Paul Janensch ‘Good parts’ in Woodward book

September 18, 2018

Do you ever skim through a book looking for the “good parts?”

I did with “Fear: Trump in the White House,” the new book by Bob Woodward about the presidency of Donald Trump.

Good parts for me were not steamy sex scenes. You won’t find any in this best-seller. As a former journalist, I wanted details about what Trump and his associates think of the news media.

“Fear” confirms what we already knew: Trump is obsessed with, and often angry at, the way he is covered.

To that, Woodward adds valuable insights and fascinating anecdotes.

The book is based heavily on “deep background” interviews. That means the people who talked to Woodward are anonymous. But those quoted by the unnamed sources are identified, and many of them have denied they ever said any such thing.

Here are examples of the good parts.

During the presidential campaign, Trump is upset that a story in The New York Times quotes unnamed sources as saying he has not learned to tame his tongue.

Strategist Steve Bannon assures him nobody on Trump’s team said that.

“No, I can tell,” Trump replies. “They’re leakers.” He accuses New Britain native Paul Manafort, his campaign chairman at the time, of being one.

“It was one of Trump’s paradoxes,” writes Woodward. “He attacked the mainstream media with relish, especially the Times - but despite the full-takedown language, he considered the Times the paper of record and largely believed its stories.”

After the election, Hope Hicks, who grew up in Greenwich, was named strategic communications director for the White House. She has since resigned but remains close to Trump.

“Hicks was convinced the media had ‘oppositional defiance syndrome,’ which is a term from clinical psychology most often applied to rebellious children,” writes Woodward. “‘Oppositional defiance syndrome’ is characterized by excessive anger against authority, vindictiveness and temper tantrums.”

Reince Priebus, Trump’s first chief of staff, wanted the president to reduce his off-the-cuff postings on Twitter.

“Since the tweets were often triggered by the president’s obsessive TV watching, he looked for ways to shut off the television,” writes Woodward. “But television was Trump’s default activity. Sunday nights were often the worst. Trump would come back to the White House from the weekend at one of his golf resorts just in time to catch political talk on his enemy networks, MSNBC and CNN.”

Even after he retired for the night, Trump watched TV and tweeted. According to Woodward, “Priebus called the presidential bedroom ‘the devil’s workshop’ and the early mornings and dangerous Sunday nights ‘the witching hour.’”

At the conclusion of “Fear,” Trump talks with his lawyer John Dowd about the press.

“They hate your guts,” says Dowd and soon adds: “I’d pull all their credentials.”

Trump complains that Hope Hicks and Chief of Staff John Kelly “overrule me every time I want to pull someone’s credentials.”

Paul Janensch, of Bridgeport, was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University. Email: paul.janensch@quinnipiac.edu.

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