13:47 - Source: CNN
Book: Trump's lawyers worried about 'full nightmare' of potential Mueller interview

Editor’s Note: Michael D’Antonio is author of the book “Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success” (St. Martin’s Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his. View more opinion articles on CNN.

CNN  — 

Eminent journalist Bob Woodward’s book-long take on President Donald Trump, bits of which have been revealed in advance, is proving with authority what the world already suspected: Imperious, impatient and immature, Donald Trump is the King Baby of presidents, a man who is incapable of rising to the demands of the most important job on earth.

A King Baby is, as comedian Jim Gaffigan noted in his famous routine, a demanding narcissist whose need for attention is surpassed only by his inability to recognize the damage he does to others. Freud recognized this type with the phrase, “His Majesty the Baby,” and people everywhere know this kind of man from their families, their communities and their workplaces.

In the accounts we’ve seen of his book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” Woodward reveals a man who is temperamentally unfit for office, surrounded by aides who are trying to rein in his awful impulses. Chief of Staff John Kelly is shown calling the President “unhinged” and an “idiot,” and the administration experiences what the author calls “a nervous breakdown of executive power.” (Kelly and others who have been quoted as trashing Trump have issued statements disclaiming the unflattering remarks Woodward’s reporting revealed.)

Though alarming, nothing Woodward seems to have learned in documents and hundreds of hours’ worth of interviews would surprise anyone who has studied Donald Trump or worked with him. The twenty-something man who demanded that New Yorkers regarded him as a mogul-in-the-making has always operated with a high level of bluster and bluff. He habitually oversold himself – insisting he was smarter, richer, and more accomplished than he was – and he has become an old man who can’t bear hearing of a reality that conflicted with the fantasy in his head.

In Woodward’s book, John Dowd, the President’s lawyer (since replaced), endures an awful mock deposition that leads him to conclude that in order to avoid being fired with a prison-style “orange jumpsuit,” Trump should avoid answering questions from the team investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election. This scene aligns with what seems to be the case about Team Trump’s longstanding concern that he would lie under oath.

Similar is the story of economic adviser Gary Cohn swiping papers off Trump’s desk to prevent him from blowing up trade deals with South Korea, Mexico and Canada. Cohn and staff secretary Rob Porter gambled that the President’s attention span is so limited, they could handle him as one would handle a toddler, whisking away fragile objects before he noticed they were there.

Altogether, the parts of Woodward’s book now coming to light display a man who is so immature that Defense Secretary James Mattis described him as a man who understands the world in the manner of a “fifth or sixth grader.”

This assessment is perhaps more generous than the one Trump himself offered me, in a discussion about human nature. In an interview back in 2013, he said he thinks temperament is established by the first grade and changes little thereafter.

This immaturity is starkly demonstrated in a rambling phone call, which Woodward recorded and released as news of his book spread. Listen to this conversation, in which Trump clings to the notion that he never knew of Woodward’s request to interview him – although he admitted, when challenged, that Senator Lindsay Graham did in fact relay it to him.

Listen to the 11-minute call and you hear a man who is irritated to learn that a reporter won’t join him in his delusion. In typical fashion, the President deflects responsibility to his staff and Woodward – anyone but himself – and then concludes in a whiny tone, “So I have another bad book coming out. Big deal.” (Trump also pronounced my 2016 biography of him a “bad book” before it was published.)

In fact it is a big deal, because, as President, Trump’s perspective and condition helps determine the course of events big and small. Woodward obviously understands this point, and the seriousness of the presidency, as he says, “What you can count on is that I’ve been very careful.”

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    The care Woodward puts into his work, a record established over decades, means that even as he confirms reporting others have done, his book will become the foundation for assessments that follow.

    His credibility cannot be destroyed by the President’s “fake news” and “enemy of the people” blather. Woodward’s stock in trade is solid reporting. Trump’s is hype. No amount of complaining or blaming by the President and his minions, who are already attacking the author and his book, will alter those facts.