It will come as a surprise to no one that, after news about Bob Woodward’s book broke, Donald Trump tweeted that it’s all lies and that the author is simply a “Dem operative.” But the president was singing a different tune on August 14 when he called Woodward to tell him that he was open to being interviewed for the book—even though the manuscript had been completed. The Washington Post published a transcript of the call.
Trump: It’s really too bad, because nobody told me about it, and I would’ve loved to have spoken to you. You know I’m very open to you. I think you’ve always been fair.
I agree with Josh Marshall that this telephone conversation is as revealing as anything that is reportedly included in Woodward’s book.
What comes off most clearly in this transcript is Trump’s weakness. Lying is one thing. But the exchange in this call is a different subspecies of lying. It’s lying about not doing your homework. Lying because you want a second chance. Lying because you didn’t have the guts to do the interview in the first place … the stench of weakness and cowardice can’t be cleaned off this thing. This is the real Trump.
Beyond that, there was something that caught my eye when Trump started to say something on a couple of occasions, then shifted gears. The president is pressing Woodward on who he talked to in the White House about interviewing him for the book.
BW: Well, I talked to Raj [Shah] about it. I talked to . . . I talked to Kellyanne.
Trump: Well, a lot of them are afraid to come and talk, or — you know, they are busy. I’m busy. But I don’t mind talking to you.
Much later in the conversation, Trump says something similar.
Trump: But you never called for me. It would’ve been nice, Bob, if you called for me, in my office. I mean, I have a secretary. I have two, three secretaries. If you would’ve called directly — a lot of people are afraid . . . Raj, I hardly have . . . I don’t speak to Raj.
BW: Kellyanne is a . ..
Trump: I do, I do, and Kellyanne went to somebody, but she didn’t come to me.
In both of those quotes, Trump starts to say that a lot of his staff is afraid to talk to him directly, but he stops mid-sentence and switches to the idea that they’re either too busy or that he doesn’t speak to them. That comes up specifically when the conversation is about Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, and Kellyanne Conway, the counselor to the president.
Trump is basically affirming the crux of Woodward’s book: he is so erratic that White House staff who constantly cover for him are afraid to talk to him. It’s either that or he’s so delusional he thinks they’re afraid of him.
This president is constantly attacking anyone like Bob Woodward who tells the truth about him. But as is so often the case, we don’t need those kinds of reports to understand that he is incredibly unfit for office. He let’s us know that himself almost every time he opens his mouth or tweets.