Opinion | The Awesome Futility of Interviewing Donald Trump

Woodward’s frustration turns into palpable within the excerpt. “He’s staggeringly incautious and repetitive,” Woodward writes, “as if saying one thing usually and loud sufficient will make it true.” Trump made himself amply obtainable, Woodward writes, a lot in order that the interviewer saved tape recorders in a number of places inside his home as a result of he might count on the president to name at any time. Trump vowed to reply questions on any matter, Woodward notes. However giving Woodward a first-class ticket on the entry journalism specific doesn’t actually reveal a lot new about Trump as a result of we’ve heard a lot of it earlier than.

He avoids giving straight solutions to straight questions: Woodward asks if the president of the US needs to be asking international leaders to analyze his political opponents. Trump: “No. No. No. I need them to analyze corruption,” an entire nonresponse to Woodward’s try to get him to justify his impeachment-inducing cellphone name to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

He seems indifferent from his authorities’s Covid response: Woodward interviews officers who inform him Trump will not be listening to his prime medical advisers corresponding to Anthony Fauci and Robert Redfield. Though he offers no Trump citation that helps this evaluation, Woodward writes, “It was clear that Trump by no means communicated the magnitude of the [Covid] menace to the American folks. It amounted to a large-scale deception and coverup.”

He ignores questions and freestyles some brazen lies: When Woodward asks what his Covid plan is in late July 2020, Trump claims that the virus is “flaring up everywhere in the world” however “we’ve it beneath management,” which wasn’t the case. Woodward presses Trump for particulars on the Covid plan solely to be instructed, “Bob, you’ll see the plan over the subsequent 4 weeks.” Writes Woodward of Trump’s ineptitude, “I questioned the way you execute a plan that doesn’t exist.”

He turns questions into platforms for bragging and personalization: “I feel we’re doing an excellent job,” Trump says of his Covid response. “We’ve carried out higher than any — aside from with the press. Apart from with the press, I’ve carried out an ideal job.” On his relationship with Kim Jong Un, “I get a way he likes me. I feel he likes me.”

He feels, as ever, put upon: “I’ve opposition like no one has. … I used to be unfortunate with the virus. …”

He wallows in non sequiturs: Woodward asks if buddying as much as Kim Jong Un was strategically designed and Trump solutions, “No. No. It was designed for no matter motive, it was designed. Who is aware of? Instinctively. Let’s discuss intuition.”

The crowning lesson of the Trump period, one which Woodward seems to have gleaned from his reporting, is that just one topic absolutely engages Trump’s curiosity, and that’s Trump. Having Woodward method him to function his Boswell apparently induced Trump’s ego to go def con 3. Elsewhere on the tapes, Trump refers to Woodward as “an ideal historian” and “the nice Bob Woodward.” Trump seems to have understood from the start that the service of his ego would possibly backfire, but he would nonetheless take the danger. Within the 14th interview session, Trump says to Woodward, “You’re in all probability going to screw me. As a result of, you realize, that’s the way in which it goes. Look, [George W.] Bush sat with you for hours and also you screwed him. However the distinction was, I ain’t no Bush.”

Trump’s response to the audiobook information has been to threaten Woodward with a lawsuit, his go-to transfer at any time when the information cycle displeases him. “We’ve already employed the attorneys,” Trump told a radio present host final week. The grounds for Trump’s swimsuit replicate his feeling that the tapes are “his,” as a result of they have been granted for print journalism functions (Woodward’s Trump ebook, Rage), not audio ones. The authorized logic right here parallels his perception that the federal government paperwork he allegedly pilfered and saved in Mar-a-Lago are his as a result of he says they’re.

Trump interviews have been and can at all times be futile workouts in trying to nail a blob of mercury as a result of that’s the way in which he flows. He’s a double-talk artist who makes use of phrases as protecting coloration as a result of, as a flighty and fidgety man, he resists the compunction to be constant. That doesn’t imply we shouldn’t cease attempting to get him on the file. It additionally doesn’t imply we must always let him say no matter he desires with out difficult him. But when Doorstop Bob Woodward can’t wring a coherent interrogation out of any person after 20 interviews of 600 questions, no one can. Interview him all you need, simply don’t count on something however puzzlement and frustration in return.


“Scorching diaper” will not be my coinage. I acquired it from Evan Smith. Ship chilly diapers to [email protected]. No new e-mail alert subscriptions are being honored presently. My Twitter feed wears Huggies. My RSS feed goes bare.

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