Woodward and the fly

Mamdouh AlMuhaini
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A few weeks ago, Omarosa Newman, a former political aide to President Donald Trump, published a book about Trump entitled Unhinged. She is a sharp-tongued woman who had participated in Trump’s famous show The Apprentice.

There are many controversial stories surrounding her including that she offered famous television presenter Piers Morgan sex to win a reality TV show. She is addicted to eavesdropping and she hasn’t left a single conversation unrecorded, she even recorded a phone call with the American president as well as the moment she was fired from her job.

Her publication stirred a small whirlwind that didn’t last for more than a few days, unlike Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury. Two days ago, a new boxing round began with a new book entitled Fear by Bob Woodward, the famous journalist who exposed the Watergate scandal, the largest journalistic scoop in recent decades.

Woodward is a journalist with a long experience and his book is different than that of the “dog” Omarosa, as Trump described her, or Wolff, the slanderer, but despite that it won’t go far in its influence and it will be a momentary punch that misses the president’s head

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

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The main goal or idea of the book is not different than previous books, and it’s to picture Trump as an unbalanced man and expose the overwhelming chaos inside the White House and more extensively, the executive apparatus. Woodward reported that in conversations between high-ranking officials, they mocked Trump’s intelligence level and said it does not exceed that of a child who is incapable of comprehending complicated matters. In another instance, Woodward said the current office is suffering from a mental breakdown.

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Woodward is a journalist with a long experience and his book is different than that of the “dog” Omarosa, as Trump described her, or Wolff, the slanderer, but despite that it won’t go far in its influence and it will be a momentary punch that misses the president’s head. It will only achieve its financial goal and it will not bring Trump to his knees like it hopes. The people who hate Trump will see nothing new in all of this as to them, Trump is a deranged man who eats Big Mac meals with a fork and knife. His supporters though will see him as a fearless hero who shook traditional institutions and defied the arrogant elite in Washington and New York.

Wolff depended on cheap talk like saying that Trump pursued his friends’ wives but Woodward is smarter than going down to this level. He wanted to destroy Trump while wearing gloves and without dirtying his clothes. He mentioned half the facts and built his narrative on them.

He said the White House suffers from overwhelming chaos and this was true during the first few months when Trump became president. He described the situation as an Oval Office with a revolving door. Michael Flynn, the former United States National Security Advisor, lied so he had to be fired. Steve Bannon was a confrontational and ideological character and this did not suit the post he was in so he was fired.

Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House Communications Director, is an intelligent figure but he is unmanageable and hyperactive. He caused overwhelming chaos and attacked then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus in a report published by the New Yorker. Two weeks later, he was fired.

Priebus himself was a star during the presidential campaign and became a burden later. He was an ambiguous character who could not manage the administration’s rhythm so Trump replaced him with John Kelly who was able to manage work as per the military way, and ever since things have been stable. Hence, half of Woodward’s statements are true but he keeps silent over the other half, and this is a skill which experienced journalists are aware of.

Pointing fingers at Trump

Is Trump a crazy and foolish man? This is the second argument, which many have echoed before him as they said he will ignite World War III. Woodward did not say Trump was crazy but he noted that he is unbalanced and thoughtless. It’s clear after these two years in office that Trump will not engage in any war, neither a world war nor a regional one.

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He held dialogue with North Korea, suffocated Iran and economically confronted China without firing a single bullet. As for the story about assassinating Bashar al-Assad, then this is something in his favor not against him especially that we’re talking about the most abject dictator in our times. Even his critics cannot deny that striking Assad twice was one of his best decisions.

The book also says that those close to Trump prevented him from taking thoughtless decisions. Those who follow up on developments closely can see that most of the promises Trump made during his electoral campaign have been kept so which decisions was he prevented from taking?

He has succeeded on the domestic economic level and on the level of foreign policy as he is more realistic than Bush’s perfectionistic approach and Obama’s negative approach. Despite all this fuss, his decisions are not hasty. It’s true that Trump barks on Twitter but in reality he does not bite. The book includes stories that are difficult to swallow and the author bases them on anonymous sources that were present and that circulated what happened behind closed doors and hallways.

Adopting this style of quoting people who are quoting others is something that Woodward is famous for and it’s a well-known flaw in his writings, and it weakens his credibility. He conveys stories with all their accurate details and soft whispers, as if he is a snoopy fly that sneaked into the room without anyone noticing.

This style is well-known in journalistic writing, and it relies on spicing things up. Among these stories is the one saying that an official rushed to Trump’s office and took a paper from him that he was planning to sign to undermine commercial relations with South Korea. He took the paper in the last minute, and Trump did not notice the paper has disappeared and he forgot all about it.

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Only a naïve person will shake his head and believe this story as a huge decision like this one cannot just end by hiding a paper from in front of a president! Even a small children’s toy store has better administrative structure and a dossier to keep purchase and sale contracts, let alone the White House.

The book, however, conveys stories that seem true about Trump and that match his character such as his mockery of figures whom he does not like. The book says that he despised former National Security Advisor McMaster and imitated the annoying way he breathed. This is no secret as it’s said that Trump interrupted him once while delivering a detailed briefing and told the attendees: Look at the big words he uses.

It’s not unlikely that he described Priebus as a rat. His attacks on Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General of the United States, are public and frequent but he denied that he called him “dumb” because he does not want to anger his popular base that is centered in southern states.

However all these are stories for entertainment. In brief is it an interesting and exciting book? Of course, yes. Will it electorally harm Trump and tarnish his image in front of his supporters? Of course not, that is if it does not increase his popular capital.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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