Bob Woodward discusses conflicts between Trump and the media

“Restoring Trust in the News” was the name of journalist Bob Woodward’s session at this week’s Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, Fla. He succinctly described the path ahead.

“It’s gonna be a long way back,” he said.

Woodward then pivoted to the news coverage of President Donald Trump, and that became the focus of his remarks and Q&A session.

Trump “was not elected to be a normal president” and has caused people on both sides of the political divide to become “emotionally unhinged,” Woodward said.

“The sun is setting on the old order, and that includes you, that includes me,” and when the political parties failed to adapt, “the person who seized history’s clock was Donald Trump,” he said.

Woodward said Trump “has ideas that do not connect to reality” and has made a “series of gambles,” including tariffs on Chinese imports. When asked by Woodward, the majority of the audience members raised their hands in agreement that the tariffs are a bad idea.

“I quite frankly think the country has not … awakened to the peril we’re in, in so many areas,” Woodward said.

The economy is “chugging along,” although whether that will be the case next year or in 2020 is unclear, Woodward said. “I think there are lots of danger signs in the economy,” he said.

Woodward said he’s uncertain about whether special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, has the level of evidence that emerged against Nixon during Watergate.

“Things tend to leak out in some form … But who knows? I would say the chances that Mueller has something that’s devastating to Trump or the Trump presidency … may be 10%, maybe a little bit more,” Woodward said.

Trump, meanwhile, is likely to look at CNN’s lawsuit over the suspension of reporter Jim Acosta’s White House press access and say, “This is great,” Woodward said. During the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon accused reporters of character assassination and put the focus on the media’s conduct, Woodward said, adding that Trump has refined that strategy. “When we engage in it, we’re taking his bait,” he said.

Woodward emphasized the need for serious reporting about what Trump is doing.

“There is an obtainable version of the truth, but it takes time,” he said.