Cillizza: Situate the Woodward book in the broader spectrum of Trump books we have seen published since he became a candidate.
Lozada: I think we’ve seen three broad categories of Trump-in-the-White-House books so far.
Cillizza: Woodward has done this sort of thing before with presidents. Does his approach to the Trump White House (and the book it produced) differ in any meaningful ways from the books he wrote on Bush and Obama?
Lozada: Well, he wrote two books on Obama and four books on Bush, so it might be a little early to compare his Trump book to his work on both those presidents.
Cillizza: What did you learn from Fear? Or was it more an affirmation of what you already knew?
Lozada: A lot of the material in Fear is shocking, yet somehow not entirely surprising. We’ve gotten used to the horror stories of how this White House and this President seem to operate thanks to the ongoing reporting at The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN and others. Woodward both deepens and widens this narrative.
Where I find it especially useful is in identifying some of the recurring tendencies and preoccupations of this President. We all know, for instance, how obsessed he seems with the notion that other countries are taking advantage of the United States, but throughout this book he sees that tension purely in dollars and cents, not in larger national interests. For instance, Trump hates paying for troops and security for South Korea because he thinks it costs a lot, and it is hard for his advisers to get him to think about how the United States benefits from maintaining peace in that part of the world.
Everything is transactional to him. So you have the extraordinary scene in Fear of Defense Secretary Mattis having to explain to him that the United States cares about not just protecting its own territory and citizens, but about, you know, avoiding World War III.
Cillizza: This book is already a massive success. Books about Trump are all over best-sellers lists. Is the President saving the book publishing industry?
Lozada: It is one of the great ironies of this era that a President who proudly disdains books — and instead endlessly watches cable news — has propelled an explosion of books about the conduct and meaning of his presidency. It has gotten to the point that publishers and authors actually hope that Trump will tweet about their books, whether to praise them or, far better for sales, to criticize them.
When I became a book critic at the Post in 2015, I never imagined I’d be writing so much about Donald J. Trump. The nice thing about it, though, is that reading and writing about the Trump era doesn’t always have to mean reading and writing about Trump himself. I’m also reading about democracy and truth and identity and immigration and protest and so much more — and these are all ways about exploring the Trump era without having to focus on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I’ve found that the best books about the Trump era are not really about Trump at all.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: “The lingering effect of Fear on Washington will be ___________.” Now, explain.
Lozada: “The lingering effect of Fear on Washington will be confirmation of the worst fears about Trump.”