Category Archives: God Save America!

Trump’s phony, blowhard trade war just got real, the Economic Consequences – Barry Eichengreen.

For those who observe that the economic and financial fallout from US President Donald Trump’s trade war has been surprisingly small, the best response is that a lagged effect is exactly what we should expect, just wait.

US President Donald Trump’s phony, blowhard trade war just got real.

The steel and aluminum tariffs that the Trump administration imposed at the beginning of June were important mainly for their symbolic value, not for their real economic impact. While the tariffs signified that the United States was no longer playing by the rules of the world trading system, they targeted just $45 billion of imports, less than 0.25% of GDP in an $18.5 trillion US economy.

On July 6, however, an additional 25% tariff on $34 billion of Chinese exports went into effect, and China retaliated against an equivalent volume of US exports. An angry Trump has ordered the US trade representative to draw up a list of additional Chinese goods, worth more than $400 billion, that could be taxed, and China again vowed to retaliate. Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on $350 billion worth of imported motor vehicles and parts. If he does, the European Union and others could retaliate against an equal amount of US exports.

We are now talking about real money: nearly $1 trillion of US imports and an equivalent amount of US export sales and foreign investments.

The mystery is why the economic and financial fallout from this escalation has been so limited. The US economy is humming along. The Purchasing Managers’ Index was up again in June. Wall Street has wobbled, but there has been nothing resembling its sharp negative reaction to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Emerging markets have suffered capital outflows and currency weakness, but this is more a consequence of Federal Reserve interest-rate hikes than of any announcements emanating from the White House.

There are three possible explanations. First, purchasing managers and stock market investors may be betting that sanity will yet prevail. They may be hoping that Trump’s threats are just bluster, or that the objections of the US Chamber of Commerce and other business groups will ultimately register.

But this ignores the fact that Trump’s tariff talk is wildly popular with his base. One recent poll found that 66% of Republican voters backed Trump’s threatened tariffs against China. Trump ran in 2016 on a protectionist vow that he would no longer allow other countries to “take advantage” of the US. His voters expect him to deliver on that promise, and he knows it.

Second, the markets may be betting that Trump is right when he says that trade wars are easy to win. Other countries that depend on exports to the US may conclude that it is in their interest to back down. In early July, the European Commission was reportedly contemplating a tariff-cutting deal to address Trump’s complaint that the EU taxes American cars at four times the rate the US taxes European sedans.

But China shows no willingness to buckle under US pressure. Canada, that politest of countries, is similarly unwilling to be bullied; it has retaliated with 25% tariffs on $12 billion of US goods. And the EU would contemplate concessions only if the US offers some in return such as eliminating its prohibitive tariffs on imported light pickup trucks and vans and only if other exporters like Japan and South Korea go along.

Third, it could be that the macroeconomic effects of even the full panoply of US tariffs, together with foreign retaliation, are relatively small. Leading models of the US economy, in particular, imply that a 10% increase in the cost of imported goods will lead to a one-time increase in inflation of at most 0.7%.

This is simply the law of iterated fractions at work. Imports are 15% of US GDP. Multiply 0.15 by 0.10 (the hypothesized tariff rate), and you get 1.5%. Allow for some substitution away from more expensive imported goods, and the number drops below 1%. And if growth slows because of the higher cost of imported intermediate inputs, the Fed can offset this by raising interest rates more slowly. Foreign central banks can do likewise.

Still, one worries, because the standard economic models are notoriously bad at capturing the macroeconomic effects of uncertainty, which trade wars create with a vengeance. Investment plans are made in advance, so it may take, say, a year for the impact of that uncertainty to materialize, as was the case in the United Kingdom following the 2016 Brexit referendum. Taxing intermediate inputs will hurt efficiency, while shifting resources away from dynamic high-tech sectors in favor of old-line manufacturing will depress productivity growth, with further negative implications for investment. And these are outcomes that the Fed cannot easily offset.

So, for those who observe that the economic and financial fallout from Trump’s trade war has been surprisingly small, the best response is: just wait.

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Barry Eichengreen is Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and a former senior policy adviser at the International Monetary Fund. His latest book is The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era.

ORIGINS OF HATE. Bring the War Home. The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America – Kathleen Belew.

“WE NEED EVERY ONE OF YOU,” proclaimed an anonymous 1985 article in a major white power newspaper. “We need every branch of fighting, militant whites. We are too few right now to excommunicate each other…. Whatever will save our race is what we will do!”

White power activists increasingly saw the state as their enemy. Many pursued the idea of an all-white, racial nation. The militant rallying cry “white power,” which echoed in all corners of the movement, was its most accurate self-descriptor.

Movement leader Louis Beam urged activists to continue fighting the Vietnam War on American soil. He referred to two wars: the one he had fought in Vietnam and the white revolution he hoped to wage in the United States.

In the wake of military failure in Southeast Asia, masculinity provided an ideological frame for the New Right, challenged antiwar sentiment, and idealized bygone and invented familial and gender orders throughout American society. The white power movement capitalized on this wave of broader cultural paramilitarism for its own, violent ends.

Conventional politics was unsalvageable and signaled a state of emergency that could not be resolved through political action alone. Their paramilitary infrastructure stood ready; the war could not wait.

The white power movement sought revolution and separation, the founding of a racial utopian nation.

A large contingent of white power activists in the post-Vietnam moment believed in white supremacy as a component of religious faith. Christian Identity congregations heard their pastors explain that whites were the true lost tribe of Israel and that nonwhites and Jews were descended from Satan or from animals.

White power violence reached a climax in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

War is not neatly contained in the space and time legitimated by the state. It reverberates in other terrains and lasts long past armistice. It comes home in ways bloody and unexpected.

The article spoke of emergency and government treachery. It foretold imminent apocalyptic race war. It called to believers in white supremacist congregations, to Klansmen and southern separatists, and to neoNazis. The white power movement united a wide array of groups and activists previously at odds, thrown together by tectonic shifts in the cultural and political landscape. Narratives of betrayal and crisis cemented their alliances.

Though often described by others as “white nationalist” and by its members as patriotic, this movement did not seek to defend the American nation, even when it celebrated some elements of US. history and identity. Instead white power activists increasingly saw the state as their enemy.

Many pursued the idea of an all-white, racial nation, one that transcended national borders to unite white people from the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and beyond. The militant rallying cry “white power,” which echoed in all corners of the movement, was its most accurate self-descriptor.

At the end of the tumultuous 1970s, in the wake of the Vietnam War and in the midst of economic turmoil and widespread distrust of public institutions, the white power movement consolidated and expanded. In these turbulent years, many Americans lost faith in the state that they had trusted to take care of them. Loss in Vietnam and the Watergate scandal undermined their confidence in elected officials and besmirched the presidency itself. As legislation dramatically increased immigration, many worried that the arrival of immigrants would change the very meaning of American identity. They saw the rights movements of the 1960s redefine race and gender relations at home and at work. They noted with alarm the government’s failure to help those who lost their farms to the banks or their factories to faraway places. As the mainstream right and left took up these concerns in a variety of ways, so did this troubled social and political context incubate white power activism.

PeopIe from all regions of the country answered the white power movement’s call to action, bridging the divide between rural and urban. They were men, women, and children. They were high school dropouts and holders of advanced degrees; rich and poor; farmers and industrial workers. They were felons and religious leaders. They were civilians, veterans, and active duty military personnel.

From its formal unification in 1979 through its 1983 turn to revolutionary war on the government and its militia phase in the early 1990s, the white power movement mobilized adherents using a cohesive social network based on commonly held beliefs. These activists operated with discipline and clarity, training in paramilitary camps and undertaking assassinations, mercenary soldiering, armed robbery, counterfeiting, and weapons trafficking.

White power violence reached a climax in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

A holistic study of the white power movement reveals a startling and unexpected origin: the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

The story activists told about Vietnam and the response to the war on the right were major forces in uniting disparate strands of American white supremacism and in sustaining that unity. As narrated by white power proponents, the Vietnam War was a story of constant danger, gore, and horror. It was also a story of soldiers’ betrayal by military and political leaders and of the trivialization of their sacrifice. This narrative facilitated intergroup alliances and increased paramilitarism within the movement, escalating violence.

In his speeches, newsletters, and influential 1983 collection Essays of a Klansman, movement leader Louis Beam urged activists to continue fighting the Vietnam War on American soil. When he exhorted readers to “bring it on home,” he meant a literal extension of military style combat into civilian space. He referred to two wars: the one he had fought in Vietnam and the white revolution he hoped to wage in the United States.

White power activists would also engage in other wars. Some would become mercenaries in military interventions ranging from Latin America to southern Africa. Others would fight in the Gulf War. Although they comprised only a small number of the combatants in these conflicts, their mercenary and active-duty soldiering assimilated them into the broader militarization and paramilitary culture that was more prominent in American society. Their ventures set the stage for later encounters, such as the sieges of separatist compounds at Ruby Ridge and Waco by militarized police forces, which would, in turn, spur the movement to its largest mass casualty.

The white power movement that emerged from the Vietnam era shared some common attributes with earlier racist movements in the United States, but it was no mere echo. Unlike previous iterations of the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist vigilantism, the white power movement did not claim to serve the state. Instead, white power made the state its target, declaring war against the federal government in 1983. This call for revolution arrived during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, which many historians have considered the triumph of the mainstream New Right.

Antistatism in general, and hostility toward the federal government in particular, had motivated and shaped earlier conservative and reactionary mobilizations as well as the New Right itself, but white power capitalized on a larger current of discontent among conservatives.

By 1984, Time magazine had noticed a “thunder on the right”: a growing dissatisfaction, especially among evangelicals, with the distance between Reagan’s campaign promises and his policies, particularly concerning social issues that galvanized voters, such as abortion.

White power activists responded to Reagan’s first term with calls for a more extreme course of action. Reagan’s moderation, as activists saw it, revealed conventional politics as unsalvageable and signaled a state of emergency that could not be resolved through political action alone. Their paramilitary infrastructure stood ready; the war could not wait.

After declaring war, activists plotted to overthrow the government through attacks on infrastructure, assassinations, and counterfeiting to undermine public confidence in currency. They armed themselves with weapons and matériel stolen from military installations. They matched this revolutionary work with the publication and circulation of printed material, recruitment drives aimed at mainstream conservatives, political campaigns, talk show appearances, and radio programs.

These activities both disseminated a common set of beliefs, goals, and messages to the movement faithful and worked to recruit new members. In the late 1980s, many activists reorganized into militias. Although some militias disclaimed white supremacy in public, many shared funds, weapons, and personnel with white power organizations.

While white power was certainly a fringe movement, it surpassed earlier mobilizations such as the anticommunist John Birch Society. Membership alone is a poor measure of white power activity, with records often hidden, distorted, or destroyed, but nevertheless illuminates the movement’s relative size. Scholars and watchdog groups who have attempted to calculate the numbers of people in the movement’s varied branches, including, for instance, Klansmen and neoNazis, who are often counted separately, estimate that there were about 25,000 “hard-core members” in the 1980s. An additional 150,000-175,000 people bought white power literature, sent contributions to groups, or attended rallies or other events, signifying a larger, although less formal, level of membership. Another 450,000 did not themselves participate or purchase materials but read the literature. The John Birch Society, in contrast, reached only 100,000 members at its 1965 peak.

With the 1983 turn to revolution, the movement adopted a new strategy, “leaderless resistance.” Following this strategy, independent cells and activists would act without direct contact with movement leadership. The aim was to prevent the infiltration of groups, and the prosecution of organizations and individuals, by formally dissociating activists from each other and by eliminating official orders. Popularized throughout the underground, leaderless resistance changed recruitment goals, emphasizing the importance of enlisting a small number of fully committed activists rather than large groups of the less committed. This is another reason membership counts alone could not accurately convey the movement’s impact, activity, or capacity for violence.

Yet to the degree that there is power in numbers, the movement reached a new peak during its militia phase. At the height of its mainstream appeal in the mid-1990s, the militia movement counted some five million members and sympathizers, according to one watchdog analyst. That number certainly represents the upper bound of possibility, and it is likely that the white-power-identified cohort of militia members and sympathizers was significantly smaller. However, five million places the militia movement in line with the largest surge of the Ku Klux Klan, whose membership peaked in 1924 at four million.

While white power activists held worldviews that aligned or overlapped with those of mainstream conservatism, including opposition to immigration, welfare, abortion, feminism, and gay and lesbian rights, the movement was not dedicated to political conservatism aimed at preserving an existing way of life, or even to the reestablishment of bygone racial or gender hierarchies. Instead, it emphasized a radical future that could be achieved only through revolution. While some white power activists might have longed for the reinstatement of Jim Crow laws, white-minority rule as in Rhodesia and South Africa, or slavery, most agreed that such systems could not be resurrected through electoral politics alone but would have to be achieved by more drastic measures.

This abandonment of the political process reflects a profound shift in the American electorate wrought by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which barred disenfranchisement on the basis of race. Reactionary politics, conservatism, and American nationalism had characterized the Klan in the early part of the twentieth century. The white power movement sought revolution and separation, the founding of a racial utopian nation.

Many activists connected ideas of a radical political future with belief in imminent apocalypse. The theologies espoused by white power activists in this period differed significantly from the Protestantism of the reactionary second-era Klan that peaked in the 1920s. White power religious radicalism emerged in part from Cold War understandings of communism as a threat to Christianity. At the same time, a large contingent of white power activists in the post-Vietnam moment believed in white supremacy as a component of religious faith. Christian Identity congregations heard their pastors explain that whites were the true lost tribe of Israel and that nonwhites and Jews were descended from Satan or from animals. Other racist churches adopted similar theologies that lauded whiteness as holy and sought to preserve the white race. Activists also adopted Odinism and other forms of neoPagan white supremacy that posited a shared, pan-European white cultural heritage.

The movement’s religious extremism was integral to its broader revolutionary character. While increasingly politicized evangelical congregations espoused belief in the rapture, a foretold moment when the faithful would be peacefully transported from the world as the apocalyptic end times began Christian Identity and other white theologies offered believers no such guarantees of safety. Instead, they held that the faithful would be tasked with ridding the world of the unfaithful, the world’s nonwhite and Jewish population, before the return of Christ. At the very least, the faithful would have to outlast the great tribulation, a period of bloodshed and strife.

Many movement followers prepared by becoming survivalists: stocking food and learning to administer medical care. Other proponents of white cosmologies saw it as their personal responsibility to amass arms and train themselves to take part in a coming end-times battle that would take the shape of race war.

A war of this scale and urgency demanded that partisans set aside their differences. The movement therefore was flexible in its adoption of racist symbols and beliefs. A Klansman in the South might participate in burning crosses, wear the white robe and hood, and embrace the Confederate battle flag alongside a Lost Cause narrative of the Civil War. A neo-Nazi in the North might march under the banner of the swastika and don an SS uniform. But the once disparate approaches to white supremacy represented by these symbols and ideas were drawn together in the white power movement. A suburban California skinhead might bear Klan tattoos, read Nazi tracts, and attend meetings of a local Klan chapter, a National Socialist political party, the militant White Aryan Resistance, or all three. At the Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho, Klansmen and neo-Nazis ignited both crosses and swastikas as they heard Christian Identity sermons and speakers from an array of white power groups. Activists circulated among groups and belief systems, each of which might include theological, political, and pseudoscientific varieties of racism, antisemitism, and antifeminism.

Amid this multiplicity of symbolic presentations and beliefs, most white power activists found common ground. They believed in white supremacy and the need for a white homeland.

They feared that the government would eradicate the white population through interference with the birth of white children, through interracial marriage, rape, birth control, abortion, and immigration. The antisemitism long espoused by the Klan was reinforced by neo-Nazis. And the movement adopted a strict set of gender and familial roles, particularly regarding the sexual and supportive behavior of white women and their protection by white men.

Another unifying feature of the movement was its strident anticommunism, which at first aligned with mainstream Cold War conservatism and then transformed into an apocalyptic, antiinternationalist, antisemitic set of beliefs and conspiracy theories about what activists called the Zionist Occupational Government (ZOG) and, later, the New World Order.

Increasingly, white power activists believed that the Jewish-Ied ZOG controlled the United Nations, the US. federal government, and the banks, and that ZOG used people of color, communists, liberals, journalists, academics, and other enemies of the movement as puppets in a conspiracy to eradicate the white race and its economic, social, and cultural accomplishments.

To confront this grave threat, activists organized as a paramilitary army and adopted masculine cultural forms. The article that levied the plea “We Need Every One of You” was titled “White Soldier Boy” for a reason. It targeted young white men, not women, for recruitment into the presumptively male world of camouflage fatigues, military-style camps and drills, and military-grade weapons. It also spoke directly to combat veterans and active-duty military personnel.

In this respect, white power can be understood as an especially extreme and violent manifestation of larger social forces that wed masculinity with militancy, in the form of paintball, war movies, gun shows, and magazines such as Soldier of Fortune that were aimed at armchair and weekend warriors. This is not to suggest that such cultural forms were coequal with white power, or with conservatism more broadly. But it is not by coincidence that white power gathered steam amid the wider post-Vietnam “remasculinization of America.” In the wake of military failure in Southeast Asia, masculinity provided an ideological frame for the New Right, challenged antiwar sentiment, and idealized bygone and invented familial and gender orders throughout American society. The white power movement capitalized on this wave of broader cultural paramilitarism for its own, violent ends.

However, the white power movement departed from mainstream paramilitary culture in carving out an important place for women, relied on as symbols of the cause and as activists in their own right. As bearers of white children, women were essential to the realization of white power’s mission: to save the race from annihiiation. More concretely, their supporting roles, auxiliary organizations, and recruiting skills sustained white power as a social movement. They brokered social relationships that cemented intergroup alliances and shaped the movement from within.

In all these ways, its unity, revolutionary commitments, organizing strategy, anticommunist focus, and Vietnam War inheritance, white power was something new. Yet it has often been misunderstood as a simple resurgence of earlier Klan activity. Historians divide the Klan into “eras,” with the first following the Civil War, the second in the 1920s, and the third dedicated to opposing the civil rights movement. To understand white power as a Klan resurgence rests upon an artificial distinction between nonviolent and violent activism, in which the socalled fourth era refers to nonviolent, publicsphere activities, such as rallies and political campaigns, and the fifth era to the criminal activity of a secret, violent underground. This terminology arose from the white power movement itself and evokes previous surges in Klan membership that occurred one after another with lulls between. But the supposed fourth and fifth eras occurred simultaneously. This terminology therefore hinders an understanding of the activism it attempts to describe.

White power should be recognized as something broader than the Klan, encompassing a wider range of ideologies and operating simultaneously in public and underground. Such an understanding is vital lest we erroneously equate white power with covert violence and thereby ignore its significant inroads into mainstream society, which hardly came under cover of night. Activists such as David Duke mounted political campaigns that influenced local and national elections. They produced a vibrant print culture with crossover appeal that reached more mainstream readers. They traveled from church to church, linking religious belief with white power ideology. They created a series of computer message boards to further their cause. They pursued social ties between groups, cementing their political affinities with one another through marriages and other intimate bonds.

These political activists were often the same people who trained in paramilitary camps, plotted race war, and carried out criminal and terrorist acts. The death toll included journalists, state and federal employees, political opponents, and white power activists themselves. The Oklahoma City bombing, undertaken by movement activists, killed 168 people, making it the largest deliberate mass casualty on American soil between the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks of September 11 , 2001.

But the body count alone cannot fully account for the effects of white power violence. That number ignores the lives disrupted by the movement’s rage. The dead left behind grieving, struggling families. And while many were physically attacked, many others were threatened. It would be impossible to tally those who were harassed and wounded emotionally, left too afraid to speak or work. But these wounds, too, bear out the long and broad ramifications of the movement’s violence.

Although the movement’s militancy, and therefore its violence, owes much to the rightwing framing of the Vietnam War, other elements of the 1970s also infused the movement. White power also responded to the changing meaning of the state, sovereignty, and liberal institutions in and after that decade. The dramatic, hard-won gains of feminism, civil rights, secularism, and gay liberation left the 1970s ripe for conservative backlash.

Another factor was emerging economic threat. The post-World War II welfare state had promised jobs, education, and health, but, beginning in 1973, a series of economic shocks displaced the expectation of continued growth and prosperity. An oil crisis brought about the realization that natural resources would not always be cheap and plentiful? Wealth inequality grew and unemployment rose. For the first time since the late 1940s, the promise of prosperity stalled.

Dwindling economic prospects became bound up with cultural backlash. Volition and need alike drove more women into the workforce, threatening both men’s exclusive access to certain jobs and the Cold War-era vision of the suburban, white nuclear family with a wife who stayed at home. The successful civil rights mobilizations of the 1960s gave way to white resistance as news coverage turned to black radicalism, urban riots, and integration. Forced busing of children to integrated public schools became a heated issue, and whites fought back both through school privatization and in heated public protest.

In this context, defense of the family intertwined with defense of free-market ideology. As the stark limitations of New Deal liberalism became clearer, and as civil rights laws made it more difficult to deny opportunities and benefits to nonwhites just as an economic downturn set in, the state could be recast as a menace to morality and prosperity? For many Americans, the state became the enemy. White power activists, driven by their narrative of the Vietnam War, took this sentiment to the extreme in calling for revolution.

Some have argued that white power did not properly constitute a social movement. This claim typically turns on a supposed disconnect between white power and the militia wave, or on a narrow definition of social movements that rests on centralized leadership and harmony among members. But social movement theorists attuned to the grassroots mobilizations of the mid to late twentieth century make the case for a more encompassing definition.

While white power featured a diversity of views and an array of competing leaders, all corners of the movement were inspired by feelings of defeat, emasculation, and betrayal after the Vietnam War and by social and economic changes that seemed to threaten and victimize white men.

White power also qualifies as a social movement through its central features: the contiguous activity of an inner circle of key figures over two decades, frequent public displays, and development of a wide reaching social network. White power activists used a shared repertoire of actions to assert collectivity. They rallied openly, formed associations and coalitions, and gave statements to the press. Public displays of uniformed activists chanting slogans and marching in formation aimed to demonstrate worthiness, unity, numbers, and commitment to both members and observers.

Activists encouraged dress codes and rules about comportment and featured the presence of mothers with children, Vietnam veterans, and active-duty military personnel. Members showed unity by donning uniforms and by marching and chanting in formation. They made claims about their numbers. They underscored their commitment with pledges to die rather than abandon the fight; preparing to risk their lives for white power; and undertaking acts that put them at legal and physical risk. A regular circulation of people, weapons, funds, images, and rhetoric, as well as intermarriages and other social relationships, bound activists together. These actions produced common “ideas and culture,” what social movement theorists have called “frames,” that served to “legitimate and motivate collective action.”

The primacy of the Vietnam War among these frames is clear in the cultural artifacts that inspired and coordinated the movement. These included uniforms, language, strategies, and matériel derived from the war itself. Activists adopted terminology, such as “gooks,” associated with US. soldiers in Vietnam; camouflage fatigues; civilian versions of the era’s military weapons, as well as the genuine articles, sometimes illegally obtained; and training and combat methods modeled on soldiers’ experience and US. Army manuals.

Also essential in binding the movement together was the 1974 white utopian novel The Turner Diaries, which channeled and responded to the nascent white power narrative of the Vietnam War. The novel provided a blueprint for action, tracing the structure of leaderless resistance and modeling, in fiction, the guerrilla tactics of assassination and bombing that activists would embrace for the next two decades. Activists distributed and quoted from the book frequently. It was more than a guide, though. The popularity of The Turner Diaries made it a touchstone, a point of connection among movement members and sympathizers that brought them together in common cause.

Writing the history of a subversive movement presents archival challenges. White power activists routinely attempted to hide their activity, even when it was legal. Documentary resources are scattered and fragmentary. This is especially true of the period after 1983, when white power activists worked particularly hard to avoid being depicted as a coherent movement. They used old Klan strategies such as maintaining secret membership rolls, as well as new ideas such as cell-style organizing. Such strategies foiled government informants and forestalled public awareness of violence, obscuring the scale and intentions of the movement and limiting opposition. Activists understated or denied their involvement to protect themselves and their allies. But when they felt it useful, they also overstated their influence and membership in order to boost their apparent strength.

This deliberate obfuscation has clouded many journalistic and scholarly accounts. Press coverage too often portrayed organized white power violence as the work of lone gunmen driven by grievance and mental illness. Sensational truecrime and undercover reporting in pulp magazines and one-source interviews in small-town newspapers kept activists safely ensconced within their cells and depicted every case of violence as uniquely senseless. Thus groups went undetected, and the motivations underlying violence were rarely taken seriously. Accounts after the Oklahoma City bombing concluded that if white power had ever constituted a social movement, it had become so riddled by interand intragroup conflicts and personal vendettas that it no longer deserved the designation. Yet infighting had been a constant feature of white power formation and activity. White power organizing did change in the late 1990s, but this resulted from large-scale historical shifts such as increased pressure and expanding online activity, not internecine feuds.

Not all journalistic accounts of white power were so flawed. Veteran reporters from the Christian Science Monitor, the Oregonian, and the Houston Chronicle, among others, spent years covering white power on their beats and began to connect local episodes to activity elsewhere. And even the one-off accounts can be useful to the historian because white power activists sometimes spoke to undercover reporters directly and contemporaneously about their motivations.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), U.S. Marshal Service, and Department of Justice monitored the white power movement during this period, generating another source of archival materials. Authors of these records range from undercover agents who had deep familiarity with white power groups to clerical staff at the tail end of a long game of telephone, who sometimes misunderstood crucial details. The motivations of federal agents, some prevented crimes and mounted major prosecutions; others declined to report, prevent, or prosecute such groups; yet others unleashed their own violence upon separatist compounds, shaped these records as well, affecting their reliability. Government documents also vary widely in their level of redaction. Many such sources are accessible only through Freedom of Information Act requests, which means that not everything the government collected is available to researchers. Even full access would provide but a partial glimpse of white power activity, filtered through state interests and the perspectives of individual state actors.

When it comes to the flourishing of white power activism in prisons, sources are especially limited. Groups such as the prison gang the Aryan Brotherhood are largely absent from the archive.

We can detect some effects of their mobilizations, such as monetary contributions sent beyond prison walls. Members who joined the movement while incarcerated and continued their activism after release also have greater presence in available sources. But much less is known about white power mobilizations within prison walls.

Legal documents, too, provide less information than we might hope, particularly because the white power movement flourished between the end of excellent paper record keeping and the beginning of effective digitization of documents. While several acts of white power violence and harassment have resulted in civil and criminal prosecutions, many resources from those trials have been lost or destroyed, in whole or in part. Some of what remains can be obtained only at prohibitive expense. And what is available comes with the same complications as any trial record. Some people who testified about their roles in the movement, especially women, may have done so under the threat of separation from their families. Several activists made plea deals in return for testifying against the movement. Legal documents, especially testimonies, must be read with such motivations in mind.

An important source of information about the movement is the opposition. Watchdog groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Center for Democratic Renewal collected material on white power activists as part of their mission to combat intolerance. Some compiled extensive databases including biographical information, photographs, news clippings, and legal records. They also obtained photographs, transcriptions of conversations from undercover informants, journalists’ notes, and other items outside the published record. Although these files are rich with information, they, too, must be treated cautiously. Watchdog groups can have motives that reach beyond simple documentation: they exist through fundraising, and donations may increase when there is a sense of urgency. Watchdog groups may have sometimes overestimated the movement’s influence and level of organization.

A final, essential resource is the archive created by the white power movement itself. This includes correspondence, ephemera, illustrations, autobiographies, books, printed periodicals, and “zines.” Some printed material circulated widely and had a transnational readership. Activists selfpublished their writings on presses, mimeograph and Xerox machines, and the Internet. Large collections of these published materials are housed at three university libraries in the United States. Although these collections are fundamentally different, one assembled by a journalist writing on an episode of movement violence, one by an archivist who asked political extremists from across the spectrum for contributions, and one by collectors who obtained literature at meetings of extremist groups, the materials in these three archives are remarkably similar. They offer, therefore, a fairly complete picture of the movement’s printed output.

At the same time, one must be mindful of what an archival study of white power cannot reveal. Military service records, for instance, are not publicly available, nor are the membership rolls of each white power group. In their absence, one cannot make a quantitative study of the levels of veteran and active-duty-military participation in the movement. The archive offers very little information on the childhood and early life of most activists. Information on marriages and divorces, particularly involving those who, as part of their antistatist activism, refused to register unions, cannot always be corroborated by official documents. Nor can an archival study stray from the stated beliefs and concrete actions of white power actors in an effort to attempt a psychological assessment. In most cases, the historian has neither the training nor the access to enter this discussion. However, one can grapple with the record of speech and action to offer an approximation of a historical actor’s motives and actions.

Given these limitations, I have assumed that each document might reflect a particular agenda and have taken certain precautions as a result. When possible, I use multiple sources to corroborate information. If, say, a fact appears in a redacted FBI file, an undercover reporter’s interview with a white power activist, and a mainstream press report, it probably can be relied upon. I present unverifiable statements as such and identify those that are demonstrably false.

When relevant, I include information about sources, their biases, and possible alternative interpretations of the material in question.

That the archive is imperfect should disturb neither historians nor readers. Indeed, it is precisely the work of the historian to assemble an account based upon the information available, even if it is scattered, incomplete, and sometimes contradictory. In many ways, this approach enables a better understanding of how historical actors experienced their own moment, without the veneer of hindsight that clouds other kinds of accounts, such as interviews and memoirs produced years after the fact.

A sizable literature, both academic and journalistic, has engaged with portions of the white power archive, but this book is the first work to attempt a comprehensive approach. Unlike studies focused on one segment of white power, particular activists, events, locations, symbols, ideological discourses, or disputes-this one captures the entire movement as it formed and changed over time.

I find in the archival sources the story of the emergence, rise, and fall of a unique, cohesive effort to build a new nation on the ashes of a state accused of having abandoned its own. To understand the impact of this effort on American society, politics, and culture, and to take stock of its relationship with mainstream conservatism, requires engaging it synthetically, not piece by piece.

Bring the War Home follows the formation of the white power movement, its war on the state, and its apocalyptic confrontation with militarized state power. Part I documents the role of violence in motivating and constituting the movement. Chapter 1 traces the creation of a Vietnam War narrative that united the movement and inspired its paramilitary culture and infrastructure. Chapter 2 shows how paramilitary training camps worked to form white power groups and augmented their capacity for violence. In Chapter 3, I discuss the formal unification of the movement through a common experience of violence: the 1979 mass shooting of communist protestors in Greensboro, North Carolina. Chapter 4 documents the intersections between white power and other forms of paramilitarism by focusing on transnational antidemocratic paramilitary combat by mercenary soldiers, some with movement ties.

Part II turns to the white power revolution declared in 1983. At this point, the movement definitively distinguished itself from previous vigilante mobilizations, such as the earlier Ku Klux Klan, whose perpetrators claimed to act for the good of the state or to uphold its laws. In Chapters 5 through 7, I examine the movement’s declaration of war, use of early computer networks, and deployment of cell-style organizing. Critical to these efforts were attempts, some successful, to obtain stolen military-grade weapons and materiel from the state. I also recount the acquittal of thirteen movement activists on federal charges including seditious conspiracy. Their defense, based on a purported need to protect white women, demonstrates that even though white power broke away from earlier white supremacist movements, it maintained a degree of ideological and rhetorical continuity with them, even as it turned to newly violent antistatism in its revolutionary actions.

Part III describes the crescendo and climax of white power revolution in which groups both confronted and participated in events characterized by apocalyptic, world-destroying violence. Although many were killed and others were harmed, the effort never achieved the biblical scale activists had anticipated. The movement was inflamed by encounters with state power, such as the standoff between federal agents and a white separatist family at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas.

Cataclysmic, militarized state violence helped to inspire the growth of militias, leading to the Oklahoma City bombing. That act stands as the culmination of two decades of white power organizing and is the most significant single event in the movement’s history.

The bombing destroyed an edifice, lives, and families, but not only those. It also shattered meaning, wiping out a public understanding of the white power movement by cementing its violence, in public memory, as the act of a few men. Despite its many attempts to disappear, and despite its obscurity even at the height of its strength during the militia phase, the movement left lasting marks on mainstream American politics and popular culture. It has continued to instigate and shape violence years after the Oklahoma City bombing.

The story of white power as a social movement exposes something broader about the enduring impact of state violence in America. It reveals one catastrophic ricochet of the Vietnam War, in the form of its paramilitary aftermath. It also reveals something important about war itself.

War is not neatly contained in the space and time legitimated by the state. It reverberates in other terrains and lasts long past armistice. It comes home in ways bloody and unexpected.

1 The Vietnam War

Forever trapped in the rice paddies of Vietnam. -Louis Beam, 1989

LOUIS BEAM SPENT eighteen months in Vietnam. He served an extended tour as a gunner on a UH1 Huey helicopter in the U.S. Army’s 25th Aviation Battalion. He logged more than a thousand hours shooting at the enemy and transporting his fellow soldiers, including the injured and fallen, to and from the front. By his own account, he killed between twelve and fifty-one “communists” before returning home to Texas, decorated, in 1968. But he never stopped fighting. Beam would use his Vietnam War story to militarize a resurgent Ku Klux Klan and to wage a white power revolution.

He brought many things home with him: his uniforms, virulent anticommunism, and hatred of the Viet Cong. He brought home the memory of death and mutilation sealed in heavy-duty body bags. He brought home racism, military training, weapons proficiency, and a readiness to continue fighting. His was a story about government betrayal, soldiers left behind, and a nation that spat upon his service and would never appreciate his sacrifice. Indeed, he brought home the war as he fought it, and dedicated his life to urging others to “bring it on home.”

On both the right and left of the political spectrum, the war worked to radicalize and arm paramilitary groups in the post-Vietnam War period. On the left, veterans played instrumental roles in groups organized around politics and labor, and in militant groups that fought racial inequality, such as the Black Panther Party. Occasionally these left and right-wing mobilizations would overlap and feed off one another, with white power activists robbing the same Brinks armored car company hit by the leftwing Weather Underground a few years earlier, and with the paramilitary Latino Brown Berets and the Klan Border Watch focused on the same stretch of terrain in South Texas.

Throughout the twentieth century, many veterans of color understood their postwar activism as an extension of their wartime combat. Veterans played key roles in fostering the civil rights and armed seIf-defense movements. The influence of key veterans upon the white power movement, therefore, is part of a longer story about veterans’ claims on society, and about the expansive aftermath of modern war.

Just as some veterans fought for racial equality, others fought to oppose it. Indeed, Ku Klux Klan membership surges have aligned more neatly with the aftermath of war than with poverty, anti-immigration sentiment, or populism, to name a few common explanations.

After the Civil War, the Confederate veterans who formed the first Klan terrorized both black communities and the Reconstruction-era state. World War I veterans led second-era Klan efforts to violently ensure “all American” racial, religious, and nationalist power. Third-era Klansmen who had served in World War II and Korea played key roles in the violent opposition to civil rights, including providing explosives expertise and other skills they had learned in the military.

After each war, veterans not only joined the Klan but also played instrumental roles in leadership, providing military training to other Klansmen and carrying out acts of violence. The effect of war was not simply about the number or percentage of veterans involved, but about the particular expertise, training, and culture they brought to paramilitary groups. Significantly, in each surge of activity, veterans worked hand in hand with Klan members who had not served. Without the participation of civilians, these aftershocks of war would not have found purchase at home. The overspills of state violence from wars, therefore, spread through the whole of American society; they did not affect veterans alone.

So, too, did the Vietnam War broadly affect American culture and politics. Narratives of the war as a government betrayal and as a source of grievance laid the groundwork for white power activism. Once again, the war story drew in both veterans and civilians. But the Vietnam War was also historically distinct; it represented loss, frustration, and doubt.

By intervening to support South Vietnam, the United States sought to halt the spread of communism, and to stop the Soviet Union, which supported North Vietnam and revolutionaries in the South, from amassing global power in the midst of the Cold War. In practice, the United States found itself intervening in a local, civil conflict, one shaped by the legacy of French colonial rule. American soldiers entered a morally ambiguous proxy war and faced an enemy comprising highly motivated guerrillas, partisan soldiers, and supportive or ambivalent civilians. This, together with enormous differences in culture and climate, created high levels of despair among the troops.

Combat in Vietnam often took a form unfamiliar to a generation of soldiers raised on World War II films that depicted war as righteous and tempered depictions of its violence. In Vietnam, American soldiers waged prolonged, bloody fights for terrain that was soon abandoned. They often described enemies and allies as indistinguishable. Infantry patrols embarked on long, aimless marches in the hope of drawing fire from hidden guerrillas. “Freefire zones” and “strategic hamlets”, designations that labeled as enemies anyone who did not evacuate from certain areas, placed civilians in the path of war.

And because success was often measured in the number of people killed, rather than in terrain held, a mix of circumstances in Vietnam created a situation in which violence against civilians, mutilation of bodies, souvenir collecting, sexual violence, and other war crimes were not just isolated incidents but ubiquitous features of war that permeated the chain of command.

The United States and its people had understood the wars of the first half of the century as shared civil projects, but the Vietnam War undermined this notion. When the commitment of soldiers, bombs, and money failed to produce decisive victories in Southeast Asia, civilians at home grew increasingly disenchanted with the war, helping to foster the narrative of abandonment that white power activists such as Beam would later exploit.

Mobilizations of protest in the United States, particularly the mass antiwar movement, openly questioned the war’s morality by critiquing American involvement as an imperialist exercise. Television broadcasts of wartime violence created what the writer Susan Sontag called a “new tele-intimacy with death and destruction.” Many returning veterans denounced the quagmire of war both in the streets and in the halls of government, and journalists documented wartime atrocities. As the war dragged on, victory in the realm of public perception seemed less and less possible.

