The Making of Donald Trump; David Cay Johnston; 2016; Melville House Publishing; 217 pgs; notes, index
David Johnston is a regular on the news shows as an expert on Trump and how he got to where he is today. The book is four years old now. There is very little that is new, and much that is familiar.
If you have followed the coverage, you are probably aware of grandpa Trump, who fled Germany to avoid the draft, and built and ran brothels. Daddy Trump was ruthless and corrupt. The Trump family has been in close contact with the mob. And so on…
The only thing that stood out for me is how many times Trump et al have been sued, lost, and then settled, only to have the settlement sealed. I do not think Trump would be where he is today without that. By sealing his court losses, he gets to pretend he won.
I learned little from this book. It is for Trumpaholics only now. But if you are not aware of the sordid details of Trump's life, this is the best book documenting the family up until 2016.
David Frum is a Canuck, and the son of Barbara Frum the well known journalist. He is also now a US citizen, a conservative, a one time Republican, and the author of Trumpocracy.
Trumpocracy was written in the first year of DJT's evil reign. This latest book was written over the intervening years. I read the first book because I wanted to read a conservative view point. Ditto this time around. Like all books about Trump, one is constantly reminded of his past sins… sins that tend to loose their identities in the avalanche of additional malfeasances.
"The rooster that took credit for the sunrise was outraged to be blamed for the sunset."
A nice pithy line.
Fun Fact: One of the Trump success factors that Frum points to is the Sinclair Broadcasting Company. It is Trump friendly and owns 40 percent of the US TV market. This where many Americans get their news.
They and the Trump acolytes praise the only president to never crack 50% approval in a reliable poll.
Frum was critical of the Mueller report which never lived up to expectations. They made five errors that assured failure. One: Mueller was only interested in prosecutable crimes. This meant no investigation of Trump possible debts to Russia. Two: He seemed to feel ignorance of the law was an excuse (this saved DJT Jr in the Trump Tower meeting). Three: He narrowed his investigation to the 2015/2016 election cycle. Four: He looked at people near Trump, but not Trump himself who refused to testify. And five: He refused to promote evidence that Trump could not be prosecuted for and therefore could not respond to (because he was the president). The upshot was we learned very little about Trump and his entanglements.
Frum spends some time discussing the Republicans tendency to cheat. Voter suppression, stack the courts, and gerrymandering being the primary means. The Republicans feel they are good and right, therefore whatever they do to maintain power is good and right too. Kavanaugh helped decide that the gerrymandering, an undemocratic and evil practice, was State business.
Frum discusses the "deep state". Like many things Trump, it is the opposite of what it should be. In the old days, the "deep state" were those with secret power who used clandestine ways of thwarting the government. Under Trump, it means the opposite: the legitimate use of power to thwart Trump.
As much as I hate to admit it, occasionally Trump is right. The only example I am aware of was the large numbers of asylum seekers at the US southern border. It is a fact that most of them were not legitimate asylum seekers under international law, and letting them onto US soil to apply for asylum would have many negative consequences.
Frum is basically upbeat. Trump must go, and the US must react to this near disaster. He offers the following solutions: Publish tax returns; Kill the filibuster; Make DC a state; Adopt a modern voting rights act; Deter gerrymandering; and Depoliticize the cops.
He argues that better immigration control can unite the nation. He also goes on to argue that the US must address climate change. His suggestions are worth reading, and are far more plausible than AOCs Green New Deal (AOC argues for more state ownership which puts the regulators and the regulated under the same roof). He also argues that China needs to be handled better. They have not been playing the game according to the rules.
Fun Fact: The Grand Old Party (GOP… Republicans) is younger that the Democratic Party.
In his final words, Frum argues that the GOP is so out of touch that it must reform or die. He makes no bones about Trump. He absolutely deserved impeachment. And he absolutely deserves to feel the full weight of the law when he leaves office.
America can come out of all this a better nation. The first step is to remove Trump from office.
Like most books of this type, this was a quick and easy read. It is insightful and hopeful at the same time as it is gloomy and reflective of the nation's exhaustion.
