(Bioreports)No journalist this side of Sean Hannity has spent more time talking to President Donald Trump over the past year than Bob Woodard.
Between early December 2019 and mid-August 2020, the legendary Washington Post reporter did 18 interviews with Trump for his book “Rage,” which came out earlier this week. All told, Woodward spent nearly 10 hours interviewing Trump since just last December.
What that amount of time means is that when Woodward offers an assessment of Trump, we should listen. Which is what he did Tuesday night in an interview with Bioreports’s Anderson Cooper. Asked by Cooper about Trump’s claim that he had read “Rage” from cover to cover in a single night, Woodward responded this way (bolding is mine):
“And he said, it’s very boring.
“And then the anchor on Fox News — thank you — asked him: ‘Is it accurate?’ And you know what the President said?
“I mean, I want to be accurate here. He said: ‘It’s OK. I mean, it’s fine.’ And he’d been out saying it’s a political hit job and all of these things.
“The — I don’t know, to be honest, whether he’s got it straight in his hand what is real and what is unreal.
“That is why, at the end of the book, I say, in totality, my judgment is, this is the wrong man for the job. How can you have the experience of living this White House, the way I have for the last four-plus years, and having not just discussions with him, but people in the White House, people in the CIA, people in the Pentagon, people in the State Department, trying to get the whole picture of what this is administration is? How can you have that experience and not reach that conclusion?”
Anderson, because he is a good interviewer, latched onto that line from Woodward that I bolded above. And he followed up on it with Woodward:
Cooper: But it’s terrifying to hear you say it, given the fact that you have interviewed so many presidents.
Is there any other president you have ever interviewed who you would say the same thing of, that they don’t know the difference?
Yes, Anderson, “terrifying” is the right word here. Woodward, after all, is known for his low-key demeanor and understated approach. This isn’t a guy who pops off with wild claims to sell books. He’s also someone with an impeccable record as the preeminent chronicler of presidents dating back to George W. Bush. And oh yeah. Woodward was half of the team at The Washington Post that broke the Watergate scandal.
For someone with Woodward’s level of credibility — and who has so closely reported on the last three presidents in the White House — to say that he is uncertain whether Trump can distinguish between what is “real” and what is “unreal,” then, is stunning stuff. Like the kind of thing that should make every thinking person in the country stop in their tracks when they hear it.
Here’s the thing: There’s ample evidence to back up Woodward’s claim that Trump is simply not able to tell the difference between objective facts and the story of his life that he tells himself.
Trump’s continued insistence that we are “rounding the corner” on our fight with Covid-19 is not backed up by the data or by medical experts. His assertion that he did everything he could have done to deal with the pandemic is undermined by how other countries were able to keep their caseloads and deaths down by instituting strict social distancing and mask-wearing policies in the early days of the outbreak. His assertion on Tuesday night that he “up-played” the virus’ threat to the public is directly contradicted by Trump telling Woodward in March that he purposely “downplayed” the virus.
And that’s just on Covid-19! Trump’s inability to stick to a fact-based reality pervades every corner of his personal and political life — from his multiple bankruptcies to his ridiculous claims about illegal voting and voter fraud to his exaggerations about his personal wealth.
The prospect that Woodward raised in his interview with Anderson is that Trump has lived so long in a fantasy world of his own making — where he is always, the best, the strongest, the hero — that he lacks the ability to differentiate between that world and the world in which the rest of us are living in.
That’s a concerning thing to contemplate in any person. It’s absolutely bone-chilling when the person we are talking about is the President of the United States.
Bioreports’s Allison Gordon contributed to this analysis.