*

from

Bring the War Home. The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America

by Kathleen Belew

get it at Amazon.com

BORN TRUMP, Inside America’s First Family – Emily Jane Fox.

“We need a very acute financial mind to get us out of this mire. America is the largest corporation on the planet. You wouldn’t hire a novice to run a similarly sized company in the private markets.” Ivanka Trump 😂😂

Jared flew to Los Angeles to ask Barrack for his advice, and Barrack obliged, helping Donald restructure his debt and holding some of it himself. 1994

There was very little in place for what would happen if Donald actually won. None of them had expected to be there on inauguration day. When their father decided to run, and frankly up until they saw him start winning states on November 8 from the campaign headquarters on the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower, a few months earlier, they’d assumed that he would lose and that they would get back to their normal lives and businesses. A concession speech had been written in advance.

Apart from the fact that it meant that he’d won something, Donald didn’t much want to be there. As the reality of the election dawned on him in the weeks leading up to his move, he frequently asked advisers how often he could leave Washington to return to his triplex on Fifth Avenue.

The Trump kids made damn sure that they were at the front and center of everything.

Inauguration

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner hustled themselves and their children up to the second floor of the residence in the White House, to the southeastern corner of her father’s new sixteen room home. She was still in the white Oscar de la Renta pantsuit she’d worn all day, through the rain washing over her father’s swearing-in ceremony and the parade down Pennsylvania Avenue marking his inauguration, and chilled to her bones. She would soon change into a glittery champagne gown for the inaugural balls. Her hair would be teased and swept and sprayed into an ornate knot at the nape of her neck. She would prick teardrop diamonds into her ears and slather highlighter onto her cheekbones and underneath her eyebrow and onto her bare clavicle, exposed by the deep V of her dress.

All of that would have to wait. The Trump-Kushners sped into the Lincoln Bedroom, where they had stayed through her dad’s first weekend as the president of the United States of America. The traditional parade flirted dangerously close to sundown, which, on January 20, 2017, fell at 4:59 pm. eastern standard time. As practicing Modern Orthodox Jews, Ivanka and Jared needed to light Shabbat candles as day turned into night in order to observe their own tradition, which Jared had been doing his whole life and Ivanka had joined him in when she converted, years earlier, before they married. She had arranged with the White House usher to have candlesticks waiting in their borrowed room. Usually she would have brought her own, as she typically did for a weekend away, but this weekend, in just about every way, was not typical for the Trumps. She figured the White House must have suitable candelabras lying around. She was correct.

The immediate family of five formed a semicircle around the White House’s candlesticks, and Ivanka struck a match to light the wicks. There they were, in a room Abraham Lincoln had once used as an office; which the Trumans had rebuilt in 1945, Jackie Kennedy had spiffed up in 1961, Hillary Clinton had freshened in the 1990s, and Laura Bush had again refurbished in 2004. The eight-by-six-foot rosewood Lincoln bed, with its six-foot-tall carved headboard-the bed that Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Calvin Coolidge had slept in, was at their backs; a holograph copy of the Gettysburg Address, one of only five signed, dated, and titled by Lincoln, sat on the desk nearby. Ivanka covered her eyes and recited the blessing over the candles: “Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel a .” Blessed are You, God, Ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with the commandment of lighting Shabbat candles.

It was the first time Shabbat had been welcomed this way in the history of the residence.

SOME FIVE hours earlier, as light sheets of rain fell over Washington, DC, Donald J. Trump had pressed his right hand to two Bibles on the West Lawn of the Capitol and became the forty-fifth person to recite the oath of office, as prescribed by Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution. One of the Bibles he chose was used by Lincoln when he was sworn in at his first inauguration in 1861, as the nation hung on the precipice of the Civil War. The other had been given to him by his mother in 1955, two days before his ninth birthday, just after he graduated from the Sunday Church Primary School at the First Presbyterian Church in Jamaica, Queens. Its cover is embossed with his name and, on the inside, signed by church officials.

After taking the oath, Trump turned his back on the crowd and swung his arms open toward his family, who had encircled him as he made his vow to the American people. He first looked eyes with Ivanka, who had positioned herself directly at the center of the dais, with her brother Eric slightly behind her to her left and her half sister Tiffany next to him. Don Jr. was just to lvanka’s back on the other side, her half brother Barron and stepmother turned First Lady Melania beside him. Ivanka cocked her head at her dad, the president, her lips and cheeks pulled so tightly by her smile that her facial muscles contorted themselves into an aptly bronzed rectangle. She dove forward to kiss him, but his instinct kicked in quick. He had never been on this sort of world stage before, but he had spent enough years with his family life chronicled in the papers to know well enough to greet his wife before his favorite daughter. So before she reached him, he swooped to his left and pecked his wife, and then worked his way through his children, Barron, Donny, Ivanka, Eric, Tiffany, to let them congratulate him, tell him how great he’d done, how much they loved him.

The family soon gathered in a motorcade for the inaugural parade. Ivanka and Jared quickly realized that their infant car seat did not fit in their armored car, an inconvenient, startlingly normal fact that held up the entire motorcade and parade on this historic day. “What’s the holdup?” everyone kept asking.

At last, they figured it out. Everyone got moving. At a quarter after four in the afternoon, following the custom President Jimmy Carter began in 1977, when he got out of his limousine and walked for more than a mile en route to the White House, Donald, Melania, and Barron stepped out of “the Beast,” the armored car the president travels in, in front of the Trump International Hotel. Elsewhere along the route, crowds were sparse and protesters had gathered. But in front of the hotel bearing Trump’s name, revelers were packed onto risers, a dozen deep. There were cheers and signs and a sea of red “Make America Great Again” hats. Ivanka and Don Jr. and Eric and their spouses and most of their children followed in cars of their own, and, once he got out of his car, walked alongside their dad, greeting the supporters who’d waited outside for hours in the forty-degree Washington winter.

The family stayed outside for about three minutes before getting back in their cars, which moved along slowly for another half hour, until they arrived at a viewing stand near the White House. Ivanka and Jared whisked inside around sunset.

None of them had expected to be there that day. When their father decided to run, and frankly up until they saw him start winning states on November 8 from the campaign headquarters on the twenty-fourth floor of Trump Tower, a few months earlier, they’d assumed that he would lose and that they would get back to their normal lives and businesses. They would have spent that gray, winter day with the broadcast of the inauguration on in the background as they headed off for weekends at Mara-Lago, or at their homes in Bedminster, or Westchester, or the Catskills. It would have been an otherwise normal winter weekend for an otherwise perfectly happy moneyed family, trying to get back into the swing of their old normal.

Apart from the fact that it meant that he’d won something, Donald didn’t much want to be there. As the reality of the election dawned on him in the weeks leading up to his move, he frequently asked advisers how often he could leave Washington to return to his triplex on Fifth Avenue, and in the weeks after the move he spent most weekends flying on Air Force One down to his private club in Palm Beach.

But it was not a normal weekend, and their old normal was swiftly replaced by an extraordinary new existence -one that they not only didn’t predict but also never could have imagined. Nevertheless, that is where they found themselves on January 20. And once they were there, the Trump kids made damn sure that they were at the front and center of everything.

THERE WERE thousands of things to do once the Trump family woke up bleary-eyed and bewildered on the morning of November 9, barely a few hours after Donald gave his victory speech, scraped together with the kids’ help just before they all rushed over to the ballroom at the Midtown Manhattan Hilton Hotel. A concession speech had been written in advance. Ivanka had plans to get her fashion line back on track come Wednesday morning. She would lay low for a while and let the rhetoric and rancor die down a bit, so that what her team expected to be strong holiday season sales would speak for themselves, starting a whole new narrative. The manuscript for her book for working women would also require her attention; she had just turned it in, and it was set to go to print around the inauguration.

Jared would begin a reputational recovery tour. Friends had told him that would be a feat, now that people viewed him as an asshole; no one would be lining up to do business with him, at least not right after the election loss. Don Jr. and Eric were starting talks with investors and partners about a new, lower tier chain of hotels in heartland cities that would appeal to the Trump supporters they’d met on the trail, turning their MAGA zeal into Trump Organization patronage. Tiffany would be able to focus on her law school applications. Barron could go to school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side without the Secret Service agents who were clogging up drop-off and pickup traffic, enraging the uptown parents and drivers and nannies (to say nothing of back-to-school night, when Melania and her protection locked down the school’s only elevator so she could get to Barron’s classroom; this left the rest of the parents to hoof it up the stairs, rocketing the school rageometer to full-scale fury).

There was very little in place for what would happen if Donald actually won.

Now an inaugural weekend had to be put together, which required months of planning and millions of dollars and at least a basic understanding of its history and traditions. Trump tapped Tom Barrack, his friend of three decades, to chair the committee. In a statement on November 15, Donald announced that Barrack-a private equity billionaire who had served as deputy undersecretary of the Department of Interior under Reagan and been one of Donald’s cheeriest surrogates and advisers throughout the campaign (and the man who urged Ivanka and Jared to get Donald to hire Paul Manafort)-would be “responsible for the planning and coordination of all official events and activities surrounding the inauguration.”

Barrack and Trump had first crossed paths in 1987, when Donald summoned him to Trump Tower. At the time, Barrack was working for a rich Texas family that owned a department store chain Donald wanted to buy a piece of, which he did, thanks to Barrack’s help. The family also owned the Plaza Hotel, which Donald could see from his office window in Trump Tower and itched to add to his growing Manhattan empire. The problem was that Barrack’s bosses wanted $410 million for the property. It was a bum deal for Donald, but it was a New York institution, the kind of storied figure in New York Donald himself wanted to become. It was a crown jewel. And Donald, a Queens outsider and something of a punch line, wanted it for his crown. So he agreed to pay the price-in cash, no less. And after he’d thrown his kids’ birthday parties in the hotel, and later met with Ivana there to hash out the early details of their separation, and later married Marla Maples there, the place dragged him near financial ruin.

In 1994 a guy Barrack knew from Chase Manhattan Bank called to tell him Donald was in trouble. He had a $100 million loan with Chase, and a mountain of other debts, and at the very least he needed to unload the Plaza. Barrack persuaded the bank to give Donald a little breathing room to find financing before they foreclosed. In the time that bought, they found a Saudi Arabian prince and a hotel group out of Singapore to take it off his hands. More than a decade later Donald asked Barrack, who, in his own Trumpian outer-borough desire to make it in Manhattan, had bought a forty-onestory office tower on Fifth Avenue for what was then the highest price for a commercial building in US history and was struggling to make the loan payments. Jared flew to Los Angeles to ask Barrack for his advice, and Barrack obliged, helping him restructure his debt and holding some of it himself.

The inauguration gig was a high-profile thank you for Barrack, and a relief for Donald, who’d been saved by Barrack enough times before that he trusted him to do it again. Barrack brought on a team of other billionaires and Trump loyalists, including Sheldon Adelson, Woody Johnson, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Wynn, Elliott Broidy, and Laurie Perlmutter, to help him out.

He asked Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former Vogue editor and friend of Melania’s known around the Condé Nast office as General Winston for the military efficiency with which she planned the annual Met Gala, to serve as an editor-at-Iarge for the inauguration. She took on all the heavy lifting-securing venues and event planners, deciding on table settings, arranging broadcast rights and social media filters, figuring out how to move heavy equipment around Washington, and perhaps the heaviest lift of all, getting talent to perform at events throughout the weekend. Inaugurations past had been filled with megawatt star power. At Barack Obama’s, Beyoncé, Aretha Franklin, Yo-Yo Ma, and Kelly Clarkson performed; at George W. Bush’s, Ricky Martin, 98 Degrees, and Jessica Simpson; for Bill Clinton’s, Fleetwood Mac got back together again for a rare performance. Virtually no celebrities wanted to perform at a Trump inauguration. That would have been an issue for any incoming president, but it was particularly sticky for Trump, whose fragile ego cracked at the slightest of insults from nobodies.

Wolkoff asked Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice, to comb through his Rolodex to convince stars to take part in the weekend, if not in support of Donald, out of patriotic duty. Still, they couldn’t get a big name. In fact, everyone whose name was so much as floated as a possible inaugural performer immediately disassociated themselves. When a rumor circulated that Elton John would give a concert on the Mall, his spokesperson quickly threw water on it. Garth Brooks initially appeared open to the idea, since “it’s always about serving,” but soon afterward declined an offer to appear. The same happened with Andrea Bocelli, Kiss, and Jennifer Holliday. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, however, did accept the invitation to sing at the swearing-in ceremony. They booked America’s Got Talent runner-up Jackie Evancho for the national anthem. The Rockettes agreed to perform at the inaugural balls, though some dancers refused to partake, complaining to their union about being asked to perform for what one Rockette described as a man who “stands for everything we’re against.”

At the same time, millions of people, including Katy Perry, Cher, and Madonna, were preparing to walk in women’s marches around the country. In fact, reports stated that DC issued far more permits for city buses for the march on Saturday than for Donald’s swearing in on Friday. And in the weeks leading up to the inauguration, nearly seventy lawmakers vowed to boycott the events to protest the messages Donald had run on and the rhetoric he used during the campaign and after the election.

With protests looming and virtually no one famous set to attend, the inaugural committee’s message shifted. As Barrack spun it, with “the biggest celebrity in the world” as president, other stars were superfluous. “So what we’ve done,” Barrack said, “instead of trying to surround him with what people consider A-listers, is we are going to surround him with the soft sensuality of the place. It’s a much more poetic cadence than having a circuslike celebration that’s a coronation. That’s the way this president-elect wanted it.”

Where’s the crowd?

It was, in a word, a disaster, and they needed all hands on deck. The Trump kids jumped into the planning, though not necessarily to aid in the process or to take on some of the burden. They each wanted to make sure that they individually would be involved in each public event, and took great pains to make sure not only that they would be present but that their seating arrangements were satisfactory. Their proximity to Donald on that day, and thus their presence in photographs that would be telegraphed all over the world that weekend and in history books for centuries, was paramount.

Melania, as the incoming First Lady, tried to organize a weekend that kept them all together. That meant all five kids, all eight grandchildren, would be welcome to stay the Thursday evening before the inauguration at the Blair House, just across the road from the White House, and spend the rest of the weekend in the residence once the Obamas moved out and the Trumps moved in. No one would sleep on couches or double up; Melania made sure that each sibling had his or her own room and determined who would sleep where, though Ivanka did put in a request to stay in the Lincoln Bedroom. Melania arranged enough time for breakfasts and lunches and dinners together as a family, to anchor everyone in the headiest of weekends. She had buffets to be set up throughout the weekend so that no one would go hungry.

Melania was less certain when it came to the parade, which would have the family making the same walk toward the White House on the twentieth of January that presidents have made for nearly half a century. There have been few American political climates so vitriolic and acerbically divided as the one that existed after Donald’s election, and she had deep concerns about getting out of the car and marching alongside her eleven-year-old in the open, even with the Secret Service and protection teams that would surround them.

Ivanka was set on the parade. “It’s happening,” she insisted. It was tradition. It was presidential. It was not something her father and the family were going to miss out on.

There was a sense among those who worked on the transition that the legacy aspect of the inauguration was critical for Ivanka. This was a chance for the Trumps to have their Kennedy moment, one that looked a lot like Camelot. Melania, in her Ralph Lauren powderblue suit with matching blue gloves, her hair teased into a bouffant, consciously channeled Jackie on inauguration day. (Initially, she had toyed with the idea of wearing the now infamous red, white, and blue Gucci ensemble that Kellyanne wore and got panned for, but a fashion editor and adviser to Melania nixed it, reminding her of the importance of wearing American designers that weekend.)

Ivanka looked to establish the Trumps as the new American royal family. She worked with a stylist and told friends that she wanted a princess moment, particularly for the inaugural balls, for which she chose a sparkly tulle confection.

“I told her it’s an inauguration, not a coronation,” one friend recalled. “The sentiment was that Americans wanted a royal family.”

(A blown-up photograph of her in that gown, dancing with Jared onstage, hangs outside her office in the West Wing, with a note scrawled across it in metallic Sharpie. “To the most beautiful couple in the world,” her father wrote across the image. “I am so proud of you. Love, Dad.”)

There was less meaning ascribed to the Oscar de la Renta white pantsuit Ivanka chose for the actual swearing-in ceremony. Of course, the choice raised eyebrows. White pantsuits were a Hillary Clinton thing, so much so that Hillary herself wore one on inauguration day. When advisers brought that up to Ivanka in advance of the day, she shrugged it off. “It definitely was not intentional, her choosing to wear that,” one adviser remembered. “She was like, ‘oh shit,’ not in a stupid way, but she didn’t mean to make it a thing. It really wasn’t.”

THAT IVANKA wanted to harken back to the Kennedys was no surprise. Certainly her mother, Ivana, who had longed for a place in the world of old-money American royalty, played a role in this, at least during her daughter’s childhood. For years, Ivana told people that Ivanka’s beloved Irish nanny, Bridget Carroll, had nannied for John Kennedy Jr. before moving in with the Trump family, though there is no proof of that, other than Ivana’s mentions. She took credit for choosing her daughter’s schools, first Chapin, the all-girls private school that Jacqueline Bouvier attended, and then Choate, the boarding school from which John Kennedy graduated. In Ivana’s recent book about her children, she noted that the Kennedy family would travel to Aspen for holidays at the same time the Trump family did, engaging in side-by-side slalom races against one another. “It was the Trumps vs. the Kennedys,” she wrote, “and Trump always won.”

At Choate, Ivanka told classmates, particularly when it came up in her political history classes, of her admiration for Jackie Kennedy as a leader. (One classmate remembers that she always took an interest in the Roosevelt family, too, and in Anna Roosevelt in particular. Franklin Roosevelt tapped Anna, his only daughter, who, like her father, had a somewhat sticky relationship with the First Lady, to work in his West Wing after she and her young children had lived with him in the White House during the early years of his presidency. She served as his personal assistant, accompanying her father to the Yalta Conference in World War II, while Eleanor Roosevelt stayed behind.)

Jared and his family had their own affinity for the Kennedys. Jared’s father Charlie keenly referred to himself as the “Jewish Kennedy,” seeing himself as both a king and kingmaker in the northern New Jersey religious community in which, thanks to healthy donations, many of the buildings bore his name. When it came time for Jared to apply to Harvard as a high school senior, Charlie nudged his senator, Frank Lautenberg, to ask his colleague Ted Kennedy to put in a good word with the dean of admissions in Cambridge. When Jared moved into a corner office overlooking St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the family baptized Caroline Kennedy and eulogized Bobby Kennedy after his death, he hung just one photo on the wall next to his desk. It was a framed Garry Winogrand snap of Jack Kennedy delivering his speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles. The shot catches JFK from behind, camera lights creating a halo around the side of his head and contours of his jaw. A television set propped up just behind the desk broadcasts his face again in black and white for the viewer to see.

“I love the juxtaposition of him looking that way and seeing him the other way,” Jared told New York Magazine of the photo in 2009. “I love the glow in his face. I look at it all the time.” He bought all the photos in the series, but kept the rest in a box. (Later, once he and Ivanka had married and moved into a Trump building on Park Avenue, Winogrand photographs lined the hallways of their apartment.) After Jared was sworn in as senior adviser to the president at the tail end of inauguration weekend, he and his brother Josh posed for a photo underneath the somber portrait of JFK hanging in the White House.

John F. Kennedy delivering his speech at the 1960 Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles

When Ivanka and Jared got married, they decided to release one photo after the nuptials, in the style of John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette, rather than selling them to a magazine. When they had children, all the names they chose evoked Kennedy family ties, Arabella Rose, Joseph, and Theodore. Jackie Kennedy unofficially referred to her and JFK’s stillborn daughter as Arabella, though the baby was never given a birth certificate, and when she was later moved to be buried alongside her father, her gravestone simply read “Daughter,” along with her birthday. Rose, of course, was the name of the Kennedy matriarch.

“I have always loved the name Arabella,” Ivanka said in an interview with The Today Show a month after her daughter was born. Childhood friends remember her always coming back to the name when they were growing up and brainstorming what they would name their future children someday. They were hardly surprised when she settled on it as her first child’s name decades later. “Jared’s grandmothers had names beginning with an A and an R. We wanted to pay subtle homage to those two strong and wonderful women while also adopting a name that was very unique. Plus, we thought that the initials, ARK, were cool!”

Joseph was the name of both JFK’s father and Jared’s grandfather, and Frederick, their son’s middle name, was Donald’s father’s name. Ivanka posted on her Tumblr when her son was born in 2013 that they chose to name him after their paternal grandfathers, “both master builders of their generation and inspiring patriarchs of their families.”

“Jared’s grandfather, Joseph, was a rock. His indomitable spirit, his sense of family, and his work ethic are the values we hope to hand down to our son. My grandfather, Frederick, was a builder not just of tens of thousands of homes throughout this city, but of a tightknit family that honors to this day the traditions he established. Both men set the standards that have been passed down through the generations and which we hope to impart upon Joseph and Arabella. They created a legacy for our family that inspires our careers as well as our love and respect for one another. We are honored to name our son after these two distinguished men. We feel so blessed with the newest member of the family!”

Theodore is not as exact a match, Ted Kennedy’s first name was short for Edward, but the similarity, after an Arabella Rose and a Joseph, is hard to ignore, especially among those who believe the couple viewed their own gilded, millennialized, social-media-propagated version of Camelot as the end game.

It goes without saying that the clearest and most recent cribbing of Kennedyesque behavior came after the election. Donald chose to tap his son-in-law to serve in his West Wing, and not long after, his daughter joined them in an official capacity as well. Ethics experts sounded the alarms immediately; this violated an anti-nepotism law that had come to be known as the Bobby Kennedy Law, because it took effect six years after JFK appointed his brother Bobby to be his attorney general in 1961. The law was upheld for fifty years, until the Trumps’ lawyers found a work-around. The way they read it, the White House is not an agency, and the president enjoys broad executive powers. In the Trump administration, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be just like the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, with a little touch of Kennedy-era nostalgia lawmakers thought they’d banned five decades earlier.

They viewed their own gilded, millennialized, social-media propagated version of Camelot as the end game.

IN THE midst of all the inauguration jostling, Jared and Ivanka decided to move to Washington. Not only would they have to figure out how to divest themselves of portions of their businesses, set up trusts, and figure out who would take over their responsibilities within their family businesses and outside ventures; they’d also need to find somewhere to live and a school for their kids. Melania was having a hard enough time getting the schools to which presidents typically send their young children to even let Barron apply. Ivanka and Jared had two kids who needed to be in school, and they needed to find a Jewish day school. So Seryl Kushner, Jared’s mother, took on the task. Jared and Ivanka hired a broker and made a few day trips down to DC to look at houses. Jared’s father, Charles, was the one to negotiate the lease. Sometimes dad knows best.

AS PROTOCOL dictated, the whole family boarded a military plane that would take them from New York to Washington on Thursday afternoon. At Joint Base Andrews, Barron made his way down the stairs off the plane first, followed by Don Jr., his wife Vanessa, and their five children, and Eric and his wife Lara. Then came Ivanka, with her little baby boy in her arms, her emerald-green Oscar de la Renta dress and matching coat with its drapy collar blowing in the wind on the tarmac, her big black Jackie O. sunglasses resting on the bridge of her nose. Jared and Ivanka’s two older kids trailed behind her. Tiffany came next, followed by Melania and Donald.

The family soon hopped in a motorcade headed for Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where Donald and Mike Pence would lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknowns. Before her father came out, Ivanka, Jared, and her daughter, Arabella, descended the stairs toward the memorial, in the open plaza overlooking Washington, DC. Ivanka positioned herself closest to the center of the staircase, where her father would later stand, all but ensuring that she would be in almost every frame wide enough to take in the scene. Eric and Tiffany were farther to her left, and Don Jr. and his wife and daughter got stuck behind them.

Then there was the Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration on the ninety-eight granite and marble stairs at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. The highlight, perhaps, was Lee Greenwood’s rendition of “Proud to Be an American,” to which the Trump family, who were off to the side of the stage on seats arranged for them, sang along. Donald and Melania sat in the front row, with the two seats next to them reserved for Ivanka and Jared, as they had requested. Her siblings filled in the rows behind them.

That evening they headed over to Union Station for a black-tie candlelight dinner with Donald’s cabinet nominees and Republican megadonors. The kids had tables reserved for their friends, where they ate grilled white and green asparagus, roasted branzino with lemon and thyme, and vanilla meringue cakes. They sipped wine out of gilded glasses specifically chosen with Camelot in mind, while listening to their father rehash “this beautiful map” that had emerged on the eve of the election. He thanked Ivanka, who sat next to Wendi Murdoch, wearing a white cap-sleeved Oscar de la Renta column gown with an oversize black bow tied in the back at her waist. He thanked his siblings and their spouses, and boasted that he had a family who actually got along. He then went on to acknowledge his children. “My sons, look at them, standing there,” he said, pointing their way. “I say ‘Why aren’t you campaigning today?’ Eric and Don and Tiffany, who was incredible. And Barron is home.” He then went on to praise Patriots owner Bob Kraft and tell the crowd that his quarterback Tom Brady, who, a decade earlier, Trump told reporters had dated Ivanka, had called to congratulate him.

Separately, he singled out Ivanka. “We have in the audience a special person who’s worked very hard, who married very well. It’s my daughter Ivanka. Where is she?” Then, spotting her in the crowd, he said, “I sort of stole her husband. He is so great. If you can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.”

After a night’s rest in Blair House, the positioning continued on Friday in the swearing-in ceremony, where again Ivanka moved toward the center of the frame when her father approached Chief Justice John Roberts to recite his oath of office. That evening, since it was Shabbat, the Secret Service had to work with the couple to develop a special security plan. Traditionally, those observing the Sabbath do not travel in cars from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. But that would have meant they would not be able to attend any of Friday’s balls or the events on the following day, which, for a couple who wanted to be part of everything, was not an option. Walking was out of the question; their detail told them it was not safe, given the vitriol and the protests. Plus, Ivanka had her princess gown and heels on, and the balls were not exactly a hop and a skip away from the White House. So they asked special permission from their rabbi to break the rules of Shabbat, since it was a matter of safety, and what they argued was a once-in-a-lifetime familial opportunity.

They made the most of it. Donald and Melania were meant to share their first dance on stage alone. Planners had no idea that the children would later join them on stage for a family-wide slow dance; Donald, who knew that he was not a skilled dancer and was aware of just how long the song was, asked his children to come out onstage to cut some of the lingering awkwardness. By the second ball that evening, once they’d seen just how uncomfortable he looked the first go around, they joined him out there even earlier in the song. Afterward Tiffany and her boyfriend went back to the Trump Hotel, where they met her mother, Marla, and a few friends from New York. The rest of the family spent the night at the White House.

The next morning, the family attended a service at the National Cathedral. They were all exhausted by that point, especially the grandchildren. They’d patiently sat through the wreath-laying and the concert and the parade in preceding days, but a long, early morning in church was asking too much. Ivanka handed her son Joseph toy cars to keep him occupied, which she quickly regretted. He shot one straight down the aisle, past all the pews, confusing the people gathered there to pray and pay tribute to the presidential rite of passage.

The extended family had settled into the White House by Saturday afternoon. Don Jr.’s son slurped cereal out of a bowl in the dining room wearing his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pajamas. Theodore, Ivanka’s youngest, crawled for the first time in the state dining room as they all had a buffet lunch that Melania made sure was set up for them after the church service. Don Jr. and his wife and kids took a spin in the bowling alley in the basement.

By Sunday afternoon there was one official event left, in the East Room of the White House. Donald swore in members of his senior staff, including Jared, who would serve as his senior adviser. Jared’s parents and brother Josh tried to keep Jared and Ivanka’s kids quiet while their dad recited his oath. Josh handed the kids a container of jellybeans, which they promptly spilled on the floor of the East Room. Josh quietly swept them up, hoping no one would notice.

By Sunday evening Don Jr. and Eric and their families and Tiffany had flown back to New York. So had Melania and Barron, who wouldn’t move down to Washington for another five months. When Melania got back to the Trump Tower triplex, it was empty. There was no Donald, no frantic campaign staff or inauguration committees. There was nothing more to plan, at least for the time being. She called one of her closest friends to come over to keep her company. She was now the First Lady of the United States. She was also completely, utterly alone.

Ivanka and Jared stayed behind in DC, arriving at the nearly century-old, 6,800-square-foot home they rented, with six bedrooms, seven baths, five wood-burning fireplaces, a two-car garage, a sunroom, a garden, and a terrace off their bedroom. This was their first night there, and they hadn’t yet picked out all of their furniture. So they ordered in pizza and ate dinner on the hardwood floor. The sun set on life as they knew it. A new normal dawned.

Chapter Two

Campaign/Transition

ON JUNE 16, 2015, Ivanka glided down the gilded escalators into the lobby of Trump Tower, her father’s crown jewel in Midtown Manhattan, where she and her brothers had grown up and now worked as executives in the Trump Organization. She slipped past the crowd gathered with the burnished mauve marble walls, adorned on that day with royal blue signs emblazoned with “TRUMP Make America Great Again.” Wearing a white sheath dress, her corn-yellow hair parted down the center and swept into a bun, revealing two dangly silver hoop earrings that swayed as she took her place behind the dais, she smiled at the hundred or so people awaiting an announcement and inhaled. Flanked by a half dozen American flags, she began: “Today, I have the honor of introducing a man who needs no introduction. This man,” she said, “is my father.” The crowd erupted, and her pink-painted lips parted in a toothy grin. Her nose crinkled, and after a particularly raucous shout from the floor above, she let out a little giggle. She went on to praise her father, for his career success, for his negotiating prowess, for his say-it-like-he-means-it candor, for his loyalty to friends. “I’ve enjoyed the good fortune of working alongside my father for ten years now, and I’ve seen these principles in action daily,” she said.

But before she worked for him, in a technical function, that is; the Trump kids have been employees serving his brand in some capacity since they arrived on earth, he told his children they had to work hard and strive for excellence in all that they did, she said: “I remember him telling me when I was a little girl, ‘Ivanka, if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well be thinking big.”’ There was no better person to have in your corner when you were facing tough opponents or making tough decisions. “Ladies and gentlemen,” she said, dipping closer to the microphone, “it is my pleasure to introduce to you today a man who I have loved and respected my entire life, Donald J. Trump.”

She beamed at the crowd as Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” blasted from the speakers, bouncing off all that marble. For two minutes and forty-five seconds, a full two verses and two choruses of the song and into the bridge, she stood there, nodding and smiling and fidgeting onstage, before Donald Trump emerged from the escalator. Don Jr. and Jared and Tiffany kept staring at her from just off stage right, where they’d watched her introduction, appearing as uncomfortable about her languishing up there waiting as she was.

Finally Donald greeted her, gave his speech, and announced his candidacy, which was mostly received as a joke and a branding opportunity by the media and anyone who knew or watched the Donald on television or in the tabloids or around New York for decades.

It was not the first time Donald had flirted with a presidential run. Or the second or third time, either. He did this periodically, when it served his company or stroked his ego, or when he tapped into a message that resonated. And his children had responded in kind each time they were asked over the years about their father’s political ambitions. Don Jr. showed up to a town hall in the fall of 1999 on campus at the University of Pennsylvania, where he was an undergraduate at the time. His dad was toying with the idea of running as a candidate for the Reform Party, and he let Chris Matthews interview him live for Hardball in front of 1,200 students, including Don Jr., who was made to stand up in front of the crowd. “He’s much better looking than I am,” Donald told the audience. Ivanka was also repeatedly asked about her dad’s presidential aspirations over the years. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar in 2011, she said that her father was “exactly what we need” in the leader of the free world. “He’s the best equipped to deal with the most important issues this nation has, which is ultimately that we’re suffering under a massive burden of debt,” she said.

“We need a very acute financial mind to get us out of this mire. America is the largest corporation on the planet. You wouldn’t hire a novice to run a similarly sized company in the private markets.” Despite their praise, he never made the leap.

This time, though, their father had actually gone through with it. Ivanka reveled in the moment. Don Jr. radiated excitement as he rode up in the elevator after his dad’s speech. His phone would not stop ringing. “My Special Forces friend just texted me,” he told former Trump Organization employee Sam Nunberg in the elevator going back up to his office. “He loved it.” A handful of the people he hunted with sent him similar laudatory messages. “They fucking loved it.”

FROM THERE, Don Jr. was dispatched onto the trail. He was perhaps the only real conservative out of the whole lot of them. He had a little bit of red state under the Patrick Batemanesque exterior, the slicked-back hair, the veneers, the big fat tie knots. He went on weeks-long hunting trips and spent time in the middle of the country and somewhat understood life outside of Trump Tower and golf courses and gilded everything. So operatives deployed him to make campaign stops. Ivanka often introduced her father, a tightly wound blond spoonful of sugar leading into his acerbic, rambling speeches. Eric would go on Fox News, as would his wife, Lara. They sat in the family sections at the debates, and participated in town halls, and had dinner at diners in the freezing cold New Hampshire winter. They had a sense that this moment was both fleeting and once-in-a-Iifetime, inviting childhood friends and close associates to come with them backstage at debates or other key rallies, knowing full well that this was probably the only time they would get anywhere near this close to the political process, and it would all be over in a flash.

OF COURSE it wasn’t. By the time Donald started actually winning primaries, the Trump kids, in part filling in for their stepmother, who loathed the trail and preferred to stay in New York with Barron, took on their roles in the campaign as near full-time jobs.

Donald just about clinched the nomination in early May, winning the Indiana primary. Ted Cruz, one of the last Republican men standing by that point, bowed out that evening. Donald rode those escalators once again down into that mauve marble lobby to give a victory speech. Melania stood to his left, Ivanka and Jared, Eric and Lara, Don Jr. and Vanessa to his right, all closed-mouth smiles and shine.

“I want to start by, as always, thanking my family.” Donald leaned into the microphone his campaign had set up on a makeshift stage in front of a cheering crowd in his red baseball hats. “My wife, my kids. They’re not kids anymore, but as far as I’m concerned, they’re kids. They’ll always be my kids,” he joked. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch and it’s a beautiful thing to behold and we’re going to make America great again.”

He singled out his son-in-law, praising him for the work he had done to get him to that point. “Honestly, Jared is a very successful real estate person, but I actually think he likes politics more than he likes real estate,” he told the audience, sending Ivanka into a laughing fit. “But he’s very good at politics.”

A few days later Ohio governor John Kasich dropped out of the race, making him the sixteenth opponent Donald had put a pin in. As the presumptive nominee, he would soon start receiving intelligence briefings on national security matters and immediately shift to a general election plan. Life beyond the primaries smacked the Trumps in the face. There was a level of planning and organization that the tiny Trump team of novices could not themselves begin to fathom, but they had enough sense and outside advice to start making incremental plans on specific, necessary next steps. That’s when Donald put another load on Jared’s shoulders. He asked him to come up with a blueprint for a transition team, though Jared himself would not be involved with transition activities should his father-in-law win in November. Jared, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and senior adviser Paul Manafort started pulling together ideas for who could join the team and what the priorities should be.

Donald set his mind on New Jersey governor Chris Christie as the guy he wanted to lead the transition. Sure, Christie had been critical of Donald when he ran his own bid for the presidency, but he was among the first former opponents to endorse him in February. The complicating factor was that Jared, assigned to lead the charge here, despised the guy. Christie had put Jared’s father behind bars a little more than a decade earlier, after all, and kept him there for twenty-eight days longer than the Kushner family expected. The simmering tension was no secret, and Donald was sensitive to it, particularly because he knew Ivanka would be sensitive to it as well. But it was Donald’s campaign, and at least in this instance, no one could talk him out of it.

By May 9 Donald had already made the offer to Christie. He asked the governor to come to his office on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, where Donald did most of his campaign work when he was in New York, amid a crush of sports memorabilia, Tom Brady’s Super Bowl helmet, Mike Tyson’s belt, Shaquille O’Neal’s size 22 black and white basketball sneaker. A photo of Donald’s father Fred shared the desk with stacks of paper, framed magazine covers bearing his likeness lined the walls, and the red leather armless chair he’d sat in as the host of The Apprentice was tucked into the room’s far end. Corey Lewandowski came, too, and they began to hammer out the parameters of how the transition would work and what notes they wanted to hit in a press release announcing his appointment.

Jared joined them, too, and he tried to pump the brakes. “Well, we don’t have to rush this,” he chimed in. “Let’s take our time with this.”

Lewandowski interrupted him. Actually, they did have to rush this. The White House had already asked for the name of a transition head, and it was sure to come up at the meeting scheduled in a few weeks. They needed to decide this and get it out there already. Donald agreed with him. What was the point in waiting, anyway? The choice was made. Let’s get on with it.

Unlike Charlie Kushner, whose temper flashed and burned a whole room down in an instant, Jared simmered. The angrier he got, the quieter he became. So when he opened his mouth to respond, he was at little more than a whisper. It was rare for him to talk about his father’s stint in prison so openly, but on this day Jared unleashed. What came out was an impassioned monologue that went on so long that his father-in-Iaw ultimately had to interrupt him. “It’s unfair,” Jared said. “He took advantage of my family members for his own ambition, and you don’t understand what he did to us.”

Christie, no shrinking violet, either, boiled in his seat. Before he could Open his mouth, though, Donald jumped to his defense. “The guy was just doing his job. If you were there, you would have done the same thing,” he told his son-in-law. “You really should be mad at your own family here. They are the ones who turned over all that information to Chris.” Jared’s real problem, he added, was that he hadn’t known Donald at the time of his father’s trial; Donald and Christie were such good friends that things would have turned out differently. Christie would have taken it easier on his friend’s family. “No, no, no,” Christie interrupted. “I like you a lot, but I assure you it would not have been any different.”

