Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward and other Trump reviews

Six new books about Trump depict a president isolated by his bizarre antics and surrounded by staff trying to manage his teenage logic

Whos afraid of Donald Trump? All of us, according to the CBS News correspondent Major Garrett, who believes that we await his next tweeted rant with frenzied dread. The squalling baby with the nuclear toy box would be gratified by Garretts phrase, and indeed Bob Woodwards Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon and Schuster 20)takes its title from Trumps claim in an interview that power depends on frightening people.

Yet in Woodwards meticulous account of office intrigues, the presidents men dont seem to be trembling with fright. What they mostly feel is contempt for Trump or pity for his ignorance and the teenage logic of his obsessively vented grievances. Hence their deft administrative coup dtat: by purloining documents from Trumps desk or slow-walking his intemperate orders, his aides have effectively benched him.

That suits their indolent boss, who is free to watch television, eat hot dogs and swill down Diet Coke during what his diary-keepers euphemise as executive time. Periodically, he is wheeled out to sign bills he hasnt read, with jagged penmanship that resembles an overexcited seismograph but looks authoritative in black Magic Marker. Told by his ideologues that hes a populist, he mangles the word and says: I love that. Thats what I am, a popularist.

Woodwards book actually suggests that for Trump, power is not fear but obscenity. The discussions that Woodwards sources have helped him to reconstruct are filthily cloacal or grossly sexual. Debates about policy are conducted in expletives. The nuclear deal with Iran, Trump declares, is shitty. Other problems are categorised as bullshit or horseshit, while arguments are ripshit.

Trump, mocking the Obama administration for its genderless bathrooms, looks out at a world befouled by shithole countries whose inhabitants dont look Norwegian. Unable to use a computer, he blusters against cyber shit.

My guy does not talk in code, Trumps lawyer warns some geeky colleagues. No, he talks in curses and phallic insults. Trump describes Obama as a weak dick, and HR McMaster responds with a rhyme by calling Trump himself a prick. Steve Bannon testifies that I reached out and sucked Reince Priebuss dick metaphorically, I assume. Engagements with adversaries are sweatily homosocial. Man versus man. Me versus Kim, grunts Trump, before boasting with a puffed-up capital letter that he has a bigger nuclear Button than little Rocket Man. We got screwed, he complains about a Chinese trade deal. Banning pre-op transgenderedtroops, he rages: What the fuck? Theyre getting clipped, which Woodward explains as a crude reference to gender reassignment surgery.

Trump tells Muellers investigators to go fuck themselves, and he bombs Syria as a way of saying Fuck you to Assad. To Putin, I suspect, he might submissively murmur Fuck me: he is all-powerful on Twitter, where his threats disappear into empty air, but quakes when confronted by the despots he reveres as true alphamales.

When he screeches Pull the fucking thing out! its a relief to learn that hes referring to an anti-missile system. Despite Woodwardstitle, its Trump who seems afraid of a job that he cant do, of the advisers who outwit him, and of imminent legal consequences.

The antidote to fear is loathing. The two were inextricably linked by the satirist Hunter S Thompson, whose spirit Ben Fountain invokes in his blazingly vituperative account of Trumps rise, Beautiful Country Burn Again (Canongate 12.99). Whereas Woodward makes no attempt to characterise Trump, treating him as a shapeless chaos, always moving in both directions, Fountain skewers the man by fixing on his semi-human physical repulsiveness: he has a head like a Terminator battering-ram, the white-circled eyes of a skulking raccoon, and skin composed of kiln colours brick red, hot pink, burnt orange, a palette keyed to his flame-thrower lick of hair. Trump is later defined as a bog monster, the product of Americas masturbatory fantasies, who has prevailed because fear is the herpes of American politics.

By contrast with this eruption of poetic rage, Sean Spicer in The Briefing (Biteback 20) gives a masochistically feeble account of his few hapless months in the White House press office. He doesnt even blame Trump for pettily excluding him from an audience at the Vatican, when the fervently Catholic Spicer hoped the pope would bless some olive-wood rosary beads for his poor widowed mum. He does embellish the orange ogres myth by likening him to a unicorn a tribute to Trumps fabulosity, or a way of hinting that he is indecently horny?

Sean
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer in front of waxworks of Melania and Donald Trump at Madame Tussauds. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Spicer, a Republican hack who has made a career out of being a spokesman for the unspeakable, says as little as possible about his erstwhile boss, and has little of interest to say about anything else. When invited on to Trumps campaign plane he appraises the spotless brass accents of the Boeing 757s decor, then concentrates on tallying its altitude. We lifted upward in the air, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 feet, he writes in what must be the dumbest sentence in a vacuous book. At least this vouches for Spicers ability to count, which seems to desert him when he claims that the 14th floor of Trump Tower was just one flight of stairs above the fifth floor. I blinked at this, then did some research. Yes, Trump blithely eliminated eight lower floors so that his towers top levels could have higher numbers, allowing him to increase the rent; and when he refers to the building, he also habitually adds an extra 10 floors to compensate for the height of the atrium, which is as lofty as his teased hairdo. Even architecturally, the man is an unregenerate liar.

