It might seem like there have been a thousand books written in the last few weeks and months on the Trump presidency, but the number written recently by Trump insiders, outsiders, pundits, friends, enemies, generals, and others is probably closer to a dozen and counting. Still, with a Presidential election a month away, anything you want to know, confirm, or contemplate about our current President is just a click away.
There’s “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Presidential niece, Mary Trump, a tell-all that describes the tale of a very poor businessman and alleged exploiter of an Alzheimer’s riddled father. “Fear,” by legendary Washington Post reporter and executive, Bob Woodward, details a president who hid the truth about COVID-19 as thousands died. “The Room Where it Happened,” is former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s recollection of the good along with the inexplicable decisions made by an unpredictable national leader, from engaging with rogue North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un to a critique on the famous Trump coif and makeup.
“The President provides good fodder,” said Rob Preuhs. “There’s a lot of interest in his behavior and ideas,” added the Metropolitan State University of Denver political scientist. “The timing of an election year is perfect for financial incentive combined with some grievances among former employees.” And the well of grievances is amazing.
Mary Trump’s book contains direct and salacious quotes from the President’s own sister. They were gleaned by the niece who secretly recorded them in what was thought to be a pleasant visit with a fond, older relative. While the visit may have been pleasant, the conversation was searing. Maryann Trump, the President’s older sister and retired federal judge, calls her brother “stupid, phony and cruel,” someone who only cares about himself no matter the pain or wreckage that may result.
“A lot of books come out with undisclosed sources and second-hand sources,” said Preuhs. But this cycle of books may not follow tradition. Maryanne Trump’s words are captured in crystal clear audio. The same for those in Woodward’s “Rage,” in which he recorded nearly twenty hours of one-on-one phone calls with the President.
Bolton’s “The Room Where it Happened,” doesn’t contain the same sourcing, but the veteran diplomat and hawkish foreign policy advisor, is a take-no-prisoners’ critic of the man he served for twenty months before an unceremonious firing.
“I’m actually worried that the second term might be worse than the first term,” he said of Trump. Bolton excoriates Trump for basing his decisions not so much on the good of the country, but on what was good for Trump, himself. “He did it (made decisions) not because of the merits of the argument,” said Bolton. “But because of the fear of the political blowback he would get domestically if he went a different direction.”
Woodward, who has written about every president from Nixon to Trump, spent hours in conversation with Trump, both in the Oval Office and in late night phone calls made by Trump to him. “I love the guy,” said Trump when asked an opinion on Woodward. Those words changed quickly when “Rage,” was released.
“Rage,” quotes Trump as knowing early on that COVID-19 was serious while at the same time saying publicly that it was not much worse than a bad cold or the flu. “It’s gonna be gone. It’s gonna be eradicated,” Trump says in one conversation. “I always wanted to play it down.” Trump, Woodward recounts, knew the danger of the virus as early as February.
On race, Trump ridicules Woodward’s attempt to get an answer on the challenges of being Black in America and the advantages of White privilege. “You really drank the Kool-Aid,” he said. “Just listen to you. Wow. No. I don’t feel that at all.”
Of all the books, said Preuhs, “Rage,” may be the most damaging. The words are right out of the President’s mouth. “A lot of books come out with undisclosed sources and second-hand sources,” he said. “Rage,” is backed up with unaltered audio.
The list of books goes back to early in the Trump presidency. Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” hit the bookshelves two years ago. Wolff was granted access to White House personnel and detailed a very unflattering profile of Trump from a number of high level staffers.
“A Very Stable Genius,” by Washington Post reporters Michael Rucker and Carol Leonning. The pair spoke with more than a hundred Trump White House intimates who characterize the President in unflattering terms, including those of former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tillerson said of Trump that he was “unprepared and ill equipped” for the top job, adding the coup de grace appellation that Trump was an “F-word idiot.” Trump, in school boy payback, countered that Tillerson, the former head of Exxon, was “dumb as a rock.”
Other books on Trump have been written by Michael Cohen, Trump’s one time attorney who was sentenced to three years in federal prison for lying to Congress. Cohen said he lied to protect his ex-boss. He now makes the rounds regularly on cable news to reenforce his undiluted disdain for the man he once said he “would take a bullet for.”
Anthony Scaramucci, one-time White House Communications Director, one-time Trump friend, now detractor, penned, “Trump, The Blue Collared President.” Former Trump Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, wrote “Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead,” a veiled criticism of Trump. “We all know we are better than our current politics,” said Mattis without naming Trump directly.
While most of the books to date on the Trump presidency will appeal mostly to Democrats, said Preuhs, “Republicans will be interested from a strategic standpoint.” So, too, will history.
Trump’s lean-in and audio recordings with Woodward on how the coronavirus would impact his poll numbers are an indictment. History will remember him as the President who knew or suspected the consequences of a mystery virus but chose to do little to alert the country he governed as people suffered and died.