Book review: Fear by Bob Woodward

My husband and I listened to all 12 hours and 20 minutes of Fear while walking our almost daily 5 km route. Much of the book’s contents didn’t come as a surprise. We are keen ingestors of the news, and we just finished listening to Disloyal.

There were still surprises in store. Bob Woodward clearly had access to the inside of the White House, and to Donald Trump’s inner circle. Forget leaks — that inner circle is a colander. What astounded me was the level of detail Bob provided. Does everyone in Donald’s circle have their voice memo app recording at all times?

Fear recounts behaviour that my Grama would have referred to as ugly. (She thought ‘ugly’ was the worst insult possible.) Some of the descriptions of how Donald treated people made me not want to listen anymore. It was that ugly.

But Fear also made me laugh, because how can anyone be so dumb? It’s one thing to be a narcissist, but it’s another to be unable to follow a basic thread of logic. Many times, my head-thrown-back “HA!” rang out through our quiet streets.

Next up: Rage, also by Bob Woodward. I hope it picks up where Fear left off, with John Dowd, lawyer, resigning before Donald could fire him. John tried to convince Donald not to answer questions from Bob Mueller in person. Truly, I didn’t want Fear to end, and then I remembered that I already know what happened next. Still, I wanted to hear Bob’s account of it.

Why is this book called Fear? Donald is afraid of getting caught. His team is afraid of what might happen if he rage-tweets the wrong message or actually signs one of the orders on his desk.

I do wonder if Bob chose the title Fear because it’s a major aspect of living with dementia. As John Dowd implied regarding the impeachment trial, Donald can’t keep track of what’s going on around him. John placated Donald by normalizing his inability to remember key moments in his presidency. Donald had too much going on to remember something as momentous as the reason he fired Michael Flynn, for example.

Perhaps John was less worried about Donald getting caught in a lie as he was that Donald’s degree of ‘forgetfulness’ would be exposed, and he’d be declared unfit for office.

It could be that this ‘forgetfulness’ is the heart of the truth. It could be that Donald has early signs of the same dementia that took down his father. A hallmark of dementia is fearfulness, and with good reason.

A family member said to me one time, “If I ever get like that, just shoot me.We’ve all heard people say that, because living with dementia seems like the worst way to run out the clock. What my family member didn’t know (because of her dementia), was that she had already been like that. She was doing a bit better, or better enough to recognize what not doing better could look like. She had no idea of what she’d been through, or of what we’d been through helping her.

I bet Donald often thinks about how he and his family treated his dad when Fred ‘worked’ from home. Fred occasionally came out of his home office with a disconnected phone and a briefcase of blank papers. Donald’s cousin Mary gives a chilling account of it in her book Too Much and Never Enough. I bet Donald is afraid the same fate awaits him.

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