July 25, 2021

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump" | Babelia

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump" | Babelia


Upon entering the house of Bob Woodward, a beautiful property located in the Washington neighborhood of Georgetown, meets one with dozens of copies of his latest book piled in boxes. In the living room appears, sitting on her back, a woman whose complexion, hair and black clothing could make her pass through Annie Leibovitz. When he gets up to greet the newcomers, he clears the mystery: it is, in fact, the famous photographer. It is mid-October and Woodward (Geneva, Illinois, 1943) is immersed in the promotion of Fear. Trump in the White House (Roca Editorial, 2018), a bustle of interviews and television appearances that does not seem to excite the reporter, turned into a legend when he was still very young, as a result of the Watergate exclusive. He responds with haste, cuts short when the time comes, but, contrary to what might be expected, he does not tire of talking about the battle that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The journalist brings it up without asking him. Twice Pulitzer Prize, has dissected all American leaders of his time, although the last president has turned out to be one of the most unexpected characters in American politics.

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump"

QUESTION. He begins his book highlighting a phrase of Trump: "The real power is fear." Is right?

ANSWER. Yes, I think part of the real power is fear, although it is not the main part. He said that at his hotel, at the end of March 2016; it was a separate comment, almost Shakespearean, he said practically in a whisper, but it was very clear: the real power is fear. That's what he thought and was willing to publish it openly. I was looking for a title that captured its shape, its style, at the time of operating, that had come out of its own mouth.

P. The book draws a scene of madness within the Government of the most powerful country in the world. Do you think Trump is like that spontaneously or is part of a strategy?

R. It is not strategic, it acts through impulses. It does not plan Once I thought that if Melania sent her to the supermarket, I would go without a shopping list. I would get there and say: "This is fine", "This looks good", "Let's try this …". And, of course, that is one of the problems and is what leads to the attack of nerves to those who are close to him, those who know more.

P. In foreign policy we talk about the madman's strategy. Do you think Trump is playing that game in domestic politics?

R. He is like that. I spent two years looking at him, watching what he does. You can face the Trump theme in three ways. One is with the things that it says, that are not true; another is the investigation of the Russian plot by Robert Mueller; and another, look at what he does as president. That is my focus. What it does with North Korea, with Afghanistan, the Middle East, the economic area … And, scene after scene, you can see that it is deciding on the fly. There is no global strategy.

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump"

P. You talk about the nervous breakdown of those around you and how they try to avoid their excesses. Can this serve as a trick to the Republicans to dissociate themselves from Trump and avoid their most controversial actions?

R. The Republicans follow the flow in everything, Trump is in control to an incredible extent. This was the case with Nixon at Watergate. The Republicans were with him until the end and they all abandoned him when they realized he had said too many lies.

P. How much is that case similar to that of the current president?

R. Nixon was a criminal, we know from the testimony of secret recordings, thousands of hours of recordings. There is nothing equivalent with Trump. To create a cause, you need the strongest evidence possible, a human being close to him who is a witness. Someone who can sit and talk, as Nixon's advisor, John Dean, did on 1973 on national television, and say: "This is what happened, this is what the president ordered …". I do not think there is anyone in Trump's circle who has that level of knowledge or involvement. Although I can be wrong. On the last page of the book, Trump's lawyer, John Dowd, concludes that he is a fucking liar.

P. You use multiple sources that you know but do not reveal. What is the limit to use them?

R. That has not been understood. When I say "5.15. Tuesday. July 18 in the office of the White House chief of staff. Enter these people. They say this … ", the fact is described, there is nothing anonymous about it. What I do not wake up is where I get it from. But it is not anonymous. It can not be more clear when the national security adviser at that meeting tells the secretary of state: "You are undermining the national security process."

