Legendary reporter Bob Woodward writes notoriously long books about presidents, filled with juicy dirt obtained from White House staffers who keep their anonymity but enthusiastically sell out their co-workers. The tradition goes all the way back to Nixon (Woodward made his name covering the Watergate scandal) and covers every single president since.
Now it's President Trump's turn and "Fear" is due in stores on September 11. Copies have leaked to the press and the media is enthusiastically pulling out the most outrageous quotes. The title comes from the president himself, taken from an interview Woodward had with Trump in 2016: "Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, 'Fear.'"
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are the two generals who have stayed in power during the course of the Trump presidency. Woodward has collected some shockingly severe quotes that he attributes to the two men in the new book.
Mattis: "Fifth- or Sixth-Grader"
Woodward writes about a National Security Council meeting on January 19th, where the staff tried to explain to President Trump why the United States need to have a physical military presence on the Korean peninsula “Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — ‘a fifth- or sixth-grader.’ ”
Mattis: You Don't Always Get to Choose Your Boss
Jim Mattis told friends that the president tended to go off on tangents during briefings and laughingly added, “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for.”
Kelly: An Idiot in Crazytown
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly allegedly called the present "unhinged." Woodward writes that, in a small meeting, Kelly really unloaded on his boss: "He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.” (Note: Kelly still denies that he ever called President Trump an "idiot" but doesn't come out and refute the rest of the quote.)
Mattis: Captured Heroes
At a dinner with SecDef Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, the president explained that he found Sen. John McCain to be a coward because he'd accepted early release from a North Vietnamese P.O.W. camp. Since McCain's Navy admiral father was Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command, it would be a propaganda coup for the North Vietnamese if the future Senator left his fellow captives behind. Trump thought his was awful. Mattis spoke up,"No, Mr. President, I think you’ve got it reversed."
Mattis: Measured Response
President Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical attack on Syrian civilians in April 2017 and President Trump wanted to assassinate the leader in response, "Let’s f**king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the f**king lot of them." After telling his boss he'd get right on it, Mattis told a senior aide, "We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured."
Kelly: The Johnny Paycheck Response
White House chief economic advisor Gary Cohn drafted a resignation letter in 2017 after the president said that "both sides" were to blame for the violence and riots in Charlottesville, VA. Trump talked him out of leaving at that time, but John Kelly shared Cohn's anger at the way their boss handled that situation. Kelly fumed, "I would have taken that resignation letter and shoved it up his ass six different times."