Sunday, June 13, 2021

Making Book on Trump:What can we learn from the library of volumes by Trump haters?

The presidency of Donald Trump was not just a boon for CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. It was also a gift to the book business. There was, publishers found, an apparently insatiable hunger for anti-Trump screeds.
One after another of these tomes hit the bestseller lists. While there were the inevitable differences among them in style and perspective, virtually all shared a single theme: Trump was not just a president whose politics the authors disliked; he was the worst person ever to hold the office, unique in his bigotry, corruption, ignorance, stupidity, egomania – indeed, in the estimation of many, comparable to Hitler. In general, the author paid very little if any attention to Trump’s actual political ideas, programs, or accomplishments; instead, their focus was on his personality and personal views, real or imagined – and, by extension, on the supposed attitudes of Trump’s supporters, whose very enthusiasm for him was treated as a character flaw and, indeed, an existential threat to American democracy, tolerance, and social cohesion. Some, if not all, of the writers did not trouble to hide the fact that their disdain for Trump and his voters was rooted in snobbery, regional prejudice, and ideological rancor.
These books fell into a number of general categories. Some were works of reportage by journalists who covered Trump. Some, such as former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, 384 pages), former FBI director James Comey’s A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership (Flatiron, 2018, 312 pages), Comey’s Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust (Flatiron, 2021, 240 pages), and former FBI deputy director Andrew G. McCabe’s The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (St. Martin’s, 2019, 288 pages) were by members of the intelligence community and former government officials. Some, such as Michael Cohen’s Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump (Skyhorse, 2020, 432 pages) and Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Creates the World’s Most Dangerous Man (Simon & Schuster, 2020, 240 pages), were by former associates and family members. Some were by psychologists who professed to diagnose Trump’s mental conditions; some were by NeverTrump conservatives; some pushed the Russian collusion narrative; some spun conspiracy theories. And some, such as How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them (Random House, 2018, 240 pages) by Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley, Twilight of Democracy by Russian author Masha Gessen (Riverhead, 2020, 288 pages), and Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Autocracy (Doubleday, 2020, 224 pages), by longtime Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, linked Trump to historical fascism. We cannot examine each of these categories in detail but let’s take a quick spin through some of the more important ones, highlighting their distinctive qualities, after which we will consider what they have in common and above all what they reveal—not about Donald Trump himself, but about their authors. For Trump is a unique figure in American life who stands as a kind of Rorschach on which people project their deepest fears and prejudices.
First, a look at the works of reportage (to use the term loosely). It’s important to note at the outset that political reporting, as traditionally understood, went out the window when Trump came down that escalator at Trump Tower and, in the view of mainstream journalists, began a years-long national emergency Some even declared openly that this crisis required them to dispense with even an attempt at objectivity. They were now champions of the people against Trump’s tyranny and lies, whose job was not to report the news but to stand as the last bulwark of democracy. This self-dramatizing posture led to a great deal of narcissistic preening. And on this front, no one was more objectionable, and more ridiculous, than Brian Stelter and Jim Acosta-
Stelter, the George Constanza lookalike who hosts the risibly named Reliable Sources on CNN, weighed in with Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth (Atria/One Signal Productions, 2020, 368 pages). “Like so many Americans,” he maintained at the outset, “I’m shocked and angry. So what you’ll get in these pages is not the Stelter in a navy blue blazer that you see on CNN. I’m writing this book as a citizen; as an advocate for factual journalism; and as a new dad who thinks about what kind of world my children are going to inherit. This story is about a rot at the core of our politics. It’s about an ongoing attack on the very idea of a free and fair press.” Many of these reporters sounded this theme, preening as courageous free-speech champions in the most vulgar and theatrical way imaginable, even though Trump posed no threat whatsoever to their free speech. In any event, this professed raison d’etre notwithstanding, the book was mostly a grab-bag of nasty Fox News gossip. On Election Night 2016, wrote Stelter, “Pete Hegseth and Jesse Watters walked around like they owned the building. They were drunk with power.” Without the help of one Fox exec, host Brian Kilmeade would be “a soccer coach in Massapequa” and commentator Brian Doocy would be working for Avis. Reading this book was like sitting at an airport bar next to for a Goodyear sales guy who wants to tell you all about the jerks at Michelin.
White House suspends credentials for CNN
correspondent Jim Acosta
Another CNN star, White House correspondent Jim Acosta, whose behavior in the Trump press room earned him a national reputation as a buffoon and (evidently) the contempt of many of his colleagues, also cast himself as a free-speech hero in The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell the Truth in America (Harper, 2019, 368 pages). TV viewers familiar with Acosta’s ego (one sentence began: “Not to sound like Forrest Gump, repeatedly appearing at famous events...”) won’t be surprised to know that his book was as much about him as about Trump. Informed observers know that in response to media lies about him, Trump called them “the enemy of the people.” But for Acosta, Trump was the real enemy, unleashing “a profound assault on the truth” and obliging the media “to fight for the truth” and, in fact, “to tell the truth, even when it hurts.” And the biggest media hero of all was – who else? – Jim Acosta: “call me a showboater or a grandstander….I will go to my grave convinced deep down in my bones that journalists are performing a public service...even if we sometimes sound a little over the top. That noise is the sound that a healthy, functioning democracy makes.”
Acosta discussed the temporary suspension of his White House pass at length as if it were an international crisis. While having nothing to say about Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Trump voters as “deplorables,” he throttled White House official Stephen Miller for saying that he, Acosta, had a “cosmopolitan bias.” (Miller’s concern about illegal immigration made him a bête noir for several of these writers, with Toobin mocking him as Trump’s “enabler” and Rick Wilson accusing him of seeking to “purge America of the brown people.) Miller meant that Acosta reflected big-city, blue-state politics; but Acosta couldn’t help reminding us that “the term cosmopolitan was used by Joseph Stalin to purge anti-Soviet critics” and by Nazis to describe Jews. This kind of connect-the-dots political analysis was common to books about Trump, in which factoids and random quotes were strung together to make the case that he was the reincarnation of Hitler. Asserting that he “would debate Miller anytime anywhere on…immigration,” Acosta seemed unaware that it wasn’t his job to debate but to report; indeed, his repeated snipes at popular Trump policies only underscored the fact that this supposedly objective reporter was always a partisan. Indeed, as we will see, all of these so-called reporters crossed that line when it came to Trump.
Read the rest from Bruce Bawer HERE

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