P. There is a certain love-hate of Trump towards the press. Insults the media on a daily basis, but is addicted to them, gives press conferences more than an hour in which he answers everything, converts acts without questions into impromptu press conferences …

"The Republicans follow the flow in everything, Trump is in command to an incredible point"

R. We have taken the bait. He wants conflict and has put the reporters in combat mode, so we have a war between Trump and the media. My position is: ignore him, do your job, find out what is happening, put it in a book that he tells people. I think this book has sold a million copies in a week, something that had not happened to my editor before, and has published Hillary Clinton and Stephen King. The war between the president and the press only benefits the president, we should be cold with that. In 1972, when I was 28 or 29 years old, Carl Bernstein and I were called slanderers. And they attacked us all the time, trying to turn the issue into a problem of conduct of the press, not the president. And Ben Bradlee told us to reaffirm our information, our research, and not get into the fight. That's what I do now. Does he call us the enemy of the people? Okay, you have the right, that's the first amendment [de la Constitución, la libertad de expresión]. I'm not comfortable with it, but it's not going to give me a nervous breakdown.

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump"

P. And how to cover Trump? If the press reports everything that it says, it allows you to mark the conversation, the agenda, as it happened in the presidential elections. But if you insult a president on Twitter and it is not covered, that behavior is normalizing.

R. If I were a newspaper editor and had 100 reporters to cover Trump, I would put 25 to cover his statements, his tweets, the war, the language … And the remaining 75 would be left out and would establish the necessary trust relationships to get the notes, the documents, tell what is happening. That is what worries me the most.

P. It is also a dilemma in Europe and, specifically, in Spain. How to cover the rise of populist leaders, we must pay attention to them, but if they are lent too much, they are helped to grow.

R. You do both. Trump has turned reporters crazy, they have become unstable for or against him. When I go down to exercise, I see some MSNBC [una cadena de corte liberal, muy crítica con Trump] and a little Fox [la gran cadena conservadora estadounidense] and they are not describing the same world. I imagine people in their homes wondering: what has really happened?

P. You started working as a journalist in the Montgomery County Sentinel [un diario local del Estado de Maryland]. What did you learn there that still prevails today?

R. The director called me one day because it was said that county government officials were given cars to work and move around the county during the day, but they could not be taken home, and they were being taken away. The director told me if I could find out, so one day, at nine or ten at night, I went to the parking lot where they usually leave all those cars and there were none. We take pictures of the empty parking lot. What is the lesson? Go to the site and stay late.

"He said it practically in a whisper, but the president was very clear: the real power is fear"

P. And what happened?

R. There was an uproar. People lost cars, some their work …

P. It was his first Watergate.

R. Yes, the first time you ask yourself: "Okay, people say this, how do we check it?"

P.And what has changed in the essence of the trade, beyond technological advances?

R. A lot, and the big problem is that if you're going to talk to a thousand people, like I did the other day, and you ask how many people distrust the media, most will raise their hands. So you have an environment in which people do not trust us. We must recover confidence, and the only way to do it is to recover calm, to make good information, to present the facts to the people and not to go to television programs to hit the table.

Bob Woodward: "The press has taken the bait of Trump"

P. Is there too much opinion?

R. Yes, and too many traps and petulance. Katharine Graham, the great owner of Post, He sent Carl Bernstein and me a private letter in which he said: "OK, Nixon has resigned and you have written some of the stories, do not start thinking too much about yourselves. Let me give you some advice: beware of the demon of pomposity, of that incapacitating self-indulgence. " He told us that there was a lot of pomposity in the press.

P. Is the journalist's ego more a burden or a motor?

R. Journalists need calm, be calm and take time.

P. We are seeing horrible news, of deaths of journalists. But what is more dangerous for investigative journalism, that or the lack of a business model?

R. Fortunately, Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post and he's the richest man in the world, and if we need money for 40 more reporters to cover something, he'll give it to us.

P. Well, the question was general, about the model, not referring to Post.

R. We have to make a better and more useful product for people. It's that easy. You have to grab the newspaper or your device and say: "Wow, look at that. Surprise, I did not know. "

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