Gift Guide: Books About Trump And The Fall of America

Might as well admit it. America has been ruined. Oh, it is fixable, not “totaled” like your car after you roll it down a hill during an ice storm. More like you failed to set the parking break and it got loose and crashed into a brick wall, then some hoodlum broke through the window and ripped out your radio, then there was a hail storm…

Anyway, here is a carefully selected list of books related to Trump and the Trump fake Presidency, integrated with a list of books that are NOT about that, but rather, leadership in history. The former are to get you steamed up, the latter, they are the control rods. A few are just about attacks on democracy from the elite and powerful.

I thought it would be fun if everybody gave at least one of these books to somebody as a holiday gift this year. I’ll be giving a few.

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodard is the current cannon for events surrounding Trump’s rise to power and the first several months of his presidency. This is a must read. Woodward’s book is the professional jouranlist deep dive that obviates Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, but I recommend Wolff’s book as well.

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America by Nancy MacLean is a book much hated by the right wing, and that is very much under attack by them, so it is a fair guess that MacLean is on to something.

The enemy in this particular story is not Barry Goldwater, or the Koch Brothers, but rather economics James McGill Buchanan. Of course, Charles Koch ends up being a disciple of Buchannan’s approach, ad do others. And that is where the money comes from.

MacLean’s key point is that this is not a battle of who rules, but rather, what the rules are, and the key objective is to rewrite those rules so the wealthy elite can, well, rule.

Buchanan was a well established and widely respected scholar, won the Nobel, founded a center for studies in political economy. When he died (2013) the New York times noted that he had influenced the current generation “of conservative thinking about deficits, taxes and the size of government.”

Impeachment is on the table, and there is a new book out that helps us understand the earlier impeachments, and I recommend it. Impeachment: An American History by Jon Meacham, Peter Baker, Tim Naftali, and Jefrey Engel.

Four experts on the American presidency examine the three times impeachment has been invoked—against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton—and explain what it means today.

Impeachment is a double-edged sword. Though it was designed to check tyrants, Thomas Jefferson also called impeachment “the most formidable weapon for the purpose of a dominant faction that was ever contrived.” On the one hand, it nullifies the will of voters, the basic foundation of all representative democracies. On the other, its absence from the Constitution would leave the country vulnerable to despotic leadership. It is rarely used, and with good reason.

Only three times has a president’s conduct led to such political disarray as to warrant his potential removal from office, transforming a political crisis into a constitutional one. None has yet succeeded. Andrew Johnson was impeached in 1868 for failing to kowtow to congressional leaders—and, in a large sense, for failing to be Abraham Lincoln—yet survived his Senate trial. Richard Nixon resigned in August 1974 after the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against him for lying, obstructing justice, and employing his executive power for personal and political gain. Bill Clinton had an affair with a White House intern, but in 1999 he faced trial in the Senate less for that prurient act than for lying under oath about it.

In the first book to consider these three presidents alone—and the one thing they have in common—Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker explain that the basis and process of impeachment is more political than legal. The Constitution states that the president “shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors,” leaving room for historical precedent and the temperament of the time to weigh heavily on each case. This book reveals the complicated motives behind each impeachment—never entirely limited to the question of a president’s guilt—and the risks to all sides. Each case depended on factors beyond the president’s behavior: his relationship with Congress, the polarization of the moment, and the power and resilience of the office itself. This is a realist view of impeachment that looks to history for clues about its potential use in the future.

The timing of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s latest book is perfect.

She is an excellent historian and writer, and you probably know of her as the author of several of the best, or at least very nearly the best, volumes on a range of key subjects in American History. She wrote Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln about Lincoln, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream: The Most Revealing Portrait of a President and Presidential Power Ever Written about Johnson, No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II about FDR, and The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism about TR.

And now, we have Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I strongly recommend all of her books.

In Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life in Intelligence, James Clapper states very clearly that in his opinion as the top person in the US Intelligence Community at the time, that yes, the Russian interference determined the outcome, it was sufficient to turn the election to Trump, and had it not happened, had the Russians not interfered, there would be no President Trump.

That is, of course, not all that is in this 400+ page book! As we run of the mill Americans find it more and more important to understand the inner workings of the Intelligence Community, this will become an important touchstone into that process, its history, and its psychology and professional orientation. Clappers book is a must read.

The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy by Brian Klass. It is the current Amazon best seller in the category … wait for it … “facism.” Here’s the details:

An ex-US campaign advisor who has sat with the world’s dictators explains Donald Trump’s increasingly authoritarian tactics and the threat they pose to American democracy.

Donald Trump isn’t a despot. But he is increasingly acting like The Despot’s Apprentice, an understudy in authoritarian tactics that threaten to erode American democracy. Whether it’s attacking the press, threatening rule of law by firing those who investigate his alleged wrongdoings, or using nepotism to staff the White House, Donald Trump is borrowing tactics from the world’s dictators and despots. Trump’s fascination for the military, his obsession with his own cult of personality, and his deliberate campaign to blur the line between fact and falsehood are nothing new to the world of despots. But they are new to the United States. With each authoritarian tactic or tweet, Trump poses a unique threat to democratic government in the world’s most powerful democracy.

At the same time, Trump’s apprenticeship has serious consequences beyond the United States too. His bizarre adoration and idolization of despotic strongmen?from Russia’s Putin, to Turkey’s Erdogan, or to the Philippines’ Duterte has transformed American foreign policy into a powerful cheerleader for some of the world’s worst regimes.

The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy will explore how Trump uniquely threatens democracy?and how to save it from him.

Here is a discussion with the author.

Other books of interest:

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

Impeachment, a Citizen’s Guide by Cass Sunstein.

Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family, but Emily Jane Fox.

Second edition, with added “Trump” chapter, on climate change: The Madhouse Effect.

Books about the not too distant past, the Kennedies, the 60s, and so on, are covered (along with some other books) in this anthology of reviews.

And finally, Goodnight Trump: A Parody

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5 thoughts on “Gift Guide: Books About Trump And The Fall of America

  1. Saw Michael Lewis interviewed on Amanpour the other night. I haven’t read his book, but it sounds like it might be a fit for the above list:

    “The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy”
    by Michael Lewis

  2. For those on a limited book budget, I can recommennd The Constitution Demands It: The Case for the Impeachment of Donald Trump by Fein, Bonifaz, & Clements. It devotes eight of its ten chapters to the major areas of misconduct — e.g. obstruction of justice, abusing the pardon power — and lays out the known evidence for each.

    It’s comprehensive, takes a “just the facts” approach, and as a paperback of 183 pages is relatively inexpensive.

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