In this, the latest of Woodward’s 12 books of instant history based on insider access to the White House, the author spotlights the struggles of the often dysfunctional Trump administration. Some of the divisions he chronicles pit professional staffers against Trump family members. Others reflect the personality clashes typical of every high-pressure workplace, although they are more acute than usual in the Trump White House because the president’s inner circle includes so many outsize egos. The most significant battles, in Woodward’s telling, were those between a protectionist, “America first” president and his like-minded staffers on one side and the more globalist and pro-free-trade officials on the other. Trump sought to make policy choices, such as withdrawing from the World Trade Organization, that filled his staff with horror. Like Sir Humphrey Appleby in the British television show Yes Minister, the internationalists did what they could to delay him. His impulses thwarted, Trump grew frustrated and lashed out. There matters rested when Woodward finished his book; since then, it appears, Trump has started imposing his will on his officials. It will be interesting, to put it mildly, to see what comes next.
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