergate scandal that forced Richard Nixon to resign in August 1974, in his new book gives bombshell details on the Trump presidency. Reuters
In two weeks, world leaders will gather in New York for the annual sessions of the United Nations General Assembly. They need to put away diplomatic niceties and pluck up courage to right the wrongs of United States President Donald Trump – a man, who is being described by his own staff as a moron, a joker and a dangerous man to run a country, if we were to go by the books written by journalists and ex-White House employees.
On Tuesday, the US woke up to a controversy over revelations the Washington Post’s award-winning journalist, Bob Woodward, has made in his soon-to-be-released book, “Fear: Trump in the White House”. Woodward, who busted the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974, is not known for fake news or sensationalism. Those who know the veteran journalist and those who have read the book “All the President’s Men, which he co-authored with the other Watergate hero Carl Bernstein, are assured of his adherence to the highest journalistic ethics. They believe he had recorded his interviews and taken down notes, checked and double-checked what he had collected from sources, before publishing his damning account of the president. Besides, he knows what libel is all about. Also the publishers would not have gone ahead with the book unless they got clearance from their expert lawyers.
The upcoming book’s shocking revelations are probably material for a possible impeachment of the President. For, no US President has been seen by his own staff as a danger to the country. In the book, Woodward presents accounts of how White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn, Staff Secretary Rob Porter and other senior staff surreptitiously kept certain documents away from an impulsive president, for they felt if he had signed them, the consequences would have been disastrous to the US. The book describes the officials’ strategy as “no less than an administrative coup d’etat”. One such document was to authorise the withdrawal of the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
In another shocker, the book reveals that Trump’s personal attorney John Dowd staged a mock interview to gauge how the president would fare if Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating a possible Russian role in the election of Trump, was to hold a real interview.
The mock interview did not go well and the president, annoyed by the intensity of the questioning, departed, shouting “a goddamn hoax”. The lawyer feared that if Mueller was to grill the President, Trump would “look like an idiot” and embarrass the nation on the world stage.
The book also claims that Trump ordered the assassination of Bashar al-Assad in a move that some senior administration officials call a poor understanding of world affairs.
“Let’s kill the [expletive] lot of them,” the president reportedly said and ordered Defence Secretary James Mattis to go ahead with the move. Mattis ignored the request, probably he knew, as he is quoted as saying in the book, that Trump’s foreign policy understanding was that of a “fifth- or sixth-grader”.
Another short-sighted foreign policy action the book records was an instance when he asked for a plan to launch a pre-emptive strike on nuclear-powered North Korea during the height of his feud with Kim Jong-un.
The book projects Trump as a person who is mentally not fit to hold the office of the president. The contents give a picture of Trump behaving without decorum or dignity, not befitting a president. About, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump is reported to have told a White House staffer, “This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama”. Of late, Sessions has also been publicly vilified by Trump, for his decision to recuse himself from the Muller investigations. Probably, the most caustic of comments were the ones attributed to the White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly. The book quotes Kelly as saying, “We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us is here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” It is reported that Kelly calls Trump an “idiot” … and it is “pointless to try to convince him of anything”.
Now, Woodward is not the only one to expose how dangerous it is to keep a man like Trump in the White House. And he will not be the last either. Earlier this year, American author and journalist Michael Wolf came out with a book titled “Fire and Fury” explaining the behind-the-scenes queer happenings in the Trump White House. On Wednesday, the New York Times published an op-ed written by a senior White House official who wished to remain anonymous. This article corroborates much of what Wolf and Woodward say.
That Trump has not so far announced that he will file a case against Woodward for libel shows that the US president has no firm ground to stand on.
All what he could do about the bombshell revelations in the book is to take to Twitter and claim that the book contains “fabricated stories” by “former disgruntled employees”.
“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources…,” tweeted Trump, whose popularity has plunged to an all-time low.
Now there is a message for the American citizens and the world in what Wolf, Woodward and others reveal. It raises a serious question about Trump’s suitability to hold the office of the President and also about the United States’ global leadership. Probably, the books’ descriptions of Trump may still not provide the stuff for impeachment. Yet, the American people need to seriously ponder the question whether Trump is suitable for the presidency or for reelection.
At global level, his actions have largely brought chaos to the world. Wasn’t his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal a horrendous global crime? His decisions to shift the US embassy to Jerusalem and to stop the US aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that has been looking after the needs of five million Palestinian refugees for the past six decades, have killed the Middle East peace process.
He has dealt more blows to the world peace by pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal and starting trade wars with China, Europe, Mexico and Canada. His meetings with world leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un have proved to be a more liability than an advantage to the US.
His predecessor Barack Obama put the US on the right track and to a great extent restored the United States’ global leadership position after George W. Bush’s war-and-profit-driven presidency for eight years. The world began to respect the United States during the Obama presidency.
But today, Trump has made the governance a laughing stock and the White House a dangerous place.