“No, no, no,” Donald retorted. “It would have been different.” Donald then suggested that Jared, Charlie, Donald, and Christie go out to dinner together, to clear the air. Jared suggested that that might not be the best idea.

“Jared, you and I have talked about this,” Donald said soothingly. “Chris is the guy.”

“Fine,” Jared told him. “If that’s your decision, that’s your decision.” He turned around and walked out. Soon after, Lewandowski asked to be excused, too.

That afternoon the campaign sent out the release announcing Christie’s appointment. “Governor Christie is an extremely knowledgeable and loyal person with the tools and resources to put together an unparalleled Transition Team, one that will be prepared to take over the White House when we win in November. I am grateful to Governor Christie for his contributions to this movement,” Donald said in a statement.

ONCE THE decision was made, Donald and Jared called Charlie Kushner to let him know about Christie officially heading the transition, both asking for his blessing and making sure that it would not irreparably damage the inlaws’ relationship. It was a move out of respect and necessity, and one made with a great deal of anxiety. Charlie’s temper was a thing of legend in the tristate area. He would rip into anybody anywhere, burning his victims’ eardrums with the volume of his bellow.

Charlie played it cool when Donald called to let him know about the transition choice. He listened patiently to what his machatunim had to say. He took a breath. “Listen,” he said into the phone. “The most important thing is that you win and that you are prepared.” To those who heard the phone call, or how Donald and Jared recounted it, Charlie seemed genuinely magnanimous. Helpful and kind, even. The private father-son follow-up conversation went differently. Those close to the family recalled that Charlie told Jared they could let Christie do his thing now. This would get taken care of down the road. And indeed, six months later, just days after the election, Christie got canned from his gig, after months of working without pay, traveling to the transition offices in Washington every Wednesday, planning for the day when he would be able to execute on all the preparation he and his team had built up. Many believed the decision in large part stemmed from Jared, which they believed had been his plan from the get-go.

THE FIRST conversation between Jared and Christie about the transition role was not a walk in the park. It allayed no concerns over their ability to play nice as they worked to build one of the most complex, consuming, technical, and hugely vital aspects of a general election campaign, and prepare for a potential thereafter. So they talked it out. Don. Jr. was away from Trump Tower for the day they were due to meet during the summer of 2016, leaving his office on the twenty-fifth floor open. Jared asked Christie to meet him there. Across a round table, he admitted that he had not handled their last interaction as well as he had hoped to. He had reflected on it, he said, and come to the conclusion that the most important thing was that Donald win and be as well prepared to be president as he could be. He had put the past behind him, and he wanted them to work together throughout this whole thing.

Christie was skeptical. Just how past it could a guy who carried the wallet his dad made him while he was in prison really be? Christie himself had not totally put it behind him, particularly months later, long after Jared had a hand in firing him from his role, and reports of Jared’s meetings with Russian officials and involvement in the firing of FBI director James Comey caught the attention of investigators in the Robert Mueller probe. “Good thing I saved his father’s prison number,” Christie would joke with friends.

The two would be working together whether Jared and Christie had let it go or not. They were both professionals, who both wanted the transition planning to go smoothly. Neither wanted to spend their time sparring when there was so much daunting work to get done in short order.

A few factors made Christie’s eventual ouster a slick operation to pull off. Donald not only declined to be involved in the transition plans but also refused to hear about, read about, or talk about them. He had no clue whether Christie had done a good job getting everything together, whether the team he’d assembled knew their stuff, whether enough of the right materials were produced, and whether the policies and protocols and frameworks they spent months detailing jibed with how he would want to form his government after November 9. He could only rely on what other people he trusted, like, say, his children and their spouses-told him about the process.

Donald’s choice to stay removed from the transition had nothing to do with ethical concerns, time constraints, or a mental compartmentalization that pushed him to focus on only one goal at a time. He wanted nothing to do with transition talk because he thought it was “bad karma.” When he read in the papers or saw on the news any detail of the transition planning, he’d call his friends and staffers, screaming bloody murder. They would explain to him that, bad karma or not, they were complying with a federal law on the books since the 1960s that required a transition team for an orderly transfer of power between an outgoing and an incoming administration. If he didn’t want to have a hand in that, that was fine. But they couldn’t just not go forward with the whole thing.

Jared, by contrast, involved himself in the minutia. He ran a meeting every Monday on the twenty-sixth floor of Trump Tower, at which he, Christie, Jeff Sessions, and Rich Bagger, Christie’s former chief of staff, who he brought on to serve as the transition’s executive director, discussed staffing, policy priorities, and the various aspects of the planning. If for some reason they could not all meet in person, a conference call was set up. Rarely, if ever, did this check-in get canceled entirely. Jared reviewed the résumés and signed off on every staffer transition officials wanted to bring on, from secretaries on up to national security and economic team members. All the vetting they were doing on potential Cabinet picks also needed his approval.

BY JUNE, the Trump kids had grown tired of Lewandowski. They thought he appealed to their father’s worst instincts; they knew to pull their dad back when he was running full speed toward the deep end and steer him in the other direction, but they felt Lewandowski egged him on to cannonball right in. He was a yes man when Donald desperately needed no guys around him, particularly as the campaign neared the general election phase.

They also hated the fact that Lewandowski was always the first to board Trump Force One with the candidate and travel with him to every rally, every campaign stop, kicking his feet up on the plane and settling in rather too comfortably, as they saw it. Plus, he was a mooch, who would order cases of Red Bull and blow through a full case daily, leaving his breath reeking of the energy drink. It did not sit well with the family that Donald was letting him stay in a Trump apartment. “He was the campaign manager, and all he cared about was the plane and being close to the boss, and he’d constantly take,” one associate remembered. “Why wasn’t he back in Trump Tower actually running the campaign instead of freeloading off the Trump attention?”

There was also the issue of all the negative headlines Lewandowski generated that spring. First he grabbed a reporter by the arm at an event in Florida and was arrested, but the charges were dropped. Then there was the shouting match with communications director Hope Hicks on Sixty-First and Park Avenue in mid-May, which was chronicled in the New York Post gossip column Page Six. Lewandowski was married, and Hope was the Trump family darling, a PR girl who worked on Ivanka’s brand before she was brought in-house and, later, got hired by Donald to work in the Trump Organization. That she fell into a romantic relationship with Lewandowski during the campaign became a sore spot between Hope and Ivanka and her siblings, who saw Hope as one of them. That it spilled out into a public spat in the very paper that had published every last detail of their father’s affair was unacceptable.

It wasn’t just the Trump kids who had problems with Lewandowski. Reince Priebus, then the chairman of the Republican National Committee, bristled around him. So did other key Trump loyalists, who viewed him as both unreliable and unable to pivot to a general election campaign. And so on June 20, before Donald even got down to the twenty-sixth floor, Don Jr., Michael Cohen, and Matt Calamari called in Lewandowski at seven o’clock in the morning. Why have him work a full day if they knew he was going to be out? And why give Donald the opportunity to vacillate and change his mind? “It’s over,” Don Jr. told Corey. Calamari walked him out.

“Things had to change,” Don Jr. said in an interview on Good Morning America after the ouster. “No, he didn’t see this coming. There was nothing malicious or even vicious about it.” He added that his father needed to transition to the general. “I think there’s also time to move on. Those are the tough decisions you have to make when you’re running for president.”

AS THE Republican National Convention in Cleveland inched closer, all the kids wheedled their way into the process of deciding who their father would choose as his vice presidential pick. By July 11, Donald and his team had whittled down the list to three names. Chris Christie was in there. So was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House turned cable news pundit and Trump cheerleader. Indiana governor Mike Pence, a Christian conservative straight out of central casting, made the short list, too, as the clear favorite of many members of the Trump team, as well as Republican leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The first two, however, had proved themselves not only loyal friends but people Donald actually liked and wanted to shoot the shit with, two of his most valued qualities to Donald. Pence, he barely knew beyond the political boxes he checked and the polling numbers his aides presented him with.

They certainly made an odd couple: a thrice-married adulterer who boasted about grabbing women’s genitals, and a man who would not even go to a dinner with a woman who wasn’t his wife (whom he affectionately calls “Mother”).

That Monday started what looked a lot like sweeps week in the VP sweepstakes. On Sunday Donald met with Pence in Indiana. On Monday, Donald told people that the vetting file his team had prepared on Gingrich made Donald look like a saint by contrast, effectively knocking him out of the running. And so by the time Tuesday rolled around, it looked as though there were only two options on the table, though in Trumplandia, nothing is ever really a done deal until it is a done deal. And even then, he could still walk things back or reverse course, without acknowledging that a shift had even happened.

On Tuesday, Pence introduced the candidate at a private fund-raiser and public rally in Westfield, Indiana. “We are ready to put a fighter, a builder, and a patriot in the Oval Office,” he shouted to the crowd. Trump, ever the reality television host drumming up interest, asked his supporters how Pence was doing in his job as governor. “Good? I think so,” he joked. “I don’t know if he is going to be your governor or vice president. Who the hell knows?”

By that point, certainly not Donald Trump. That evening he got stranded in Indiana, somewhat of a catastrophe for a man of creature comforts who almost always opted to fly back to New York no matter how late a campaign stop ran or how nonsensical it was in the midst of a jampacked travel schedule. But Trump Force One had some sort of mechanical problem, so there he would stay.

He rolled through a phone interview with the Wall Street Journal, in which he told the paper that he was looking for a “fighter skilled in hand-to-hand-combat” as a running mate. Christie and Gingrich, he said, were “two extraordinary warriors.” Chemistry was important, too, which, he said also gave those two men a boost. “You either have it or you don’t. I clearly have it with Chris and Newt.” As for Pence, he didn’t know him enough to judge how much of an extraordinary warrior he could be, or whether they had chemistry or not.

At about 10:00 pm. Donald called Christie, who was in a hotel in Washington. “Are you ready?” Donald asked his friend. “Ready for what?” Christie asked. “Are you ready?” Donald repeated. Christie didn’t want to play coy. He asked if Donald was offering him the nomination.

Donald hemmed and hedged. He said he had not made his final, final decision yet, but wanted to know if Christie was up for it, and if his wife, Mary Pat, would be willing to pick up some slack on the trail, since Melania wasn’t keen on campaigning. Donald ended the call by telling him to stay by his phone.

Donald hung up and made a call to his family, telling them that he liked Christie. He felt comfortable with him and knew he’d tear the skin off Hillary Clinton in the general election, and he needed someone who’d willingly, skillfully do that. His kids quickly hung up with their father and called Keith Schiller, Donald’s longtime bodyguard. They were all coming to Indiana to stage a vice presidential intervention.

THE NEXT morning, Donald, Don Jr., Ivanka, Jared, and Eric, along with campaign chair Paul Manafort, turned up in Indiana for breakfast at the Pences’ home. Jared privately told Pence that he needed to turn on the charm for his father-in-law. Otherwise the gig would slip through his hands before the dishes were even cleared from the table that morning.

The meal went well enough that it buoyed Donald a bit, swaying him slightly from the assuredness he’d felt the night before. Still, that evening, he told Fox News’s Bret Baier that multiple contenders, maybe even as many as four, were still in the mix, though he was debating between two. “I tell you, Chris Christie is somebody I have liked for a long time,” he told the host. “He is a total professional. He’s a good guy, by the way. A lot of people don’t understand that.” He added that their meeting had gone “really well.” “He has always been very respectful to me and really appreciates what I’ve done politically,” he said. “And we had a great meeting.”

At the outset, he said he would announce his decision by Friday. Adding to the pressure, Friday happened to be the deadline for Pence to decide whether or not he would continue with his reelection bid. By Thursday evening, Donald was agitated and uncertain about Pence, chafing at being locked into making a choice under deadline. Jared reminded him that he was choosing a guy who’d make the ticket strongest and bridge the divide within the Republican Party, not a best buddy. Manafort agreed with Jared, adding that he worried Christie wouldn’t be as easy to handle and reminding Donald of Christie’s own presidential ambitions. He couldn’t choose someone who wanted the role for himself. Never mind the fact that very often that is not the case; Donald heard them.

But he was still uneasy. He didn’t know what to do, but his family was pushing him in Pence’s direction. That evening, a terrorist drove a nineteen-ton rental truck onto the sidewalk of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, after the annual Bastille Day fireworks, killing eighty-six people and injuring dozens more. Out of respect for the victims, the campaign initially decided to delay the announcement. But Donald grew restless, and a little before ten o’clock in the morning, he tweeted out his pick: “I am pleased to announce that l have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate. News conference tomorrow at 11:00 AM.”

When he talked to Christie, Donald told the governor that Pence just looked like a vice president. I have to take him, he said. He told him that if he won, any other job he wanted, all he’d have to do was ask for it.

LONG BEFORE the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Jared reached out to two speechwriters, Matthew Scully and John McConnell. These guys were the real deal; they worked closely with President George W. Bush in crafting his speeches, including the addresses he gave after the September 11 attacks. Jared wanted them to come up with a bang-up speech for his stepmother-in-law to give onstage at the RNC. Melania was such a reticent campaigner that she hardly ever accompanied her husband on his many campaign stops. She had a young son at home in New York whose life she wanted to keep as normal as possible. She still tried to pick Barron up at school as often as possible, though that grew increasingly difficult as time wore on, given the traffic her Secret Service detail caused at dismissal time. None of this politics stuff had been her idea; she liked their life, and why shouldn’t she? Most of it was guarded within their gilded doors and planes and homes on golf courses either bearing her husband’s name or at which he was the boss. She was a former model, so the attention wasn’t the problem. But she was not a native English speaker, and she saw how the press ripped her husband to shreds every day. No one in their right mind would be happy about throwing themselves to those wolves.

Jared wanted her rare appearance to be a hit. Not only would this boost the campaign, appealing to Americans who might have been turned off by the candidate’s multiple marriages and treatment of women, but also maybe if she knocked it out of the park, she would be more willing to jump into the political fray more often. She polled well, and with Trump going up in the coming months against the first female general election candidate, having a woman on the team whom people liked, who softened and defended her husband, couldn’t hurt. McConnell and Scully agreed. About a month before the convention, they shot her over a draft. A response never came.

Instead, Melania turned to people within her inner circle to rip the draft to shreds. It did not sound like her. She wanted to essentially start fresh. One of the people who helped was Meredith McIver, a former professional ballet dancer and Trump employee who had helped write Donald’s book Think Like a Billionaire. A handful of others had their hands in it as well.

None of them stopped Melania from getting onstage on the Monday night of the convention to deliver an address to 23 million viewers that stole entire phrases and themes from a speech Michelle Obama had given years earlier at a Democratic National Convention.

Immediately the Trump campaign spun into damage control mode. It was nearly impossible to understand how this colossal, and entirely avoidable, mistake could have slipped by so many people. How could a gang who couldn’t protect the potential First Lady from not straight-up ripping off a former First Lady’s speech word-for-word be trusted to run a winning campaign, let alone protect the United States of America? Melania Trump was barely offstage before journalists figured out that much of her speech was borrowed.

It took little more time before the finger-pointing within the Trump campaign began. On Tuesday morning, Ivanka and Jared blew off steam in their hotel gym, as did a number of other campaign officials. Jared walked up to one official who was pedaling idly on a stationary bike as he tried to catch up on the rest of the headlines, as if anyone was talking about anything other than Melania-gate, and for a brief moment forget about the whole thing. “You know, this was all Manafort’s fault,” he told the official, who questioned why it was Manafort’s responsibility or duty to proofread the candidate’s wife’s speech and make sure she hadn’t plagiarized it from Michelle Obama. A month later, Manafort was fired.

IN THE process of figuring out who the campaign should bring in to replace Manafort, members of the team knew they had to find someone who could right a ship that, by that point, was foundering. The whole tone of the Republican National Convention was dour, downtrodden, and fearful. By contrast, the Democratic Convention felt like the shining city on a hill in which most Americans would prefer to live, regardless of how realistic or euphemistic it was. Donald was entangled in public feuds with a former beauty pageant contestant who said he’d made unkind remarks about her weight and the Khans, a Gold Star Muslim family who criticized the Trump campaign’s rhetoric at the DNC.

His poll numbers dipped. They needed a new jolt. Jared started asking his friends and campaign advisers close to his father-in-law for options. Ivanka knew that bringing a woman on might help with the optics, even if, as a fairly obvious political calculation, it would likely be met with snickering. Ultimately, Jared believed no one would run the campaign better than he would, he had been the de facto campaign manager for months anyway, but he agreed with his wife. He started asking around for names of women to whom he could give the title of campaign manager, though, she would mostly just be going out on TV, and talking like the campaign manager. He would still call the shots. The people he asked were gobsmacked. What woman in her right mind would come on board, knowing that she was getting a fake job to make Donald look good while Jared was the one actually running the show? He wouldn’t tell her that, he’d reply.

It was under those conditions that, not long after, Kellyanne Conway joined the campaign, officially becoming the first female campaign manager in a general election bid in the history of the United States.

ON MONDAY, September 19, the Secret Service officially started protecting Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner and their children. Her brothers hadn’t yet received protection.

Her father had received his detail nearly ten months earlier, going with the Secret Service code name Mogul. Since the call signs within a First Family all begin with the same first letter, the rest of the Trumps fell in line with M names, as well. This naming tradition, which dates back to President Harry Truman, has since its inception sometimes been a way for commanders in chief to live out their fantasies, a game of high-stakes make-believe in which the most powerful men in the world get to try on a name to match the image of themselves they wished were true. Truman, for instance, decided to be called General, though he had only been a captain in World War 1. The Kennedys’ names all referred to Camelot. The Obamas stuck with Renegade and Renaissance.

But the point of the practice is much more significant than fantasy fulfillment. The call signs are used in an emergency, when protection enacts continuity of operation plans. If there is a crisis, it’s safer to say “We have Mogul” than “We have Donald Trump,” particularly if the Secret Service is operating on unsecure communications lines. But the Secret Service does not come up with these names themselves. Family members are given a series of names from the White House Communications Agency from which each protectee can choose.

Melania settled on Muse. Ivanka landed on Marvel. Her brothers received their details later, but Eric, a spectacular shot, chose Marksman, and Don Jr., for obvious reasons, picked Mountaineer. From the start, Ivanka was keen on the idea, of security protecting her and her young family; part of it had to do with the aura it gave her as a political power player. In Washington, at least, the presence of a detail, the men with earpieces and the black SUVs, is a status symbol. It’s the swamp equivalent to a bona fide entourage in Hollywood.

The man assigned to head Ivanka’s initial detail, it just so happens, was nicknamed Hollywood by his Secret Service colleagues and former protectees. He loved to make small talk about designers and celebrities and what clothes everyone was wearing. Instantly he fell into step with the family. He had just spent years as an integral member of First Lady Michelle Obama’s detail, so he was not only sensitive to protecting a family managing children not necessarily of Washington, and also understood the intricacies of working with a female protectee. It is not exactly comfortable, for either party, to have a male Secret Service member accompany a woman protectee to a gynecologist appointment, for instance, or a Pilates class. Hollywood, though, had spent years learning how to make it more palatable and less intrusive. He understood the importance of keeping his protectees’ public and personal lives separate, and immediately deflected attention from them enough so that they were able to take weekend trips or observe Shabbat without cameras snapping photos of them at every turn.

Ivanka, for her part, had spent a lifetime surrounded by live-in help. Many members of First Families past have never had nannies and housekeepers and bodyguards around. But for Ivanka, having people around whose sole job was to serve and protect her was a way of life that had been ingrained in her since she was born. This part of the transition suited her just fine.

It helped that the communication between Jared and Ivanka and their detail was open. From the get~go, they were honest with their detail about the possibility of their moving to Washington, which helped the Secret Service come up with a plan from the beginning. They instantly welcomed the detail into their lives, and members of their detail grew quite fond of the couple. When they visited the Kushner family home in New Jersey to observe the Jewish High Holy Days, Jared would recommend places nearby for the detail to grab a good dinner or a drink at the bar. (He surprised them by picking semi-cool dive bars that none of the Secret Service men could believe Jared himself had actually been to, though he insisted that he had.)

And as the Trump-Kushners gravitated more to the five-star hotel and private-plane end of the spectrum, a place on their detail became one of the more desirable assignments in the administration. In administrations past, the plum gigs had usually been on the First Lady’s Detail, known as the FLD. Jokingly, agents have dubbed the FLD “Fine Living and Dining,” because most First Ladies make so many trips to so many lovely places, go out to the best restaurants, and take a few vacations with their kids, with their detail in tow. This First Lady stuck closer to home, or homes, in the Trumps’ case. She rarely made public appearances or traveled anywhere other than to Trump Tower, Bedminster, New Jersey, or Mar-a-Lago. She didn’t socialize outside much, either.

Ivanka, on the other hand, more than made up for it. She crisscrossed the country, flitted about vacation spots at luxury resorts, frequented glitzy parties and hot restaurants, and stayed at several city and beach and country homes. In jest, some agents started referring to Ivanka’s detail as FLD Lite. Since the typical FLD didn’t exist in Trumplandia. Ivanka’s, more than anyone’s, was the assignment to get.

IVANKA’S SIBLINGS had a tougher time. Don Jr., “Marksman”, in particular chafed at the idea of protection, for several reasons. For starters, he was generally more private than his sister. He went to his home in the Catskills to fish and build bonfires and roam around on ATVs with his kids most weekends, and took off for days long hunting trips in the most remote parts of the Canadian bush, looking for moose, and ten-day boys’ fishing trips in Alaska. He wore flannel shirts and baseball caps, sometimes full-camp suits with neon orange vests. He flew mostly commercial, in coach, hopscotching from one flight to a small airport onto a tiny plane into a farflung town no one on the Upper East Side had ever heard of.

“I have friends that they only knew me as Don,” he’s said of the people he meets out upstate or in hunting camps. “They find out what my last name is and they’re like ‘I had no idea.’ You see them the next time and they’re trying to treat you differently and you’re like ‘what happened.’ Why should that make any difference? They’ll say, ‘You’re right.’ It’s a great equalizer.”

Some of the guys he’d met as just Don more than a decade before at shooting ranges upstate were law enforcement officers. Don, at the time, was just starting off in the business world at his father’s company, and these guys were just starting off in the police force, or at the lowest levels of the Secret Service. As Don’s role and responsibilities within the Trump Organization grew, so too did his shooting buddies. Some of the guys he’d gone shooting with and hung around with upstate were now assigned to follow him around and look after his family.

All of a sudden he went from no-last-name city boy Don to protectee. He was entitled to their service and responsible for pseudo-managing them. For a guy who’d spent years being uncomfortable with them treating him differently because of his last name, this crossed into prickly territory almost overnight.

That Don and his wife Vanessa had five kids living in New York City didn’t help matters. That meant that Vanessa had to manage essentially six different details, one for her and her husband and one for each of her children. Her phone lit up with texts and calls from agents, telling her one kid was a few minutes late to meet them on their designated street corner; asking if they would be on the north or south side of the street, what time she planned to leave the house for their drive upstate for the weekend, or who was staying late at school that afternoon. “It is literally overwhelming,” a former Secret Service agent explained. “Trying to manage all that with seasoned staff would be mind-numbing. To have someone who’s never done it before try and juggle all of that? Well, it would just be horrific.”

The head of the detail didn’t make it easier. Unlike Hollywood, he didn’t instantly mesh with the family. There were some preliminary conversations about a potential move to DC, so they put him in place as a temporary stopgap who might be replaced if the eventual relocation did happen. But it didn’t, and they ended up with what came to be a revolving door of agents and shifting dynamics. It was hard for them to get into a rhythm or find a comfortable relationship. “The whole thing has just been sloppy,” the former agent said. “The agents have been sloppy. The communication has been sloppy. Don’s back-and-forth attitude about them has been sloppy.” Hiring someone to help Vanessa coordinate might have made it easier, but the family didn’t spend the money.

It was simpler for Eric and his wife Lara. At the time, it was just the two of them. Lara got pregnant in the midst of the campaign, so for months there was no extra detail to coordinate, and they had forty weeks to plan for an eventual detail.

Tiffany’s detail was perhaps the laxest of all. One morning at the end of May, she walked in the front door of the Golden Pear in East Hampton, a tiny, teeming see-and-be-seen spot smack in the middle of Newtown Lane, the town’s little main street. The Golden Pear is some two hundred feet from the Monogram Shop, a little personalization store that, each year since the 2004 presidential election, has sold plastic cups labeled with campaign logos for each major party candidate, sold for $3 a piece to Hamptonites to display on their marble islands or pass around at their catered beach barbecues. The shop owner starts keeping track after the Super Tuesday primary contests in March, and at the close of business each day, she handwrites the total number of cups sold for each candidate on a piece of paper that she hangs in her store window.

Since this custom started, the cups had accurately predicted the winner, first with George W. Bush, then with Obama, twice. But this cycle, the cups, like every pollster and expert and analyst, got it wrong. Up until the weekend before Election Day, the Monogram Shop sold 4,946 for Hillary Clinton, and just 3,388 for Donald Trump.

Tiffany didn’t stop in to buy one of her father’s cups that morning, as Chelsea Clinton once did the year her mother ran against Barack Obama in the primaries. She chose to spend her $3, likely four times that, given their prices, on four iced coffees with her boyfriend. She dropped one iced coffee, and no one flinched or helped her pick it up, not even her detail, who was standing at a nearby table noticeably playing a game on his phone.

Most people didn’t notice her, besides the brief spill disturbance. She was in a baseball cap, and her security presence was so minimal that other customers readily came in and out both the front and back doors without so much as a glance. At one point someone did approach her, at which point she perked up, expecting some sort of comment, though who knows which way that would have gone. Her detail didn’t step in to block the approach, which would have been unnecessary, anyway, since the patron was simply asking if he could steal the extra chair at her table.

One customer that morning had also been in the Golden Pear one day in the 1990s when Chelsea Clinton and her several Secret Service agents walked in. “The world basically stopped,” he recalled. “For Tiffany, no one really noticed, and the people who did were intentionally looking the opposite direction.”

Chapter Three

Election Day

POLICE SHUT down Fifty-Seventh Street between Second and Third Avenues midmorning on Election Day for the Trump motorcade. The cars slid up in front of Public School 59, a school turned polling station for the day, just blocks from Trump Tower. Red and blue lights flashed against silver barricades set up to hold back the dozens of people who’d gathered outside to get a glimpse of the candidate and both cheer and boo him before he cast his ballot. He and Melania stepped out of a black SUV, Ivanka, Jared, and their daughter Arabella following seconds behind.

They all went down to the school’s gymnasium, filled at that point with agents in boxy suits and earpieces, cameramen clicking away, and reporters shouting questions at the Trumps. The family, in all neutrals, popped against the gym’s baby-blue-and banana-yellow walls. Apart from Donald, who’d walked in wearing only a suit jacket, all of them kept their coats on inside. Melania’s Balmain coat, with its wide lapel and gold buttons, hung on her shoulders, leaving her arms free. Ivanka kept her cream trench coat belted tightly over her black turtleneck and pants. Jared’s green utility coat remained over the gray V-neck he’d layered over blue button-down, black jeans, and white Common Project sneakers.

Ivanka approached the registration table first. “Here you go,” the lady behind the table told her. “What you’re going to do is fill out the ballot in one of the privacy booths behind you. When you’re done with that, you bring it to the scanner under the basketball net.” The woman asked Arabella if she wanted a sticker, and Ivanka smiled and brushed her daughter’s hair back as she thanked the woman. She picked up the ballot and showed it to her father. They looked eyes. This was really happening. Melania was next to approach the table, followed by Donald himself. Jared went up last. “Last name Kushner,” he told the woman.

Don Jr., his wife, Vanessa, and four of their five kids showed up to the same polling station a little while later.

Election Day happened to be Eric and Lara’s second wedding anniversary, and the two voted a few blocks south, at the Fifty-Third Street Public Library. Eric proudly took a photo of his filled-in ballot, and tweeted it out to his followers. It is, of course, illegal to take photos in the voting booth in New York, a fact that many of his nearly two million followers were quick to point out. He later deleted the tweet.

They all wound up back at Trump Tower. Don Jr. did a bunch of local radio hits. They made calls to supporters and took calls from busybodies wondering what the mood was like inside. By around five o’clock, when the first dismal round of returns started rolling in, the three eldest kids started calling in to local stations in battleground states to make a last push. Jared made calls to a few media friends. He asked one high-up executive at a major media organization who’d known Kushner both professionally and personally for years what he was hearing about Florida, which at that point was their last hope for any path to victory that night. The executive told him it didn’t look great, but what did he expect? “Did we get your support?” Jared asked. “No,” the executive told him. “No you did not.” Jared hung up and called Matt Drudge, another macher in the media circle he’d accumulated. The media had been off about the Trump campaign the whole time, Drudge told him. Wait until the next couple rounds of exit polls come out, he said. That’s when things could start to shift.

Since before five o’clock that morning, campaign officials had been huddled on the fifth floor of Trump Tower, essentially an expansive unfinished utility closet with concrete floors and no heat, which staffers in the early part of the campaign used as a makeshift headquarters. By the time the sun set that evening, dozens of people packed the room as then national field director Bill Stepien zeroed in on the campaign model, mostly focused on Florida, and Jared and Ivanka and Eric and Don began milling about, poring over maps and models and numbers coming in from their guys on the ground and officials in Florida feeding them what they knew. Donald was up in his triplex atop the tower until after eight o’clock, when he called Ivanka, asking where she was. He told her to leave the fifth floor and come up to the fourteenth, the official headquarters-and he would meet her there.

They looked like sardines, the lot of them. Donald, Melania, the kids, Pence, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Chris Christie, Mark Shot, the whole MAGA mod squad, stuffed into that corporate looking office, cramped around giant screens and projections and TV screens as campaigners explained the numbers coming in and the New York Times prediction needle shifted slightly in Donald’s direction. They stayed there until after eleven, when networks and wire services called Florida for him and the tide started turning in other battleground states. They took the executive elevator straight to the triplex, the family, the Pences, Conway, Christie and his son Andrew, Bannon, Stephen Miller, Priebus, Dave Bossie. The rest either stayed on the fourteenth floor or started to make their way a few blocks west to the victory party at the Midtown Hilton.

Miller sheepishly approached a few of them and told them he had prepared an exquisitely drafted concession speech. “What do we have on the victory speech?” someone asked Miller. “Bullet points,” he said.

So they pulled out a laptop, and Miller, Pence, Ivanka, Jared, Don, Eric, and Christie started writing. Ivanka pointed out that it would be a great opportunity to reach out to women, who undoubtedly would need it after watching the first female major party candidate lose. Maybe we can mention parental leave or child care credits, she suggested. “Vank,” Jared interrupted. “This isn’t the speech for that. We have plenty of time to get to that later.” The rest of the people around the table exchanged glances and took a breath. If anyone could say that to her, it was Jared. They were just glad he had.

Donald had been watching the returns on the small TV set up in the kitchen, repeatedly calling to check in on the victory speech he would have to give in a few hours. “We’re just polishing it!” they yelled to him, though, technically, there was not yet a fully formed speech to polish. “The truth is, we were cramming,” one of the people around the table said. “But we couldn’t let him know that.”

Once it became clear that things were going in his direction, the mood shifted to a mix of giddiness and shock. Jared threw his arm around Christie, saying “We did this.” Conway kept repeating, “Can you believe this?” Melania looked shocked, and mostly concerned with Barron, who seemed whip-tired on the couch. It was well after midnight at this point, and she focused on keeping him awake on the couch. Donald remained stoic, and Pence seemed a little more celebratory. Karen Pence, one observer noted, looked as though she were at a funeral.

The ride over to the Hilton took less than ten minutes. There they waited in a tiny holding area off to the side of the main stage. That’s when the Associated Press officially called the race for Donald Trump, at about 2:30 am. Huma Abedin’s name flashed on the screen of Kellyanne’s iPhone, which she had on silent. A day earlier, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, had emailed Conway with Abedin’s number. If Donald should win, he’d written, they would call him within fifteen minutes of the AP’s call. Abedin would be her point of contact.

Pence had already gone onstage to address the crowd, telling them that they were sure they had won, but were waiting for a Clinton concession and an official call. After Donald took the phone and accepted Clinton’s concession and congratulations, Pence walked over to his wife Karen and told her that they’d done it. They’d won.

“I know,” she told him coldly.

“Well, how about a kiss?”

“Mike,” she said, turning to him, “you got what you wanted.”

DONALD, NOW officially the president-elect, walked onstage just before the clock struck three in the morning to talk for about fifteen minutes. “To Melania and Don and Ivanka and Eric and Tiffany and Barron, I love you and I thank you,” he said about halfway through his speech, after thanking his parents and siblings. “Especially for putting up with all of those hours. This was tough. This was tough. This political stuff is nasty, and it is tough, so I want to thank my family very much. Really fantastic. Thank you all. Thank you all. Lara, unbelievable job. Unbelievable. Vanessa, thank you. Thank you very much. What a great group.” Incidentally, and accidentally, he forgot to thank Jared, the de facto shadow campaign manager, a body man meets yes-man, bound to him in law and desire to make their families as rich and powerful, at least outwardly so, as possible.

They got a few hours of sleep before Jared started making calls to close friends and campaign associates. Many of them had told him that November 9 would be a day of reckoning. They’d spent months warning him that people thought of him as a psychopath for supporting this campaign, or at best an asshole. They drilled into his head that no one was going to want to talk to him after the election, and that he’d face a steep uphill climb to rebuild his reputation and that of his family. What they called his “big real estate reboot” would begin on the morning after Election Day. “Prepare yourself,” they would say. “You’re going to get back to earth, and it’s not going to be the same place you left it.” His response to all of it was a quiet, repetitive “I know.”

That morning played out differently. The big real estate reboot was scrapped. They had all been so woefully wrong. He and Ivanka had prayed for the right outcome in the election, he told his friends, and that his father-in-law was going to be a great president.

Days earlier, on the Saturday before the election, after sundown when they could once again drive, they’d hopped in a car toward Cambria Heights in Queens, a largely black middle-class neighborhood where, on Francis Lewis Boulevard, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh grand rebbe of the Lubavitcher Hasidic dynasty, was buried alongside his father-in-law in 1994. The site of his tomb is known as the Ohel, the Hebrew word for tent, referring to the structure built around the grave. It is open day and night. Observers and believers have been making pilgrimages up to the Old Montefiore Cemetery in droves for the last near-quarter century because the rebbe, it is believed, will deliver those who visit the Ohel to God. A place to ask for blessings and scrawl prayers on the provided notepaper and toss them into the grave.

It was uncommonly warm that November Saturday, hanging in the mid-fifties even after dark. Jared turned up without a jacket, in a black cashmere sweater, flatfront khakis, and a yarmulke, Ivanka in a slanted black beret, belted coat, and bare legs. In the Ohel, they dropped their prayers into the grave before making their way back home. Friends joked that they weren’t sure exactly what Jared meant when he referred to the “right outcome,” and whether their prayers had in fact been answered or rebuffed.

AFTER JARED made a round of phone calls, he and Ivanka took their eldest children to school, as they often did, at Ramaz, the Modern Orthodox Jewish day school on the Upper East Side. They were a bit frazzled and tired but buzzing, and more apparent, they were a bit late. The school has a separate elevator to take parents up to preschool classrooms, and because they were running behind that morning, the elevator had already gone upstairs. So they waited. They were sitting ducks in a fishbowl. One by one, parents approached the couple, offering their congratulations. The win had stunned them, they told her. It was remarkable. She must be so happy, so proud. Wow, others offered. “She beamed,” one parent remembered of lvanka. “Graciously, she accepted every last word.”

UNTIL THEN, parents at the school and members of their uptown shul had been split on the couple and their involvement in the campaign. On the one hand, the campaign had ignited a new wave of anti-Semitism and hundreds of dog whistles to white nationalists, alarming the Jewish community. After the president tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton with a Star of David and a pile of cash, one of Jared’s own employees, Observer culture writer Dana Schwartz, wrote an open letter addressed to Jared in his paper, asking him to address the anti-Semitic vitriol spreading in his father-in-law’s name that “applies equally to your wife and your daughter.”

“Mr. Kushner, I ask you,” she wrote, “what are you going to do about this?”

Jared wrote his own op-ed in response, under the headline “The Donald Trump I Know.” He defended his father-in-law as “tolerant” and said that “the from the heart reactions of this man are instinctively pro-Jewish and pro-Israel.” He invoked the story of his grandparents, who survived the Holocaust, as proof that he knew “the difference between actual, dangerous intolerance versus these labels that get tossed around in an effort to score political points.”

Some of Jared’s own cousins, reigniting a more than decade old family feud that had been punctuated by Jared’s father getting sent to federal prison, took issue with this defense. “I have a different takeaway from my Grandparents’ experience in the war,” Marc Kushner wrote in a Facebook post shortly after, linking to the op-ed. “it is our responsibility as the next generation to speak up against hate. Antisemitism or otherwise.” Another first cousin, Jacob Schulder, was harsher. In a comment on Marc’s post, he wrote: “That my grandparents have been dragged into this is a shame. Thank you Jared for using something sacred and special to the descendants of Joe and Rae Kushner to validate the sloppy manner in which you’ve handled this campaign. Kudos to you for having gone this far; no one expected this. But for the sake of the family name, which may have no meaning to you but still has meaning to others, please don’t invoke our grandparents in vain just so you can sleep better at night. It is self serving and disgusting.”

Jared’s parents, Charlie and Seryl, were supportive of the Trump campaign, hosting a couple of open houses at their Long Branch, New Jersey, beach house on Donald’s behalf throughout the campaign. It wasn’t an option not to throw their support behind Donald; in effect, that would mean not throwing their support behind Jared. They were proud of what he was doing, and whatever he needed, they would do. That their son was effectively running a presidential campaign gave them enough naches for them to put their own distaste at some of the campaign nonsense and rhetoric aside.

