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Woodward book's most frightening message

Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear," is the story of an unstable President and a chaotic White House.In t...

Posted: Sep 6, 2018 11:35 AM
Updated: Sep 6, 2018 11:35 AM

Bob Woodward's new book, "Fear," is the story of an unstable President and a chaotic White House.

In the run-up to its publication next Tuesday and beyond, expect much debate, blame, denials, pontifications, and tweets (definitely, tweets) either refuting or supporting what the book offers as evidence. That is accounts from President Donald Trump's own staff that he is unable to grasp policy, is endangering the country and unwilling to acknowledge the depth of his legal vulnerabilities.

Donald Trump

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Political Figures - US

US federal government

White House

This is the story of President Trump. It is the story of the White House.

It is also -- sadly -- the story of us, America.

The passages released so far are not just about the content of private discussions or the substantive debates over national and homeland security. They describe internal processes that are so dysfunctional, so mercurial, so back-stabbing and destructive that other nations and their leaders -- whether ally or enemy -- will see in them more proof of an unreliable partner. That partner is us.

It isn't that revelations about Trump's personality will be surprising to leaders in Europe, South America, the Middle East or China. They have met him. They have read the tweets. What is new in Woodward's book is the picture of a President utterly isolated from the very people who serve him in the White House.

The President is in a den of vipers shot through with a cadre of aides trying to save the world from a crisis, according to the book (and since the start of his presidency, we've seen little reason to doubt it). The President has lost the authority that matters to us as a nation. Put it this way: does Trump seem weaker or stronger after these stories have come out? Whatever your answer, it's the same answer for the United States.

Our President cannot control a narrative of American superiority when he has lost control of that narrative. If our allies want a reliable partner, they will look to each other or another heavyweight like China.

Beyond our capacity to support friends, America looks -- and therefore is -- more vulnerable because of how the President has managed his office. A recent case in point: the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was ultimately about a White House that refused to comprehend the magnitude of the disaster, lead when the threat was real, or take responsibility for a population that lacked potable water and electricity -- and a death toll that would be revised upward last week to nearly 3,000.

His response to that news -- that the US did a "fantastic job"-- falls, like a heartless joke, on the ears of those who lost family, home, livelihood. It was also quite a terrifying response, as it showed that he simply missed the gravity of the situation. A President unable to recognize harms coming our way, and to deploy resources to stop them, energizes our enemies.

Finally, as someone who worked in an administration agency, I can tell you how revelations like those in Woodward's book play in the halls of power in America and across the world: workers in federal agencies that protect our national security are left with little to support their efforts against the unavoidable conclusion that the lights are not on at the White House.

This can be very dangerous; agencies get their strength and authority by positioning themselves as aligned with the White House and the President. For US officials, a meeting with a foreign diplomat or an urban mayor about safety and security draws legitimacy from the backing of the White House. It works the way a "trump card" should.

Those who work outside the White House, and who are protected by a government that is functional, are also hidden characters in Woodward's book. They are not anonymous sources or former Trump advisers.

They are ... us. The book is about the fate of the United States.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10863104
Hinds10705207
Harrison7624114
Jackson6774131
Rankin6303114
Lee557798
Madison5311112
Forrest405587
Jones388589
Lauderdale3754149
Lafayette347358
Washington3421108
Lamar310350
Lowndes265168
Oktibbeha262763
Bolivar254686
Panola243754
Neshoba2333124
Marshall229451
Leflore216492
Monroe216278
Pontotoc213631
Lincoln203267
Sunflower198156
Warren189559
Tate187251
Union179626
Copiah176141
Pike170860
Pearl River168170
Itawamba166637
Scott166030
Yazoo164441
Alcorn161529
Coahoma160044
Prentiss159034
Simpson156954
Grenada149545
Adams148852
Leake146244
George138326
Covington137642
Holmes136861
Tippah135230
Winston134326
Hancock132842
Wayne127424
Attala126836
Marion126548
Tishomingo116444
Newton114929
Chickasaw112632
Tallahatchie101227
Clay98527
Clarke96954
Jasper90023
Stone85115
Calhoun82413
Montgomery80726
Walthall80430
Carroll78115
Lawrence76814
Smith76516
Yalobusha75728
Noxubee74817
Perry70127
Greene66023
Tunica64019
Amite61815
Jefferson Davis60818
Claiborne59716
Humphreys56119
Benton51018
Quitman5107
Kemper50019
Webster49514
Wilkinson42522
Jefferson39012
Franklin3866
Choctaw3757
Sharkey33517
Issaquena1254
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 264199

Reported Deaths: 3831
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson35310515
Mobile20626372
Madison14521153
Tuscaloosa13897173
Montgomery12844246
Shelby1127878
Baldwin9501138
Lee807167
Morgan740555
Etowah704870
Marshall695358
Calhoun6939126
Houston559140
DeKalb521843
Cullman490650
St. Clair466557
Limestone462446
Lauderdale452257
Elmore440070
Walker3914112
Talladega386157
Jackson373523
Colbert347948
Blount323146
Autauga294542
Franklin265534
Coffee260023
Dale247355
Dallas236832
Chilton235445
Covington234834
Russell23433
Escambia208832
Tallapoosa192692
Chambers189154
Clarke165422
Pike165215
Marion150236
Winston146325
Lawrence139936
Pickens129720
Geneva12929
Marengo127824
Bibb127038
Barbour121729
Butler121142
Cherokee108224
Randolph108022
Fayette102216
Hale102132
Clay95527
Washington94222
Henry9097
Monroe85311
Lowndes82930
Cleburne80914
Macon77522
Crenshaw73830
Lamar7348
Conecuh73215
Bullock71120
Perry7037
Wilcox65918
Sumter60122
Greene45818
Choctaw43620
Coosa3854
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