Two years ago this week, Bob Woodward was promoting his new book about Donald Trump's presidency, and in the process, the legendary journalist used language the public had never heard him use before.
Referring to the Republican administration, Woodward declared in 2018, for example, "[P]eople 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.... This has not been treated seriously enough.... The things -- some of the things -- that Trump did and does jeopardizes the real national security."
At one point, Woodward told the public, "You look at the operation of this White House and you have to say, 'Let's hope to God we don't have a crisis.'"
Almost exactly two years later, Woodward has published a second book on the Trump presidency, this one shaped by a series of conversations between the author and the president himself. And now, the journalist is being even less subtle about his impressions. On "60 Minutes" last night, CBS News' Scott Pelley expressed surprise that Woodward reached" an editorial conclusion at the end of this book," which is "something that reporters are not supposed to do."
The author replied, "Yes. I say the president is the wrong man for the job."
Pelley pushed back a bit, noting, "But you're known as the reporter who doesn't put his thumb on the scale. And yet, at the end of this book, you do just that." Woodward suggested he couldn't help himself:
"It's a conclusion based on evidence, overwhelming evidence, that he could not rise to the occasion with the virus and tell the truth. And one of the things that President Trump told me, 'In the presidency, there's always dynamite behind the door.' The real dynamite is President Trump. He is the dynamite."
All of this stems from the final sentence of Woodward's new book: "When his performance as president is taken in its entirety, I can only reach one conclusion: Trump is the wrong man for the job."
On its face, this may not seem like an especially surprising conclusion for any neutral observer. Trump's corruption, incompetence, mismanagement, and failures have left much of the country and the world with the impression that he's ill-suited to the American presidency.
But Woodward isn't just another observer. He's spent nearly a half-century covering presidential administrations, and he's never before felt the need to tell the public that their sitting president simply shouldn't hold the office.
In 2020, Woodward has made an astonishing exception.