Just grab em by the …

The Access Hollywood tape, for instance, rippled their household. But what rankled them wasn’t Donald’s language, that he’d boasted about using his special privilege as a celebrity to grab women by the genitals, or kissing a married woman he wooed with furniture shopping. It was that their son had walked to Trump Tower the day after the story broke to help handle the fallout. It was a Saturday, and their son shouldn’t have been working. That, they told him, wasn’t quite keeping Shabbat.

WHAT DIVIDED the community most unfolded over the summer of 2016. As the campaign worked with the Republican National Committee to put together the schedule for its convention in Cleveland, the Trump-Kushners threw out an idea. Why not ask Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, who’d shepherded Ivanka through her conversion process years earlier and led the congregation the Trump-Kushners attended in New York, to deliver an invocation, an opening prayer to kick off the convention? Lookstein had commanded the pulpit at the Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, or KJ, for decades, taking over the gig from his father. Israel’s Bar-Ilan University had granted him an honorary doctorate in recognition for the “influential role he has played in deepening Jewish values and heritage among American Jewry.”

The rabbi agreed, a personal decision that he said he made to honor her request, out of respect for her and their relationship. In the lead-up to the convention, he settled on an invocation that prayed for the welfare of the government, thanking God for translating into reality the biblical command to “proclaim liberty throughout the land for all the inhabitants thereof” and for the constitutional government that fostered “the American ideals of democracy, freedom, justice and equality for all, regardless of race, religion or national origin.” He would ask God to help us form a government that would “protect us with sound strategy and strength; which will unite use with words of wisdom and acts of compassion.”

By all measures, it was a prayer most Americans, particularly those concerned by some of the campaign rhetoric and policies taking shape and gang-who-couldn’t-shoot-straight-ness of it all, would have been heartened to hear. On a subtler level, it seemed almost like a troll of the candidate’s position on immigration and concerns over his tolerance for people who looked and lived differently than he did.

Of course, that is not why the Trump-Kushners asked their rabbi to participate. “Jared and Ivanka felt like this was simple, a way to honor their rabbi with whom they had a close relationship,” a member of the congregation recalled. But the simple things often turned complicated, in an instant, for everyone attached to the campaign, Javanka included.

The Trump campaign hastily sent a list of speakers, including all four adult Trump children, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence, former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, former underwear model Antonio Sabato Jr., and Lookstein. No one told the rabbi that his name would be included on a publicized list, which means he had no time to inform the campaign officials that he was not, in fact, giving a speech at the convention. He was simply offering a prayer.

The distinction may have made a difference to his congregants. Or maybe it wouldn’t have, given the immediate backlash he faced once the announcement went public. Congregants started an online petition, signed by nearly 850 people, condemning the rabbi for lending his blessing to Donald Trump.

Lookstein reconsidered. In a letter emailed to his congregants and friends, he wrote that “the whole matter turned from rabbinic to political, something which was never intended.” Politics, he added, divide people, and he had spent his live uniting. “In the interest of bringing our community together, I have asked to be relieved of my commitment to deliver the invocation.” Some guilt did wash over Ivanka and Jared for the trouble they had caused the rabbi and for the controversy kicked up in their community. At the same time, they felt like they were getting hung out to dry and didn’t see this as their fault in the slightest. “An amateur level of organization created a problem that did not need to exist,” one person who was part of the planning said. But friends and members of their congregation whispered that they should have known better. “Part of this was that when you’ve become a bigger fucking deal,” one congregant mused, “everything you do becomes a bigger fucking deal, and for some reason they didn’t catch on to that.

SOME PEOPLE in the Trump-Kushners’ community, KJ members, Ramaz parents, people who went to the Modern Orthodox yeshiva school that Jared attended in Paramus, New Jersey, thought it was a big fucking deal to have one of their own become a big fucking deal. On Saturday mornings throughout the campaign, as the rabbis spoke or cantors chanted, congregants would whisper that it was somewhat of a comfort to have him in the candidate’s ear. He was a guy they davened with, who grew up the way they did, with the same kinds of values and priorities they were all taught in school and at home and in temple on Shabbat. “It is still someone who we grew up with, who’s close to someone who may be the president,” one acquaintance from high school explained at the time. “That is never bad.”

Many agreed, however, that if they had their druthers, and it was up to them to choose a guy in their community who would be the one so close to and advising a US presidential candidate, Jared would not have ranked high on their list. The consensus was that, without a doubt, there were smarter, more accomplished guys in his high school class alone who would have been perfect geniuses in that role. With Jared, the feeling was more along the lines of, Well, I guess he’ll do.

“He would not be the one who you’d be like, ‘Oh, thank God he’s there,’ but it’s a comfort,” one of his high school classmates said. “He wouldn’t be a firstor secondor third-round draft pick. But, great, we have someone there. He’s totally solid and fine, maybe more savvy than smart.”

IN TERMS of his relationship with Jewish community leaders beyond his own New York, New Jersey bubble, many influential members corresponded with Kushner often, voicing their concerns and urging him to push certain policy positions. They were hearted by his father-in-law’s rhetoric when it came to his support for Israel. And for all the attention Steve Bannon got for the alt-right, white nationalist, neo-Nazi agenda pushed on Breitbart News, the website he helmed, he was an unabashed hardliner on Israel.

Jewish organizations could tell that Kushner was overwhelmed and overworked. His father-in-law had tasked the guy, at the time a thirty-five-year-old real estate developer who’d never worked for a place he or his family didn’t own, with solving Middle East peace, along with all of his other campaign duties. It is true that he had a close familial tie to Israel; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stayed at the Kushner family home when he came to the States, sometimes sleeping in Jared’s childhood bed during his stays. But years of political know-how and understanding of an issue so complex that it has eluded seasoned diplomats for decades isn’t like conjunctivitis. It doesn’t rub off on shared pillows, nor is it picked up in conversations with a father’s friends over Shabbat dinner.

So Jared frequently relied on feedback and input from these organizations, though it was clear he barely had the time to do so. “He’d reply to emails with letters instead of words, always very short, almost like he was running around on a BlackBerry with one hand tied,” one Zionist organization leader recalled. “It was never a substantive discussion. It was more just trying to keep his head above water and get done what he absolutely had to get done.”

He did engage with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the all-powerful pro-Israel lobbying group, throughout the campaign, particularly after his father-in-law hit the skids with the committee. Donald had particularly strained things when he said he would refrain from taking sides in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians so he could fairly, credibly serve as a neutral negotiator. That, of course, is a third rail for organizations like AIPAC, particularly for a presumptive Republican nominee to take. The group’s nerves were already frayed after eight years of the Obama administration, which many perceived as a dark period of the relationship between the American and Israeli government. They would need stronger assurances of support from the campaign, particularly given its questionable ties to anti-Semitism and white nationalists, if they were going to get anywhere together.

Kushner saw AIPAC’s annual conference, an event held at the end of March 2016, as a place for him to both make good and make his commitments to Israel clear. The initial plan was that Donald would do a question-and-answer session at the event, but it soon got scrapped in favor of a speech. Jared suggested that Donald use a teleprompter, which, given the typical freewheeling, meandering style he naturally gravitates toward, was simple self-preservation. The stakes here were too high to let an ill-informed, breezy throwaway line turn the whole community against the campaign for good. Jared also urged his father-in-law to use the speech to lay out specifics that the audience would eat up. The remarks could be a proof point that Donald would not only charm them and entertain them but knew a little bit about what he was talking about here and, most importantly, in fact, unequivocally have their back.

Jared solicited the advice of Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Dermer had talked through what could happen with the United Nations after the election with the Clinton campaign, and he wanted to share the Israeli government’s point of view with both sides, in language he felt comfortable with. At first he sent over talking points Donald could use for the Q&A, but Jared requested a phone call once he knew the campaign had to plan for a speech.

On the call, Dermer made it clear that he was doing this as a service for all campaigns. He talked for a solid hour about the UN, about Iran, about hard lines and language that was very important to Israelis, and about many people who would be in the audience that day. It was a solid foundation from which Jared and campaign officials could draw in drafting a speech, based on what fit in with their own agendas and strategies and broader foreign policy goals.

The truth was that those broader agendas, strategies, and goals, particularly when it came to foreign policy, were primordial at best at that stage. And so having Dermer spell out a fully fleshed-out policy was like getting your hands on the answer key the night before a final exam that was worth 50 percent of your grade at the end of the semester. As Dermer laid out, piece by piece, bit by bit, the position of the Israeli government and the ways in which they wanted to hear a US commander in chief relate to them and address the rest of the Middle East, someone was clearly taking notes.

The next day Jared sent a draft of the speech to the billionaire casino owner, GOP kingmaker, and major Jewish philanthropist magnate Sheldon Adelson, who promptly sent it over to Dermer. The text Dermer read was like a transcript of what he had told Jared in their phone call, right down to the jokes. It was basically wholesale theft.

Jared continued to polish over the weekend. He loved it. When Jared called Dermer back to give him a preview, it seemed that the campaign had used what Dermer said in their phone call almost exactly, adding a few familiar Trumpian rhetorical flourishes, a bunch of believe me’s and plugs for his Art of the Deal. It was Dermer’s substance, almost verbatim, put through a Trump Speak machine and fed into a teleprompter for him to read to the crowd.

The speech went through three main takeaways, all of which were very much in line with the AIPAC bent. First, his priority would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” which he called “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.” He laid out an uncharacteristically specific plan for what he, as president, would do and the specific problems he said the deal failed to address. Second, he vowed to move the American embassy to Jerusalem. Third, he ripped into what he called “the utter weakness and incompetence of the United Nations,” which, he said, was not a friend to freedom, nor to the United States, and surely not to Israel. He vowed to end the discussions swirling about an attempt to bring a Security Council resolution on the terms of an eventual agreement between Israel and Palestine. “The United States must oppose this resolution and use the power of our veto, which I will use as president 100 percent.” Next, he told the audience that Palestinians need to stop treating those who murder Jews as heroes and lionizing hatred in textbooks and mosques.

But despite his son-in-law’s warnings, the candidate couldn’t help himself. He could read an audience, that was his one natural skill, so he threw them some red meat. “With President Obama in his final year” he began, before interrupting himself with a “Yay!” Like any performer worth his salt, he paused to let the crowd applaud and roar. He chuckled to himself, his lips turning upward in a grin, before he turned his head to take in the crowd.

This was what he fed off, what set off that little clinking in his brain, like a junkie getting a first taste before opening up wide. He heard the clapping and he wanted more. So he careened off the teleprompter and spiraled straight into rally mode, straight down into the mordancy that played so well to his base.

He kept pausing and shaking his head as the rush settled into thought bubbles. “He may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel, believe me, believe me,” he said to more hoots and hollers. “And you know it and you know it better than anybody.”

His audience didn’t necessarily disagree with these sentiments. But members of AIPAC’s executive team started to scramble. Candidates didn’t use this event to slam and attack other politicians. AIPAC president Lillian Pinkus opened the next morning’s events, during which Netanyahu was scheduled to speak, with an apology for the rhetoric Donald had run off with the night before. Barely swallowing back tears, Pinkus indicated that the candidate had violated the nonpartisan spirit the event tried to retain.

The hubbub around Donald’s comments overshadowed the one line he had been sure would get him into AIPAC’s good graces. “I love the people in the room. I love Israel,” Donald had ended with the day earlier. “My daughter, Ivanka, is about to have a beautiful Jewish baby. In fact, it could be happening right now, which would be very nice as far as I’m concerned.”

A WEEK before the election, in the midst of this all, Ivanka turned in the manuscript for her second book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success, to her publisher. The book was a marketing dream. The confluence of the company she’d built under her own name and the near-constant attention on her speaking about paid family leave and child care under the glare of the political campaign made a book like this the gold standard for the term “brand tie-in.”

Ivanka had spent nearly a decade selling jewelry to women, and then clothes and shoes and handbags and accessories, and later, the notion of a put-together working woman who, if she doesn’t “have it all,” wants to read about the interview-ready outfits and time-saving tips and recipes and workouts and ways to ask for a more flexible work schedule she’ll need to get close to having at least some of it. Her brand website turned into a mecca for that kind of aspirational content, with blog posts about packed lunches and spring looks for the office, most of which let readers shop corresponding looks from the Ivanka Trump brand directly from each post.

She had announced the book publicly in June, in a video message posted on her website. “So last year, I shared some pretty exciting news, that I was pregnant with baby number three, little baby Theodore, and, today, I have some amazing news to share with you as well.” She held up a cutout of a white number 4 affixed to a stick, biting her perfectly berry-stained lips, as if the secret would spill out if she didn’t physically contain it with her teeth. True Ivanka Trump fans, the kinds of women who religiously read her website or leave comments on her Instagram photos praising her children or cataloging her outfits, would recognize this trick. When she announced her pregnancy with Theodore, again, in a video posted on her site, her first child, Arabella, had held a number 1, her second, Joseph, a number 2, and Ivanka herself held a gold number 3 up to her belly.

“Okay, so I’m not pregnant with baby number four,” she said, doubling over her own black-and-white printed shift dress as she chuckled at her own joke. “But I do have another exciting project in the works, and it is also a labor of love. It’s a book.”

The idea had been born two years earlier, when she launched her first #WomenWhoWork initiative. “I was advised by many of the top creative agencies to lose the word, ‘work,’” she wrote in her announcement. “One after another, they suggested that the idea of ‘women and work’ wasn’t aspirational and wouldn’t resonate with a millennial audience. I disagreed. If you ask me, there’s nothing more incredible than a woman who’s in charge of her own destiny, and working daily to make her dreams a reality.

“Over the last two years, my team and I have been laser-focused on making IvankaTrump.com the destination for professional women. Our site is home to inspiring thought leaders, smart content and solution-oriented tips curated for women who work. Today, I’m beyond excited to announce the next evolution of our message, a book.

When she took the idea to Portfolio, her publisher, half a year earlier, it wasn’t a hard sell. At the time, they had no inkling that she would be turning in the pages after more than a year stumping for one of the most polarizing political candidates in American history. None of them believed that Donald would make it beyond a few primaries, certainly not to the general election. To them, he was a fringe candidate who had no shot at winning. They bought her book giving little thought to all of that. They’d market it as a liberal-leaning C-list celebrity version of a career book.

They ran into some bumps even before the prospect of a President Trump dawned on them. Ivanka worked with a writer who the publisher thought was really good, but Ivanka reworked everything herself. She would go through the pages early in the morning, before walking over to Trump Tower or traveling with her father to a campaign stop, typing away on her laptop as she got her hair blown out in her apartment, Jared bringing her coffee as the nannies got the kids ready for school. From the pages they got to read early on, what came through to the publishers was her privileged perspective. For instance, there was no mention of the two women who took care of her own children until the last few pages, in the acknowledgments. After she thanked her agent, the contributors to her book, her sisters-in-law, her mother, her friends, her colleagues, and the two nannies who helped raise her and her brothers, she acknowledged Liza and Xixi, “who are helping me raise my own children,” thanking them “for being part of our extended family and enabling me to do what I do.”

Mostly, the publishers felt that the book was devoid of emotion. They pumped and pumped her to add personal, relatable details about her relationship with her parents, “to make her seem like she had a pulse,” one person involved with the book explained. “Like she was a human and had emotions.” They took every shred of what Ivanka and her writer were willing to give, which wasn’t much. Ivanka was always unfailingly polite and gracious, though, and so intense in her work ethic that they were surprised every time they visited her in her Trump Tower office (she never ventured to their offices; they always came to her).

The real trouble came once Donald had won the nomination. They had to change their entire marketing calculus, because the demographic they had thought the book would appeal to when they bought it, young women in their twenties and thirties living on the coasts, now staunchly opposed Ivanka’s family and everything her father’s campaign stood for. So they had to start making inroads into a whole new audience in the middle of the country, an audience that, frankly, the publisher did not know how to reach or market to.

They recalibrated and, once they had their hands on the manuscript, tried bit by bit to turn it into the best book it could possibly be. Ivanka asked Mika Brzezinski, who had her own “Know Your Value” brand already launched, to review the book. At the time, the Morning Joe host was on okay enough terms with her father, and she helped Ivanka get his attention on women’s-related issues throughout the campaign, to varying degrees of success. Ivanka genuinely wanted to help the cause, she believed; if a few words about her book meant that the future First Daughter would put her efforts there in the White House, then fine.

A week later, Donald won the election, and the entire calculus changed again. Ivanka asked the same favor of Judge Jeanine Pirro, the colorful Fox News host and longtime friend of her father’s. Jeanine’s ex-husband, the businessman and lobbyist Al Pirro, had served as Donald’s power broker in Westchester County in the 1990s, and the three of them would play golf and fly on Trump’s plane down to Mar-a-Lago together. (Donald could never get any work done on those flights down to Palm Beach. “I can’t pay attention,” he’d tell friends traveling with him. “How can you stop looking at her legs? Have you ever seen sexier legs?”). This was before Al Pirro got locked up for conspiracy and tax evasion, a turn of events that went on to haunt Judge Jeanine’s career as district attorney in Westchester and her onetime bid for a seat in the US Senate. But it made it so she could staunchly, spiritedly advocate for her old pal in her televised monologues each Saturday night, and say yes to writing a few kind words about his daughter’s forthcoming book. “Who knows more about success than Ivanka Trump?” she wrote. “Buy it and learn something!”

ON THE day after the election, most of the staff in Portfolio’s offices were zombies. Some cried all day, taking turns wiping their faces in the bathroom. To some, it was a disaster. They were in complete despair about having this book on their hands. But other executives were elated. What they’d bought as a famous-reality-star-meets-buiIder-meets-fashion-executive-meets-mom and wife, how-to was now something entirely different. They had the First Daughter’s book. By accident. And it was scheduled to come out just about one hundred days after her father would take office. “We never thought of canceling,” the person who worked on the book said. “There was the chance for it to be a big hit, and you’d have to be on a suicide mission to cancel the book by a First Daughter, even in this case.”

The looming issue was how to do press around the book. Ivanka had not yet determined what her role would be once she and Jared moved to Washington. She would be some kind of an adviser to her father and his administration. That was never the question. What was at issue was how she would describe her position in marketing the book. She hadn’t intended to officially join the administration until ethics concerns made it nearly impossible for her not to. So how could she go out before she herself answered those questions and have a book publisher try and field the issue, thorny as it was?

The day before Christmas she called the publisher directly, saying she was not sure what her role would be, whether it was going to be official or unofficial, or how she would describe it to people. She wondered if they could move the publication date from March back to May. As it happened, the book was set to go out the following Monday. The wheels were so far in motion that in any other case, it would have been absurd to try to stop them at that point. But this wasn’t another author looking for a favor; it was the incoming First Daughter. They pushed the book back. (Not long after the book was meant to come out, lvanka announced her official role within the administration, as assistant to the president, advising him on issues related to American families, female entrepreneurship, and workforce development. As an official government employee, she could not market the book herself, which meant no interviews, no tour, no readings, no appearances. Before her attorneys and White House lawyers came down on it, every network had been fighting to get her for the book. “The lineup would have made Princess Diana jealous, had she promoted a book,” one publishing executive said. They had to scrap it all, though. And the reviews, one after the next, panned the book, for what it said, for what it left out, and for what people read between the lines. “She didn’t ruin the year,” the executive said, “but it was a bloodbath.”)

IN THE days following the election, foreign leaders and diplomats flooded the switchboard at Trump Tower. There were protocols for how these calls were supposed to be received and made, of course. Many of them were outlined in the dozens and dozens of binders that members of the Trump transition team had put together leading up to November. Few of the transition officials imagined that these binders would actually get put to use. Donald Trump was such a long shot that their work was more of a just-in-case than a these-will-almost-certainly-help-inform-the-next-president. Even fewer imagined that the binders would be picked apart and summarily chucked in the trash once Vice President-elect Pence took over the transition. Ivanka and Jared, along with her siblings and their father and Pence and his allies, had a deep suspicion of any materials put together by anyone connected to Chris Christie. They were also so disengaged from the pre-Election Day transition work that they had their hand in none of the preparation that the professionals-people with real governmental experience, with actual expertise in national security and on the economy and intergovernmental relations and intelligence operations and diplomacy and how the bureaucracy in Washington functions and what all of these areas need to run properly every day, put together. The Trumps, who worked out of their dad’s office in a building bearing their last name, knew nothing about any of that. What they did know was that, deep down, they trusted only themselves. Anything prepared without their input, particularly by people who they believed were loyal to Christie, who was not always a friend of the family well, how could it be used?

Transition officials remember Ivanka coming down to the floor of Trump Tower that housed the transition operations to inspect what was going on. She and Jared seemed paranoid to staffers, worried that officials would be more loyal to Christie than to “the family,” which is how, people on the transition said, they referred to themselves, “Like a mafia movie,” one joked. People gossiped about overhearing “the family” talking about burning the place down and starting from scratch.

“They came into this with chips on their shoulder and grudges that a little seasoning and worldliness tells you that they shouldn’t bring to the party,” one transition official who was fired soon after the election recalled. “They brought it to the party anyway.”

It became abundantly clear once foreign leaders began to call. Transition officials had prepared a call book, laying out which calls they knew were going to come in, how to prepare for them, and which to prioritize, based on the traditional protocol surrounding these early days of the transition. All of it got tossed aside. It is unclear whether this was totally intentional; perhaps the Trump operation, as it existed after the election, was simply too overwhelmed and understaffed to keep up with all of the high-level international issues and decisions and processes it was suddenly faced with. For all its bluster, the Trump Organization is not a Fortune 500 company, with huge teams of people and sophisticated communication systems and tons of seasoned assistants crisscrossing spanning offices, ticking off to-dos and putting out fires. It’s a tiny office stuffed with decades-old magazine covers featuring the boss, and, one floor away, his kids’ offices in a sleeker, more modern area. One longtime executive-assistant-cum-gatekeeper, Rhona Graft, who had worked for the company for thirty years, handled all the calls and messages coming in for her boss.

That left Theresa May, the British prime minister, scrambling for a good twenty-four hours to get through to the incoming US president. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi got through earlier, as did Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a diplomatic faux pas deeply reflective of the total chaos within Trump Tower and the transition in the days and weeks following the election. Many lamented that if they had just stuck to the materials the early transition officials put together, this snub of a US ally would not have happened. It is impossible to say, though, whether anything would have really been different; it was Donald Trump who had just been elected president, after all. And Donald Trump, people were starting to realize, was not only unpredictable and erratic but also had a penchant for knocking things off kilter even when trying to stick to protocol.

“They all paid for not sticking to what we’d planned,” the transition official said. “Because they looked like bumbling idiots.”

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was the first leader to make the pilgrimage to Trump Tower, less than ten days after Donald won the election. The Trump team left the pool of reporters on duty that day out of the meeting, as they did with American photographers. No one got the chance to ask questions before or after the sitdown, and no official photos were released, either, apart from a Facebook post on Donald’s page that showed him shoulder-to-shoulder with Abe in the foreground, the gilded moldings and marble and cream silk sofas of the Trump residence behind them. “It was a pleasure to have Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stop by my home and begin a great friendship,” he captioned the shot.

The Japanese government had a different plan. They handed out more revealing photos of their prime minister’s time in Trump Tower to the waiting press. In one, Donald and Abe sat facing each other on that silk cream couch, flanked by two interpreters and a dizzying array of crystal chandeliers and sconces and marble statues and mirrors. Facing them across a gilded coffee table topped with a gold candelabra holding unlit candlesticks, Ivanka Trump sat cross-legged in a beige armchair. Arms crossed at the wrists, she leaned back in her shift dress, black stilettos digging into the cream carpet. In another photo she stood beside Abe and Jared, who wore a slender gray suit jacket buttoned over a slim black tie. In a third shot, the couple stood smiling behind Donald and Abe as they shook hands.

Immediately, alarm bells rang over the ethics and the optics of it all. First, what business did a daughter and son-in-law who had no governmental experience or even, at that point, a plan to join the government, have at that meeting? Everyone still had faith then that the country would be run as a democracy and not a monarchy, that the First Family would never be a royal family. But these photos were enough to shake that faith. Second, the fact that neither Ivanka nor Jared had security clearances raised some eyebrows. Third, perhaps most concerning, Ivanka was still heavily involved with the Trump Organization and with her own eponymous product line, both of which did deals around the world. The image of her having a cozy meeting, in a diplomatic position of power, with a world leader raised concerns. What, if any, boundaries would be drawn between Trump Tower business and foreign relationships within 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? Would the family use its newfound political circumstances as a marketing opportunity?

Ivanka’s brand had already been hit hard for marketing off her campaign appearances. The Ivanka Trump social media accounts had posted buy links for the sleeveless pink Ivanka Trump dress she wore to introduce her father at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and for the gold bangle bracelet she wore on 60 Minutes, taped alongside her father and siblings two days after the election. Both times, Ivanka made it clear behind the scenes that she herself had nothing to do with the posts. Not only did she know better, but she was so much more focused on the bigger-picture issues she now had a chance to influence. Selling dresses and bracelets wasn’t taking up much space in her brain during that period; it was lower-level Ivanka Trump brand staffers who’d thought up the whole thing. Could she blame them? No way. They were just doing their jobs. Was she going to take the blame? Again, no. She had a very different sort of job.

Concerns continued to mount. Soon afterward, the New York Times reported that while Ivanka sat across from Abe in her childhood apartment, a two-day private viewing of her collection, including the sleeveless pink dress she wore to the convention, was taking place in Tokyo to shore up a licensing deal with a Japanese apparel company. Talks between the Ivanka Trump brand and Sanei International had been under way for years, and did not stem from Ivanka herself. The largest investor of Sanei’s parent company happens to be a bank owned by the Japanese government.

The apparatus around Ivanka spun it as a rookie mistake. “Any meetings she’s in is because it’s always been a family focused environment and she has always been invited by her father to attend every meeting,” one person explained at the time. “But she is very committed to being respectful of different boundaries and it’s clear that it’s going to take some getting used to the changes that need to happen. They all understand that there’s a need to evaluate everything, and in the next couple of weeks, we will have a better sense of how she is going to separate from that.”

BUT THE Trump kids did not separate. In fact, despite the months of preparation carried out by professionals and policy experts, the Trump campaign’s hallmark chaos bled into the postelection process, Donald’s three adult kids made themselves at home on the transition’s executive committee. They took seats at the table in the first official transition meeting in Trump Tower in the days after the election, alongside Trump loyalist and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, his chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, and a handful of others. So began the exercise of trying to fill top agency positions and, most importantly, decide on Cabinet nominations, a tedious process for anyone, let alone an incoming president with no governmental know-how and little to no attention span.

Eric Trump had worked for his father as a Trump Organization employee for about a decade and as his son for thirty-two years. He knew that Donald could derail the whole thing if he thought he could appoint anyone he wanted, including his friends, who had even less business serving in top agency positions than Donald did. Nothing would ever get done if Donald believed there were an unlimited number of possibilities, or worse, if he thought those roles could go to anyone he thought fit. Eric asked the transition staff to come up with short lists of potential nominees who had a shot at getting confirmed, and present these to his father. “We have to lead him to believe that this is who he has to choose from,” he told people. “He’s got to think those are the only guys.”

This is where some of the tension between Eric and Jared came from. Where Eric saw Donald’s weaknesses, he tried to work around them, filling in for what he lacked and making him stronger. This wasn’t entirely altruistic; his success depended almost entirely on his father’s, after all. But for the most part, he came from a place of trying to make his father better, and a desire to protect him from himself. Eric didn’t feel like that was where Jared came from in his own dealings with Donald. Throughout the campaign, especially, he told people that he felt Jared took advantage of Donald’s weaknesses, as opposed to trying to neutralize them.

They put those tensions aside, though, for the initial postelection transition meeting. They had just started working through some of the first steps when Generals Mike Flynn and Keith Kellogg walked in the room. As far as Christie, who was running the meeting, knew, they had not been invited, and this was not a come-as-you please, anyone-is-welcome affair. “Gentlemen,” he said, “we’re in the middle of a meeting. Can I help you?”

When Ivanka cut in to say that she had invited both of them, Christie demurred. He told Flynn and Kellogg that since he hadn’t known they would be joining, he had not made printouts of the meeting agenda and materials for them. They would have to look on with someone else.

The meeting was getting back on track when Ivanka again interrupted. “General Flynn,” she said, turning to him, “you have been so amazingly loyal to my dad. We all love you. How do you want to serve the president-elect? What job do you want?” A few people around the table caught each other’s eyes. Jeff Sessions rolled his, pulled his glasses off the bridge of his nose, and sank back into his chair.

There were just a few jobs he would be qualified to take, Flynn responded: secretary of state or secretary of defense, or, if not one of those, head of the president’s National Security Council.

Eric jumped in. He asked if Flynn had been retired long enough to head the Pentagon. Flynn said that if he got a waiver from Congress, it would be okay. Eric turned to Sessions and asked how often Congress issued waivers like that to potential cabinet nominees. “Never,” Sessions replied.

Later on in the meeting, Ivanka put the same question she had asked Flynn to Kellogg. He would be happy to take on the role of chief of staff, he said.

“To the president?” Eric asked.

Yes, Kellogg told him.

“Well, is there anything else you would possibly want?”

ON THURSDAY the family sat down for an interview with Leslie Stahl, to air on CBS’s 60 Minutes that Sunday. The interview, taped on the first floor of the triplex in which all the kids, apart from Tiffany, had grown up, and together watched news anchors call states for their father a couple of nights before, would be the first time Donald, Melania, and all five children talked about the changes to come.

Earlier that day, forty-some stories down, on the twentieth floor, Bannon called Christie into his office and fired him from his role as head of the transition on the spot. On one hand, there was a sense that Donald, who out of superstition had not wanted to know anything about the transition, had been sold a bill of goods about where it stood, despite the months of prep done by true experts who’d filled dozens of binders with useful research and delineated next steps. All of that work had been done by people the family considered Christie loyalists, so how could they trust it? They couldn’t, they thought, which explains why they made a show of dumping tens of binders in the trash in front of the very people who’d prepared them. Those who believed this was about settling the long-simmering Kushner-Christie score saw Jared’s overtures during the campaign, and particularly on election night, when he threw his arm around the governor as ruthless. Many saw this as an attempt to replace those who’d aligned with Christie to those who aligned with the candidate and his family, which is why the campaign swiftly appointed Pence as its new leader and Dearborn its executive director.

The move to bring in an incoming vice president to head a transition did have a precedent. George W. Bush had done the same when he was preparing to take office. Christie also happened to be mired in scandal in his own state; two of his former aides had been convicted in the so-called Bridgegate scandal, in which traffic lanes on the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, New Jersey, to Manhattan were closed as political retribution against a political foe in New Jersey, a week earlier. Dearborn would also be a natural liaison between Trump Tower and Capitol Hill, and as usual, the Trump kids would be there to oversee it all.

But the story that this was just Washington business as usual, without a hint of personal vengeance, became harder to buy as the days went on. Rich Bagger, who’d taken a leave from his job as Christie’s chief of staff and temporarily moved from New Jersey to DC to serve as the transition’s executive, was waiting for Christie when he came up to the twenty-fifth floor after Bannon canned him. They wanted to keep Bagger on, since he was the guy who knew every in and out. Bagger responded by saying he would quit and finished with a hearty fuck-you.

Bagger still went down to Washington the following day. He had planned a meeting in the DC transition offices in which Bill Palatucci, Christie’s former law partner and the transition’s general counsel, would go over ethics requirements in front of hundreds of staffers. As he made his way to the stage, Bagger got a call from Dearborn, telling him to stop Palatucci in his tracks. He’d forgotten to tell the general counsel that he was about to be fired. They didn’t want Palatucci getting up in front of everyone, and they didn’t want Bagger up there, either. Bagger told them to go scratch, and he and Palatucci ran the meeting anyway.

By the next week Dearborn had also fired Mike Rogers, the former House Intelligence Committee chairman Christie had hired to run the transition’s national security wing. “I saw this all happening and I said to myself, ‘Holy shit, man,” one high-up transition official noted. “We all knew this was coming from the family, and these were guys who had put their hearts and souls into this, and they treated them like they were something stuck on their shoes. It was just an ugly, ugly bloodletting, and they didn’t even have the class to make the call themselves. They had Dearborn do it for them.”

Bannon later admitted that the decision to fire Christie and everyone, in the family’s eyes, associated with him came from Jared. Donald himself insisted that Christie had not in fact been fired, but simply made a member of a bigger team.

The campaign’s statement said it all. “Together this outstanding group of advisors, led by Vice President elect Mike Pence, will build on the initial work done under the leadership of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to help prepare a transformative government ready to lead from day one.” Christie would be moved to the role of vice chairman of the transition effort. Jared, Ivanka, Don Jr., and Eric were among the members of the executive committee, along with Steve Bannon, Ben Carson, Mike Flynn, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Rebekah Mercer, Steven Mnuchin, Devin Nunes, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, and Peter Thiel.

FIGURING OUT how to untangle everything swallowed up time Jared and Ivanka did not have. Ivanka had to start thinking about whether or how to uproot her kids and move to Washington. As she started to seriously consider the possibility, friends urged them not to. There were two camps of people insisting that she should stay in New York, first, those who said attaching themselves further to such a polarizing political environment would ruin their reputations and their friendships and all the little frills and big comforts they’d known and enjoyed for most of their lives; and second, those who worried about what their businesses would be without them. Don and Ivanka and Eric were the three musketeers within the Trump Organization. People close to the family told Ivanka that if she left and broke up the band, they didn’t know if it would ever come back together again. People close to Jared told him that his association with the White House would place tremendous scrutiny on Kushner Companies and scare off investors who didn’t want their finances run through by the media and government’s fine-tooth combs. There was the added pressure from within the Kushner family, though they fully supported and found great pride in Jared ascending to the West Wing. There were the practical concerns over how the business would run. Jared’s brother Josh had his own company. His sister Nicole was a relative newcomer to the business, and while she had been there, Jared very much ran the show alongside his father. As a felon, Charlie Kushner couldn’t sign anything. As that reality dawned on him, he would often blurt out “I miss Jared” in the middle of meetings, in front of other Kushner family members and business associates.

Ivanka often responded that she wanted to actually affect change on issues she’d been talking about in the private sector for years, only now with a level of efficacy on a global scale that she could never have imagined before. To close friends, she would add that she couldn’t leave her father in Washington alone: “He can’t get down there and look around and have no one around him,” she’d say. “He needs his people there.”

THERE WAS no one on the transition staff close to Jared and Ivanka who could herd them through the process of filling out disclosure forms and security clearance documents. They had dozens upon dozens of businesses and trusts and investments and properties and holdings, all of which they had to somehow untangle themselves from. They had to figure out whether they wanted to fully divest from these, and if so, how to go about that. If they didn’t, they faced a whole other set of issues over putting those assets into a trust controlled by someone else, in many cases, by Jared’s mother Seryl and his siblings Josh and Nicole. Over time, Kushner resigned from 266 corporate positions, and Ivanka stepped back from 292. In the first six months of the administration, the couple revised its financial disclosure form about forty times, a rate his lawyers called normal, and governmental ethics experts called bullshit.

That the couple was worth hundreds of millions of dollars, scattered so widely and in such complex ways, was one factor. Another was a mixture of náiveté and lack of guidance. As one transition official noted, the Trump team was unprepared and woefully understaffed, lacking in the old Washington hands who might have helped Jared and Ivanka avoid the mistakes that would lead them to update their disclosure forms forty times in six months: “If you worked on the Hillary campaign, you’d have Marc Elias explain to you how these things are serious and how you handle them. They had no one. There was no one to say, ‘Here is how you need to handle this.’ There were just no experts around at all.”

The couple’s friends intervened. Joel Klein, the former Murdoch News Corp guy who now works for Jared’s brother’s health insurance start-up Oscar, cautioned him to hire someone who knew their stuff as he waded through the muck of figuring out how he could take a position in the White House, mitigating conflicts of interest and working out how to get around that anti-nepotism law. His recommendation, Jamie Gorelick, had served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton, fund-raised for Hillary, and just gone through the process of vetting potential Cabinet members for Trump’s opponent, a rough outline that would never see the light of day. She herself was seen as a likely pick for attorney general, had Hillary pulled it off.

As it was, Gorelick took Klein at his word that Jared would be a necessary voice in the incoming administration, though she did think twice about accepting him as a client. So did her partners at her law firm, Wilmer Hale, the same firm where now special counsel Robert Mueller worked, and from which hailed a handful of the lawyers he tapped for his investigation into Trump campaign officials, including into some of Jared’s activities. Whispers spread around New York’s big law firms that some Wilmer Hale partners worried that with all the reports of and uncertainty over the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia, having Jared as a client would open them up to scrutiny.

Even with help, there were ethical minefields everywhere. The meeting with Prime Minister Abe had normalized the idea of Ivanka not only sitting in on these sorts of meetings but also hosting meetings in Trump Tower with diplomats and thought leaders on her own. On a frigid day in early January, at midday, Queen Rania of Jordan rode those golden elevators up to meet with Ivanka about global women’s issues and how to best advocate for them in Washington, though at that point Ivanka had not yet confirmed that she was moving to DC. Queen Rania, an honorary chair of the UN’s Girls Education Initiative and founder of an NGO that helps families and children in poverty, had already been doing the kind of work Ivanka had said she wanted to do throughout the campaign. She too benefited from the privileges of inheritance, though by marriage in her case. When House minority leader Nancy Pelosi veered into women’s issues while on the line with Donald, he promptly handed the phone over to his daughter. The two of them could talk it out.

A month earlier, in December, Leonardo DiCaprio sat down privately with Ivanka to talk about climate change, presenting her with a copy of Before the Flood, a ninety minute documentary featuring the Oscar winner traveling across five continents to witness the climate impacts communities there already feel. She invited Al Gore to visit Trump Tower, too, to talk about the environment and sit down with her father, who publicly denied the existence of climate change.

