Washington or "crazy town"?

M. Serajul Islam   | Published: September 17, 2018 21:30:23 | Updated: September 17, 2018 21:54:39

Bob Woodward signs copies of 'Fear: Trump in the White House,' in a photo, the author tweeted, a day after the book's release

In the major world capitals with the desire to lead the world, it must be bonanza time because of developments in Washington. The Chinese in their quest to overtake the US as the world's number one power could not have achieved what President Trump is achieving for them. He is weakening his own country in a manner that they could not have achieved even if they had fought a war against the US and had won it. The Chinese and the Russians, therefore, cannot thank the heavens and the Americans enough for making President Donald Trump their 45th president while still the Number 1 power in the world.

An explosive book titled Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward that has come out on September 11 reveals why it is bonanza time in Beijing, Moscow and even Pyongyang. Bob Woodward's reputation is impeccable. He is a two times Pulitzer Prize-winner and his book on the Watergate scandal had ended the presidency of Richard Nixon. His book on President Trump has been the outcome of "hundreds of hours of interviews, along with notes, diaries and government documents".  It has revealed a state of utter pandemonium in the Trump administration and the White House. In fact, according to the book, never in US' history has a president's administration been as close to disaster as it has been since President Donald Trump became the President. And the dangerous part of it all is that things in the Trump presidency are going from bad to worse.

Bob Woodward has called Washington a "crazy town", a lot of what was widely known in Washington even before the book was written. And that Bob Woodward was writing the book was also a widely known fact for quite some time. Nevertheless, the publication of the book came to President Trump and the White House like they were not prepared for it. Two of the worst criticisms of the President in the book are those that have been attributed to the current Chief of Staff General John F Kelly and the Secretary of State James Mattis. General Kelly has been quoted as calling the President an "idiot" and "unhinged" and General Mattis, telling his close associates that the President had the understanding "of a fifth grader." The two generals have denied the quotes vehemently but not convincingly enough.

There are many other damning revelations in the book. The former Economic Adviser John Cohn and Staff Secretary Rob Porter are mentioned as having stolen a document related to US' withdrawal from free trade agreement with South Korea from the Oval Office so that the President would not be able to sign it because, they considered, the withdrawal would have been against the interests of the United States. The book also states that during his tenure in the White House, John Cohn spent most of his time "keeping the president from acting on impulses, such as his belief the US is being taken to the cleaners. "

The book describes graphically about an event that had happened in the Pentagon upon which reports and videos had appeared in the media soon after the event had occurred. It was a meeting that General Mattis had arranged of experts to impress upon the President about the value of continuing with the military and trade pacts that the US had entered before President Trump took office. The President listened to the experts for a while and then, according to White House officials who documented the proceedings of the meeting, lost his patience and called the briefings "bullshit". The President then "proceeded to lecture and insult the entire group about how they didn't know anything when it came to defence or national security."

The President called Woodward's book "a work of fiction". But privately, the book sent him into a fit of rage to the extent that exposing and punishing those that spoke to Bob Woodard or provided him documents became his top priority of governance. Unfortunately for the President, his dismissal of the book as "fiction" made a very little dent to the damning accusations for two reasons. First, Bob Woodward's credibility in Washington and the country is impeccable with every American aware that his book on Watergate had brought about the downfall of President Nixon. Secondly, the facts revealed in the book are those that the majority of Americans outside the President's base believe to be true with the President himself lending credibility to most of the stories by the eerie and surreal ways in which he has been running his administration since taking over as President.

The book has come out at a time when President Trump is being pushed into the corner with the mid-term elections in early November. The court verdicts against Paul Manafort and John Cohen that came out in August have been described as "bombshells" for the president in the context of the ongoing investigations of the Mueller Commission. Michael Cohen, his former lawyer and confidant, implicated the President for directing him to commit criminal acts during the 2016 presidential election and has offered to cooperate with the Commission to implicate the President further. Paul Manafort has very recently also agreed to cooperate with the Mueller Commission.

More aides and those close to the President have also indicated their willingness to cooperate with the Mueller Commission following the two verdicts. And although Cohen did not name the President in the case decided against him, he left no one in doubt that it was candidate Donald Trump that had directed him to commit a felony during the campaign. The Cohen case is significant because the former lawyer for the first time implicated the President directly in a felony trial while thus far all those the Mueller Investigation had apprehended or sent to trials had not implicated him directly or indirectly.

The Woodward book will now make it more difficult for Trump and his base to dismiss the accusations of his opponents against him as "witch-hunt" very easily and as they had done hitherto, nonchalantly. Even before the book hit the stands, the White House was like a building infested with venomous snakes. Since the publication of the book with the President determined to catch and punish those who helped Bob Woodward write the book, cold fear has descended upon the White House that ironically is also the title of the book, fear.

If the Bob Woodward book has come as a bad news for the President, an anonymous op-ed that came in the NTY after the Washington Times (and CNN) had released the excerpts from the Woodward book was like the icing on the cake for the opponents of the President at home and abroad. The op-ed stated that a resistance group has emerged secretly within the White House that has been working behind the President's back to save the country from a President that they cannot trust anymore, one that they are convinced has become a danger for the country because of his inadequacies and volatility.

The op-ed has established the underlying message in Bob Woodward's book - that President Trump has indeed turned Washington into a crazy town. Senior aides of the President who should be running his administration to fulfil his election-time commitment to "Make America Great Again" are instead working overtime to convince the President through the media that they are not part of the "resistance" while themselves believing, as Bob Woodward has exposed, that the President they serve, has turned Washington into a "crazy town." It is now up to the Americans who would soon be voting in the mid-term elections to act with the knowledge that the book by Bob Woodward and the NYT op-ed have revealed. America's enemies abroad would, no doubt, hope that they would ignore both. Instead, they are hedging their bets on the President's racist base. America is thus at a historical crossroads.

Serajul Islam is a former Ambassador.


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