When Bob Woodward was promoting his first book about Donald Trump’s presidency, the legendary journalist used language the public had never heard him use before.
As we discussed several years ago, Woodward declared in 2018, for example, that “people better wake up to what’s going on.” In a separate interview, The Washington Post editor added, “I’ve never seen an instance when the president is so detached from the reality of what’s going on.”
Two years later, Woodward released a second book on Trump’s term and went even further: The journalist told the public that Trump was “singularly unfit” for the presidency and is simply “the wrong man for the job.”
On “60 Minutes,” CBS News’ Scott Pelley expressed surprise, telling Woodward, “But you’re known as the reporter who doesn’t put his thumb on the scale.” Woodward suggested in response that he simply couldn’t help himself: “It’s a conclusion based on evidence, overwhelming evidence.”
Two years later, Woodward is poised to release an audiobook based on the extensive recorded conversations he had with the Republican. The project has led the journalist to reach even more dramatic conclusions about the former president. Consider his latest comments to CBS News:
“Trump was the wrong man for the job,” Woodward replied. “I realize now, two years later, all of the January 6 insurrection, leads me to the conclusion that he’s not just the wrong man for the job, but he’s dangerous, and he is a threat to democracy, and he’s a threat to the presidency, because he doesn’t understand the core obligations that come with that office.”
Note the trajectory: In 2018, Woodward came to believe that Trump’s relationship with reality was fractured; in 2020, Woodward felt compelled to warn the public that Trump was unfit for office; and in 2022, Woodward wants us to know that Trump is a threat, not only to the American presidency, but to our democracy itself.
He wrote a related report for the Post over the weekend, explaining his decision to release the audio recordings — a first in his career — because they help demonstrate why Trump is, as Woodward put it, “an unparalleled danger.”
He added, “The record now shows that Trump has led — and continues to lead — a seditious conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election, which in effect is an effort to destroy democracy. Trump reminds how easy it is to break things you do not understand — democracy and the presidency.”
Circling back to our earlier coverage, on its face, these conclusions may not seem especially surprising. Plenty of fair-minded, independent, neutral observers have said the same thing.
But Woodward isn’t just another observer. He’s spent a half-century covering presidential administrations, and he’s never before sounded scared of a politician or felt the need to deliver such public warnings.
The fact that Woodward is making an astonishing exception matters.
Postscript: It’s probably worth noting for context that Trump has claimed that he owns Woodward’s audio recordings, and late last week, the former president told a Fox News host that he intends to sue the journalist. I have a hunch that lawsuit will never be filed, but time will tell.