Trump, Woodward and Shakespeare

Bob Woodward became known as one of the journalists, along with Carl Bernstein, who helped break the Watergate case. Watergate was the name of the building complex that housed the offices of the Democratic National Committee, where a group of burglars broke into the committee’s headquarters and tried to wiretap the offices of the party that was opposing President Richard Nixon. These events occurred between May 28, 1972 and June 17, 1972. The investigative reporting of Woodward and Bernstein, published on Aug. 1 of that year in The Washington Post, revealed that the burglars or “plumbers” were being paid by the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon). A congressional committee was formed to investigate the matter which ended in Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974, before impeachment proceedings could take place.

It’s worthwhile to cite this now because Woodward has written a book called “Fear: Trump in the White House.” It went on sale this week on Tuesday, Sept. 11. (The initial print run is 1 million copies.) This book has shocked the political world in the United States. It is the product of research that included more than 100 interviews with people whose identity the author has kept anonymous. Speaking on television on Sept. 12, Woodward said that at least 50 of those people work directly with Donald Trump in the White House, while others belong to the circle close to the New York mogul. Consequently, the volume is based on hundreds of recorded conversations, testimony of protagonists and direct witnesses to what is happening in the inner core of power.

The book describes an alarming situation in the White House due to the president’s erratic and impulsive character. This situation has produced a chaotic environment that on several occasions has placed not only the stability and security of the country of the stars and stripes, but also world peace at risk. But thanks to the intervention of sensible people, a catastrophe has been averted. They are anonymous heroes.

For example, on April 4, 2017, after Syrian rebels were attacked with sarin gas, Trump telephoned Defense Secretary James Mattis, saying he wanted to attack President Bashar Assad. “Let’s kill him. Let’s go ahead. We’re going to annihilate as many of them as we can!” Trump reportedly said.* This is what Woodward describes. After finishing the call, Mattis told one of his advisers, “We’re not going to do any of that.” Had he done so, there would have been war with Russia and Iran, allies of the Syrian tyrant.

In early 2018, after sending repeated tweets mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the book reports, “Trump proposed sending a tweet stating that he had signed an order that all American military families stationed in South Korea, about 28, 500 troops, were to be evacuated from that country.” That, says Woodward, according to statements of National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, would have been taken by the North Koreans “as a sign of an imminent attack.” In the end, fortunately, Trump did not send that tweet.

The anonymous statements recorded in Woodward’s book coincide with an anonymous letter published by The New York Times last week on Sept. 5 entitled, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” Among other things, that letter says, “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” Another excerpt reads, “Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back.” Another quote: “Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.”

There is another book that is worthwhile mentioning, Stephen Greenblatt’s “Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics.” In a Washington Post review of Greenblatt’s book, Eliot A. Cohen writes, “For the truth is that Trump is no Macbeth or Richard III, but one of the other characters in Shakespeare: perhaps a triumphant … Caliban with a Twitter account — full of all kinds of ambitions and fantastic conceits, who secretly craves the approval of the establishment he hates. Or, more likely Cloten, stepson of King Cymbeline, a brutal, spoiled, self-absorbed, misogynistic oaf who for his attempted trickery … comes to a very sticky end, indeed.” That’s where Trump is heading. Importantly, reviewer Cohen disagrees with author Greenblatt. It is Cohen, not Greenblatt, who says Trump is no Macbeth.

*Editor’s note: Bob Woodward reports that Trump said, “Let’s fucking kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fucking lot of them.”

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