Bob Woodward to talk ‘Fear’ and Trump in Park City on Sunday
What: Park City Institute presents Bob Woodward When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 Where: Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. Cost: $20 to $90 Phone: 435-655-3114 Web: parkcityinstitute.org
Bob Woodward says the Trump administration is like nothing he has seen in his career spanning nine presidencies – which began with Richard Nixon.
“He’s very impulsive,” Woodward said of President Donald Trump. “ He … is way too often making decisions not based on fact. When policies come from untruths, we start going down a perilous course, and to be direct, I think we have a governing crisis. ”
Woodward, known for his work with Carl Bernstein in revealing Nixon’s coverup of his involvement in the Watergate break-in will give his perspective on the Trump administration and talk about his most recent presidential account – “Fear: Trump in the White House” – at 7 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.
In a reversal of roles, he’ll be the one answering the public’s questions during a Q&A session.
“I’m interested in what people want to ask,” Woodward said. “I have found in doing these appearances that people ask mostly about Trump and ‘Fear,’ but people will also ask about Nixon and Carter or the Bushes.”
When preparing to write “Fear,” Woodward knew he had to approach the narrative in a different way than he did with Nixon – news cycles turned much more slowly and Twitter didn’t exist in the 1970s.
“People would say to me, ‘How can you write a book?’ or ‘Just look what he did today or last week,’” Woodward said. “So I stopped following what he was doing that day or week. I went back to in-depth reporting on exactly how we got to where we are.”
One reason Trump intrigues Woodward is because of how he approaches his presidency differently. In the journalist’s view, Trump’s predecessors viewed the job as one to serve all Americans, whereas Trump views it as the prize for winning an election and as a way to reward those who support him.
“Having done this for so many decades, I have thought about what the job of the president is, and the job is, in my view, is to figure out what the next stage of good is for a majority of people – not an interest group, a base or one party – in the country,” Woodward said. “I think it’s fair that Trump viewed the presidency as a trophy to be won.”
The amount of scandal Trump has immersed himself in throughout his career has had a counterintuitive effect on his presidency, Woodward said. Any one of this administration’s neverending crises – his racist and misogynistic comments, the number of his campaign staffers who are now incarcerated, and, currently, the sworn testimony of his longtime lawyer and other entities that he ordered the use of campaign funds to silence women with whom he’s had affairs – would have toppled any other administration headed by a lifetime politician.
Another factor, he says, is the steady increase of executive power that began long before Trump.
“One of the things I’ve found in 47 years of reporting for the Post is that each president I’ve written about has had more and more power,” he said. “Trump has the most and he seizes that because he is out there, and he is in everyone’s daily life.”
Woodward said the unprecedented hostility of Trump toward opponents and the rhetorical lines he’s willing to cross has had a fatiguing effect on the population.
“He’s not very civil in his criticisms and attacks on people, and because of that, I have found many people just accept what he says, or have tuned out because they are tired of the politics,” he said.
Still, Woodward was among those who were surprised when Trump ascended to the presidency, but he was also somewhat prepared.
“I saw a possibility, which I described in the book, because of what people have said were large numbers supporting Trump,” he said.
The support came regardless of the fact that Trump wasn’t a traditional candidate , let alone the signs he wouldn’t be a traditional president, according to Woodward.
“We knew he wasn’t going to follow the rules, because the problem in the early days of his candidacy was he didn’t know much about what was going on or being disclosed,” he said. “He’s not steeped in government, and people knew that.”
As Woodward interviewed voters and did research for the book, he did find the election’s result validated Trump’s tactics.
“People told him he shouldn’t run and couldn’t win, but he did,” Woodward said. “And this has made him more deeply committed to the ideas he has. But I find from my travels and interviews, that people, even Trump supporters, are worried about his behavior and method of making decisions.”
Woodward said his approach to reporting on Trump isn’t based on prior assumptions.
“I’ve been called a leftist, and I’ve been called somebody who is part of the right-wing conspiracy,” he said. “Someone last year called me an ultra-centrist, which I will accept. I just feel we have to factually blow the whistle on things that are just not true.”
Woodward doesn’t know what it would take to return the United States’ politics to relative normalcy.
“It’s easier to describe the creation of the universe,” he said.
Still, the results of the 2018 midterms last month, where a tidal wave of Democrats took control of the House of Representatives while Republicans solidified their grip on the Senate, did shine some light on the future, Woodward said, though at this point he doesn’t want to make predictions.
“I think the elections, though not changing the power of relationships in a practical sense, foreshadows a sea change in the population … in 40 of those congressional districts, people said they wanted a Democrat.
“But who knows what’s going to happen. I certainly don’t.”
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