Spicer claims to suffer from Catholic guilt, so he must live in dread of the purgatorial flames after the months he spent lying for Trump. Perhaps his flushed face and flustered stuttering in the press room evinced spiritual anguish as well as embarrassment. Aware that his immortal soul was at risk, he read a daily extract from the book Jesus Calling before he faced the reporters; he also conscientiously chewed Orbit cinnamon gum throughout his briefings a masticated Hail Mary to cleanse a mouth that was the channel for so many damnable untruths?

More fearless than Spicer, Trumps ejected aide Omarosa Manigault Newman sashays in for the kill in Unhinged (Simon & Schuster 20). Despite protestations of indignation about Trumps racism, her quarrel with him is not ideological. Her book is an assassination, all the more deftly executed because Omarosa whom Trumps befuddled advocate Rudy Giuliani calls Amarosa, which is definitely a misnomer learned about treachery by studying Trump. Cast as the villain on his reality show The Apprentice, she remodelled herself as a female version of him. In the view of this rampant alter ego, Trump is at once infantile and senescent, a pampered creature of uncensored id whose brain hardly developed before it was rotted by the 44,000 cans of Diet Coke he has so far swilled. Mental decline, as Omarosa judges, is accompanied by moral debility: she calls Trump Twitter Fingers, then watches his tiny hands unpaternally stray low on Ivankas hips. Having broken all the rules of governmental propriety,is he capable of outraging a primal taboo?

Omarosas bad-mouthing has a righteous tinge: she recently got religion and is now an ordained Baptist minister. To God be the glory! is her books last line. I assume the glorification she refers to is the gloss and glitz of her celebrity status, with profits as proof of divine favour. When she deserts her flock for a total Trump detox on Celebrity Big Brother, she relishes being sequestered away from the world: ignoring the omnipresent cameras, she makes Big Bros panopticon sound like a nunnery.

The deity is also stealthily at work in the machinations of pious Mike Pence, who as Michael dAntonio and Peter Eisner argue in The Shadow President (St Martins Press 16.99) affects humility while he counts the days to Trumps removal and his own accession. Pences religiosity, an old acquaintance comments, is an alibi for his fiendishly determined ambition. In Mr Trumps Wild Ride (All Points Books 22.99) Major Garrett observes that Trumps legal dangers and legislative impotence mean that his supporters are left with only his mania the last, inexhaustible commodity. Trump is effectively a nihilist, who now rants about possible impeachment to ratchet up the drama of his downfall. By contrast, Pence is a cold-blooded man of principle, or of what dAntonio and Eisner call evil principles, fixated on the transformation of licentious, liberty-loving America into a theocratic police state. Be afraid, be very afraid, Omarosa whispered to a Big Brother confidant, anticipating Woodwards refrain as she reflected on the menace of the deputy she called the Stepford Veep.

Garrett remembers Newt Gingrich, another sanctimonious political twister, quoting Rilke to justify Trumps antics: If you take away my demons, will the angels leave also? The same supernatural forces are at play in Woodwards book, where Bannon discerns the hand of God in Trumps election while Priebus describes the solitary bedroom where he does his unsupervised tweeting as the devils workshop.

Ben Fountain accuses America of schizophrenia, as red and blue states or white and black races tug the union apart; Id say that the country is embroiled as usual in a Manichean battle between Eden and Armageddon, puritanism and decadence, with Pence and God on one side and the seven deadly but delicious capitalistic sins embodied by Trump on the other. Better the devil we know than the holy hypocrite whos next in line?

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward is published by Simon & Schuster (20). To order a copy for 17.20 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Beautiful Country Burn Again by Ben Fountain is published by Canongate (12.99). To order a copy for 11.17 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

The Briefing by Sean Spicer is published by Biteback (20). To order a copy for 17.20 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Unhinged by Omarosa Manigault Newman is published by Simon & Schuster (20). To order a copy for 17.20 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

Mr Trumps Wild Ride by Major Garrett is published by All Points Books (22.99). To order a copy for 19.77 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over 10, online orders only. Phone orders min p&p of 1.99

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One Comment:

  1. Wow!! Things are bad with this guy aren’t they! Affects and infects the whole world! 🌺🙏🏼❤️

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