I’d like to start off by saying I am not yet finished with the audiobook. I’m 6 hours in, with plenty still to cover. And that’s listening at 1.5x rate.
I believe this is the most important piece of journalism in decades. Probably since the last time he took down a US President.
The portrait of the current US administration either triggers my confirmation bias, or I’ve been building a pretty accurate mental model of what’s going on there. Based upon my understanding of Bob Woodward, his journalism reputation and methodology, I believe his reporting. Trump refused to speak with Woodward, although he attempted to claim ignorance about Woodwards attempt to contact him.
What I see is a man who is mentally and emotionally unfit for the role of President of the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out he has an actual psychological issue, but it may just be as simple of a man who grew up being able to do anything he wants with few consequences.
Individuals seeing the problem, attempt to hold off potential disaster through unilateral manipulation.
But now there was the letter, dated September 5, 2017, a potential trigger to a national security catastrophe. Cohn was worried Trump would sign the letter if he saw it. Cohn removed the letter draft from the Resolute Desk. He placed it in a blue folder marked “KEEP.” “I stole it off his desk,” he later told an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”
Not a grand conspiracy, but a chaotic elbowing for power by many tiny dictators. Some institutional government like Comey, and some wielding power stemming from wealth and personal connections.
The president was serious again. Porter drafted a 180-day notification letter to be signed by Trump that the United States would withdraw from NAFTA. Porter was more and more convinced that it could trigger an economic and foreign relations crisis with Canada and Mexico. He went to see Cohn. “I can stop this,” Cohn said to Porter. “I’ll just take the paper off his desk before I leave.” And he later took it. “If he’s going to sign it, he’s going to need another piece it was out of mind.
The tactics vary per person based upon their own personal set of ethics and priorities. Many staked out positions within the government in their own pet projects, which is pretty plain to see with the government appointments.
Betsy DeVos, with no education system background, but an opinion on what the school system should do.
Scott Pruitt, a man who spent a career attacking the EPA and is used to the excesses of a private life that seems to toe the line of embezzlement. He was not clearly not expecting the ethical rigors of the public sector.
There are plenty more examples of individuals who understood how to butter up Trump winding up exactly where they wanted. To be able to do the right thing for the greater good, at least from their perspective.
The man is easy to manipulate, and they knew he was too dangerous to be in charge. They used this to push their own personal agendas, without having a good understanding of the wider consequence of their actions that comes from a lifetime of dealing with complex international issues.
That explains the chaos. The changes in tactics. The lack of a coherent strategy. The confusion around what is or isn’t happening.
To me, this looks like the start of totalitarianism.
We have reached the point where individuals at the top believe that it is reasonable for them to take unilateral action based upon their own personal views or what is right and important. I’d call it fascism, but under any term it is wrong.
Trump is an incompetent leader. But he’s not my biggest concern here, it is the vacuum of power waiting for someone to step into it. Imagine if Trump was an actual unifying figure instead of a polarizing idiot. Or if Bannon was able to get unify the administration under him.
Can we afford to wait while someone more capable of achieving their goals steps in to that environment? Left or right, that is never the greater good.