“It’s an important signal that she’s not fucking crazy,” a person close to Ivanka said of the meetings at the time. “She gets it. She’s normal. These aren’t all issues that are going to be part of her advocacy necessarily, but she is interested in learning about them and hearing all sides and to show that.”

The couple met with other Washington insiders, tucking into a booth in the BLT Prime setup in the lobby of the newly minted Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue and meeting with Dina Powell, a veteran of the Bush White House and State Department and a Goldman Sachs insider, who, their mutual friends told the Trump-Kushners, they would be lucky to have as a shepherd. Ivanka had an extended conversation with outgoing First Lady Michelle Obama, the details of which they kept close. Jared continued to take calls and meetings with foreign officials, too. Donald had tapped Jared to be the point person handling incoming requests from the leaders, officials, and diplomats who started reaching out once his campaign gained traction in the primaries, and continued to do so all the way through inauguration and after. It’s not that Jared had any sort of diplomatic prowess or experience. He was both a yes-man who complied with his father-in-law’s requests and a skilled schmoozer used to being slightly out of his depth in dealing with older, far more seasoned heavy hitters. These officials gamely got in good with a naive member of the Trump campaign’s innermost circle who was bound to the candidate and, later, president, by law and a sense of filial duty. It was a long-haul play that they knew would pay off for months, if not years, to come. Throughout the campaign and transition, Jared, who got hundreds of campaign-related emails a day, including dozens from foreign officials looking to establish some sort of relationship with his father-in-Iaw, talked with somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred foreign officials from about twenty countries, including Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso, and, rather infamously now, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.

Donald and Kislyak had met more than six months earlier, in April 2016, at a private reception at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. During a reception before a speech Donald delivered on foreign policy, Jared shook hands with a handful of ambassadors, some of whom mentioned getting together for a lunch that never happened. In the remarks that followed, Donald spoke of “improved relations with Russia” and a desire to “make a deal that’s great” for “America, but also good for Russia.” Kislyak took it all in from the front row.

A week after Donald’s electoral win, the ambassador followed up. His people got in touch with Jared’s people requesting a meeting, which occurred in Trump Tower on the first day of December. Michael Flynn, who would soon serve a short stint as the administration’s national security director before lying to the FBI about his discussions with Russians and, later, flipping in the Mueller investigation and serving as a cooperating witness, joined them. The way Kislyak told it to his superiors, in an email the Washington Post claimed was picked up on intercepts of Russian communications reviewed by US officials, among other topics, Jared and Kislyak allegedly discussed a secret back channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin out of Russian diplomatic facilities. The ambassador allegedly said he was caught off guard by the suggestion, which would not only raise security concerns for both countries but also break a US law. The Logan Act, a federal statute that dates back to nearly the beginning of the Republic, prohibits citizens from getting involved in disputes or controversies between the United States and foreign governments without authorization. The act has never been used to successfully prosecute any American citizen, though it does carry a prison sentence of up to three years. Kushner’s meeting took place before Donald took office, and without the Obama administration’s knowledge or approval.

Jared tells the story of the meeting differently. Kislyak, he said in a statement to Congress months after his father-in-law took office, had asked if the transition had a secure way for Russian generals to communicate to the Trump team information related to Syria, in order to help the incoming administration. Jared had then asked if the Russian embassy had a communications channel already in place through which they could have these discussions about Syria. He contends that he never suggested talking about anything else, or that the conversations would be ongoing. The bulk of the meeting, which he said was not particularly memorable, was taken up with exchanging pleasantries and asking who the best point of contact for Vladimir Putin would be.

Jared declined a follow-up meeting that Kislyak requested, but at the ambassador’s urging he sat down with Sergey Gorkov, a Russian banker with direct ties to Putin, in Trump Tower on December 13. The meeting was only twenty-five minutes long-enough time for the man to hand him two gifts, 3 pieces of art and a bag of dirt from the town in Belarus where his grandparents grew up, and to raise suspicions over whether the two had talked about personal, Kushner-related business or public affairs that could impact Russian-American relations.

In one light, the meetings painted Jared as a dewy eyed novice punching above his weight. In another, he looked like a perfectly soft target, just asking to be struck by an enemy that had spent the entire election cycle repeatedly hitting at the heart of American democracy.

The ethics concerns raised by these hundreds of interactions with foreign officials, so serious in their nature that they eventually played a part in an investigation into the Trump campaign and transition, on top of Ivanka’s own meetings, added to the weight placed on the couple. This was on top of the numerous divesting and business decisions they were in the process of making, as well as personal choices over whether or not to uproot their three young children in order to ride this political train down to DC.

Nevertheless, the couple still made time for their family. In December, Jared, Ivanka, their three children, and a babysitter all made their way to the annual Kushner Companies holiday party. That year, at the end of 2016, as the family’s heir apparent and his First Daughter in-waiting weighed taking official jobs that would make them among the most powerful individuals in the world, the Kushners threw their company féte in the basement of Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen & Bar, a five-hundredseat, three floor restaurant beyond caricature. In perhaps one of the most storied restaurant reviews in the history of the Gray Lady, restaurant critic Pete Wells poses a series of questions to American Kitchen & Bar’s celebrity chef and his staff. “Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?” he asked. “The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?” He capped it off with the age-old quandary: “Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?”

None of that mattered much to the Kushners. They owned the building in which Fieri opened his restaurant and, technically, the wall on which he painted his famed “Welcome 2 Flavor Town!” slogan, which meant they got the space for their party on the cheap. They could not purport to have hosted it there because they wanted to dip a toe into “flavor town,” even ironically. The restaurant’s menu stacked itself with items like mac ’n’ cheese in a three-cheese sauce with bacon crumbles, cornmealcrusted shrimp po’boys slathered in Creole mayonnaise, and slow-cooked pork shank dunked in sweet and spicy General Tso’s sauce, a selection of delicacies so flagrantly in violation of every law of kashruth that a rabbi examining the menu might think it a parody. The Kushners, of course, are Orthodox Jews. They don’t eat pork or bacon or shrimp, and they certainly do not mix any of those meats with milk, even within the same meal, let alone in one single dish. To get around that, Kushners brought in their own kosher caterer to handle the food for the party.

A little more than a year later, the restaurant closed its doors; revenues were not enough to keep up with the rent Kushner Companies charged. “From what I understand, it wasn’t the right concept for the space in the long run,” a Kushner spokeswoman said after the restaurant shuttered on New Year’s Eve at the tail end of 2017. “I think he appeals to a more Midwestern aesthetic than a New York one.”

ABOUT A week later, the Kushners took another break. Charlie and Seryl wanted to treat their kids and their kids’ kids to a getaway, as they often did, and so they booked the family a villa at the Four Seasons Resort Huaialai in Hawaii. Jared and Ivanka had gone on vacation a few months earlier, as the guests of Wendi Murdoch aboard David Geffen’s yacht, on which they sailed around Croatia while Donald’s presidential campaign sank and floundered after his dour convention in Cleveland and his attacks on a Muslim Gold Star family who spoke out against him onstage at the Democratic National Convention. But every day felt like a year in the era of Trump. In 2016, they had welcomed their third baby; traveled across the country and back again and back again and again on the campaign trail; spoken onstage at the RNC; inserted themselves into every major hiring and firing decision; put out some media fires and started others, depending on how it served them; weathered self-inflicted crises in their shul; feuded with media executives and former friends; taken meetings with world leaders and Russian diplomats and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies; decided to move to DC; and tried to shed themselves of assets and positions that any of the thousands of people who wanted their heads could claim as a conflict of interest. With the move away from New York on the quickly approaching horizon a move that would take them a few states south of the Kushner, and the brutal cold of an East Coast winter only just beginning, the prospect of uninterrupted time away with their family and apart from Donald, who himself was hunkered down in Mar-a-Lago, sounded nothing short of necessary.

The whole Kushner family queued up in Terminal 5 at JFK Airport in Queens and boarded a commercial JetBlue flight en route to San Francisco, in coach, as they always did when the whole family flew together for these sorts of holiday trips. They had billions of dollars, and they flew private when they needed to, but there were two matriarchs, four children, four spouses, and a mess of grandchildren and their help. Billions of dollars do not grow on trees. Coach would do just fine, at least for this leg of the trip. A private plane was waiting for them in San Francisco to take them on the final leg to Hawaii.

Ivanka, in black jeans, a navy zip-up with gray sleeves, and Puma slip-ons, her hair tousled and spilling out of her loosely tied ponytail, looked more like a normal traveler already exhausted before a cross-country flight with three kids under six in tow than an incoming First Daughter. She certainly looked more earthly than she did in the images of her fully made up and in pencil skirts or shift dresses and stilettos plastered across cable news for months on end and her own social media accounts for years.

Fellow passengers recognized her anyway. Of course they did. She was now one of the most recognizable faces in the United States, if not the world, and in New York, which had overwhelmingly voted against her father a few months earlier, one of the most vilified. Dan Goldstein, a lawyer in the city, stopped her after they boarded the flight. Overcome with the frustration built up throughout the campaign and the concern bubbling over since November, he shouted at her: “You ruined our country and now you are ruining our flight!” People around them froze. The flight crew sputtered. Goldstein continued, “Why is she on our flight? She should be flying private.” Ivanka told flight attendants that she did not want to make this a whole big thing, but JetBlue ushered Goldstein and his husband off the flight. “The decision to remove a customer from a flight is not taken lightly,” the airline said in a statement. “If the crew determines that a customer is causing conflict on the aircraft, the customer will be asked to deplane, especially if the crew feels the situation runs the risk of escalation during flight. In this instance, our team worked to re-accommodate the party on the next available flight.”

They’d brushed it off by the time they arrived in their villa on the 800-acre Four Seasons property, where rooms start in the four figures and the three hundred homes and condos on the adjoining residential community in which they stayed are valued at up to $20 million a pop. There are two championship-quality golf courses with comfort stations stocked with free bourbon and candy bars, a spa with an apothecary peddling herbal remedies made right there before guests’ eyes, and attendants by the pool offering to clean guests’ sunglasses or present them with chilled towels or spritz them with Evian. Billionaires like Ken Griffin, Charles Schwab, and Howard Schultz own homes there, having paid the $200,000 initiation fee and $40,000 annual dues to cover their use of the resort facilities. There, the Kushners were perhaps the poor kids on the tropical block. But they did have something all those other more billionairey billionaires didn’t have: a First Daughter daughter-in-law and a son on the way to the West Wing. Not everyone there, however, saw that as a draw.

The Trump-Kushners commanded enough attention that other guests snapped photos of them reading under the cover of plush tented lounges by the pool. They caught Jared in a swimsuit with a surprising number of abdominal muscles peeking through his wiry frame, carrying their youngest son to the beach. They nabbed Ivanka in leggings and sneakers picking up breakfast from the resort’s café on Saturday morning with her daughter Arabella, though it is unclear how she paid for the meal, given that it was Shabbat. Observers don’t exchange money from sundown on Friday through sundown on Saturday. Writing, like signing a name or room number on a receipt, is also prohibited.

The family did celebrate Hanukkah while on the island. “This year is one of the rare and special occasions where Hanukkah and Christmas coincide. As we light the candles, sending love from our family to yours this holiday season! Merry Christmas & Happy Hanukkah,” she posted on her Instagram account, under a photo of her, Jared, and their children smiling in front of five lit menorah, one for each of them. In Jewish tradition, you add to the mitzvah by lighting multiple menorahs in your home. The idea is that the more candles lit, the more people can see the miracles God makes for those who fight for justice and truth. By the end of those eight nights, just weeks before they officially descended onto Washington, the Trump-Kushners lit more than two hundred candles.

Chapter Four

Born/Married/Divorced/Married/ Divorced/Married/Raised Trump

IF FATE placed Ivana Zelmékové in the little Czechoslovakian town of Zlin with her grandmother, the president of a shoe factory, and her stay-at-home grandfather, or her parents, an engineer and a telephone operator living in a two-story government compound that amounted to nothing more than a concrete box, it was destiny that allowed her to rocket herself out of it and land in a glittering triplex atop Fifth Avenue in Manhattan three decades later.

Ivana was born in 1949, a year after Stalin’s coup.

*

from

BORN TRUMP, Inside America’s First Family

by Emily Jane Fox

get it at Amazon.com

PTSD and IRAQ. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE – DAVID FINKEL.

He is physically unmarked, so how can he be injured? The answer must be that he isn’t. So why was he sent home with a diagnosis of severe PTSD? The answer must be that he’s weak.

You could see it in his nervous eyes. You could see it in his shaking hands. You could see it in the three prescription bottles in his room: one to steady his galloping heart rate, one to reduce his anxiety, one to minimize his nightmares.

You could see it in the screensaver on his laptop, a nuclear fireball and the words FUCK Iraq, and in the private journal he had been keeping since he arrived. His first entry, on February 22:

Not much going on today. I turned my laundry in, and we’re getting our TAT boxes. We got mortared last night at 2:30 am, none close. We’re at FOB Rustamiyah, Iraq. It’s pretty nice, got a good chow hall and facilities. Still got a bunch of dumb shit to do though. Well, that’s about it for today.

His last entry, on October 18:

I’ve lost all hope. I feel the end is near for me, very, very near. Darkness is all I see anymore.

So he was finished. Down to his final hours, he was packed, weaponless, under escort, and waiting for the helicopter that would take him away to a wife who had just told him on the phone: “I’m scared of what you might do. ”

“You know I’d never hurt you,” he’d said, and he’d hung up, wandered around the FOB, gotten a haircut, and come back to his room, where he now said, “But what if she’s right? What if I snap someday?”

It was a thought that made him feel sick. Just as every thought now made him feel sick. “You spend a thousand days, it gets to the point where it’s Groundhog Day. Every day is over and over. The heat. The smell. The language. There’s nothing sweet about it. It’s all sour,” he said. He remembered the initial invasion, when it wasn’t that way. “I mean it was a front seat to the greatest movie I’ve ever seen in my life.” He remembered the firefights of his second deployment. “I loved it. Anytime I get shot at in a firefight, it’s the sexiest feeling there is.” He remembered how this deployment began to feel bad early on. “I’d get in the Humvee and be driving down the road and I would feel my heart pulsing up in my throat.” That was the start of it, he said, and then Emory happened, and then Crow happened, and then he was in a succession of explosions, and then a bullet was skimming across his thighs, and then Doster happened, and then he was waking up thinking, “Holy shit, I’m still here, it’s misery, it’s hel,” which became, “Are they going to kill me today?” which became, “I’ll take care of it myself,” which became, “Why do that? I’ll go out killing as many of them as I can, until they kill me.

“I didn’t give a fuck,” he said. “I wanted it to happen. Bottom line, I wanted it over as soon as possible, whether they did it or I did it.”

The amazing thing was that no one knew. Here was all this stuff going on, pounding heart, panicked breathing, sweating palms, electric eyes, and no one regarded him as anything but the great soldier he’d always been, the one who never complained, who hoisted bleeding soldiers onto his back, who’d suddenly begun insisting on being in the right front seat of the lead Humvee on every mission, not because he wanted to be dead but because that’s what selfless leaders would do.

He was the great soldier who one day walked to the aid station and went through the door marked COMBAT STRESS and asked for help and now was on his way home.

Now he was remembering what the psychologist had told him: “With your stature, maybe you’ve opened the door for a lot of guys to come in.”

“That made me feel really good, ” he said. And yet he had felt so awful the previous day when he told one of his team leaders to round up everyone in his squad.

“What’d we do now?”

“You didn’t do anything,” he said. “Just get them together. ”

They came into his room, and he shut the door and told them he was leaving the following day. He said the hard part: that it was a mental health evacuation. He said to them, “I don’t even know what I’m going through. I know that I don’t feel right.”

“Well, how long?” one of his soldiers said, breaking the silence.

“I don’t know, ” he said. “There’s a possibility I won’t be coming back. ”

They had rallied around him then, shaking his hand, grabbing his arm, patting his back, and saying whatever nineteen and twenty year-olds could think of to say.

“Take care of yourself, ” one of them said.

“Drink a beer for me, ” another said.

He had never felt so guilt ridden in his life.

Early this morning, they had driven away on a mission, leaving him behind, and after they’d disappeared, he had no idea what to do. He stood there for a while alone. Eventually he walked back to his room. He turned up his air conditioner to high. When he got cold enough to shiver, he put on warmer clothes and stayed under the vents. He packed his medication. He stacked some packages of beef jerky and mac ’n’ cheese and smoked oysters, which he wouldn’t be able to take with him, for the soldiers he was leaving behind and wrote a note that said “Enjoy. ”

Finally it was time to go to the helicopter, and he began walking down the hall. Word had spread through the entire company by now, and when one of the soldiers saw him, he came over. “Well, I’ll walk you as far as the shitters, because I have to go to the bathroom,” the soldier said, and as last words, those would have to do, because those were the last words he heard from any of the soldiers in his battalion as his deployment came to an end.

His stomach hurt as he made his way across the FOB. He felt himself becoming nauseated. At the landing area, other soldiers from other battalions were lined up, and when the helicopter landed, everyone was allowed to board except him. He didn’t understand.

“Next one’s yours,” he was told, and when it came in a few minutes later, he realized why he’d had to wait. It had a big red cross on the side. It was the helicopter for the injured and the dead.

That was him, Adam Schumann. He was injured. He was dead. He was done.

1

Two years later: Adam drops the baby.

The baby, who is four days old, is his son, and there is a moment as he is failing that this house he has come home to seems like the most peaceful place in the world. Outside is the cold dead of 3:00am on a late November night in Kansas, but inside is lamplight, the warm smell of a newborn, and Adam’s wife, Saskia, beautiful Saskia, who a few minutes before had asked her husband if he could watch the baby so she could get a little sleep. “I got it,” he had said. “I got it. Get some rest.” She curled up in the middle of their bed, and the last thing she glimpsed was Adam reclined along the edge, his back against the headboard and the baby in his arms. He was smiling, as if contentment for this wounded man were possible at last, and she believed it enough to shut her eyes, just before he shut his. His arms soon relaxed. His grip loosened. The baby rolled off of his chest and over the edge of the bed, and here came that peaceful moment, the baby in the air, Adam and Saskia asleep, everyone oblivious, the floor still a few inches away, and now, with a crack followed by a thud, the moment is over and everything that will happen is under way.

Saskia is the one who hears it. It is not loud, but it is loud enough. Her eyes fly open. She sees Adam closed-eyed and empty-armed, and only when he hears screaming and feels the sharp elbows and knees of someone scrambling across him does he wake up from the sleep he had promised he didn’t need. It takes him a second or two. Then he knows what he has done.

He says nothing. There is nothing he can say. He is sorry. He is always sorry now. He has been sorry for two years, ever since he slunk home from the war. He watches his wife scoop up the baby. He keeps watching, wishing she would look at him, willing her to, always so in need of forgiveness, but she won’t. She clutches the crying baby as he dresses and leaves the room. He sits for a while in the dark, listening to her soothe the baby, and then he goes outside, gets into his pickup truck, and positions a shotgun so that it is propped up and pointed at his face. In that way, he starts driving, while back in the house, Saskia is trying to understand what happened. A crack. A thud. The thud was the floor, and thank God for the ugly carpet. But what was the crack? The bed frame? The nightstand?

This baby. So resilient. Breathing evenly. Not even a mark. Somehow fine. How can that be? But he is. Maybe he is one of the lucky ones, born to be okay. Saskia lies with him, then gets up and comes back with a plastic bottle of water. She drops it from the side of the bed and listens to the sound it makes as it hits the floor.

She drops a pair of heavy shoes and watches them bounce.

She finds a basketball and rolls it off the edge.

She fills a drink container with enough water to weigh about as much as the baby, and as Adam continues driving and considering the gun, not yet, not yet, not yet, not yet, she rolls that off the edge, too.

*

Two years. He is twenty eight now, is out of the army, and has gained back some weight. When he left the war as the great Sergeant Schumann, he was verging on gaunt. Twenty-five pounds later, he is once again solid, at least physically. Mentally, though, it is still the day he headed home. Emory, shot in the head, is still draped across his back, and the blood flowing out of Emory’s head is still rivering into his mouth. Doster, whom he might have loved the most, is being shredded again and again by a roadside bomb on a mission Adam was supposed to have been on, too, and after Doster is declared dead another soldier is saying to him, “None of this shit would have happened if you were there.” It was said as a soldier’s compliment, Adam had the sharpest eyes, Adam always found the hidden bombs, everyone relied on Adam, but that wasn’t how he heard it then or hears it now. It might as well have been shrapnel, the way those words cut him apart. it was his fault. It is his fault. The guilt runs so deep it defines him now. He’s always been such a good guy, people say of Adam. He’s the one people are drawn to, who they root for, smart, decent, honorable, good instincts, that one. And now? “I feel completely broken,” Adam says.

“He’s still a good guy” is what Saskia says. “He’s just a broken good guy.”

She says it as an explanation of why on some days she has hope that he will once again be the man he was before he went to war. It’s not as if he caused this. He didn’t. It’s not as if he doesn’t want to get better. He does. On other days, though, it seems more like an epitaph, and not only for Adam. All the soldiers he went to war with, the 30 in his platoon, the 120 in his company, the 800 in his battalion-came home broken in various degrees, even the ones who are fine. “I don’t think anyone came back from that deployment without some kind of demons they needed to work out,” one of those soldiers who was with Adam says.

“I’m sure I need help,” another says, after two years of night sweats and panic attacks.

“Constant nightmares, anger issues, and anytime I go into a public place I have to know what everyone is doing all the time,” another of them says.

“Depression. Nightmares of my teeth falling out,” another says.

“I get attacked at home,” another says. “Like I’m sitting in my house and I get attacked by Iraqis. That’s how it works. Weird-ass dreams.”

“It has been more than two years, and he’s still beating me,” the wife of another says. “My hair is falling out. I have a bite scar on my face. Saturday he was screaming at me about how I was a fucking bitch because I didn’t have the specific TV he wanted hooked up.”

“Other than that, though,” the one who might be in the best shape of all says with an embarrassed laugh, after mentioning that his wife tells him he screams every night as he falls asleep. He sounds bewildered by this, as do they all.

“I have to admit a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about those days, the boys we lost, and what we did,” another says. “But life goes on.”

Out of one war into another. Two million Americans were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Home now, most of them describe themselves as physically and mentally healthy. They move forward. Their war recedes. Some are even stronger for the experience. But then there are the others, for whom the war endures. Of the two million, studies suggest that 20 to 30 percent have come home with post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, a mental health condition triggered by some type of terror, or traumatic brain injury, TBI which occurs when a brain is jolted so violently that it collides with the inside of the skull and causes psychological damage. Depression, anxiety, nightmares, memory problems, personality changes, suicidal thoughts:

Every war has its after-war, and so it is with the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have created some five hundred thousand mentally wounded American veterans.

How to grasp the true size of such a number, and all of its implications, especially in a country that paid such scant attention to the wars in the first place? One way would be to imagine the five hundred thousand in total, perhaps as points on a map of America, all suddenly illuminated at once. The sight would be of a country glowing from coast to coast.

And another way would be to imagine them one at a time, starting with the one who is out in the middle of a Kansas night, driving around and around unseen. Toward dawn, he returns home. He doesn’t mention to Saskia where he has been, or what he had been thinking, and she doesn’t ask. Instead, the shotgun is put away, the baby awakens for his next feeding, their other child, who is six and anxious and has begun wetting her bed, awakens after doing so again, and a breaking family whose center has become Adam’s war wounds gets on with another day of trying to recover, followed by another day after that.

He doesn’t believe anything is wrong with him. That’s part of it. He stares at himself in a mirror, ignores what his red eyes look like except to see with continuing regret that he still has two of them, does the inventory. Two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, two hands, two feet. Nothing missing. Symmetrical as ever. No scarred over bullet holes. No skin grafts over bomb burns. Not even a smudge in the tattoo covering his right forearm, needled into him between deployments as a display of undying love, which says SASKIA in letters constructed of stick figures in various poses of having sex.

He is physically unmarked, so how can he be injured? The answer must be that he isn’t. So why was he sent home with a diagnosis of severe PTSD? The answer must be that he’s weak. So why was that diagnosis confirmed again and again once he was home? Why does he get angry? Why does he forget things? Why is he jittery? Why can’t he stay awake, even after twelve hours of sleep? Why is he still tasting Emory’s blood? Because he’s weak. Because he’s a pussy. Because he’s a piece of shit. The thoughts keep coming, no way to stop them now, and yet when he goes into the living room and sees Saskia, he gives no indication of the pandemonium under way.

“Good morning,” he says, an act of civility that some days takes all of his might. Not that she doesn’t know, but he betrays nothing until he goes outside and sees that the neighbors have once again tied up their dogs on short leashes and that the dogs are tangled up and howling.

“God. People, he says with disgust, and that is enough to loosen this morning’s version of the leash that Saskia finds herself bound by every day. Now her own storm begins over what her life has turned into, and there’s no sure way to stop hers, either.

“They have a forty thousand dollar car, and they live like shit,” she says, getting into the driver’s seat of their car, an aging SUV with a cracked windshield and balding tires. “That’s what this town is, forty thousand dollar cars and people who live like shit.”

The town, called Junction City, population twenty five thousand or so, is adjacent to Fort Riley, the post where Adam deployed from and returned to three times during his seven years in the army. It is in the part of Kansas between the populated east and the wide-open rest of the state, a geography that tends to evoke in people who don’t live there idealized notions of America’s heartland and the poetry of the plains. As for Junction City itself, it has long had a reputation as a scruffy place, and the downtown neighborhood where Adam and Saskia live bears that out. Across the street is a convicted sex offender, a pedophile, Saskia suspects. Nearby is a drug dealer, and a few doors down is a parolee who keeps coming over and asking to use the phone. Poetry in the heartland: while Adam was gone, Saskia slept with a gun.

Their own old house is small for four people and two big, sweet, sloppy dogs, but it is what they can afford. It cost a little over a hundred thousand dollars. It has two small bedrooms on the main floor, and another bedroom in the basement, carved out of the grungy furnace room. Their bedroom is the one with three hidden guns. The baby, whose name is Jaxson, sleeps down the hall, and the basement is for Zoe, the sixyear-old, who at bedtime has to be coaxed again and again to go down the steps.

Saskia found the house and bought it during Adam’s final deployment, the one that wrecked him. This was where they would claim the life they both had expected to have by his enlisting in the army: house, kids, dogs, yard, money, stability, predictability. She knew he was coming home ill, but she also knew that he would be better once he was away from the war and back with her, that just by her presence he would heal. “That fairy-tale homecoming” is how she thought of it. “Everybody’s happy. Kind of like an it never happened kind of thing.” When he got home and wasn’t happy, she told him she understood, and when he said he wasn’t yet ready to be around a lot of people, she understood that, too. Her patience, she had decided, would be bottomless. They rented out the house she had fixed up for him and moved to a vacated farmhouse out in the country. It was beautiful there in autumn, but less so in winter, when the fields turned to stubble and the gray sky lowered on them. The isolation finally became too much when one of their cars broke down, so they came back to Junction City, and Saskia decorated the bedroom with a wall stenciling that said “Always Kiss Me Goodnight.”

He did. Then, dulled by prescriptions for anxiety and depression and jitteriness and exhaustion and headaches, he didn’t. And then she didn’t, either, not always, and gradually less than that, and one day she confided to a friend, whose own husband had also come back ill from the war: “My mood changes every day. One day, it’s: He’s really hurting. The next is: Stop this. Get over it. Get your ass up.”

“Nothing will get better,” her friend said of what she had learned. “Nothing will be as it was before. Nothing will be the way I want it to be. So I have to come up with reasonable expectations of what can be.”

“The women have to be the ones to adapt. That’s the way it is for all of us,” Saskia said as her friend nodded, and now she is beginning another day of trying to do just that as the neighbor’s dogs howl and Adam climbs into the passenger seat. For whatever reason, her irritation keeps growing, and the fact that she realizes it and can’t stop it makes it worse. She drives a few blocks and abruptly pulls into a convenience store.

“Need gas?” Adam asks.

“Unless you want to push,” she says.

“Need anything from inside?”

She doesn’t answer.

“Doughnut?” he asks.

“No.”

He fills the car and goes inside to pay, and when he comes out he’s holding a Mountain Dew and a handful of lottery tickets.

“Are you kidding me?” she says as he starts scratching off the first of the tickets. She hates that he wastes money on lottery tickets, much less on Mountain Dew. “Keep dreaming,” she says as he tries the second one. She drives through town and follows a minivan onto a ramp to the interstate. “Why are they braking? Why are they braking? WHY ARE THEY BRAKING?” she yells.

She hits the gas and flies around an old woman, alone at the wheel, as Adam tries the third one.

“Last night, I passed by that bridge by Walmart, and there was a bum sitting under it surrounded by a huge pile of scratch-off tickets,” he tells her. “Somebody gave him some money, I guess, and he used it to buy scratch-offs.”

“That would be you,” she says.

He tries the fourth one as she accelerates to eighty. They are on their way to the VA hospital in Topeka, sixty miles to the east, for a doctor’s appointment. The war left him with PTSD, depression, nightmares, headaches, tinnitus, and mild traumatic brain injury, the result of a mortar round that dropped without warning out of a blue sky and exploded close enough to momentarily knock him silly. Between his government disability check of eight hundred dollars a month and his $36,000 a year salary from a job he managed to find, he is pulling in about two thirds of what he made in the army, which is why Saskia hates when he wastes money on lottery tickets.

He tries the fifth one and announces, “I won ten bucks.”

Saskia looks at him. “You spent five,” she says. “You made five. What are you going to do with five?”

“Buy a pack of cigarettes.”

She hates that he smokes. She hates that he wants to be alone so much now, either fishing or hunting or out on the front porch having a cigarette in the dark. She hates that her patience didn’t turn out to be bottomless after all. A truck swerves in front of her. “You asshole,” she shouts.

It has been eight years since they met. This was in Minot, North Dakota. She was just out of high school, a girl who never missed curfew and was now on her own in a cheap basement apartment, and one day she emerged from the basement to the sight of a local boy with a rough reputation sitting in the sun without a shirt. What Adam saw was a girl staring at him whose beauty seemed a counterpoint to everything in his life so far, and that was that, for both of them. Soon came marriage and his SASKIA tattoo, and now here they are, her hitting the gas again and him reaching over to tickle her, break the tension, make her laugh. She flinches, as if his fingers have blades on them, and she accelerates until she’s only a few feet from another slow moving car. “Get out of the way!” He moves his hand to the back of her head and caresses it, and this calms her enough to slow down to seventy-eight.

Sometimes after they fight, she counts his pills to make sure he hasn’t swallowed too many and checks on the guns to make sure they’re all there. The thought that he might not recover, that this is how it will be, makes her sick with dread sometimes, and the thought that he might kill himself leaves her feeling like her insides are being twisted until she can’t breathe.

The truth is that he has been thinking about killing himself, more and more. But he hasn’t said anything to her, or to anyone, not lately, because what would be the point? How many psychiatrists and therapists has he talked to? How many times has he mentioned it, and where has it gotten him?

“. . daily thoughts of SI [suicidal ideation] running through his mind,” the psychiatrist who ordered his medical evacuation from the war noted just before he was sent home. “States it is alarming for him to think this way, and while he’s had suicidal thoughts in the past, this has been unremitting for him over the last few months.”

“Having much less suicidal thinking, but the thoughts come to him quickly,” a different psychiatrist noted a few months later, after he had come home.

*

from

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

by DAVID FINKEL

get it at Amazon.com

Anatomy of Failure. Why America loses every war it starts – Harlan K. Ullman.

Entertaining the troops under the doubtful assumption that it will raise morale seems to be part of every war we fight.

Since the end of World War II, America lost every war it started and failed in military interventions when it did not use sound strategic thinking or have sufficient knowledge and understanding of the circumstances in deciding to use force.

The public and politicians need to understand why we have often failed in using military force and the causes. From that understanding, hopefully future administrations will be better prepared when considering the most vexing decision to employ force and send Americans into battle.

The twin causes have been the failure to think strategically and to have sufficient knowledge and understanding when deciding on the use of force.

Interestingly, this failure applies to republicans and democrats alike and seems inherent in our national DNA as we continue ignore past mistakes.

By examining the records of presidents from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama in using force or starting wars, it becomes self-evident why we fail. And the argument is reinforced by autobiographical vignettes that provide a human dimension and insight into the reasons for failure, in some cases making public previously unknown history.

The recommendations and solutions offered in Anatomy of Failure begin with a framework for a brains based approach to strategic thinking and then address specific bureaucratic, political, organizational and cultural deficiencies that have reinforced this propensity for failure.

The clarion call of the book is that both a sound strategic framework and sufficient knowledge and understanding of the circumstance that may lead to using force are vital. Without them, failure is virtually guaranteed.

Preface

Since the official end of the Cold War in 1991, remarkably, the United States has been at war or engaged in significant military conflicts and interventions for over two-thirds of the intervening years. Tens of thousands of American Soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen have been killed or wounded in these conflicts. Wars and conflicts in Iraq in 1991; Somalia, 1992-93; the global war on terror, and Afghanistan, 2001-present; Iraq, 2003-present; and Syria and Yemen since 2016 represent a total of nineteen of the past twenty-six years in which this nation’s armed forces have been engaged in combat!

Using the end of World War II in 1945 as a second starting point and including the Korean (1950-53) and Vietnam Wars (from 1959-when the first Americans were killed-to withdrawal in 1974), Americans have been in battle for thirty-seven of the past seventy-two years, or well over 50 percent of the time. The record has not been impressive. Korea was a draw. Vietnam was an ignominious defeat, vividly encapsulated by the poignant image of the last Huey helicopter lifting off the roof of the embattled American embassy in Saigon.

The only outright victory of the past six decades was the first Iraq War in 1991, in which President George H. W. Bush had the sound judgment to limit the objective to ejecting Saddam Hussein and his army from Kuwait and then to withdraw the bulk of our forces from the region.

Tragically for the nation, Bush’s son, George W. Bush, presided over arguably the greatest American strategic catastrophe since the Civil War, the second Iraq war, a conflict that led to the rise of the Islamic State and is still being waged today, without an end in sight.

The reader can evaluate the outcomes of the other interventions cited above.

Several observations that can be made about this history of repeated failure are almost as dismal the record itself.

First, few Americans are even aware of or concerned over how long this nation has been engaged in armed conflict over recent decades. It is quite a staggering length of time for a country that prides itself on its “exceptionalism” and its “peaceful” efforts to spread democracy around the globe.

Second, few Americans even ask why, given what we believe is the greatest military in the world, our record in war and military interventions is so failure prone. Third, we ourselves must ask: What can be done, in light of general public indifference, to ensure success whenever the nation employs military force in major conflicts or interventions?

This book examines the more significant American uses of force over the past six decades to understand why we lose wars (and fail in interventions) that we start. It also argues the absolute need to adopt a valid framework for making decisions, what I have termed a “brains-based approach to strategic thinking.”

While some may regard this term as arrogant, the fact is that too often we have failed to exercise fully the grey matter between our ears, with disastrous results.

To succeed, sound strategic thinking must transcend or minimize the vagaries of politics, ideologies, simplistic campaign slogans, wishful ideas, and the inexperience that have (as the forthcoming chapters will argue) handicapped the nation’s last three commanders in chief and almost certainly will affect the current one. From these analyses, the book derives means for how to win, how to succeed in applying force.

To make this argument more vivid, vignettes about major events are interspersed throughout the text. To some, they will be controversial. To others, these vignettes will underscore on a personal level the larger reasons for failure and the damning impact of the absence of sound strategic thinking. Each vignette is an accurate summary of actual events, to the best of my recollection. A few circumstances have been altered to protect sensitive information or sources.

As with any work, shortfalls and errors are the responsibility of the author alone. The only responsibility of the reader is to keep an open mind in understanding why we lose the very conflicts we start.

Harlan Ullman

Washington, D.C. September 30, 2016

Introduction

A Simple Truth Shaped By Moments of War

Presidents, politicians, and publics have failed to grasp this simple truth: for more than half a century, America has lost every war it has started. Likewise, America has also failed in military interventions it has initiated, interventions undertaken for reasons that turned out to be misinformed, contrived, baseless, ignorant, or just wrong.

In extreme humanitarian crises, especially those involving genocide and mass slaughter of innocents, decisions over whether or not to intervene with military force rather than with only aid and assistance are agonizing. More often than not, such humanitarian interventions bring temporary, not long-term solutions -the relief of the Kurds in northern Iraq in 1991 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s ultimate engagement in the Balkan wars of the 1990s being notable exceptions.

Tragically, intervention for the right reasons may still fail. Somalia in the early 1990s and, particularly, Libya in 2011 are poignant examples of failure. In some cases, administrations see no choice except to intervene, regardless of risk and the unlikelihood of success. In others, such as the catastrophe now enveloping Syria, all the options range between bad and worse.

When examined critically, objectively, and dispassionately, the reasons and factors that have led to failure in applying military force are self-evident and unarguable. However, too often we are blind to or dismissive of these realities. Vietnam and Iraq (after the 2003 invasion) are the clearest and most damning examples of failed military interventions. Afghanistan is almost certainly going to follow suit, and it is a war in which the United States has been engaged for more than three and a half decades.

Yet, the proposition that wars we start, we lose has been ignored by a succession of presidents of both parties and, for far too many decades, by the American public, especially following the great victories of World War ll and the Cold War. “War” in this book is defined as the use of military force in a major conflict, not metaphorical declarations of war against inanimate enemies, such as drugs, crime, poverty, and other social ills, “wars” that, by the way, have also failed, particularly the ill-named “global war on terror.”

