Beyond a considerable boost to the profit margins of Simon & Schuster, Bob Woodward’s Fear has had all the impact of what Senator Everett Dirksen described as “a snowflake upon the bosom of the Potomac River.” The response in Washington from President Donald Trump’s allies, and even from his longtime critics, has been a virtual shrug. Sure, cable news has struck a tone of continual hysteria—Red alert! DEFCON 1! Summon the panels!—but that is decidedly normal in Trump’s Washington. Why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Fundamentally, because, like Sherlock Holmes’ dog that did not bark in the night, the political and journalistic universe has known in general just about everything that Fear describes anecdotally.
Which brings us to one of Trump’s most important assets: He is the beneficiary of a steady erosion of illusions about the presidency. We know so much more about the behavior of our presidents than we once did, and that knowledge has protected Trump from accountability for his breathtakingly disqualifying flaws.