When pondering on disaster relief, it is helpful to know what natural disasters we should prepare for.
War is hardly natural, and we seem to always be on the brink of it somewhere in the world, so I ignore it.
There are two major issues to deal with: How big might it be, and what are the chances of it happening. A crude break down of “how big” is Local vs Global.
Here is the list off the top of my head (Disaster; Size, Probability):
Only “Pandemic” stands out. It has the potential to go global; AND since it has happened in the past (Spanish Flu, Swine Flu, SARS), and, due largely to air travel, is more likely to happen in the future… the probability is high.
Covid 19 was not unlucky, it was inevitable. A moments thought, which is about as much as I put into this piece, will convince anyone that the smart money should go to prevention of pandemics.
Therefore, ergo, ipso facto, and thus, Donald Trump disbanded the pandemic teams, cut the budget for the CDC and tried to build a wall to keep out Mexicans. He has turned recklessness into an art form. Of course, he did not create C19, but he has, and is, making it much worse.
I always want to end on a happy thought. This can be fixed.
1) Reduce the number of people on the planet by 3 billion at least;
2) Reduce the number of Donald Trumps by one (ideally, remove the whole family tree); and
3) Stop treating every square inch of the planet as a tourist destination.
Very Stable Genius, A: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America; Philip Rucker & Carol Leoning; 2020; Penguin Press; 416 pgs; notes, index
This was a much awaited book when it showed up. It covers the Trump history from getting elected (when the first thing he did was lie and claim he won the popular vote) to just after the infamous July 25th phone call to the president of Ukraine. Like books from other reporters like Bob Woodward, this book is heavy on basic facts. It is clearly written and as the title of the book implies, the authors know about whom they are writing. Unlike Woodward's books, which I found dry and dull, I rather enjoyed reviewing the events of the last few years in one compact reference.
Trump fired Comey -- who he knew was on the west coast -- by sending a letter a letter through one of his henchmen. He also torpedoed him on Twitter. When told that he had screwed up in sending the letter as he did, he replied "I know, fucking incompetence. Drives me crazy!" (referring to his staff). Trump never errs. Period.
The material in the book is largely familiar to anyone who has followed the election of the Mango Mussolini. If you had negative opinions of him, and who doesn't, this book will be satisfying and scary at the same time. If sheds some light on the Mueller report and why it fell so flat. It also illuminates the mind of Trump.
He is a petty, pompous, pugnacious, pinhead (at that is just the "P"s) in charge of a country he does not understand. Every person who has been in contact with him for any length of time has walked away from him covered in bullshit and fleas. Some still serve, but most have been arrested or driven from office.
In years to come, this book will become a reference for the times. The only unsatisfying aspect of the book is that it ends before the story is over.
As a skeptic, I have read a lot about cults. We had at least two ex-cult members lecture the BC Skeptics . I spoke with them in person. The difference between a cult and a religion is often subtle. In this case, we are talking about a political figure who demands utmost fealty and believes he can do no wrong. The is nothing subtle about Trump , and the parallels between the Trump movement and the rise of Nazi Germany continue to trouble me.
Impeach: The Case Against Donald Trump; Neal Katyal, Sam Koppleman; 2019 (Dec); Mariner Books; 156 pgs, notes, exhibits
This book was banged out in two weeks and published just before Trump was actually impeached. In this case, I think the word "impeach" really means "impeach and convict (i.e.: remove from office)". It is remarkably current considering the pace of events.
Katyal is a regular on MSNBC and worked in the Obama Whitehouse. He is a Constitutional scholar and Professor of Constitutional Law. The book is a quick read. The writing is concise and clear.
He outlines the history of impeachment first. He then examines the evidence, and the case against DJT. The legal issues are well explained . He finds himself teaching the American people law in the usual way: establish a set of hypothetical circumstances, and then explore the legal consequences.
Except this time, the circumstances are real, and USA is dealing with a bizzaro hypothetical come to life. Finally, he offers up some legislative patches that might make it harder for the next out-of-control President to follow in DJT's footprints.