The purposes of this book are to alert future leaders and publics: to inform them about disastrous wars of the recent past started by us and to propose solutions and actions to prevent such failures from recurring, or to minimize the consequences, through sounder strategic thinking. Where the use of force went badly awry, it was through the failure of decision makers, who allowed unsound and flawed strategic thinking to drive bad decisions.

*

This book has its origins in the Vietnam War, in 1965. I was serving as a Swift Boat skipper in the northernmost part of the Republic of South Vietnam. Over time (I was there from 1965 to 1967), even a junior naval officer could not ignore the recurring displays of arrogance, naiveté, ignorance, ineptitude, and incompetence by the senior American political and military leadership in waging that conflict. Despite the heroism and commitment of those who fought and died in Vietnam, the war, like most wars, would have been tragicomic in its idiocies and irrationalities had it not been so deadly serious.

And have no doubt: America started this war, which would turn into a quagmire.

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed two votes short of unanimously in both houses of Congress in August 1964, gave three presidents virtual blank checks to wage war in Vietnam. Tragically, that authority was based on the utterly false premise that Hanoi had purposely ordered two separate attacks on American destroyers in international waters off the coast of North Vietnam, the second of which never occurred.

Battlefield tactics exploiting the massive American superiority in firepower and mobility became surrogates for strategy in Vietnam. This confusion of ends and means had fatal consequences. One was excessive reliance on numerical and quantitative measures to rationalize the tactics. This circular logic was manifest in the perverse establishment of “body count,” which became the metric of success. Because the numbers of enemy dead showed we were winning, then ipso facto, we had to be winning.

The year 1965 begins my chronicle for understanding and identifying the anatomy of failure. Like many of the millions of Americans who served in or during the lengthy Vietnam War, I was particularly affected by certain events. Three dramatize on a personal level how and why we lost in Vietnam and too often would make similarly grave errors in the future. Each demonstrates the folly of using force without understanding the interplay of ends and means or applying sound strategic thinking, failures that guarantee defeat. Of course, they also illustrate how all wars reflect human weaknesses and unintended consequences.

The first incident demonstrates that wars cannot be successfully waged in isolation or in compartmentalized fashion by individual services and agencies. The absence of coordination is inexcusable and ultimately proves fatal. The second underscores the huge gap that often exists between those on the front lines and the politicians and commanders hundreds or thousands of miles away. (It also reinforces the Napoleonic axiom that luck matters.) The third and final vignette is the most powerful:

When ends and means are not related owing to flawed strategic thinking and fallacious reasons for having gone to war in the first place, the effort will become morally and politically corrupt.

In 1965, the Vietnam War was escalating, and the Navy called for volunteers to serve in Southeast Asia. The Navy, engaged in the air battle over the North and uncertain how it would join the ground war and the fight in the rivers and offshore in the South, began with a modest (and largely pointless) operation to stop North Vietnam from infiltrating arms and men by sea. The intent of what was called Operation Market Time was to monitor the coasts of South Vietnam with a combination of maritime aircraft, warships, and small patrol craft called “Swift Boats.” Swift Boats were fiftyfoot foot aluminum-hulled craft designed by Sewart Seacraft for servicing oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, especially in rough weather. Powered by two Cummins diesel engines, a Swift Boat could make thirty knots in average or better sea conditions.

Swifts carried twin .50-caliber machine guns in a forward mount above the pilothouse; an “over and under” 81-mm (three-inch) mortar that could fire an explosive round about two thousand yards; and a third .50-caliber machine gun mounted above the mortar tube. The crew was equipped with AR-15 automatic rifles, 79-mm grenade launchers, and other small arms. The aluminum skin barely kept out the sea, let alone enemy bullets and shrapnel. Crews were usually five or six, or larger, depending on the mission.

The flaw in this strategy was that North Vietnam already had an effective logistical land route to the South, called the Ho Chi Minh Trail. This trail, deep in the interior of Southeast Asia, did not need seaborne routes. But the Navy was anxious to get its share of the action, even though there was little action to be had.

My very modest training at the naval base in Coronado, California, included a superficial course in Vietnamese culture, a course that in my case had only one high point, a lecture by retired Army lieutenant colonel John Paul Vann. Vann was an extremely controversial former officer who later became the de facto commander of Vietnam’s II Corps area (the Central Highlands, north of Saigon) and the only civilian to be awarded a Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry during the 1972 Easter Offensive. Vann was to be killed in June 1972, when his helicopter smashed into trees on a night flight in II Corps.

At this training session, Vann described the North Vietnamese and Vietcong in glowing terms and disparaged our South Vietnamese allies. When asked why he regarded the enemy so highly and our allies so poorly, he hesitated for a moment and replied, “I guess God put all the good guys on the other side.”

Classroom instruction was followed by SERE training (survival, evasion, resistance, and escape) in freezing temperatures high in California’s mountains, ideal preparation for the heat and jungles of Vietnam. After that, several Swift Boat crews, including mine, boarded chartered civil airliners at Travis Air Force Base, outside San Francisco, for the long transpacific flight to the Tan Son Nhut air base, near Saigon, Republic of South Vietnam. But it did not happen that way.

Arriving at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, expecting to continue on, we were notified that our tickets ended there. Despite Priority One flight status and what we were told was an immediate operational requirement to get us in-country “pronto,” no one had bothered to book us on the next leg, to Saigon. Neither begging nor strong language had any effect. At best, the Air Force could get us to Saigon in about two weeks, following the airlift of a huge USO (United Services Organization) entourage of Hollywood and other celebrities and noncombatant personnel. (Entertaining the troops under the doubtful assumption that it will raise morale seems to be part of every war we fight.) Even worse, the bachelor officer and enlisted quarters at Clark were full up, there was no room at the inn.

“Where the hell do you expect four Swift Boat crews to stay, in tents on the parade field?” the exasperated officer in charge, me, asked a nonplussed and slightly disoriented airman.

“Oh no, by far the best place and much better than here on the base is the nicest whore house in Angeles City,” called the House of the Angels. And that is where we went, cooling our heels, if that was the appropriate phrase. While we tried our best to get to the war, persistently harassing the ticketing office to move up our flights, the crews were not enthusiastic about advancing our departure date. The rooms were quite comfortable, and unlike in the BOQs (bachelor officer quarters), their air conditioning worked. Food was good, beer and booze were plentiful and cheap, and sailors were not bored by their accommodations. With no direct means to contact naval headquarters in Saigon, we were stuck at Clark.

One of the few recreations at Clark was the Officers’ Club. There, I fell into the clutches of Air Force F-4 Phantom fighter pilots on rest and recreation (“R & R”) from the 389th Tactical Fighter Squadron, stationed at Phan Rang in South Vietnam.

As we Swifties had the inside track on the local scene, given our billets, a half dozen or more of the pilots joined me in a tour of Angeles City. The pilots had been flying missions in-country for about two or three months. As Americans tried to be in those days, each was overly aggressive and anxious to get back “into the fight.” After some hard drinking, the entourage returned to the Clark Officers’ Club, where there were two bars. The downstairs bar was entered “at one’s own risk” and was not too different from some of the joints in Angeles City. At some stage, an altercation broke out between one of the Air Force pilots and a Marine.

When the scrape was broken up, the Marine was quick to disappear and the Air Force pilots were escorted out of the bar by a bevy of large bouncers. The pilots were not happy with their dismissal and tried to reenter the bar forcibly. Fights broke out with the club bouncers. The Air Police were summoned. Being slightly more sober than my comrades, I attempted to separate the combatants. The APs arrived. Bad language led to a further exchange of blows, and a three-way donnybrook broke out among the Air Police, the bouncers, and the pilots. The APs and bouncers outnumbered the pilots and manhandled each of them, one by one, into the waiting paddy wagon. Realizing this would not be good for my new friends, I demanded that the senior airman summon the officer in charge.

Though I was seemingly coherent, and wearing a Navy tropical white uniform that was not commonplace on an Air Force base, the young Air Police officer in charge was confused. Exploiting that confusion, I invented an outrageous story about how these pilots were soon off on a highly classified, above-top-secret, extremely hazardous mission over North Vietnam. This could be their last fling, so to speak. That was the soft sell. For the hard sell, I, as a representative of Gen. Marmaduke Smedley, had the authority to place everyone in custody if need be.

The “we who are about to die” line may or may not have worked. But the threat of awakening the general with such a bizarre name (the first to come to mind) surely did. Fumbling to find the imaginary phone number in the right pocket of my tropical white shirt, I said, “Here’s the general’s personal phone number. He will not like being disturbed this late.” Whether the young officer believed me or not, he chose leniency rather than the threatened wrath of my general. The officers were released -and, being young and dismissive of authority, waited only a few minutes before reentering the bar. This time they were on their own.

(I later exchanged very occasional letters with one of them. Thirty-five years later, long after I’d forgotten the incident, that pilot, then 1st Lt. Gene Quick, turned up in Washington and called. We arranged a get-together, and after Gene and his wife arrived, he got around to telling the story. My wife was disbelieving. Yet I suspect some elements were true. Welcome to Vietnam, almost.)

After much pleading and begging, finally we were airborne, landing at Saigon’s Tan Son Nhut air base ten days late. It was 3 am, and Vietcong mortars were peppering the field, already illuminated with star shells. Our only orders were to call “Tiger 345,” headquarters of Commander, Naval Forces Vietnam, on an antiquated field phone. The other two hundred or so passengers were quickly collected and hustled away to safety. We remained huddled in the empty hangar, hungry, frightened, and tired, listening to mortars exploding nearby and automatic weapons occasionally firing while I cranked on the phone, which was straight from a World War II movie, desperately trying to reach Tiger 345.

Wars in those days were obviously fought, in Saigon, on an eight-to-five basis. Thus, there was no answer from Tiger 345 until well after the sun had risen and the mortar attacks had subsided. A soft, female Vietnamese voice answered the phone. The way she pronounced “Tiger 345,” with both a Vietnamese and English lilt, is etched into my memory. An hour later a dilapidated yellow school bus arrived, with mesh wiring over the windows to prevent someone from lobbing a hand grenade or Molotov cocktail into the ancient vehicle.

The briefings in Saigon were as useful as our SERE training had been. Soon we were flying north to “I Corps” (that is, the zone assigned to the South Vietnamese army’s I Corps, the northernmost of four) in Da Nang and PCF Division 101. All of us were new to Vietnam and to war. We officers were young, arrogant, invulnerable (we foolishly thought) to the enemy, and thoroughly inexperienced and unprepared for war.

*

The first of my three vignettes was an incident that occurred on the evening of August 10-11, 1966. Three Swift Boats and four crews had been detached to a small base just inside the mouth of the Cua Viet River in the northernmost reaches of I Corps, almost in the shadow of the Demilitarized Zone separating the South and North. A Vietnamese junk base located a few kilometers away was supposed to provide some security. But the most worrisome part of a generally defenseless position was that we were colocated with the U.S. Marine Corps’ largest fuel depot of petroleum, oil, and lubricants (collectively called POL) in that part of the country, protected by an understrength guard unit.

Had a North Vietnamese or Vietcong rocket hit the fuel dump, the smoke, we joked, would have been visible in San Francisco. Still, despite the presence of local enemy units, no one in the chain of command seemed particularly worried about security. There was very little boat or junk traffic in the canals or to seaward on the ocean. As officer in charge, I dedicated one boat to “over-watch” duty, patrolling at night a few hundred yards from the base as added security. Its task was to detect any infiltration against either our undefended base or the vulnerable POL site and, if necessary, shoot on sight.

On that night, our boat drew over-watch duty. The only radar contacts were two U.S. Coast Guard WPBs -eighty-two-foot-long cutters-also on patrol. Around midnight, two jets overflew us. These could only be American, as the North Vietnamese air force never ventured south. Moments later, fire erupted in the vicinity of one of the WPBs. It appeared that the jets were strafing the boat-USCGC Point Welcome.

Knowing these were not North Vietnamese fighters, we rang up flank speed and closed the cutter. We arrived too late. Two Air Force B-57 Canberra bombers had, incredibly, mistaken Point Welcome for an enemy PT boat and made several strafing runs. The skipper, Lt. David Brostrom, had been killed while heroically shining a searchlight on the cutter’s U.S. ensign, hoping the aircraft would see it. A second crewman, Engineman Second Class Jerry Phillips, had also been killed.

We began picking up survivors who had jumped overboard. Meanwhile, our Vietnamese allies ashore had seen the attacks and, thinking we were the enemy, began firing at us with .30 and .50 caliber weapons. Fortunately, and courageously, Coast Guard chief petty officer Richard Patterson had taken command and fought to save Point Welcome, managing to turn on enough lights to convince our allies to stop shooting. A second WPB joined us in dealing with wounded.

Charges were filed against the Air Force pilots. “Friendly fire” was unfortunately the rule, not the exception, and virtually no coordination existed between the different services operating in the region. The Air Force needed pilots, and the charges disappeared. Other friendly-fire incidents occurred, particularly ashore. Miraculously, no one among our crews was killed or wounded by friendly fire during my tour, either at sea or operating close ashore (although I was almost sunk by a misdirected broadside fired, ironically, from the destroyer USS Uhlmann).

Thirty-one years, to the month, after the Point Welcome tragedy, a very close American friend living in England arrived in Washington with combat photographer Tim Page. They were in town for the CNN/Newseum salute, a huge exhibit, to photojournalists on both sides who died during the Vietnam War.

Over dinner and drinks, Tim, inquiring about my time in Vietnam, asked what had been my most harrowing experience. I recounted a summary of the Point Welcome episode. Page’s face went ashen. “Tim, are you all right?” my friend asked worriedly. Page remained stunned for a moment. Recovering slightly, he looked at me and asked, with emotion, “Did your crew wear red ball caps?”

I looked at him askance. “I beg your pardon?”

“Yes,” he replied, his color returning. “Red ball caps. And didn’t you go by the call sign ‘Red . . .’ something or other?”

“Ah yes, Red Baron . . I said, and then I was speechless. “Yes, Tim, I did, and l was.”

Tears running down his cheeks, he said in a voice filled with awe, “You saved my life! I was aboard Point Welcome.”

As with Gene Quick, sometimes events catch up with you. The larger failure was clear even to a young “jaygee.” Vietnam was fought as three or four separate wars by at least four different armies and air forces and operational commanders. Coordination was avoided by setting geographic boundaries to prevent or reduce friendly fire, rather than addressed by operational requirements. The Central Intelligence Agency further confused coordination. Throughout the country, the agency maintained a separate air force and paramilitary ground forces, as well as a small contingent of patrol boats, operating out of Da Nang.

A subset of the lack of coordination and command was the absence of fire discipline, exacerbated by a gross excess of available firepower. The body count became the metric for success and, too often, the basis for medals and good fitness reports. Aggressiveness was the order of the day. Hence, Air Force pilots were incentivized to mistake Point Welcome for a North Vietnamese PT boat even though none ever ventured south. “Shoot first” may not have been the explicit order of the day, but few units acted otherwise.

The lack of jointness and of a single, integrated operational chain of command would be addressed twenty years later with the Goldwater-Nichols Act, passed in 1986. However, integration of all crossagency capabilities in what would be called a “whole-of-government approach” still has not been fully addressed. Future failures would arise in the Afghan and second Iraq interventions, where underresourced civilian agencies were unable to deal fully with the “What next?” questions involved in bringing stability and security to those regions. “Stovepiping” of departments and agencies still persists, limiting the effectiveness of U.S. policies when all arms of government are vital to success.

*

The second vignette was an incident that spoiled Christmas Eve, 1966. A supposed truce was meant to halt fighting over Tet, the lunar new year, a well known Buddhist holiday coinciding with Christmas. The command in Saigon issued strict orders to return fire only when certain the enemy had fired first. But wars, especially this one, rarely celebrate holidays. We in the field knew that the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese army (NVA) had often disregarded truces and that we had to be prepared for any attack or probe, no matter the orders from Saigon. PCF Division 101 was based and housed on a floating barracks barge. The barge, an APL in Navy jargon, was anchored in Da Nang Harbor, about five hundred yards from the nearest shoreline.

*

from

Anatomy of Failure. Why America loses every war it starts

by Harlan K. Ullman

get it at Amazon.com

Can America Rescue Itself? Vote, Because That’s Just What They Don’t Want You to Do – NY Times.

This is a fragile moment for America. The integrity of democratic institutions is under assault from without and within, and basic standards of honesty and decency in public life are corroding.

If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed, all worthwhile activities.

But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote.

It’s a perennial conundrum for the world’s oldest democracy: Why do so many Americans fail to go to the polls? Some abstainers think that they’re registering a protest against the awful choices. They’re fooling themselves.

Nonvoters aren’t protesting anything; they’re just putting their lives and futures in the hands of the people who probably don’t want them to vote.

We’ve seen recently what can happen when people choose instead to take their protest to the ballot box. We saw it in Vir1inia in November. We saw it, to our astonishment, in Alabama in December. We may see it this week in western Pennsylvania. Voting matters.

Casting a ballot is the best opportunity most of us will ever get to have a say in who will represent us, what issues they will address and how they will spend our money. The right to vote is so basic, President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, that without it “all others are meaningless.”

And yet every election, tens of millions of Americans stay home. Studies of turnout among developed nations consistently rank the United States near the bottom.

In the most recent midterms, in 2014, less than 37 vercent of eligible voters went to the polls, the lowest turnout in more than 70 years. In 2016, 102 million people didn’t vote, far more than voted for any single candidate.

The problem isn’t just apathy, of course. Keeping people from voting has been an American tradition from the nation’s earliest days, when the franchise was restricted to white male landowners. It took a civil war, constitutional amendments, violently suppressed activism against discrimination and a federal act enforcing the guarantees of those amendments to extend this basic right to every adult. With each expansion of voting rights, the nation inched closer to being a truly representative democracy. Today, only one group of Americans may be legally barred from voting, those with felony records, a cruel and pointless restriction that disproportionately silences people of color.

In the months leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, when the House, Senate and statehouses around the country are up for grabs, the editorial board will explore the complicated question of why Americans don’t vote, and what can be done to overcome the problem.

The explanations fall into three broad categories:

SUPPRESSION

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 31 yearold old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before.

Stories like these are distressingly familiar, as more and more states pass laws that make voting harder for certain groups of voters, usually minorities, but also poor people, students and the elderly. They require forms of photo identification that minorities are much less likely to have or be able to get purportedly to reduce fraud, of which there is virtuall no evidence. They eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early voting hours and Sunday voting.

These new laws may not be as explicitly discriminatory as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the 20th century, but they are part of the same long-term project to keep minorities from the ballot box. And because African Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the laws are nearly always passed by Republican dominated legislatures.

In a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s strict new voter-ID law, a former staff member for a Republican lawmaker testified that Republicans were “politicall frothing at the mouth” at the prospect that the law would drive down Democratic turnout. It worked: After the 2016 election, one survey found that the law prevented possibly more than 17,000 registered voters, disproportionately poor and minority, from voting. Donald Trump carried the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.

FAILING TECHNOLOGY

The legitimacy of an election is only as good as the reliability of the machines that count the votes. And yet 43 states use voting machines that are no longer being made, and are at or near the end of their useful life. Many states still manage their voter registration rolls using software programs from the 1990s. It’s no surprise that this sort of infrastructure failure hits poorer and minority areas harder, often creating hours long lines at the polls and discouraging many voters from coming out at all. Upgrading these machines nationwide would cost at least $1 billion, maybe much more, and Congress has consistently failed to provide anything close to sufficient funding to speed along the process.

Elections are hard to run with aging voting technology, but at least those problems aren’t intentional. Hacking and other types of interference are. In 2016, Russian hackers were able to breach voter registration systems in Illinois and several other states, and targeted dozens more. They are interfering again in advance of the 2018 midterms, according to intelligence officials, who are demanding better cybersecurity measures. These include conducting regular threat assessments, using voting machines that create paper trails and conducting postelection audits. Yet President Trump, who sees any invocation of Russian interference as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election, consistently downplays or dismisses these threats. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s State Department has not spent a dime of the $120 million Congress allocated to it to fight disinformation campaigns by Russia and other countries.

DISILLUSIONMENT

Some people wouldn’t vote if you put a ballot box in their living room. Whether they believe there is no meaningful difference between the major parties or that the government doesn’t care what they think regardless of who is in power, they have detached themselves from the political process.

That attitude is encouraged by many in government, up to and including the current president, who cynically foster feelings of disillusionment by hawking fake tales of rigged systems and illegal voters, even as they raise millions of dollars from wealthy donors and draw legislative maps to entrench their power.

The disillusionment is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But it creates a self fulfilling prophecy. When large numbers of people don’t vote, elections are indeed decided by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. The public can then say, See? We were right. They don’t care about us. But when more people vote, the winning candidates are more broadly representative and that improves government responsiveness to the public and enhances democratic legitimacy.

These obstacles to voting and political participation are very real, and we don’t discount their impact on turnout. The good news is there are fixes for all of them.

The most important and straightforward fix is to make it easier for people to register and vote. Automatic voter registration, which first passed in Oregon just three years ago, is now the law or practice in nine states, both red and blue, and the District of Columbia. Washington State is on the cusp of becoming the tenth, and New Jersey and Nevada may be close behind. More people also turn out when states increase voting opportunities, such as by providing mailin ballots or by expanding voting hours and days.

The courts should be a bulwark protecting voting rights, and many lower federal courts have been just that in recent years, blocking the most egregious attacks on voting in states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. But the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has made this task much harder, mainly by gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 case. Decisions like that one, which split 5 to 4, depend heavily on who is sitting in those nine seats, yet another reason people should care who gets elected.

In the end, the biggest obstacle to more Americans voting is their own sense of powerlessness. It’s true: voting is a profound act of faith, a belief that even if your voice can’t change policy on its own, it makes a difference. Consider the attitude of Andrea Anthon , the Wisconsin woman who was deterred by the state’s harsh new voter-ID law after voting her whole adult life. “Voting is important to me because I know I have a little, teeny, tiny voice, but that is a way for it to be heard,” Ms. Anthony said. “Even though it’s one vote, I feel it needs to count.”

She’s right. The future of America is in your hands. More people voting would not only mean “different political parties with different platforms and different candidates,” the writer Rebecca Solnit said. “It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.”

There are a lot of stories desperately needing to be told right now, but they won’t be as long as millions of Americans continue to sit out elections. Lament the state of the nation as much as you want. Then get out and vote.

NY Times

“It’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.” Prisoners of the American Dream – Stefanie Stantcheva.

With inequality increasing, many around the world might assume that Americans would want to close the income gap by instituting a more progressive system of redistribution. But the opposite is true: Americans’ perceptions of privilege, opportunity, and social mobility contrast markedly with views elsewhere.

Given worsening economic inequality in the United States, many observers might assume that Americans would want to reduce income differences by instituting a more progressive tax system. That assumption would be wrong because, in December, the US Congress passed a sweeping tax bill that will, at least in the short term, disproportionately benefit higher-income households.

Despite their country’s mounting income gap, Americans’ support for redistribution has, according to the General Social Survey, remained flat for decades. Perhaps John Steinbeck got it right when he supposedly said that:

“Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.”

For those who believe that a society should offer its members equal opportunity, and that anyone who works hard can climb higher on the socioeconomic ladder, redistribution is unnecessary and unfair. After all, equal opportunists argue, if everyone begins at the same starting point, a bad outcome must be due to an individual’s own missteps.

This view approximates that of a majority of Americans. According to the World Values Survey, 70% of Americans believe that the poor can make it out of poverty on their own. This contrasts sharply with attitudes in Europe, where only 35% believe the same thing. Put another way:

Most Europeans consider the poor unfortunate, while most Americans consider them indolent.

This may be one reason why European countries support more generous and costlier welfare transfers than the US.

Americans have deep-seated, optimistic views about social mobility, opinions that are rooted in US history and bolstered by narratives of rags-to-riches immigrants. But today, Americans’ beliefs about social mobility are based more on myth than on fact.

According to survey research that colleagues and I recently conducted and analyzed, Americans estimate that among children in the lowest income bracket, 12% will make it to the top bracket by the time they retire. Americans also believe that with hard work, only 22% of children in poverty today will remain there as adults.

The actual numbers are 8% and 33%, respectively. In other words, Americans overestimate upward social mobility and underestimate the likelihood of remaining stuck in poverty for generations. They also believe that if everyone worked hard, the American Dream of self-made success would hew closer to reality.

European respondents are more pessimistic about mobility: unlike Americans, they overestimate the odds of remaining in poverty. For example, French, Italian, and British respondents said, respectively, that 35%, 34%, and 38% of low-income children will remain poor, when the reality is that 29%, 27%, and 31% will.

Views about social mobility are not uniform across the political spectrum or across geographic regions. In both the US and Europe, for example, people who call themselves “conservative” on matters of economic policy believe that there are equal opportunities for all children, and that the free-market economy in their country is fair.

The opposite holds true for those who call themselves economically “liberal.” These people favor government intervention, because they believe that, left to their own devices, markets will not ensure fairness, and may even generate more inequality.

An even more striking pattern is that Americans are overly optimistic about social mobility in parts of the country where actual mobility is low including the southeastern states of Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. In these states, respondents believe that mobility is more than two times greater than it is. By contrast, respondents underestimate social mobility in northern states including Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Washington where it is higher.

As part of our study, we shared data on social stratification in Europe and America with our participants. We found that selfidentified liberals and conservatives interpreted this information differently. When shown pessimistic information about mobility, for example, liberals became even more supportive of redistributive policies, such as public education and universal health care.

Conservatives, by contrast, remained unmoved. While they acknowledged that low social mobility is economically limiting, they remained as averse to government intervention and redistribution as they were before we shared the data with them.

Part of the reason for conservatives’ reaction, I believe, is mistrust. Many conservatives hold government in deep disdain; only 17% of conservative voters in the US and Europe say they can trust their country’s political leaders. The share of conservatives with an overall negative view of government was 80%; among liberals, it was closer to 50%. Moreover, a high percentage of conservatives say the best way to reduce inequality is to lower taxes on businesses and people.

But suspicion of government may also stem from a belief that political systems are rigged, and that politicians can’t or won’t improve things because they have become “captured” by entrenched interests, mired in legislative stalemate, or stymied by bureaucracy. In short:

When conservatives learn that social mobility is lower than they thought, they believe government is the problem, not the solution.

As J.D. Vance noted in his 2016 memoir Hillbilly Elegy, many on the American right now believe that “it’s not your fault that you’re a loser; it’s the government’s fault.”

We may be so polarized in the US and Europe that, even after receiving the same information, we respond in opposite ways. The left will want more government, and the right will want less. Clearly, reality is not so neat. But what is clear is that people’s views about social mobility have as much to do with ideology and geography as with their circumstances.

*

Stefanie Stantcheva is a professor of economics at Harvard University.

Project Syndicate

*

Research Paper

Intergenerational Mobility and Support for Redistribution

Abstract:

Using new cross-country survey and experimental data, we investigate how beliefs about intergenerational mobility affect preferences for redistribution in France, Italy, Sweden, the UK, and the US. Americans are more optimistic than Europeans about social mobility. Our randomized treatment shows pessimistic information about mobility and increases support for redistribution, mostly for “equality of opportunity” policies.

We find a strong political polarization. Left-wing respondents are more pessimistic about mobility, their preferences for redistribution are correlated with their mobility perceptions, and they support more redistribution after seeing pessimistic information. None of these apply to right-wing respondents, possibly because they see the government as a “problem” and not as the “solution.”

Pdf

*

Stefanie Stantcheva is an associate professor in Economics. Her research focuses on the optimal design of the tax system, taking into account important labor market features, social preferences, and long-term effects such as human capital acquisition and innovation by people and firms. She is also interested in the empirical effects of taxation on inequality, top incomes, migration, human capital, and innovation.

She received her Ph.D. in Economics from MIT in 2014 and was a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows 2014-2016.

Dear America, This weekend we will bury my niece – Abbie Youkilis MD.

Dear America,

We buried my brother, Dr. Michael Guttenberg, this past October. He was a 9/11 hero and 16 years later he died of a 9/11 related cancer. Our country came together after the 9/11 terrorist attacks to overcome evil. We fought two wars, we subjected ourselves to onerous changes in air travel security, and we willingly gave up civil liberties to give ourselves the illusion of safety.

But we are not safe.

Jaime was in the 9th grade. She was a pretty girl with the world’s best smile and her soul was sensitive and compassionate. She was intelligent and feisty and she danced with beauty and grace. She always looked out for the underdog and the bullied and she probably had been kind to the student who shot her. She planned to grow up and become a mommy and an occupational therapist.

Fred and Jen are the world’s most loving and over-protective parents but they could not protect Jaime from the sickness that has gripped our country. Unless we change, nobody can protect us. My friends and fellow citizens, your guns are not protecting you. Your guns are killing our kids.

Why is your hunting hobby more important than my niece’s life? Don’t you see that your “second amendment” rights have been twisted and distorted beyond any rational interpretation? Why should my niece have been sacrificed at the altar of your “freedoms?”

Why don’t you trust our police to protect us from crime? Don’t you realise that mental illness has been and always will be a part of the human condition and that weapons of war should not be available to those among us who dream of mayhem and death? Don’t you see the blood on all of our hands?

I don’t care that Nikolas Cruz did this. If it had not been him, it would have been some other sad sick young man. I do care that he was able to legally purchase an assault weapon. I do care that the NRA and our so-called political leaders enabled him.

I don’t care if Nikolas spends the rest of his life in jail or gets the death penalty. That will not bring back Jaime and it won’t stop your kids from being the next victims of a “versatile, customizable” deadly weapon of war. I do care that the National Rifle Association (NRA) is dismantled. I do care that our Congress and our President (need to) outlaw these technologically sophisticated tools of murder just like every other civilised country on this planet. Failure to act will make our politicians complicit in Jaime’s murder. I want them to face charges and I want them brought to justice.

My family does not want your hopes and prayers. We want your action. Join us in fighting the NRA. Join us in deposing any politician who cares more about campaign contributions than my beautiful Jaime. Join us in supporting leaders who will bravely fight for our children’s lives.

Don’t tell me not to politicise this. Jaime would want me to. This is political and now this is personal. If not now, when? If not us, who? If we don’t finally ACT, the sickness of gun violence will kill us all.

Sincerely yours,
Abbie Youkilis MD

The president is a disgrace to his country at so many levels. The Observer view on Donald Trump. 

It is almost one year since Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th US president. Will he last another 12 months? Day after tumultuous day since 20 January 2017, Trump has provided fresh evidence of his unfitness for America’s highest office.

It is not only that his politics and policies, from tax cuts and climate change to Palestine and nuclear weapons, are disastrously wrong-headed. It is not just that his idea of leadership is divisive, confrontational and irresponsible. Nor does the problem lie solely with his blatant racism, misogyny and chauvinism, though these are indeed massive problems.

His latest foul-mouthed outrage – describing developing countries as “shitholes” – is appalling even by his crude standards.

The fundamental failing underlying Trump’s presidency is his wilful ignorance. His frequently petulant, childish behaviour combines with a staggering lack of knowledge and contempt for facts to produce serial, chronic misjudgments. Trump, in power, cannot be trusted. He has been exposed as lacking in empathy, shamelessly mendacious, cynical and unversed or uninterested in the enduring human and constitutional values his office is sworn to uphold. Trump is the first and hopefully the last of his kind: an anti-American president. He is a disgrace and a danger to his country. The sooner he is sent packing, the better.

How much longer will Americans tolerate his embarrassing presence in the White House? His tenancy runs until November 2020, when he could seek a second term. But the problem is getting worse, not better. A series of scenarios, fuelled by his endlessly damaging, unacceptable words and actions, is beginning to unfold that could bring about his early departure.

The first and, democratically speaking, the most desirable scenario is that the electorate will simply reject Trump. This process is already well under way, if opinion polls are to be believed. Trump’s personal approval rating has averaged below 40% over the past year, a record for presidential unpopularity. More telling, perhaps, were the findings of a Pew Research Center poll last month that debunked the myth that Trump’s “base” – his core support – is impervious to his daily blundering. Trump’s backing among key groups that helped elect him – white men, Protestant evangelicals, the over-50s and the non-college educated – has fallen significantly across the board. At the same time, a Gallup survey found the number of voters redefining themselves as uncommitted “independents” rose to 42%.

Trump’s fading electoral appeal was cruelly exposed in shock defeats in Virginia and Alabama. Anger and disappointment with Trump among white voters was said to be a decisive factor, assisted by record turnout among African Americans. Nationally, evidence that the Trump rump is shredding is on the rise. A Monmouth University poll last August found that 61% of Trump voters said they could not think of anything he might do that would turn them against him. A poll last month put that figure at 37%. It is plain that many ordinary voters who trusted Trump to make a positive difference have been repelled and disgusted.

Pollsters and pundits are looking to November’s midterm congressional elections. Forecasts suggest a stunning repudiation of a “toxic” Trump, with the Alabama upset being replicated nationwide. The GOP could lose control of the House of Representatives, where large numbers of moderate Republicans are retiring, and its grip on the Senate may be loosened by an anti-Trump tsunami. No party since 1950 has hung on to the house in a midterm poll when the president’s approval was below 40%.

A humiliating nationwide slap in the face from voters this year, coupled with the loss of Congress, could bring Trump’s presidency shuddering to a halt, leaving him wounded, deserted by most Republicans and doomed to one-term ignominy. Meanwhile, another scenario prospectively leading to his political demise is playing out simultaneously. Nobody knows, as yet, whether the federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged collusion with Russian agents in 2016 will ultimately irretrievably compromise the president himself. But claims that Trump conspired to obstruct justice by putting pressure on the FBI and firing its unbiddable director, James Comey, appear to have substance and are potentially fatal to his presidency. Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is proposing a formal interview under oath.

It’s not over yet. Supporters of Trump point to what they see as a string of successes. They cite a stock market that has added $7tn in value, 2m new jobs and radical tax reform. They credit Trump with defeating Islamic State (a vain boast) and reducing illegal immigration. The number of Americans saying the US economy is in “excellent shape” has jumped from 2% in November 2016 to 18%. About 48% say the economy is “good”, up 11% in the same period. By these measures, his trademark vow to “make America great again” may be beginning to work – and this is likely to slow the pace of desertions from his electoral base.

Elsewhere, conservatives will point to some significant triumphs that give the lie to the idea that Trump has been a hapless figure unable to bend America to his will. On many fronts, his administration is landing significant blows to the Obama-Clinton legacy. The environment secretary, Scott Pruitt, has effectively disembowelled the Environment Protection Agency, sacking scores of advisers and scientists. He is intent on scrapping many Obama-era regulations on water, climate, pollution and more. There has been a bonfire of environmental rules. New rules on chemicals previously declared toxic are being relaxed.

The president is busy appointing predominantly young, white male, conservative judges to federal appeal and district courts. While the supreme court hears only a handful of cases a year, it is in these lower courts where America’s settlement on issues of gender, race, work, relationships and much more is decided.

Meanwhile, the interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, is shrinking America’s national monuments. Part of the Obama-designated Bears Ears in Utah (1.3m acres) and the Clinton-designated Grand Staircase-Escalante (1.9m acres) will likely be opened up for mining and other industrial pursuits. (Trump was lobbied by the uranium mining company Energy Fuels to open up Bears Ears for its uranium rich deposits.)

Then there are the quiet revolutions under way by Betsy DeVos at the education department, while former presidential candidate Ben Carson, at the department of housing and urban development, is slashing government spending on affordable housing. And on and on. These are some of the wins that conservatives are happy to bank while tolerating the intolerable in the White House.

The overwhelming impression of Trump’s first 12 months is not of steady progress but chaos. Tantrums, tears and irrational rage dominate the reality TV scene inside the White House, according to Michael Wolff’s new book, Fire and Fury. On the national stage, Trump has displayed open bigotry over migrant and race issues. His lowest point, among numerous low points, was his implied support for white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Internationally, Trump made nuclear war with North Korea more likely, dismayed the entire world by rejecting the Paris climate accord, insulted and threatened the UN over Jerusalem, did his best to wreck the landmark 2015 treaty with Iran and did next to nothing to halt the terrible conflicts in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Worse still, in a way, he has scorned US friends and allies in Europe and cosied up to authoritarian leaders in China, Russia and the Middle East. Britain has been treated with condescension and contempt, as in his abrupt (but welcome) cancellation of next month’s London visit.

Is this dysfunction evidence of an unhinged personality, as many people suggest? Rather than invoking the 25th amendment and dumping Trump, it would be better if he was held responsible for his actions. For his wilful ignorance, his dangerous lies and his unAmerican bigotry, Trump must be held to account. Perhaps 2018 will be the year.

The Guardian 

Mirror Neuron Activity May Predict How We Respond to Moral Dilemmas – Traci Pedersen. 

In a new study published in Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience, researchers found that they were able to predict a person’s ethical actions based on their mirror neuron activity.

Mirror neurons are brain cells that fire equally whether a person is performing an action or watching another person perform the same action. These neurons play a vital role in how people feel empathy for others or learn through mimicry. For example, if you wince while seeing another person in pain — a phenomenon called “neural resonance” — mirror neurons are responsible.

For the study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, (UCLA) wanted to know whether neural resonance might play a role in how people make complicated choices that require both conscious deliberation and consideration of another’s feelings.

The findings suggest that by studying how a person’s mirror neurons respond while watching someone else experience pain, scientists can predict whether that person will be more likely to avoid causing harm to others when faced with a moral dilemma.

“The findings give us a glimpse into what is the nature of morality,” said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, director of the Neuromodulation Lab at UCLA’s Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center and the study’s senior author. “This is a foundational question to understand ourselves, and to understand how the brain shapes our own nature.”

The researchers showed 19 volunteers two videos: one of a hypodermic needle piercing a hand, and another of a hand being gently touched by a cotton swab. During both videos, the scientists used a functional MRI machine to measure activity in the participants’ brains.

