Fear Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Fear takes an inside look through the eyes of journalist, Bob Woodward, into a deeply flawed President, Donald Trump, and the dysfunctional administration that surrounds him.

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Fear Summary

I sit in the same train car every day on my commute to Chicago. I’m not the only passenger who does this because I see a lot of the same faces in the morning and evening. 

I recall around 2006, I saw this young lady every morning. She had a backpack with a big button pinned to it that said, “ANYBODY BUT BUSH!” 

This was during the time George W. Bush was president (2001-2009). As a liberal, there’s a high likelihood that you would be opposed to much of that administration’s policies and conservative platforms. I still ride that train but have not seen that woman for many years. 

If I see her again while Donald Trump is in office, I’d feel compelled to ask her about that Bush pin she so boldly showcased. It’s a good reminder that things can always be worse. Bob Woodward’s latest book, Fear: Trump in the White House turns his focus on this administration.

Trump has much of the world wondering what happened and how did it come to this? People often compare his presidency to a bad reality show. Only the stakes are real and implications are played out on a global stage. 

Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned about Trump and his administration:

  1. Trump has been in conflict over North and South Korea from Day one.
  2. Once Trump makes up his mind, it’s impossible to get him to see any other side, especially with trade deals.
  3. The 45th president of the United States takes his tweets extremely seriously. 

Bob Woodward claims that his reporting comes from hundreds of hours of eye-witness interviews and those who participated in the events. Let’s see what they have to say and decide for ourselves. 

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Lesson 1: Trump’s advisors can’t get him to see the advantages in maintaining a good relationship with South Korea. 

After Trump moved into the White House and needed a national security advisor. He hired a military veteran, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. Woodward says he did this on impulse and without going through proper channels for removing an active-duty army officer from his military position. 

For Trump, this is typical behavior – no concern for protocol or how things should be done.

It was the same attitude when it came to the relationship between the U.S. and South Korea. Trump didn’t attempt to understand why the country was spending ten-billion dollars on a missile defense system, only to have it located on some, “piece-of-shit land” in South Korea, as Trump referred to it. 

Trump couldn’t understand why the U.S. had an eighteen-million-dollar trade deficit with South Korea. To him, the United States was being “screwed over” by the people that he was paying to protect.

At Least three advisors attempted to explain the importance of the United States maintaining a good relationship with Korea. Particularly when North Korea was flexing its military muscles with aggressive nuclear testing.

And then Trump walks away from a meeting after suggesting that all military personnel in S.K. be brought home. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson was heard muttering, “He’s a f*cking moron.”

Lesson 2: Though Trump’s economic advisor, Gary Cohn, shared countless pages of data proving that free trade was good for the U.S., Trump refused to look at it.

Trump is of the opinion that politicians who favor “globalism over Americanism” are responsible for the decline in good factory jobs in the US.

Not only did Trump’s economic advisor, Gary Cohn, not believe this, but ninety-nine percent of U.S. economists didn’t buy it either. Even when Cohn had reams of data printed out to support his position, proving that free trade was good for the country and that the nation had moved from manufacturing to a service-based economy. Trump refused to look at any of it. 

Once Trump has his mind set it’s almost impossible for him to see any other side. It’s part of the Trump philosophy – never show weakness, apologize, or admit when you’re wrong.

This same philosophy applies to Trump’s relationships. He once advised a colleague that real power comes from never backing down, remaining strong, and always pushing forward. Always deny and never admit you were wrong. 

No matter how many people told him that his views on free trade were wrong, he would respond with, “I don’t want to hear it!” 

He was relentless in getting out of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement. This agreement reflects a one trillion dollar trade deal between Mexico and Canada. Trump only felt like the deal was “Screwing” the country.

Lesson 3: Trump likes to refer to his Twitter account as his “megaphone” for speaking to the public directly and unfiltered.

Trump’s use of Twitter is excessive and “It’s not politically helpful.” as stated by former professional model, and later Trump’s public relations specialist, Hope Hicks.

Her statement followed a crisis caused by an early morning tweet saying that Mika Brzezinski, female co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe program, came to a party at Trump’s estate with a botched face-lift. 

This tweet did not go over well. This was shortly after he’d already outraged so many with his comments about grabbing women “by the pussy”. Why do this when votes from female senators are critical for pushing through such legislation as repealing Obamacare, for example?

Trump says, “This is who I am. This is how I communicate.” He believed that tweeting played a huge role in winning the election. 

Twitter is so important to Trump that he had people collect all the tweets receiving 200,000 likes or more, to analyze them and identify commonalities. He wanted the information so that his future tweets would be even more effective. He concluded that shock was the common key to the most popular posts. 

Trump thought it was something of a shame when Twitter expanded the character limit from 140 to 280. He quipped: “I was the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters.”

Fear Review

Fear is pretty compelling, but not surprising, given the huge ego that drives the man(iac). Whether you are in Trump’s camp or not, this book is authoritative and well-honed. It is the result of hundreds of hours of interviews with first-hand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documentation. If it weren’t true, this book might make a pretty solid horror story.

Who would I recommend the Fear summary to?

The 29-year-old political science major who thrives on international drama, the 42-year-old Canadian citizen looking for an excuse to go back home, and anyone who enjoys staying up late with a good, scary read.

Last Updated on September 6, 2022

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Jim Farina

Seeing as he was a longtime reader and writing course student of mine, I was thrilled to see Jim write 20 summaries for us in 2019 and 2020. Hailing from Chicago with a full-time job as a manager and a family, I've watched Jim go from complete writing obscurity to having his work read, improve, and even featured on places like Better Marketing, the magazine I ran on Medium. He's now freelancing part-time, writing great stuff for companies like Best Buy and Bloomingdale's, and his first screenplay, Martin Eden, made quite the splash in several competitions.