The Whistler-Blower's statement is in it in full. It was compelling reading. The WB really did his homework well.
Katyal lays out the case why DJT must be removed from office very convincingly. I could go through the long list of things that Trump has done, but they are well known and there is no point in my summarizing a summary.
The book is not expensive and is out in paperback. Read it for yourself.
This version of the report has introduction material and a number of appendices added. The full report is a part of it.
Because the Mueller Report is essentially photo-reduced to fit inside the book sized printed page of this report, the resultant font is very small. And I am getting a bit old. The reason they did this is clear… to keep all page references accurate and referable. That is, if you hear that something was written on page 150 of the actual report, you will have no trouble finding it.
I did not read it all. I only scanned the collusion/Russia half, knowing that it did not come to any conclusions that are not already part of history. Trump colluded his brains out (and he recently said he would do it again), but criminal conspiracy (which I believe requires a quid pro quo) could not be proven.
I read the half on Obstruction of Justice (OoJ) more carefully. There are several key obstructive acts that are as plain as day, all done in public, that they did not charge Trump with…. Because they say at the outset that they cannot charge a sitting president. Mueller all but said: "He is guilty, so Congress… you must act!"
The most striking thing about the OoJ evidence is that almost all of it took place in plain view or was report contemporaneously by various news outlets. I was constantly saying to myself "Oh yeah, I remember that."
So why have they not started impeachment proceedings? Beats me! I believe that should for many reasons, most of which were excellently described by John Oliver on his TV show (aired June 16, 2019).
This is not a readable book, but it is historic, and a good reference.
Michael Lewis has written some great books (Moneyball, The Big Short etc). I cannot really count this one among them. Nevertheless, it was interesting. Heavy leading and lots of white space make the 219 pages a short read.
This book a basically a collection of anecdotes about Trump taking power.
The first section focuses on the DOE. When Trump took power, he resented having to spend money on transitions (which he is required to do by law). He wanted to keep the money for himself! As a result, there was no smooth transition between administrations. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The first thing the Trump administration asked for was a list of DOE names that had attended any climate related discussions!
Like all departments, the DOE had prepared a primer on what the role of the DOE was. But no one showed up to see it! Rick Perry attended a meeting to brief him. He spent mere minutes familiarizing himself with the department. One official was ousted from her physical office by Eric Trump's brother in law who took it. No one knew why.
The DOE does a lot of things, like making sure reactors don't melt down, and that no bomb material "gets lost". Over the years, the DOE has recovered enough material to make 160 bombs. It is populated by some very smart people. They made sure, for example, that Iran lived up to its part of the deal… until Trump killed the deal. Trump likes to do things in half measures. DOE interviewees point out the dangers of cutting corners, and the huge risks involved when you do.
It is hard to build a fence. It is easy to knock it down. And it is stupid to knock it down if you don't understand why it is there.
The same story unfolded at the USDA (Department of Agriculture). Everyone was waiting to hand over power, and no one showed up… for a month. Soon, the USDA board was occupied by a long haul trucker, an AT&T clerk, a gas company meter reader and a cabana boy. The USDA is responsible for a lot of things, like crops, and nutrition, food stamps etc., and it is now being run by the least competent people imaginable who all hate climate change
The Department of Commerce sounds dull. It does have trade responsibilities, but mostly it is a data bank (data from agencies like NOAA and NASA). Information is their currency. And they have a lot of it. They got the same treatment as the other departments. Wilbur Ross runs it. He and Trump are cut from the same cloth.
Fun fact: Really rich people do not want to be listed in the Forbes 500. Only three in the history of the magazine have fought to get on the list: Saudi Prince Alwaleed, Donald Trump and Wilbur Ross!
The problem is this: Scientific data can be used for many things. Like predicting weather to help farmers make timely planting decisions for example. Huge amounts of data were made public, and scientists used that data to make the world better (you will have to read the book for details), but Trump et al smelled climate change, removed all references to it from all web sites, and removed the aforementioned data from the cloud.