The participants were later asked how they would behave in a variety of moral dilemmas: Would they smother and silence a baby to keep enemy forces from finding and killing everyone in their group? Would they torture another person to prevent a bomb from killing several other people? Would they harm research animals to cure AIDS?

Participants also responded to scenarios in which causing harm would make the world worse — for example, causing harm to another person in order to avoid two weeks of hard labor — to gauge their willingness to inflict harm for moral reasons as well as less-noble motives.

As expected, the findings reveal that people who showed greater neural resonance while watching the hand-piercing video were less likely to choose direct harm, such as smothering the baby in the hypothetical dilemma.

No link was found between brain activity and participants’ willingness to hypothetically harm one person in the interest of the greater good, such as silencing the baby to save more lives. Those decisions are thought to stem from more cognitive, deliberative processes.

The findings confirm that genuine concern for others’ pain plays a causal role in moral dilemma judgments, Iacoboni said. In other words, a person’s refusal to silence the baby is due to concern for the baby, not just the person’s own discomfort in taking that action.

Iacoboni’s next study will investigate whether a person’s decision-making in moral dilemmas can be influenced by decreasing or enhancing activity in the areas of the brain that were targeted in the current study.

“It would be fascinating to see if we can use brain stimulation to change complex moral decisions through impacting the amount of concern people experience for others’ pain,” Iacoboni said. “It could provide a new method for increasing concern for others’ well-being.”

The research could point to a way to help people with mental disorders such as schizophrenia that make interpersonal communication difficult, Iacoboni said.

Source: University of California. Los Angeles

Psych Central 

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Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand 

Schizophrenia

When a person has schizophrenia they go through patches where it is hard to think clearly, manage their emotions, distinguish what is real and what is not, and relate to others.

They may have times when they lose contact with reality. This can all be very frightening.

Schizophrenia most often begins between the ages of 15 and 30 years, occurring for the first time slightly earlier in men than in women. Schizophrenia happens in approximately the same numbers across all ethnic groups.

The onset of schizophrenia can be quite quick. Someone who has previously been healthy and coped well with their usual activities and relationships can develop psychosis (loss of contact with reality) over a number of weeks. That said, symptoms may also develop slowly, with the ability to function in everyday life declining over a number of years.

The course of schizophrenia is very variable

Everyone experiences it differently and most will make a reasonable recovery, going on to lead a fulfilling life. About one third of people experiencing schizophrenia will have ongoing problems, perhaps with continuing symptoms such as hearing voices.

The effects of the illness do reduce with time. With early, effective, recovery-oriented treatment and care (including knowing how to look after yourself well), schizophrenia can be successfully managed. There is also some suggestion that as people progress into their later years, that the signs and symptoms of schizophenia may lessen.

It’s very important to get a diagnosis and treatment as early as possible. Schizophrenia can be effectively treated and you can recover. It is now an accepted fact that the earlier effective treatment is started, the better your chances of recovery.

Recovery is not defined as the complete absence of symptoms, but living well with or without symptoms – and will have a different meaning for each person.

If you think you have schizophrenia, or you are worried about a loved one, it’s important to talk to your doctor or counsellor, or someone else you can trust as a first step to getting the important help you or they need.

Myths about schizophrenia

Schizophrenia means the person has a split personality.

NOT TRUE Split or multiple personality is an extremely rare condition that does not cause psychosis. So this statement is untrue. On the other hand, the behaviour of people with acute psychosis does change, but this is due to the illness not to any personality change. When the illness resolves the behaviour returns to normal.

People with schizophrenia are aggressive violent people.

NOT TRUE It is clear that outside times of acute illness, people with schizophrenia are no more violent than any other member of the community. With good care and treatment, risk during times of acute illness can be minimised. However, people with schizophrenia, especially if it’s not treated well, can be violent or victims of violence.

What causes schizophrenia?

The exact cause of schizophrenia is unknown. Different causes may operate in different people. This may be why there is wide variation in the way the condition develops, in its symptoms and in the way it develops.

It is known that there is genetic (inherited) component to schizophrenia. If someone in your family/whānau has schizophrenia, you and your relatives have an increased chance of developing it – about a one in 10 chance. Childhood stresses and trauma, such as abuse, are also being shown to be linked to increased chance of developing mental illnesses in adults.

Signs to look for (symptoms)

The symptoms of schizophrenia can vary between individuals and, over time, within an individual. They are often divided into two categories – psychotic symptoms and mood symptoms.

Psychotic symptoms

These symptoms are not there all the time and occur when you are having a severe, or acute episode. They include the following:

– Delusions – an unusual belief that seems quite real to you, but not to those around you. A delusional person is convinced their belief is true. An example might be they strongly believe the FBI are trying to hunt them down.

– Thought disturbances – how you process thoughts or your ability to concentrate and maintain a train of thought may be affected. For example, you may feel like your thoughts are racing and friends may notice you constantly changing the topic of conversation or that you are easily distracted, or may laugh at irrational times. Your speech may become quite disorganised, and you may use made up words that only you understand.

– Hallucinations – this is when someone hears, sees, feels or smells something that is not there. Hearing voices that others cannot hear or when there is no-one else in the room is very typical of psychosis. Sometimes these voices will talk about or to you. They will sometimes command you to do things. For some, these voices can be inside their head; occasionally they may seem to come from within their body.

Mood symptoms

These could include:

– Loss of motivation, interest or pleasure in things. Everyday tasks such as washing up become difficult.

– Mood changes –You’ll tell friends you’re feeling great or never better. However, your ‘happy’ behaviour will be recognised as excessive by friends or family. You may also be quite unresponsive and be unable to express joy or sadness.

– Social withdrawal –people may notice that you become very careless in your dress and self-care, or have periods of seeming to do little and periods of being extremely active.

Other symptoms include subtle difficulties with tasks like problem solving or you may show signs of depression – commonly experienced by people with schizophrenia.

The strongest feature of schizophrenia is loss of insight – the loss of awareness that the experiences and difficulties you have are the result of your illness. It is a particular feature of psychotic illnesses, and is the reason why the Mental Health Act (1992) has been developed to ensure people with these conditions can get the assessment and treatment they need.

How the doctor tests for schizophrenia (diagnosis)

Once you have spent some time talking to your doctor, they will refer you to a psychiatrist qualified to diagnose and treat people with this condition. Psychiatrists diagnose schizophrenia when a person has some or all of the typical symptoms described above. For this reason it is important the psychiatrist gets a full picture of the difficulties you have had, both from you and your family/whānau or others who know you well.

Before schizophrenia can be diagnosed, the symptoms or signs must have been present for at least six months, with symptoms of psychosis for at least one month.

Treatment options

The best treatment for schizophrenia involves a number of important components, each of which can be tailored to your needs and the stage of the condition. The main components are psychosocial (talking) therapies, medication, with complementary therapies potentially valuable as well.

Talking therapies and counselling (psychosocial treatments)

Talking therapies are effective in the treatment of schizophrenia, especially for the treatment of depressive symptoms. Sessions may be held on a one to one basis, sometimes include partners or family, or be held in a group.

The focus of psychological therapy or counselling is on education and support for you to understand what is happening to you, to learn coping strategies and to pursue a path of recovery. Sessions help you regain the confidence and belief in yourself that is critical to recovery.

All types of therapy/counselling should be provided in a manner which is respectful to you and with which you feel comfortable and free to ask questions. It should be consistent with and incorporate your cultural beliefs and practices.

Medication

In treating schizophrenia, medicines are most often used for making your mood more stable and for helping with depression (anti-depressants). If you are prescribed medication, you are entitled to:

– know the names of the medicines

– what symptoms they are supposed to treat

– how long it will be before they take effect

– how long you will have to take them for

– and understand the side effects.

Finding the right medication can be a matter of trial and error. There is no way to predict exactly how medicines will affect you but it is worth persevering to find what medication works best for you.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding no medication is entirely safe. Before making any decisions about taking medication in pregnancy you should talk with your doctor.

Complementary therapies

The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.

Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress.

When considering taking any supplement, herbal or medicinal preparation you should consult your doctor to make sure it is safe and will not harm your health, for example, by interacting with any other medications you are taking.

Physical health

It’s also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual check up with your doctor. Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.

Thanks to Janet Peters, Registered Psychologist, for reviewing this content. Date last reviewed: September, 2014.

Trump is now Dangerous That makes his mental health a matter of public interest – Bandy Lee. 

A world authority in psychiatry, consulted by US politicians, argues that the president’s mental fitness deserves scrutiny. 

Bandy Lee is on the faculty of Yale School of Medicine and is an internationally recognised expert on violence. She is editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump.

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Eight months ago, a group of us put our concerns into a book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President. It became an instant bestseller, depleting bookstores within days. We thus discovered that our endeavours resonated with the public.

While we keep within the letter of the Goldwater rule – which prohibits psychiatrists from diagnosing public figures without a personal examination and without consent – there is still a lot that mental health professionals can tell before the public reaches awareness. These come from observations of a person’s patterns of responses, of media appearances over time, and from reports of those close to him. Indeed, we know far more about Trump in this regard than many, if not most, of our patients. Nevertheless, the personal health of a public figure is her private affair – until, that is, it becomes a threat to public health.

To make a diagnosis one needs all the relevant information – including, I believe, a personal interview. But to assess dangerousness, one only needs enough information to raise alarms. It is about the situation rather than the person. The same person may not be a danger in a different situation, while a diagnosis stays with the person.

It is Trump in the office of the presidency that poses a danger. Why? 

Past violence is the best predictor of future violence, and he has shown: verbal aggressiveness, boasting about sexual assaults, inciting violence in others, an attraction to violence and powerful weapons and the continual taunting of a hostile nation with nuclear power. 

Specific traits that are highly associated with violence include: impulsivity, recklessness, paranoia, a loose grip on reality with a poor understanding of consequences, rage reactions, a lack of empathy, belligerence towards others and a constant need to demonstrate power.

There is another pattern by which he is dangerous. His cognitive function, or his ability to process knowledge and thoughts, has begun to be widely questioned. Many have noted a distinct decline in his outward ability to form complete sentences, to stay with a thought, to use complex words and not to make loose associations. This is dangerous because of the critical importance of decision-making capacity in the office that he holds. 

Cognitive decline can result from any number of causes – psychiatric, neurological, medical, or medication-induced – and therefore needs to be investigated. Likewise, we do not know whether psychiatric symptoms are due to a mental disorder, medication, or a physical condition, which only a thorough examination can reveal.

A diagnosis in itself, as much as it helps define the course, prognosis, and treatment, is Trump’s private business, but what is our affair is whether the president and commander-in-chief has the capacity to function in his office. Mental illness, or even physical disability, does not necessarily impair a president from performing his function. Rather, questions about this capacity mobilised us to speak out about our concerns, with the intent to warn and to educate the public, so that we can help protect its own safety and wellbeing.

Indeed, at no other time in US history has a group of mental health professionals been so collectively concerned about a sitting president’s dangerousness. This is not because he is an unusual person – many of his symptoms are very common – but it is highly unusual to find a person with such signs of danger in the office of presidency. For the US, it may be unprecedented; for parts of the world where this has happened before, the outcome has been uniformly devastating.

Pathology does not feel right to the healthy. It repels, but it also exhausts and confuses. There is a reason why staying in close quarters with a person suffering from mental illness usually induces what is called a “shared psychosis”. Vulnerable or weakened individuals are more likely to succumb, and when their own mental health is compromised, they may develop an irresistible attraction to pathology. No matter the attraction, unlike healthy decisions that are life-affirming, choices that arise out of pathology lead to damage, destruction, and death. This is the definition of disease, and how we tell it apart from health.

Politics require that we allow everyone an equal chance; medicine requires that we treat everyone equally in protecting them from disease. That is why a liberal health professional would not ignore signs of appendicitis in a patient just because he is a Republican. Similarly, health professionals would not call pancreatic cancer something else because it is afflicting the president. When signs of illness become apparent, it is natural for the physician to recommend an examination. But when the disorder goes so far as to affect an individual’s ability to perform her function, and in some cases risks harm to the public as a result, then the health professional has a duty to sound the alarm.

The progress of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigations was worrisome to us for the effects it would have on the president’s stability. We predicted that Trump, who has shown marked signs of psychological fragility under ordinary circumstances, barely able to cope with basic criticism or unflattering news, would begin to unravel with the encroaching indictments. And if his mental stability suffered, then so would public safety and international security.

Indeed, that is what began to unfold: Trump became more paranoid, espousing once again conspiracy theories that he had let go of for a while. He seemed further to lose his grip on reality by denying his own voice on the Access Hollywood tapes. Also, the sheer frequency of his tweets seemed to reflect an agitated state of mind, and his retweeting some violent anti-Muslim videos showed his tendency to resort to violence when under pressure.

Trump views violence as a solution when he is stressed and desires to re-establish his power. Paranoia and overwhelming feelings of weakness and inadequacy make violence very attractive, and powerful weapons very tempting to use – all the more so for their power. His contest with the North Korean leader about the size of their nuclear buttons is an example of that and points to the possibility of great danger by virtue of the power of his position.

It does not take a mental health professional to see that a person of Trump’s impairments, in the office of the presidency, is a danger to us all. What mental health experts can offer is affirmation that these signs are real, that they may be worse than the untrained person suspects, and that there are more productive ways of handling them than deflection or denial.

Screening for risk of harm is a routine part of mental health practice, and there are steps that we follow when someone poses a risk of danger: containment, removal from access to weapons and an urgent evaluation. When danger is involved, it is an emergency, where an established patient-provider relationship is not necessary, nor is consent; our ethical code mandates that we treat the person as our patient.

In medicine, mental impairment is considered as serious as physical impairment: it is just as debilitating, just as objectively observable and established just as reliably through standardised assessments. Mental health experts routinely perform capacity or fitness for duty examinations for courts and other legal bodies, and offer their recommendations. This is what we are calling for, urgently, in doing our part as medical professionals. The rest of the decision is up to the courts or, in this case, up to the body politic.

The Guardian 

Fire and Fury confirms our worst fears – Jonathan Freedland. 

What did you think would be the Republican reaction to the latest revelations about Donald Trump? Did you expect the party’s luminaries to drop their collective head into their hands, or to crumple into a heap in despair at the state of the man they anointed as president of the United States?

They’d certainly have had good reason. In the book Fire and Fury, which on Thursday received the greatest possible endorsement – namely a “cease and desist” order from Trump’s personal lawyers – the journalist Michael Wolff paints a picture of a man whose own closest aides, friends and even family believe is congenitally unfit to be president.
The Trump depicted in the book is ignorant: the adviser who tried to teach him about the constitution could get no further than the fourth amendment before Trump’s eyes glazed over. He doesn’t read, or even skim, barely having the patience to take in a headline. Some allies try to persuade Wolff that attention deficit disorder is part of Trump’s populist genius: he is “post-literate – total television”.

The Republicans have predicted many times that Trump would change. They’ve been wrong every time. He won’t change

He is also loathsome: we read that a favourite sport of Trump’s was tricking friends’ wives to sleep with him. He is weird, especially in the bedroom: having clashed with his secret service bodyguard over his insistence that he be able to lock himself into his quarters (Melania has separate accommodation), he demanded the installation of two extra TV sets, so he could watch three cable news channels at once. He heads back under the covers as early as 6.30pm, munching a cheeseburger as he soaks up hours of Fox and CNN. If there are crumbs, the chambermaid can’t change the sheets: he insists that he strip the bed himself.

We learn that Trump believes Saturday Night Live is damaging to the nation and that it is “fake comedy”; that daughter Ivanka wants to be president herself and that privately she mocks her father’s nature-defying combover. 

And, perhaps most amusingly, we get an answer to the question that has long enraged Trump: the identity of the mystery leaker behind the stream of stories of White House chaos and fratricidal dysfunction that have appeared since he took office. It turns out that the president rants endlessly on the phone to his billionaire friends, who feel no duty of confidentiality. In other words, the leaker Trump seeks is … himself.
Given all this material, you’d forgive congressional Republicans for being glum. Alternatively, you’d understand if they tried to denounce the book, perhaps joining those who question Wolff’s methods, believing he too often strays from corroborated facts and cuts journalistic corners. But that has not been the reaction.

Instead, the official campaign account for Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, tweeted a gif of McConnell grinning mightily. And that smirk captured the mood of many of his colleagues. What do they have to smile about? They’re pleased because they believe Fire and Fury marks the downfall of Steve Bannon, the former chief strategist to Trump and source of some of the book’s most scathing lines. It was Bannon who told Wolff that Trump had “lost it”, and Bannon who described the meeting Donald Trump Jr had with a Russian lawyer – convened for the express purpose of receiving dirt on Hillary Clinton – as “treasonous”.

Trump’s response came in the form of a long and furious statement that loosely translates into New Yorkese as “You’re dead to me” – which delighted establishment Republicans who have long seen Bannon as the enemy within.

It would be nice if this loathing were rooted in ideological principle, with Republicans despising Bannon as the apostle of an ultra-nationalist isolationism and xenophobia that could tip the US and the world towards a 1930s-style catastrophe. (Recall that Bannon once promised Wolff the Trump administration would be “as exciting as the 1930s”.)

But the truth is that Bannon posed a threat to McConnell and his ilk, vowing to run insurgent, Trump-like candidates against establishment Republicans in primary contests (just as he did, in vain, in Alabama last year). If Bannon is broken, they can sleep more easily.

Some go further, believing that, as Bannon dies, so does Bannonism. They speculate that, with the ties to his onetime evil genius severed, Trump might now moderate, becoming a more conventional, focused occupant of the Oval Office. This is delusional, twice over.

First, it’s true that things look bad for Bannon now: he has apparently lost the financial backing of the billionaire Mercer family, and it’s possible he stands to lose control of his far-right Breitbart media empire. But he understands Trump and knows that, if you’re ready to grovel and flatter, a rapprochement is always possible. Hence Bannon’s declaration on Thursday that Trump is a “great man”.

But the more enduring delusion is that Trump is poised to moderate. Republicans predicted he would change once the primaries of 2016 were under way. Then they said he would change once he’d won the party nomination. Or when the presidential election campaign proper began. Or when he’d won the election. Or once he’d taken the oath of office. They were wrong every time. He won’t change. Trump is Trump.

The sheer persistence of this delusion points to another one: the hope that Republicans will finally decide enough is enough and do the right thing by ousting this unfit president. The Wolff book has prompted another flurry of that speculation, focused this time on the 25th amendment of the constitution, which allows for the removal of a president deemed “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office”.

In an article this week, Wolff provides arresting evidence of mental deterioration. He writes that Trump would tell the same three stories, word-for-word, inside 30 minutes, unaware he was repeating himself. “Now it was within 10 minutes.” He adds: “At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognise a succession of old friends.” 

But the 25th amendment requires the agreement of the vice-president, a majority of the cabinet and, ultimately, both houses of Congress. We are, once again, up against the sobering truth of the US constitution: it is only as strong as those willing to enforce it. And, today, that means the Republican party.

These latest revelations prove – yet again – what a vile, narcissistic and dangerous man we have in the Oval Office, wielding, among other things, sole, unchecked authority over the world’s mightiest nuclear arsenal. But the reaction to them proves something else too. That he remains in place only thanks to the willing connivance of his Republican enablers. As culpable as he is, they share in his damnation.

The Guardian 

THE NEW BOOK TRUMP IS TRYING TO BAN. Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff. 

Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President.


One year ago: the plan to lose, and the administration’s shocked first days
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Election Night: It “looked as if he had seen a ghost.”

On the afternoon of November 8, 2016, Kellyanne Conway settled into her glass office at Trump Tower. Right up until the last weeks of the race, the campaign headquarters had remained a listless place. All that seemed to distinguish it from a corporate back office were a few posters with right-wing slogans.

Conway, the campaign’s manager, was in a remarkably buoyant mood, considering she was about to experience a resounding, if not cataclysmic, defeat. Donald Trump would lose the election — of this she was sure — but he would quite possibly hold the defeat to under six points. That was a substantial victory. As for the looming defeat itself, she shrugged it off: It was Reince Priebus’s fault, not hers.

She had spent a good part of the day calling friends and allies in the political world and blaming Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. Now she briefed some of the television producers and anchors whom she had been carefully courting since joining the Trump campaign — and with whom she had been actively interviewing in the last few weeks, hoping to land a permanent on-air job after the election.

Even though the numbers in a few key states had appeared to be changing to Trump’s advantage, neither Conway nor Trump himself nor his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, the effective head of the campaign, wavered in their certainty: Their unexpected adventure would soon be over. Not only would Trump not be president, almost everyone in the campaign agreed, he should probably not be. Conveniently, the former conviction meant nobody had to deal with the latter issue.

As the campaign came to an end, Trump himself was sanguine. His ultimate goal, after all, had never been to win. “I can be the most famous man in the world,” he had told his aide Sam Nunberg at the outset of the race. His longtime friend Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, liked to say that if you want a career in television, first run for president. Now Trump, encouraged by Ailes, was floating rumors about a Trump network. It was a great future. He would come out of this campaign, Trump assured Ailes, with a far more powerful brand and untold opportunities.

“This is bigger than I ever dreamed of,” he told Ailes a week before the election. “I don’t think about losing, because it isn’t losing. We’ve totally won.”

From the start, the leitmotif for Trump about his own campaign was how crappy it was, and how everybody involved in it was a loser. In August, when he was trailing Hillary Clinton by more than 12 points, he couldn’t conjure even a far-fetched scenario for achieving an electoral victory. He was baffled when the right-wing billionaire Robert Mercer, a Ted Cruz backer whom Trump barely knew, offered him an infusion of $5 million. When Mercer and his daughter Rebekah presented their plan to take over the campaign and install their lieutenants, Steve Bannon and Conway, Trump didn’t resist. He only expressed vast incomprehension about why anyone would want to do that. “This thing,” he told the Mercers, “is so fucked up.”

Bannon, who became chief executive of Trump’s team in mid-August, called it “the broke-dick campaign.” Almost immediately, he saw that it was hampered by an even deeper structural flaw: The candidate who billed himself as a billionaire — ten times over — refused to invest his own money in it. Bannon told Kushner that, after the first debate in September, they would need another $50 million to cover them until Election Day.

“No way we’ll get 50 million unless we can guarantee him victory,” said a clear-eyed Kushner.
“Twenty-five million?” prodded Bannon.
“If we can say victory is more than likely.”

In the end, the best Trump would do is to loan the campaign $10 million, provided he got it back as soon as they could raise other money. Steve Mnuchin, the campaign’s finance chairman, came to collect the loan with the wire instructions ready to go so Trump couldn’t conveniently forget to send the money.

Most presidential candidates spend their entire careers, if not their lives from adolescence, preparing for the role. They rise up the ladder of elected offices, perfect a public face, and prepare themselves to win and to govern. The Trump calculation, quite a conscious one, was different. The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their worldview one whit. Almost everybody on the Trump team, in fact, came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president once he was in office. Michael Flynn, the retired general who served as Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” Flynn assured them.

Not only did Trump disregard the potential conflicts of his own business deals and real-estate holdings, he audaciously refused to release his tax returns. Why should he? Once he lost, Trump would be both insanely famous and a martyr to Crooked Hillary. His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would be international celebrities. Steve Bannon would become the de facto head of the tea-party movement. Kellyanne Conway would be a cable-news star. Melania Trump, who had been assured by her husband that he wouldn’t become president, could return to inconspicuously lunching. Losing would work out for everybody. Losing was winning.

Shortly after 8 p.m. on Election Night, when the unexpected trend — Trump might actually win — seemed confirmed, Don Jr. told a friend that his father, or DJT, as he calls him, looked as if he had seen a ghost. Melania was in tears — and not of joy.

There was, in the space of little more than an hour, in Steve Bannon’s not unamused observation, a befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a horrified Trump. But still to come was the final transformation: Suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be, and was wholly capable of being, the president of the United States.

From the moment of victory, the Trump administration became a looking-glass presidency: Every inverse assumption about how to assemble and run a White House was enacted and compounded, many times over. The decisions that Trump and his top advisers made in those first few months — from the slapdash transition to the disarray in the West Wing — set the stage for the chaos and dysfunction that have persisted throughout his first year in office. This was a real-life version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, where the mistaken outcome trusted by everyone in Trump’s inner circle — that they would lose the election — wound up exposing them for who they really were.

On the Saturday after the election, Trump received a small group of well-­wishers in his triplex apartment in Trump Tower. 
Even his close friends were still shocked and bewildered, and there was a dazed quality to the gathering. But Trump himself was mostly looking at the clock. Rupert Murdoch, who had promised to pay a call on the president-elect, was running late. When some of the guests made a move to leave, an increasingly agitated Trump assured them that Rupert was on his way. “He’s one of the greats, the last of the greats,” Trump said. “You have to stay to see him.” Not grasping that he was now the most powerful man in the world, Trump was still trying mightily to curry favor with a media mogul who had long disdained him as a charlatan and fool.

Few people who knew Trump had illusions about him. That was his appeal: He was what he was. Twinkle in his eye, larceny in his soul. Everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance. Early in the campaign, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment,” Nunberg recalled, “before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

The day after the election, the bare-bones transition team that had been set up during the campaign hurriedly shifted from Washington to Trump Tower. The building — now the headquarters of a populist revolution —­ suddenly seemed like an alien spaceship on Fifth Avenue. 
But its otherworldly air helped obscure the fact that few in Trump’s inner circle, with their overnight responsibility for assembling a government, had any relevant experience.

Ailes, a veteran of the Nixon, Reagan, and Bush 41 administrations, tried to impress on Trump the need to create a White House structure that could serve and protect him. “You need a son of a bitch as your chief of staff,” he told Trump. “And you need a son of a bitch who knows Washington. You’ll want to be your own son of a bitch, but you don’t know Washington.” Ailes had a suggestion: John Boehner, who had stepped down as Speaker of the House only a year earlier.
“Who’s that?” asked Trump.

As much as the president himself, the chief of staff determines how the Executive branch — which employs 4 million people — will run. The job has been construed as deputy president, or even prime minister. 
But Trump had no interest in appointing a strong chief of staff with a deep knowledge of Washington. Among his early choices for the job was Kushner — a man with no political experience beyond his role as a calm and flattering body man to Trump during the campaign.

It was Ann Coulter who finally took the president-elect aside. “Nobody is apparently telling you this,” she told him. “But you can’t. You just can’t hire your children.”

Bowing to pressure, Trump floated the idea of giving the job to Steve Bannon, only to have the notion soundly ridiculed. 
Murdoch told Trump that Bannon would be a dangerous choice. Joe Scarborough, the former congressman and co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, told the president-elect that “Washington will go up in flames” if Bannon became chief of staff.

So Trump turned to Reince Priebus, the RNC chairman, who had became the subject of intense lobbying by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. If congressional leaders were going to have to deal with an alien like Donald Trump, then best they do it with the help of one of their own kind.

Jim Baker, chief of staff for both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and almost everybody’s model for managing the West Wing, advised Priebus not to take the job. 
Priebus had his own reservations: He had come out of his first long meeting with Trump thinking it had been a disconcertingly weird experience. Trump talked nonstop and constantly repeated himself.

“Here’s the deal,” a close Trump associate told Priebus. “In an hour meeting with him, you’re going to hear 54 minutes of stories, and they’re going to be the same stories over and over again. So you have to have one point to make, and you pepper it in whenever you can.”

But the Priebus appointment, announced in mid-November, put Bannon on a co-equal level to the new chief of staff. Even with the top job, Priebus would be a weak figure, in the traditional mold of most Trump lieutenants over the years. There would be one chief of staff in name — the unimportant one — and others like Bannon and Kushner, more important in practice, ensuring both chaos and Trump’s independence.

Priebus demonstrated no ability to keep Trump from talking to anyone who wanted his ear. The president-elect enjoyed being courted. On December 14, a high-level delegation from Silicon Valley came to Trump Tower to meet him. Later that afternoon, according to a source privy to details of the conversation, Trump called Rupert Murdoch, who asked him how the meeting had gone.

“Oh, great, just great,” said Trump. “These guys really need my help. Obama was not very favorable to them, too much regulation. This is really an opportunity for me to help them.”
“Donald,” said Murdoch, “for eight years these guys had Obama in their pocket. They practically ran the administration. They don’t need your help.”

“Take this H-1B visa issue. They really need these H-1B visas.”
Murdoch suggested that taking a liberal approach to H-1B visas, which open America’s doors to select immigrants, might be hard to square with his promises to build a wall and close the borders. But Trump seemed unconcerned, assuring Murdoch, “We’ll figure it out.”
“What a fucking idiot,” said Murdoch, shrugging, as he got off the phone.

*

Steve Bannon, suddenly among the world’s most powerful men, was running late. It was the evening of January 3, 2017 — a little more than two weeks before Trump’s inauguration — and Bannon had promised to come to a small dinner arranged by mutual friends in a Greenwich Village townhouse to see Roger Ailes.

Snow was threatening, and for a while the dinner appeared doubtful. But the 76-year-old Ailes, who was as dumbfounded by his old friend Donald Trump’s victory as everyone else, understood that he was passing the right-wing torch to Bannon. 
Ailes’s Fox News, with its $1.5 billion in annual profits, had dominated Republican politics for two decades. Now Bannon’s Breit­bart News, with its mere $1.5 million in annual profits, was claiming that role. For 30 years, Ailes — until recently the single most powerful person in conservative politics — had humored and tolerated Trump, but in the end Bannon and Breitbart had elected him.

At 9:30, having extricated himself from Trump Tower, Bannon finally arrived at the dinner, three hours late. Wearing a disheveled blazer, his signature pairing of two shirts, and military fatigues, the unshaven, overweight 63-year-old immediately dived into an urgent download of information about the world he was about to take over.

“We’re going to flood the zone so we have every Cabinet member for the next seven days through their confirmation hearings,” he said of the business-and-military, 1950s-type Cabinet choices. “Tillerson is two days, Sessions is two days, Mattis is two days …”

Bannon veered from James “Mad Dog” Mattis — the retired four-star general whom Trump had nominated as secretary of Defense — to the looming appointment of Michael Flynn as national-security adviser. “He’s fine. He’s not Jim Mattis and he’s not John Kelly … but he’s fine. He just needs the right staff around him.” Still, Bannon averred: “When you take out all the Never Trump guys who signed all those letters and all the neocons who got us in all these wars … it’s not a deep bench.” 
Bannon said he’d tried to push John Bolton, the famously hawkish diplomat, for the job as national-security adviser. Bolton was an Ailes favorite, too.

“He’s a bomb thrower,” said Ailes. “And a strange little fucker. But you need him. 
Who else is good on Israel? Flynn is a little nutty on Iran. Tillerson just knows oil.”

“Bolton’s mustache is a problem,” snorted Bannon. “Trump doesn’t think he looks the part. You know Bolton is an acquired taste.”
“Well, he got in trouble because he got in a fight in a hotel one night and chased some woman.”
“If I told Trump that,” Bannon said slyly, “he might have the job.”

Bannon was curiously able to embrace Trump while at the same time suggesting he did not take him entirely seriously. Great numbers of people, he believed, were suddenly receptive to a new message — the world needs borders — and Trump had become the platform for that message.
“Does he get it?” asked Ailes suddenly, looking intently at Bannon. Did Trump get where history had put him?

Bannon took a sip of water. “He gets it,” he said, after hesitating for perhaps a beat too long. “Or he gets what he gets.”

Pivoting from Trump himself, Bannon plunged on with the Trump agenda. “Day one we’re moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all-in. Sheldon” — Adelson, the casino billionaire and far-right Israel defender — “is all-in. We know where we’re heading on this … Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. 
Let them deal with it. Or sink trying.”

“Where’s Donald on this?” asked Ailes, the clear implication being that Bannon was far out ahead of his benefactor.
“He’s totally onboard.”

“I wouldn’t give Donald too much to think about,” said an amused Ailes.
Bannon snorted. “Too much, too little — doesn’t necessarily change things.”

“What has he gotten himself into with the Russians?” pressed Ailes.

“Mostly,” said Bannon, “he went to Russia and he thought he was going to meet Putin. But Putin couldn’t give a shit about him. So he’s kept trying.”

Again, as though setting the issue of Trump aside — merely a large and peculiar presence to both be thankful for and to have to abide — Bannon, in the role he had conceived for himself, the auteur of the Trump presidency, charged forward. The real enemy, he said, was China. China was the first front in a new Cold War.

“China’s everything. Nothing else matters. We don’t get China right, we don’t get anything right. This whole thing is very simple. China is where Nazi Germany was in 1929 to 1930. The Chinese, like the Germans, are the most rational people in the world, until they’re not. And they’re gonna flip like Germany in the ’30s. You’re going to have a hypernationalist state, and once that happens, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.”

“Donald might not be Nixon in China,” said Ailes, deadpan.

Bannon smiled. “Bannon in China,” he said, with both remarkable grandiosity and wry self-deprecation.

“How’s the kid?” asked Ailes, referring to Kushner.

“He’s my partner,” said Bannon, his tone suggesting that if he felt otherwise, he was nevertheless determined to stay on message.

“He’s had a lot of lunches with Rupert,” said a dubious Ailes.

“In fact,” said Bannon, “I could use your help here.” He then spent several minutes trying to recruit Ailes to help kneecap Murdoch. Since his ouster from Fox over allegations of sexual harassment, Ailes had become only more bitter toward Murdoch.
Now Murdoch was frequently jawboning the president-elect and encouraging him toward Establishment moderation. Bannon wanted Ailes to suggest to Trump, a man whose many neuroses included a horror of senility, that Murdoch might be losing it.

“I’ll call him,” said Ailes. “But Trump would jump through hoops for Rupert. Like for Putin. Sucks up and shits down. I just worry about who’s jerking whose chain.”

*

Trump did not enjoy his own inauguration. He was angry that A-level stars had snubbed the event, disgruntled with the accommodations at Blair House, and visibly fighting with his wife, who seemed on the verge of tears. Throughout the day, he wore what some around him had taken to calling his golf face: angry and pissed off, shoulders hunched, arms swinging, brow furled, lips pursed.

The first senior staffer to enter the White House that day was Bannon. On the inauguration march, he had grabbed 32-year-old Katie Walsh, the newly appointed deputy chief of staff, and together they had peeled off to inspect the now-vacant West Wing. The carpet had been shampooed, but little else had changed. It was a warren of tiny offices in need of paint, the décor something like an admissions office at a public university. Bannon claimed the non­descript office across from the much grander chief of staff’s suite and immediately requisitioned the whiteboards on which he intended to chart the first 100 days of the Trump administration. He also began moving furniture out. The point was to leave no room for anyone to sit. Limit discussion. Limit debate. This was war.

Those who had worked on the campaign noticed the sudden change. Within the first week, Bannon seemed to have put away the camaraderie of Trump Tower and become far more remote, if not unreachable. “What’s up with Steve?” Kushner began to ask. “I don’t understand. We were so close.” Now that Trump had been elected, Bannon was already focused on his next goal: capturing the soul of the Trump White House.

He began by going after his enemies. Few fueled his rancor toward the standard-issue Republican world as much as Rupert Murdoch — not least because Murdoch had Trump’s ear. It was one of the key elements of Bannon’s understanding of Trump: The last person the president spoke to ended up with enormous influence. Trump would brag that Murdoch was always calling him; Murdoch, for his part, would complain that he couldn’t get Trump off the phone.

“He doesn’t know anything about American politics, and has no feel for the American people,” Bannon told Trump, always eager to point out that Murdoch wasn’t an American. Yet in one regard, Murdoch’s message was useful to Bannon. 
Having known every president since Harry Truman — as Murdoch took frequent opportunities to point out — the media mogul warned Trump that a president has only six months, max, to set his agenda and make an impact. After that, it was just putting out fires and battling the opposition.

This was the message whose urgency Bannon had been trying to impress on an often distracted Trump, who was already trying to limit his hours in the office and keep to his normal golf habits. Bannon’s strategic view of government was shock and awe. In his head, he carried a set of decisive actions that would not just mark the new administration’s opening days but make it clear that nothing ever again would be the same. He had quietly assembled a list of more than 200 executive orders to issue in the first 100 days. The very first EO, in his view, had to be a crackdown on immigration. After all, it was one of Trump’s core campaign promises. Plus, Bannon knew, it was an issue that made liberals batshit mad.

Bannon could push through his agenda for a simple reason: because nobody in the administration really had a job. Priebus, as chief of staff, had to organize meetings, hire staff, and oversee the individual offices in the Executive-branch departments. But Bannon, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump had no specific responsibilities — they did what they wanted. And for Bannon, the will to get big things done was how big things got done. 
“Chaos was Steve’s strategy,” said Walsh.

On Friday, January 27 — only his eighth day in office — Trump signed an executive order issuing a sweeping exclusion of many Muslims from the United States. In his mania to seize the day, with almost no one in the federal government having seen it or even been aware of it, Bannon had succeeded in pushing through an executive order that overhauled U.S. immigration policy while bypassing the very agencies and personnel responsible for enforcing it.

The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? You have to undo this! 
You’re finished before you even start! But Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between Trump’s America and that of liberals. 
Almost the entire White House staff demanded to know: Why did we do this on a Friday, when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters?

“Errr … that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: Make them crazy and drag them to the left.

On the Sunday after the immigration order was issued, Joe Scarborough and his Morning Joe co-host, Mika Brzezinski, arrived for lunch at the White House. 
Trump proudly showed them into the Oval Office. “So how do you think the first week has gone?” he asked the couple, in a buoyant mood, seeking flattery. When Scarborough ventured his opinion that the immigration order might have been handled better, Trump turned defensive and derisive, plunging into a long monologue about how well things had gone. “I could have invited Hannity!” he told Scarborough.

