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259 pages, Kindle Edition
First published November 19, 2019
He was like a 12-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport. This was not how it was supposed to be.----------------------------------------
In the history of American democracy, we have had undisciplined presidents. We have had incurious presidents. We have had inexperienced presidents. We have had amoral presidents. Rarely if ever before have we had them all at once.Given the spate of news reports and exposés in newspapers, magazines, TV, and in social media, it is impossible to keep up, as the outrages revealed last week are topped by the revelations brought forth this week, which will, of course, be topped by the revelations coming out next week in the book by whichever former Administration official or government whistle blower is next up. What makes any of them any different from any other? We know that Trump lies incessantly, so it is no shock to anyone with a functional brain when yet another lie is shown to be just that. What makes this book different (and, having read only a few of these things, I may be omitting similarities to books I have not taken in) is the view, fueled by observation, of just how bad things actually are.
The administration was only a few weeks in, and already the mayhem made everyone look foolish. Internal whispers grew louder; This was not a way to do business. As a result, people who’d previously been outsiders to Trump World grew closer to one another and developed a bizarre sense of fraternity, like bank-robbery hostages lying on the floor at gun-point, unable to sound the alarm but aware that everyone else was stricken with the same fear of the unknown.The author, who purports to be a “Senior Trump Administration Official,” divides the book between references to classical sociopolitical looks at leadership, and his-or-her first-hand observations (and second-hand reports) of Trump’s behavior, with a bit of analysis of the groups and competing interests within the Administration.
“He must gain the support of the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own, but are ready to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently.”Of course, Hayek goes too far,
…Hayek said authoritarian types need to weld the group together by appealing to their basic human weaknesses. “It seems to be easier for people to agree on a negative program—on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of the better off—than on any positive task. The contrast between the ‘we’ and the ‘they’ is consequently always employed by those who seek the allegiance of huge masses.”
an autocrat needs a group with questionable morals, which will also tend to be undereducatedSorry, this is pure class bias, presuming as it does that the well-educated, who tend to be wealthier, are of a higher moral character than the poorer, less-well-educated rabble. Are the Kochs well educated? The Republicans in the Senate? The thieves on Wall Street? The CEOs of oil and gas transnationals? If anything, the middle, working and poor classes might be said to be of superior moral quality to those in power, who often seem selected by their degree of disregard for everyone else.
We can tell when Trump is preparing to ask his lawyers to do something unethical or foolish because that’s when he begins scanning the room for note takers. “What the fuck are you doing?” he shouted at an aide who was scribbling in a notebook during a meeting…His paranoia is the best evidence of a guilty conscience.If you wonder why the man who criticized Obama for playing too much golf spends such an incredible amount of time away from the West Wing, one reason (not to minimize Trump’s aversion to actual work) is that his staff schedules him for as much time as possible out of town to reduce the likelihood of major screw-ups. It is not news that the man made famous for the line “You’re Fired,” on TV is too cowardly to fire anyone in person, preferring to do the job by tweet or by having another underling do the deed.
We learned that, given enough time and space, Donald J. Trump will abuse any power he is given.