It’s because of the tapes. President Donald Trump gave 18 on-the-record interviews for “Rage.” Woodward recorded almost all of them. In what we have heard so far, the President does an excellent job of hanging himself with his own rope.
The usual White House playbook to deny and denounce unflattering Trump stories can’t be used against “Rage,” because Trump himself, in his own voice, is the book’s main source.
“Rage” is in a different category. Trump, who hadn’t spoken to Woodward for “Fear,” seemingly believed that if he could speak to Woodward frequently that he could charm and cajole the author into seeing the world as he does.
In “Rage” Woodward records a number of untethered-from-reality Trumpian claims such as that he has “done more for the Black community than any other president than Abraham Lincoln.” Woodward noted to Trump that it was Lyndon Johnson who had pushed through the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that had, you know, prohibited employment discrimination on the grounds of race and had mandated additional school desegregation. Trump, who doesn’t readily absorb any facts that don’t fit his own heroic self-narrative, pushed back saying, “I have done a tremendous amount for the Black community. And honestly I’m not feeling the love.”
“Rage” is interesting also for other reasons. Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats all spoke extensively to Woodward.
They, too, paint a damning picture of Trumpworld. Coats says of Trump, “To him a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie.”
Mattis observes, “I never cared much what Trump said…I didn’t get much guidance from him, generally, other than an occasional tweet.” This is an extraordinary claim for a secretary of defense to make about the Commander in Chief.
Tillerson said he found Trump’s son-in law Jared Kushner’s chummy dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “nauseating to watch” and “stomach-churning.”
This raises a question: If Coats, Mattis and Tillerson all feel this way, why did they never band together, since by the account of Woodward’s book they all have a good relationship, and tell the public what they know about working for this President? Why did they save it all for Woodward?
Woodward reports that Coats and Mattis did indeed have a discussion of precisely this issue during a phone call on May 25, 2019, in which they both agreed there might come a time when they needed to publicly speak out. Mattis noted to Coats that Trump was “dangerous” and “unfit.”
If there ever was a time for these senior former Trump cabinet officials — and anyone else who was (or still is) inside that chaotic White House — to tell us what we need to know about President Trump, surely now is the moment. If these officials indeed believe, as Woodward writes, that, “Trump is the wrong man for the job,” they need to tell us what made them decide that –and why so few of them have spoken up publicly before.