There is an interesting conflict building. AccuWeather gets its data from the feds. But they make money selling that information and the feds give it away for free. So AccuWeather sought to stop the feds from doing that.
Soon, you can expect to see headlines like "Hurricane coming! If you want to know where and when, subscribe to AccuWeather now!".
It will take many years to undo the damage that Trump has done to the US and the world.
I borrowed this book from my brother. My usual habit is to highlight sections of interest as I read a book and use them as notes to create my own notes. But it is not my book, so this will be brief.
The is largely a fact heavy book. I was reminded of much and learned a little. If you want to see a good review of just how deep Trump is, or might be, in cahoots with the Russians, this is the book. I had a renewed sense of outrage over Trump cozying up to ambassador Kislyak and inviting him into the Oval Office.
In many ways, the book is premature as the Russian connection is still being explored. Manafort has just turned on Trump as I write, so there are probably new tales to be told.
One largely unanswered question was why the Obama administration dragged it feet in blowing the whistle on Russian interference in the election.
Along the way, the book reminds us of Clinton's difficulties during the election. The general view of the Clintons as influence peddlers and money/power grubbers was briefly reinforced.
I read it from cover to cover, so that says something. If you are into the details, this is a good book to turn to; for more arm-wavy scary stories, I suspect (I have not read it yet) Woodward's book is the better bet.
Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic; David Frum; 2018; Harper Collins; 235 pgs; notes, index
David Frum is a name you might find familiar. He is the son of Barbara Frum (the internet does not mention his father), a Canadian journalist that I recall for her raised eye brow and her tenacity.
David Frum is a conservative, and he sees Trump as an idiot. DJT has no idea what real conservatism means. I liked Barabara Frum and I like David Frum, who regularly appears on MSNBC and shows like Bill Mahar. I learned a thing or two about conservative politics from the book, but that was not its point.
Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump… the most powerful man in the universe. -- Omarosa Manigault
Omarosa is a whore (in the political sense). Once she was physically ejected from the White House, she jumped to the "detractor" ship in a nanosecond. The quote speaks not just to her sycophancy, but the whole, disreputable, in many cases felonious, cast of slobbering ring-kissers he has surrounded himself with.
I liked this book, because it took no sides that I can see. Frum called out Democrats, as well as Trump-ites and Republicans, when he had to… but mostly the latter. He sees Trump as destroying not only the country but the ideals of his party.
The book is a quick read. After all, the Trump story is only half way in. But the leading is loose and the 235 pages go by quickly. It is broken into chapters that discuss how he got there, who helped and why, and what the result was. Spoiler alert: its not good.
He discusses the history from birther BS through to Republicans hating him, to their come-to-Jesus moment when he won. Now it seems he can do no wrong in Republican eyes. Who can forget the "thank you for the honor of licking your boots Mr Trump" meeting he had on air to feed his ego. The chapter called Plunder speaks for itself. Trump's in-your-face lies and self enrichment never cease to amaze me. He is conning the public in the least subtle way one can imagine, and they just take it.
Trump's golfing-loving lifestyle has a already cost the American people more in one year than Obama burned in eight. The Kushners have two agendas, get out from under 666 Park Place, and get richer.
Read the book if only to discover the good news, according to Frum. The good news is that post-Trump America will probably put a leash on the powers of the president and that a better, sounder democracy will emerge from the wilderness. They can start by making it law that the president must submit his taxes.
Fun facts from the book...
We all know Trump refused to release his taxes, but he also funneled campaign funds into his own businesses. The book reports that DJT's companies do not generate P&Ls and balance sheets because no one in the family reads them. DJT ignorance of world affairs allows him to cling to a belief that the US has a trade deficit with Germany and that Germany believes it is under trade restrictions. They are. Germany is part of the EU, which is the entity Trump should be talking to.
I recommend this book as a good read, especially because it comes from a conservative.
Lee Moller is a life-long skeptic and atheist and the author of The God Con.