President Donald Trump speaking to Rage author Bob Woodward in the Oval Office surrounded by aides and Vice President Mike Pence (December 2019 ) Source: CNN

By: Maler Suresh 

With its sensational title, and the even more sensational reputation afforded to its author, Bob Woodward’s novel Rage has sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week of publication. But the premise of the book itself is not the reason that Rage has topped bestseller lists since its September 15 release (there have been numerous books released about Trump’s Presidency this year, including Too Much and Never Enough by Mary L. Trump or The Room Where it Happened by John Bolton) Rather, it is what it contains. A taped conversation with Donald Trump, all the way back in February, where Trump himself tells Woodward that the coronavirus is “…more deadly than even your strenuous flu… This is deadly stuff,” and another one in March where President Trump explains to Woodward that he intended “to always play it down.” All of this that the President knew in ample time to save the countless lives lost to the virus. The fact that the leader of our country constantly insisted that the coronavirus was nothing to worry about, even when scientists tried to contradict him, even when the number of deaths spiked in our country, even when the virus ceased to just “miraculously go away” is made all the more inexcusable by the fact that he knew what he was saying. He continued to feed roundabout, nonsensical placations to the public, all the while clearly spelling out to Woodward how deadly the virus was going to be. The unfortunate thing? As upsetting as this news is, I don’t think many people are surprised. 

To an outsider looking in, the context surrounding Rage would make it an obvious tipping point in public opinion. A piece of journalism published just months before a highly divisive election, written by the one of the very same men who is credited for breaking Watergate, including hard evidence of the President’s negligence amidst a pandemic that has taken the lives of thousands of Americans.Yet, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website that focuses on poll analysis, 43.2% of people still approve of President Trump, which is actually higher than his approval ratings in July. Although Biden is currently polling ahead of President Trump, not even the new information presented by Rage has kept it from being a close race come November

Woodward’s book, seemingly written in the same style as every other one he has released, is, despite the importance of the information compiled within it, practically irrelevant. There is no analysis of the President’s actions, no reflection into why this information actually matters. In the place of a true commentary, many reviewers describe the dry, almost pedantically detail-oriented, narrative. The consensus among readers is that Rage didn’t truly shed light on anything that anyone didn’t already know. Many quote Woodward’s final verdict: “When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job.” as an anticlimactic and obvious analysis. How can we expect the President’s obvious negligence to matter to the public if it doesn’t hold any emotional shock value?

 While the way in which Rage was written obviously prevents readers from truly absorbing all that Woodward conveyed about the President within its pages, I also believe that Trump has made it almost impossible to shock the American public. The book was released far after people had realized the discrepancy between the President’s fake reassurances about the decline of the virus and the truth. Furthermore, these tapes were freely given to Woodward by President Trump, who knew full well that he was being recorded. With Woodward’s prominent reputation reporting on multiple presidencies, Trump must have known that what he said would not stay between Woodward and himself, and he said it anyway. This perfectly sums up Donald Trump’s presidency. He says what he wants when he wants to. The President is far beyond reproach in the eyes of his supporters, and he knows it. 

The combination of Woodward’s ill-timed, ill-delivered information about President Trump, and the President’s unique ability to do the wrong thing (or, in some minds, the right thing) so often that people have stopped being surprised are why the interviews released in Rage are just a blip on the radar of the American people. Trump is one of the most divisive Presidents in history, and it’s going to take a lot more than a leaked tape to change anyone’s opinion of him. 

The things that reporters talk about, the turning points that will “change the course of this election,” have already passed. The American public already knows the President’s stance, and the attitude that he has shown towards this country from day one. He showed what he stands for at the real turning points of this election, when he ignored the demands made by the Black community, mishandled a global pandemic, and every issue in between. Those that have come out on the other side of 2020 supporting him are not liable to stop due to anything he does or says now. And those that have lost faith in the President certainly won’t start believing in him again after this. The election is already set on its course, and no piece of news from any journalist will steer it astray, no matter how jarring it should be. The American people have already made their decision. Now all we have to do is wait until November 3rd to hear it.


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