Saturday, November 17, 2018
Opinion

‘Where have you gone, Bob Woodward?’

e_SSLqWhere have you gone, Bob Woodward? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you."

I asked that question in January, repurposing a Paul Simon lyric to implore the dean of American political reporters to help us make sense of the mess that is the Trump White House. On Tuesday, Woodward finally came through.

That was the release date of his latest book, Fear: Trump in the White House. You may infer the public hunger for it from a Washington Post report that a whopping 750,000 copies were sold on just the first day. According to the Post, foreign embassies have been buying the book in bulk. The whole world, it seems, wants a peek inside this sad excuse for a presidency. As an American, one feels an embarrassment roughly akin to finding oneís tattered drawers hanging on a clothes line in Times Square.

Trump has tried to laugh the book off, using tactics that by now seem as familiar as they do desperate and threadbare. "Fiction," he tweeted. "Joke," he tweeted. And etcetera.

Problematically for him, however, this isnít Michael Wolff, whose Fire and Fury was marred by reportorial sloppiness. Nor is it some former aide who can be written off as disgruntled. No, Woodward is the real deal, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who was making his bones when Trump and his daddy were still scheming how not to rent apartments to black people.

That said, the portrait he paints is quite reminiscent of others weíve read. Trump emerges as an idiot, an uninformed boor, a mean bully, an idiot, a liar, an incompetent lout, an idiot, a whiny toddler.

And an idiot.

But Woodward also teases out ó and to a degree arguably no other observer has ó a sense of how emotionally and intellectually damaged the man is. No one ever quite says this (though Woodward reports one of his lawyers considers him "clearly disabled") but the impression rises unavoidably from scene after scene of advisers trying and failing to get the simplest information to take root in his mind.

At one point, one of them asks, "Why do you have these views?"

"I just do," says Trump. "Iíve had these views for 30 years."

This impairment, this inability to get past what he thinks he knows in order to absorb and analyze new information, comes into chilling play as his national security team tries to get him to understand the criticality of the nationís Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, based in South Korea at a cost of a billion dollars a year.

Trump wants to move it to Portland.

If based in South Korea, his advisers explain (and explain and explain), the system lets us know within seven seconds if North Korea launches a missile attack ó giving us precious extra time to shoot it down before some South Korean or American town is obliterated. Put it elsewhere and that seven seconds expands to 15 long minutes.

Yet Trump still wants to move it to Portland. Why? Heís obsessed with the idea that South Korea is pulling a fast one, snookering us into paying for its defense. He doesnít care about allies or mutual interests. He just cares about getting paid.

Itís worth remembering that Trump was elected because some of us wanted a strongman to turn back the clock on demographic change. But change is still coming. The only question is what kind of nation weíll be when it arrives. Seldom has the price of intolerance loomed so high.

As Woodward told Stephen Colbert, "We better wake up to whatís really going on." With Fear, heís done his part. Heís set off an alarm.

We sleep through it at our own peril.

Comments
Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Editorial: No substitute for state support of schools

Local referendums cannot make up for Tallahassee’s cuts.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Editorial: Riverwalk a defining civic space in Tampa

Tampa's Riverwalk continues to grow into its own.This month, the American Planning Association named the linear park along the Hillsborough River through downtown Tampa as the winner of its "People's Choice" award. Part of the association's...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

Editorial: Fee on single-use bags reasonable

St. Petersburg’s proposed 5-cent fee on shopping bags could encourage better consumer habits.
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Editorial: The enormous public cost of domestic violence

Domestic violence carries a huge price tag in addition to the human toll.
Published: 11/15/18
Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

Editorial: Warren takes positive step to advance justice in Hillsborough

The Conviction Review Unit follows through on a campaign pledge to review past conviction cases.
Published: 11/14/18
Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

Editorial: Tone down the rhetoric, focus on counting votes

President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Rick Scott should stop making unfounded claims of voter fraud.
Published: 11/13/18
Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Editorial: Get Hillsborough transit priorities in shape

Hillsborough County scored a historic win this month when voters approved a one-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. The $9 billion or more it will generate over the next 30 years should transform mobility across the region and impr...
Published: 11/12/18
Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

Editorial: Deadly danger of wrong-way driving

The state is taking action to minimize wrong-way crashes
Published: 11/11/18
Updated: 11/12/18
Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Editorial: Makeover on the Pinellas School Board

Three veterans depart, clearing the way for new faces
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18

Editorial: Count every vote

Elections have two parts: You vote, then count the vote. Floridians did their part by turning out in record numbers in Tuesday’s midterm elections. Now it falls to local election supervisors to ensure that every vote is accurately counted.
Published: 11/09/18
Updated: 11/12/18