After Jared and Ivanka joined them for lunch, Trump continued to cast for positive impressions of his first week. Scarborough praised the president for having invited leaders of the steel unions to the White House. At which point Jared interjected that reaching out to unions, a Democratic constituency, was Bannon’s doing, that this was “the Bannon way.”

“Bannon?” said the president, jumping on his son-in-law. “That wasn’t Bannon’s idea. That was my idea. It’s the Trump way, not the Bannon way.”

Kushner, going concave, retreated from the discussion.

Trump, changing the topic, said to Scarborough and Brzezinski, “So what about you guys? What’s going on?” He was referencing their not-so-secret secret relationship. The couple said it was still complicated, but good.

“You guys should just get married,” prodded Trump.

“I can marry you! I’m an internet Unitarian minister,” Kushner, otherwise an Orthodox Jew, said suddenly.

“What?” said the president. “What are you talking about? Why would they want you to marry them when I could marry them? When they could be married by the president! At Mar-a-Lago!”

The First Children couple were having to navigate Trump’s volatile nature just like everyone else in the White House. And they were willing to do it for the same reason as everyone else — in the hope that Trump’s unexpected victory would catapult them into a heretofore unimagined big time. Balancing risk against reward, both Jared and Ivanka decided to accept roles in the West Wing over the advice of almost everyone they knew. It was a joint decision by the couple, and, in some sense, a joint job. Between themselves, the two had made an earnest deal: If sometime in the future the opportunity arose, she’d be the one to run for president. The first woman president, Ivanka entertained, would not be Hillary Clinton; it would be Ivanka Trump.

Bannon, who had coined the term “Jarvanka” that was now in ever greater use in the White House, was horrified when the couple’s deal was reported to him. “They didn’t say that?” he said. “Stop. 
Oh, come on. They didn’t actually say that? Please don’t tell me that. Oh my God.”

The truth was, Ivanka and Jared were as much the chief of staff as Priebus or Bannon, all of them reporting directly to the president. The couple had opted for formal jobs in the West Wing, in part because they knew that influencing Trump required you to be all-in. 

From phone call to phone call — and his day, beyond organized meetings, was almost entirely phone calls — you could lose him. He could not really converse, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. 

He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his performance — without making him angry or petulant.

Ivanka maintained a relationship with her father that was in no way conventional. She was a helper not just in his business dealings, but in his marital realignments. If it wasn’t pure opportunism, it was certainly transactional. For Ivanka, it was all business — building the Trump brand, the presidential campaign, and now the White House. 
She treated her father with a degree of detachment, even irony, going so far as to make fun of his comb-over to others. She often described the mechanics behind it to friends: an absolutely clean pate — a contained island after scalp-reduction surgery — surrounded by a furry circle of hair around the sides and front, from which all ends are drawn up to meet in the center and then swept back and secured by a stiffening spray. The color, she would point out to comical effect, was from a product called Just for Men — the longer it was left on, the darker it got. Impatience resulted in Trump’s orange-blond hair color.

Kushner, for his part, had little to no success at trying to restrain his father-in-law. Ever since the transition, Jared had been negotiating to arrange a meeting at the White House with Enrique Peña Nieto, the Mexican president whom Trump had threatened and insulted throughout the campaign. On the Wednesday after the inauguration, a high-level Mexican delegation — the first visit by any foreign leaders to the Trump White House — met with Kushner and Reince Priebus. That afternoon, Kushner triumphantly told his father-in-law that Peña Nieto had signed on to a White House meeting and planning for the visit could go forward.

The next day, on Twitter, Trump blasted Mexico for stealing American jobs. “If Mexico is unwilling to pay for the badly needed wall,” the president declared, “then it would be better to cancel the upcoming meeting.” At which point Peña Nieto did just that, leaving Kushner’s negotiation and statecraft as so much scrap on the floor.

*

Nothing contributed to the chaos and dysfunction of the White House as much as Trump’s own behavior. The big deal of being president was just not apparent to him. Most victorious candidates, arriving in the White House from ordinary political life, could not help but be reminded of their transformed circumstances by their sudden elevation to a mansion with palacelike servants and security, a plane at constant readiness, and downstairs a retinue of courtiers and advisers. But this wasn’t that different from Trump’s former life in Trump Tower, which was actually more commodious and to his taste than the White House.

Trump, in fact, found the White House to be vexing and even a little scary. He retreated to his own bedroom — the first time since the Kennedy White House that a presidential couple had maintained separate rooms. In the first days, he ordered two television screens in addition to the one already there, and a lock on the door, precipitating a brief standoff with the Secret Service, who insisted they have access to the room. He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: Nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) 
Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.

If he was not having his 6:30 dinner with Steve Bannon, then, more to his liking, he was in bed by that time with a cheeseburger, watching his three screens and making phone calls — the phone was his true contact point with the world — to a small group of friends, who charted his rising and falling levels of agitation through the evening and then compared notes with one another.

As details of Trump’s personal life leaked out, he became obsessed with identifying the leaker. The source of all the gossip, however, may well have been Trump himself. In his calls throughout the day and at night from his bed, he often spoke to people who had no reason to keep his confidences. He was a river of grievances, which recipients of his calls promptly spread to the ever-attentive media.

On February 6, in one of his seething, self-pitying, and unsolicited phone calls to a casual acquaintance, Trump detailed his bent-out-of-shape feelings about the relentless contempt of the media and the disloyalty of his staff. The initial subject of his ire was the New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, whom he called “a nut job.” Gail Collins, who had written a Times column unfavorably comparing Trump to Vice-President Mike Pence, was “a moron.”

Then, continuing under the rubric of media he hated, he veered to CNN and the deep disloyalty of its chief, Jeff Zucker.

Zucker, who as the head of entertainment at NBC had commissioned The Apprentice, had been “made by Trump,” Trump said of himself in the third person. He had “personally” gotten Zucker his job at CNN. 
“Yes, yes, I did,” said the president, launching into a favorite story about how he had once talked Zucker up at a dinner with a high-ranking executive from CNN’s parent company. “I probably shouldn’t have, because Zucker is not that smart,” Trump lamented, “but I like to show I can do that sort of thing.” Then Zucker had returned the favor by airing the “unbelievably disgusting” story about the Russian “dossier” and the “golden shower” — the practice CNN had accused him of being party to in a Moscow hotel suite with assorted prostitutes.

Having dispensed with Zucker, the president of the United States went on to speculate on what was involved with a golden shower. And how this was all just part of a media campaign that would never succeed in driving him from the White House. Because they were sore losers and hated him for winning, they spread total lies, 100 percent made-up things, totally untrue, for instance, the cover that week of Time magazine — which, Trump reminded his listener, he had been on more than anyone in history — that showed Steve Bannon, a good guy, saying he was the real president. “How much influence do you think Steve Bannon has over me?” Trump demanded. He repeated the question, then repeated the answer: “Zero! Zero!” And that went for his son-in-law, too, who had a lot to learn.

The media was not only hurting him, he said — he was not looking for any agreement or even any response — but hurting his negotiating capabilities, which hurt the nation. And that went for Saturday Night Live, which might think it was very funny but was actually hurting everybody in the country. And while he understood that SNL was there to be mean to him, they were being very, very mean. It was “fake comedy.” He had reviewed the treatment of all other presidents in the media, and there was nothing like this ever, even of Nixon, who was treated very unfairly. “Kellyanne, who is very fair, has this all documented. You can look at it.”

The point is, he said, that that very day, he had saved $700 million a year in jobs that were going to Mexico, but the media was talking about him wandering around the White House in his bathrobe, which “I don’t have because I’ve never worn a bathrobe. And would never wear one, because I’m not that kind of guy.” And what the media was doing was undermining this very dignified house, and “dignity is so important.” But Murdoch, “who had never called me, never once,” was now calling all the time. So that should tell people something.

The call went on for 26 minutes.

Without a strong chief of staff at the White House, there was no real up-and-down structure in the administration — merely a figure at the top and everyone else scrambling for his attention. It wasn’t task-based so much as response-oriented — whatever captured the boss’s attention focused everybody’s attention. Priebus and Bannon and Kushner were all fighting to be the power behind the Trump throne. 
And in these crosshairs was Katie Walsh, the deputy chief of staff.

Walsh, who came to the White House from the RNC, represented a certain Republican ideal: clean, brisk, orderly, efficient. A righteous bureaucrat with a permanently grim expression, she was a fine example of the many political professionals in whom competence and organizational skills transcend ideology. To Walsh, it became clear almost immediately that “the three gentlemen running things,” as she came to characterize them, had each found his own way to appeal to the president. Bannon offered a rousing fuck-you show of force; Priebus offered flattery from the congressional leadership; Kushner offered the approval of blue-chip businessmen. 
Each appeal was exactly what Trump wanted from the presidency, and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t have them all.
He wanted to break things, he wanted Congress to give him bills to sign, and he wanted the love and respect of New York machers and socialites.

As soon as the campaign team had stepped into the White House, Walsh saw, it had gone from managing Trump to the expectation of being managed by him. Yet the president, while proposing the most radical departure from governing and policy norms in several generations, had few specific ideas about how to turn his themes and vitriol into policy. And making suggestions to him was deeply complicated. Here, arguably, was the central issue of the Trump presidency, informing every aspect of Trumpian policy and leadership: He didn’t process information in any conventional sense. He didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. 
Some believed that for all practical purposes he was no more than semi-­literate. He trusted his own expertise — no matter how paltry or irrelevant — more than anyone else’s. He was often confident, but he was just as often paralyzed, less a savant than a figure of sputtering and dangerous insecurities, whose instinctive response was to lash out and behave as if his gut, however confused, was in fact in some clear and forceful way telling him what to do. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”

By the end of the second week following the immigration EO, the three advisers were in open conflict with one another. For Walsh, it was a daily process of managing an impossible task: Almost as soon as she received direction from one of the three men, it would be countermanded by one or another of them.

“I take a conversation at face value and move forward with it,” she said. “I put what was decided on the schedule and bring in comms and build a press plan around it … And then Jared says, ‘Why did you do that?’ And I say, ‘Because we had a meeting three days ago with you and Reince and Steve where you agreed to do this.’ And he says, ‘But that didn’t mean I wanted it on the schedule …’ It almost doesn’t matter what anyone says: Jared will agree, and then it will get sabotaged, and then Jared goes to the president and says, see, that was Reince’s idea or Steve’s idea.”

If Bannon, Priebus, and Kushner were now fighting a daily war with one another, it was exacerbated by the running disinformation campaign about them that was being prosecuted by the president himself. When he got on the phone after dinner, he’d speculate on the flaws and weaknesses of each member of his staff. 
Bannon was disloyal (not to mention he always looks like shit). Priebus was weak (not to mention he was short — a midget). Kushner was a suck-up. Sean Spicer was stupid (and looks terrible too). Conway was a crybaby. Jared and Ivanka should never have come to Washington.

During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became a countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus were simply incomprehensible. In early March, not long before she left, she confronted Kushner with a simple request. “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,” she demanded. “What are the three priorities of this White House?”

It was the most basic question imaginable — one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer.

“Yes,” he said to Walsh. “We should probably have that conversation.”

*

HOW HE GOT THE STORY

This story is adapted from Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, to be published by Henry Holt & Co. on January 9. 

Wolff, who chronicles the administration from Election Day to this past October, conducted conversations and interviews over a period of 18 months with the president, most members of his senior staff, and many people to whom they in turn spoke. 

Shortly after Trump’s inauguration, Wolff says, he was able to take up “something like a semi-permanent seat on a couch in the West Wing” — an idea encouraged by the president himself. 

Because no one was in a position to either officially approve or formally deny such access, Wolff became “more a constant interloper than an invited guest.” There were no ground rules placed on his access, and he was required to make no promises about how he would report on what he witnessed.

Since then, he conducted more than 200 interviews. In true Trumpian fashion, the administration’s lack of experience and disdain for political norms made for a hodgepodge of journalistic challenges. 
Information would be provided off-the-record or on deep background, then casually put on the record. Sources would fail to set any parameters on the use of a conversation, or would provide accounts in confidence, only to subsequently share their views widely. And the president’s own views, private as well as public, were constantly shared by others. 

The adaptation presented here offers a front-row view of Trump’s presidency, from his improvised transition to his first months in the Oval Office.

New York Magazine 

The Tax Bill That Inequality Created – NYTimes. 

THE EDITORIAL Board, December 16, 2017

Most Americans know that the Republican tax bill will widen economic inequality by lavishing breaks on corporations and the wealthy while taking benefits away from the poor and the middle class. What many may not realize is that growing inequality helped create the bill in the first place.

As a smaller and smaller group of people cornered an ever-larger share of the nation’s wealth, so too did they gain an ever-larger share of political power. They became, in effect, kingmakers; the tax bill is a natural consequence of their long effort to bend American politics to serve their interests.

As things stand now, the top 1 percent of the population by wealth — the group that would primarily benefit from the tax bill — controls nearly 40 percent of the country’s wealth. The bottom 90 percent has just 27 percent, according to the economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.  Just three decades ago these numbers were almost exactly the reverse: The bottom 90 percent owned nearly 40 percent of all wealth. To find a time when such a tiny minority was so dominant, you have to go back to the Great Depression.

As kingmakers, rich families have supported candidates who share their hostility to progressive taxation, welfare programs and government regulation of any kind. These big-money donors have pushed the Republican Party in particular further to the right by threatening well-funded primary challenges against anybody who doesn’t toe the line on tax cuts for the rich and other pro-aristocracy policies. The power of donors has contributed to political polarization and made the federal government less responsive to the needs of most voters, a new book by Benjamin Page of Northwestern University and Martin Gilens of Princeton University argues.

The power of the one-percenters may help explain why President Trump, who ran as a populist, has not only abandoned any pretense of fighting for the working class but also joined Republicans in Congress in ripping up regulations that protect families and the environment — in order to help business tycoons. Together, they’ve tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Its repeal would have deprived millions of people of health insurance while trimming taxes for high-income families. Now, they want to cut taxes on corporations and offer new loopholes to the rich, even if that means hurting their own constituents by limiting the ability of middle-class families to deduct state and local taxes on their tax returns.

Most political campaigns now rely on a small group of wealthy donors who give tens of thousands of dollars or more per election cycle. About 40 percent of contributions to campaigns during the 2016 federal election came from an elite group of 24,949 donors, equivalent to 0.01 percent of the adult population. In 1980, the top 0.01 percent accounted for only 15 percent of all contributions, according to an analysis by Adam Bonica, a Stanford professor, and his collaborators.

Of course, the growing importance of wealthy donors is not exclusively a Republican phenomenon. Democratic candidates have also benefited from the largess of wealthy donors like George Soros, Tom Steyer and James Simons. But on economic and tax issues, big-money liberal donors have not really shoved their party to the far left. Donations from Wall Street and corporate America have, in fact, pushed many Democrats to the center or even to the right on issues like financial regulation, international trade, antitrust policy and welfare reform.

Further, liberal donors have been nowhere near as skillful at coordinating their giving as conservative donors have been. No liberal organization comes close to rivaling the network of donors and political activists created by the conservative Koch brothers, says Theda Skocpol, a professor at Harvard, who has written extensively about these issues. The Koch network has spent years methodically pushing state and federal lawmakers to cut regulations, taxes and government programs for the poor and the middle class. The leading donor network on the left, the Democracy Alliance, is smaller and much less successful.

Even allowing for money “wasted” on losing candidates and failed causes, the donor class has notched many impressive wins. Tax rates have fallen substantially, with the top marginal income tax rate now just below 40 percent, from 70 percent when Ronald Reagan won the presidency. The top corporate tax rate has dropped to 35 percent, from 46 percent in 1980, and many businesses pay an effective rate that is much lower than that. While supply-side economics remain mostly a Republican fiction, politicians from both parties have supported the effort to reduce taxes on capital — profits, capital gains and dividends — on the grounds that this would spur investment and make American businesses more competitive.

But the cuts have done little to bolster the economy or the working class. In fact, incomes have stagnated, and workers have been forced to part with a larger share of their pretax earnings in the form of payroll taxes.

Meanwhile, where are the political champions of poor Americans? Whoever they are, they haven’t been producing results. Wages for the poorest have languished, partly because Congress has been so slow to raise the minimum wage — $7.25 an hour since 2009 — that its purchasing power is now about 10 percent less than it was in 1968. Lawmakers and conservative judges have also undermined workers by making it harder for them to unionize, so they are not in a position to demand better pay and better working conditions.

This tax bill would exacerbate all these trends. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Centre and the Joint Committee on Taxation. both respected, both nonideological, say the bill would primarily benefit the wealthy and would leave most poor and middle-class Americans worse off over the long run. That’s without Congress doing anything else to widen the gap. But even now, Mr. Trump and Republicans in Congress are talking about cutting government programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security next year to help make up for the more than $1 trillion the tax bill would add to the federal deficit.

Inequality in America does not have to be self-perpetuating. When people turn up at the polls, as they did recently in Alabama, they can produce unexpected results. That’s why Republican lawmakers might want to think again about whether they want to be the means through which their wealthy donors pull off this heist.

New York Times

Statement on Visit to the USA, by Professor Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. 

Washington, December 15, 2017 

I. Introduction

I have spent the past two weeks visiting the United States, at the invitation of the federal government, to look at whether the persistence of extreme poverty in America undermines the enjoyment of human rights by its citizens.  In my travels through California, Alabama, Georgia, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington DC I have spoken with dozens of experts and civil society groups, met with senior state and federal government officials and talked with many people who are homeless or living in deep poverty.  I am grateful to the Trump Administration for facilitating my visit and for its continuing cooperation with the UN Human Rights Council’s accountability mechanisms that apply to all states.

My visit coincides with a dramatic change of direction in US policies relating to inequality and extreme poverty. The proposed tax reform package stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world, and will greatly increase the already high levels of wealth and income inequality between the richest 1% and the poorest 50% of Americans.  The dramatic cuts in welfare, foreshadowed by the President and Speaker Ryan, and already beginning to be implemented by the administration, will essentially shred crucial dimensions of a safety net that is already full of holes.  It is against this background that my report is presented.

The United States is one of the world’s richest, most powerful and technologically innovative countries; but neither its wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million people continue to live in poverty.

I have seen and heard a lot over the past two weeks.  I met with many people barely surviving on Skid Row in Los Angeles, I witnessed a San Francisco police officer telling a group of homeless people to move on but having no answer when asked where they could move to, I heard how thousands of poor people get minor infraction notices which seem to be intentionally designed to quickly explode into unpayable debt, incarceration, and the replenishment of municipal coffers, I saw sewage filled yards in states where governments don’t consider sanitation facilities to be their responsibility, I saw people who had lost all of their teeth because adult dental care is not covered by the vast majority of programs available to the very poor, I heard about soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction, and I met with people in the South of Puerto Rico living next to a mountain of completely unprotected coal ash which rains down upon them bringing illness, disability and death.

Of course, that is not the whole story.  I also saw much that is positive.  I met with State and especially municipal officials who are determined to improve social protection for the poorest 20% of their communities, I saw an energized civil society in many places, I visited a Catholic Church in San Francisco (St Boniface – the Gubbio Project) that opens its pews to the homeless every day between services, I saw extraordinary resilience and community solidarity in Puerto Rico, I toured an amazing community health initiative in Charleston (West Virginia) that serves 21,000 patients with free medical, dental, pharmaceutical and other services, overseen by local volunteer physicians, dentists and others (WV Health Right), and indigenous communities presenting at a US-Human Rights Network conference in Atlanta lauded Alaska’s advanced health care system for indigenous peoples, designed with direct participation of the target group.

American exceptionalism was a constant theme in my conversations.  But instead of realizing its founders’ admirable commitments, today’s United States has proved itself to be exceptional in far more problematic ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights.  As a result, contrasts between private wealth and public squalor abound.

In talking with people in the different states and territories I was frequently asked how the US compares with other states.  While such comparisons are not always perfect, a cross-section of statistical comparisons provides a relatively clear picture of the contrast between the wealth, innovative capacity, and work ethic of the US, and the social and other outcomes that have been attained. 

 By most indicators, the US is one of the world’s wealthiest countries.  It spends more on national defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined.

– US health care expenditures per capita are double the OECD average and much higher than in all other countries. But there are many fewer doctors and hospital beds per person than the OECD average.

– US infant mortality rates in 2013 were the highest in the developed world.

– Americans can expect to live shorter and sicker lives, compared to people living in any other rich democracy, and the “health gap” between the U.S. and its peer countries continues to grow.

– U.S. inequality levels are far higher than those in most European countries.

– Neglected tropical diseases, including Zika, are increasingly common in the USA.  It has been estimated that 12 million Americans live with a neglected parasitic infection. A 2017 report documents the prevalence of hookworm in Lowndes County, Alabama.

– The US has the highest prevalence of obesity in the developed world.

– In terms of access to water and sanitation the US ranks 36th in the world.

– America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, ahead of Turkmenistan, El Salvador, Cuba, Thailand and the Russian Federation. Its rate is nearly 5 times the OECD average.

– The youth poverty rate in the United States is the highest across the OECD with one quarter of youth living in poverty compared to less than 14% across the OECD.

– The Stanford Center on Inequality and Poverty ranks the most well-off countries in terms of labor markets, poverty, safety net, wealth inequality, and economic mobility. The US comes in last of the top 10 most well-off countries, and 18th amongst the top 21.

– In the OECD the US ranks 35th out of 37 in terms of poverty and Inequality. According to the World Income Inequality Database, the US has the highest Gini rate (measuring inequality) of all Western Countries

– The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality characterizes the US as “a clear and constant outlier in the child poverty league.” US child poverty rates are the highest amongst the six richest countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Sweden and Norway.

– About 55.7% of the U.S. voting-age population cast ballots in the 2016 presidential election. In the OECD, the U.S. placed 28th in voter turnout, compared with an OECD average of 75%.

– Registered voters represent a much smaller share of potential voters in the U.S. than just about any other OECD country. Only about 64% of the U.S. voting-age population (and 70% of voting-age citizens) was registered in 2016, compared with 91% in Canada (2015) and the UK (2016), 96% in Sweden (2014), and nearly 99% in Japan (2014).

    II. The human rights dimension

    Successive administrations, including the present one, have determinedly rejected the idea that economic and social rights are full-fledged human rights, despite their clear recognition not only in key treaties that the US has ratified (such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the US has long insisted other countries must respect.  But denial does not eliminate responsibility, nor does it negate obligations.  International human rights law recognizes a right to education, a right to healthcare, a right to social protection for those in need, and a right to an adequate standard of living.  In practice, the United States is alone among developed countries in insisting that while human rights are of fundamental importance, they do not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation.

    Since the US has refused to recognize economic and social rights agreed by most other states (except for the right to education in state constitutions), the primary focus of the present report is on those civil and political rights reflected in the US Bill of Rights and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which the US has ratified.

    III. Who are ‘the poor’?

    I have been struck by the extent to which caricatured narratives about the purported innate differences between rich and poor have been sold to the electorate by some politicians and media, and have been allowed to define the debate.  The rich are industrious, entrepreneurial, patriotic, and the drivers of economic success.  The poor are wasters, losers, and scammers.  As a result, money spent on welfare is money down the drain.  To complete the picture we are also told that the poor who want to make it in America can easily do so: they really can achieve the American dream if only they work hard enough. 

    The reality that I have seen, however, is very different.  It is a fact that many of the wealthiest citizens do not pay taxes at the rates that others do, hoard much of their wealth off-shore, and often make their profits purely from speculation rather than contributing to the overall wealth of the American community. 

    Who then are the poor?  

    Racist stereotypes are usually not far beneath the surface.  The poor are overwhelmingly assumed to be people of color, whether African Americans or Hispanic ‘immigrants’.  The reality is that there are 8 million more poor Whites than there are Blacks.  Similarly, large numbers of welfare recipients are assumed to be living high on the hog.  Some politicians and political appointees with whom I spoke were completely sold on the narrative of such scammers sitting on comfortable sofas, watching color TVs, while surfing on their smart phones, all paid for by welfare.  I wonder how many of these politicians have ever visited poor areas, let alone spoken to those who dwell there. There are anecdotes aplenty, but evidence is nowhere to be seen.  In every society, there are those who abuse the system, as much in the upper income levels, as in the lower.  But the poor people I met from among the 40 million living in poverty were overwhelmingly either persons who had been born into poverty, or those who had been thrust there by circumstances largely beyond their control such as physical or mental disabilities, divorce, family breakdown, illness, old age, unlivable wages, or discrimination in the job market.

    The face of poverty in America is not only Black, or Hispanic, but also White, Asian, and many other colors.  Nor is it confined to a particular age group.  Automation and robotization are already throwing many middle-aged workers out of jobs in which they once believed themselves to be secure.  In the economy of the twenty-first century, only a tiny percentage of the population is immune from the possibility that they could fall into poverty as a result of bad breaks beyond their own control.  The American Dream is rapidly becoming the American Illusion as the US since the US now has the lowest rate of social mobility of any of the rich countries.

    IV. The current extent of poverty in the US

    There is considerable debate over the extent of poverty in the US, but for the purposes of this report principal reliance is placed upon the official government statistics, drawn up primarily by the US Census Bureau.

    In order to define and quantify poverty in America, the Census Bureau uses ‘poverty thresholds’ or Official Poverty Measures (OPM), updated each year. In September 2017, more than one in every eight Americans were living in poverty (40 million, equal to 12.7% of the population). And almost half of those (18.5 million) were living in deep poverty, with reported family income below one-half of the poverty threshold.

    V. Problems with existing policies

    There is no magic recipe for eliminating extreme poverty, and each level of government must make its own good faith decisions.  But at the end of the day, particularly in a rich country like the USA, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power.  With political will, it could readily be eliminated.

    What is known, from long experience and in light of the government’s human rights obligations, is that there are indispensable ingredients for a set of policies designed to eliminate poverty.  They include: democratic decision-making, full employment policies, social protection for the vulnerable, a fair and effective justice system, gender and racial equality and respect for human dignity, responsible fiscal policies, and environmental justice.

    Currently, the United States falls far short on each of these issues.

    1. The undermining of democracy

    The foundation stone of American society is democracy, but it is being steadily undermined.  The principle of one person one vote applies in theory, but it is far from the reality.  In a democracy, the task of government should be to facilitate political participation by ensuring that all citizens can vote and that their votes will count equally.  In the US there is overt disenfranchisement of vast numbers of felons, a rule which predominantly affects Black citizens since they are the ones whose conduct is often specifically targeted for criminalization.  In addition, there are often requirement that persons who have paid their debt to society still cannot regain their right to vote until they paid off all outstanding fines and fees.  Then there is covert disenfranchisement, which includes the dramatic gerrymandering of electoral districts to privilege particular groups of voters, the imposition of artificial and unnecessary voter ID requirements, the blatant manipulation of polling station locations, the relocating of DMVs to make it more difficult for certain groups to obtain IDs, and the general ramping up of obstacles to voting especially by those without resources. The net result is that people living in poverty, minorities, and other disfavored groups are being systematically deprived of their voting rights.

    A common explanation is that people see no improvement in their well-being regardless of who they elect, so that voting is pointless.  But the most compelling and dispiriting explanation I received came in answer to my question as to why voting rates are so extraordinarily low in West Virginia. A state official pointed to apathy, which he explained by saying that “when people are poor they just give up on the electoral system.”  If this is the case, as seems likely, some political elites have a strong self-interest in keeping people in poverty.  As one politician remarked to me, it would be instructive to undertake a survey of the campaign appearances of politicians in overwhelmingly poor districts.

    2. An illusory emphasis on employment

    Proposals to slash the meager welfare arrangements that currently exist are now sold primarily on the basis that the poor need to get off welfare and back to work.  The assumption is that there are a great many jobs out there waiting to be filled by individuals with low educational standards, often suffering disabilities of one kind or another, sometimes burdened with a criminal record (perhaps for the crime of homelessness or not being able to pay a traffic ticket), and with no training or meaningful assistance to obtain employment.  It also assumes that the jobs they could get will make them independent of state assistance. Yet I spoke to workers from Walmart and other large stores who could not survive on a full-time wage without also relying on food stamps.  It has been estimated that as much as $6 billion dollars go from the SNAP program to support such workers, thus providing a huge virtual subsidy to the relevant corporations.

    In terms of the employment market, the reality is very different from that portrayed by the welfare to work proponents.  There has been a long-term decline in employment rates.  For example, by 2017, only 89% of males from 25 to 54 years were employed.  While ‘supply’ factors such as growing rates of disability, increasing geographic immobility, and higher incarceration rates are relevant, a 2016 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors concluded that reductions in labor supply are far less important than reductions in labor demand in accounting for the long-run trend1.  Factors such as automation and new technologies such as self-driving cars, 3D printers, and robot-staffed factories and warehouses will see a continuing decline in demand for low-skilled labor.

    Reflecting on these developments, leading poverty experts have concluded that:

    Because of this rising joblessness, the U.S. poverty population is becoming a more deprived and destitute class, one that’s disconnected from the economy and unable to meet basic needs. … 40 percent of the 1999 poverty population was in deep poverty … [compared to 46 percent of the 2015 poverty population … . Likewise, rates of extreme poverty (i.e., living on less than $2 per day per person) are also increasing, again because of declining employment as well as growing “disconnection” from the safety net2.

    3. Shortcomings in basic social protection

    There are a great many issues that could be covered under this heading.  In view of space limitations I will focus on three major concerns.

    (i) Indigenous peoples

    Chiefs and representatives from both recognized and non-recognized tribes presented me with evidence of widespread extreme poverty in indigenous communities in the USA.  They called for federal recognition as an essential first step to address poverty, indicating that without it their way of life is criminalised, they are disempowered, and their culture is destroyed – all of which perpetuate poverty, poor health, and shockingly high suicide rates. Living conditions in Pine Ridge, Lakota, were described as comparable to Haiti, with annual incomes of less than $12 000 and infant mortality rates three times higher than the national rate. Nine lives have been lost there to suicide in the last three months, including one six year old. Nevertheless, federally funded programmes aimed at suicide prevention have been de-funded.

    Testimony also revealed an urgent need for data collection on poverty in all indigenous communities, greater access to healthcare, and stronger protection from private and corporate abuse. The Red Water Pond Navajo tribe spoke about predatory loans involving 400% interest rates, and a high incidence of kidney, liver and pancreatic cancers.

    (ii) Children in poverty

    A shockingly high number of children in the US live in poverty. In 2016, 18% of children – some 13.3 million – were living in poverty, with children comprising 32.6% of all people in poverty.  Child poverty rates are highest in the southern states, with Mississippi, New Mexico at 30% and Louisiana at 29%.

    Contrary to the stereotypical assumptions, 31% of poor children are White, 24% are Black, 36% are Hispanic, and 1% are indigenous.  When looking at toddlers and infants, 42% of all Black children are poor, 32% of Hispanics, and 37% of Native American infants and toddlers are poor. The figure for Whites is 14%.

    Poor children are also significantly affected by America’s affordable and adequate housing crisis. Around 21% of persons experiencing homelessness are children.  While most are reportedly experiencing sheltered homelessness, the lack of financial stability, high eviction rates, and high mobility rates negatively impact education, and physical and mental health.

    On a positive note, most children living in poverty do have medical insurance. Due to the expansion of Medicaid and the creation of the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, as of 2016, some 95% of all children had health insurance.  Medicaid and CHIP have lowered the rate of children without health coverage from 14% in 1997 to 5.3% in 2015.

    Other support programs are also important, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which is estimated to lift some five million children out of poverty annually, while in 2015 the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) lifted a further five million children out of poverty.  By contrast, TANF is not getting to enough children, with less than 25% of all poor families that are eligible for cash assistance under TANF actually receiving it.  Proposed cutbacks to most of these programs would have dramatic consequences.

    (iii) Adult dental care

    The Affordable Care Act greatly expanded the availability of dental care to children, but the situations of adults living in poverty remains lamentable.  Their only access to dental care is through the emergency room, which usually means that when the pain becomes excruciating or disabling, they are eligible to have the tooth extracted.  Poor oral hygiene and disfiguring dental profiles lead to unemployability in many jobs, being shunned in the community, and being unable to function effectively.  Yet there is no national program, and very few state programs, to address these issues which fundamentally affect the human dignity and ultimately the civil rights of the persons concerned.

    4. Reliance on criminalization to conceal the problem

    Homeless estimates published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in December 2017 show a nationwide figure of 553,742, which includes 76,500 in New York, 55,200 in Los Angeles, and 6,900 in San Francisco3.  These figures are widely considered to be an undercount, as illustrated by estimates of 21,000 in San Francisco provided by various experts with whom I met.

    In many cities, homeless persons are effectively criminalized for the situation in which they find themselves.  Sleeping rough, sitting in public places, panhandling, public urination (in cities that provide almost zero public toilets) and myriad other offences have been devised to attack the ‘blight’ of homelessness.  Ever more demanding and intrusive regulations lead to infraction notices, which rapidly turn into misdemeanors, leading to the issuance of warrants, incarceration, the incurring of unpayable fines, and the stigma of a criminal conviction that in turn virtually prevents subsequent employment and access to most housing.  Yet the authorities in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco often encourage this vicious circle.  In Skid Row, LA., 6,696 arrests of homeless persons were reported to have been made between 2011 and 2016.  Rather than responding to homeless persons as affronts to the senses and to their neighborhoods, citizens and local authorities should see in their presence a tragic indictment of community and government policies.  Homelessness on this scale is far from inevitable and again reflects political choices to see law enforcement rather than low cost housing, medical treatment, psychological counselling, and job training as the solutions.  But the futility of many existing approaches was all too evident as I walked around some of the worst affected areas.

    In many cities and counties the criminal justice system is effectively a system for keeping the poor in poverty while generating revenue to fund not only the justice system but diverse other programs.  The use of the legal system, not to promote justice, but to raise revenue, as documented so powerfully in the Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, is pervasive around the country.  So-called ‘fines and fees’ are piled up so that low level infractions become immensely burdensome, a process that affects only the poorest members of society who pay the vast majority of such penalties.  State, county and municipal police and law enforcement agencies are not always forces for change in such settings. While they play an indispensable role in keeping the citizenry secure, they sometimes also pressure legislatures to maintain high staffing and overtime levels, at the expense of less expensive approaches which would address the social challenges constructively and effectively and eliminate the need for a law enforcement response.

    Another practice which affects the poor almost exclusively is that of setting large bail bonds for a defendant who seeks to go free pending trial.  Some 11 million people are admitted to local jails annually, and on any given day there are more than 730,000 people are being held, of whom almost two-thirds are awaiting trial, and thus presumed to be innocent. Yet judges have increasingly set large amounts of bail, which mean that wealthy defendants can secure their freedom, whole poor defendants are likely to stay in jail, with all of the consequences in terms of loss of their jobs, disruption of their childcare, inability to pay rent, and a dive into deeper destitution. A major movement to eliminate bail bonds is gathering steam, and needs to be embraced by anyone concerned about the utterly disproportionate impact of the justice system upon the poor.

    Finally, mention must be made of the widespread practice of suspending drivers’ licenses for a wide range of non-driving related offences, such as a failure to pay fines.  This is a perfect way to ensure that the poor, living in communities which have steadfastly refused to invest in serious public transport systems, are unable to earn a living which might have helped to pay the outstanding debt.  Two paths are open: penury, or driving illegally, thus risking even more serious and counter-productive criminalization.

    5. The gendered nature of poverty

    Many statistics could be cited to demonstrate the extent to which women shoulder a particularly high burden as a result of living in poverty. They are, for example, more exposed to violence, more vulnerable to sexual harassment, discriminated against in the labor market.  Luke Shafer and Kathryn Edin conclude that the number of children in single-mother households living in extreme poverty for an entire year has ballooned from fewer than 100,000 in 1995 to 895,000 in 2011 and 704,000 in 2012.  But perhaps the least recognized harm is that austerity policies that shrink the services provided by the state inevitably mean that the resulting burden is imposed instead upon the primary caregivers within families, who are overwhelmingly women.  Male-dominated legislatures rarely pay any heed to this consequence of the welfare cutbacks they impose.

    6. Racism, disability, and demonization of the poor

    Demonization of the poor can take many forms.  It has been internalized by many poor people who proudly resist applying for benefits to which they are entitled and struggle valiantly to survive against the odds.  Racism is a constant dimension and I regret that in a report that seeks to cover so much ground there is not room to delve much more deeply into the phenomenon. Racial disparities, already great, are being entrenched and exacerbated in many contexts.  In Alabama, I saw various houses in rural areas that were surrounded by cesspools of sewage that flowed out of broken or non-existent septic systems.  The State Health Department had no idea of how many households exist in these conditions, despite the grave health consequences.  Nor did they have any plan to find out, or devise a plan to do something about it.  But since the great majority of White folks live in the cities, which are well served by government built and maintained sewerage systems, and most of the rural folks in areas like Lowndes County, are Black, the problem doesn’t appear on the political or governmental radar screen.

    The same applies to persons with disabilities.  In the rush to claim that many beneficiaries are scamming the system, it is often asserted, albeit with little evidence, that large numbers of those receiving disability allowances are undeserving.  When I probed the very high rates of persons with disabilities in West Virginia, government officials explained that most recipients had attained low levels of education, worked in demanding manual labor jobs, and were often exposed to risks that employers were not required to guard against.

    7. Confused and counter-productive drug policies

    The opioid crisis has drawn extensive attention, as it should.  It has devastated many communities and the addiction often leads to heroin, methamphetamine, and other substance abuse.  Many states have introduced highly punitive regimes directed against pregnant women, rather than trying to provide sympathetic treatment and to maximize the well-being of the fetus.  

    As one submission put it:

    Mothers in Alabama face criminal prosecutions which can result in years of incarceration, as well as civil child welfare proceedings that have the power to separate families and sever a person’s parental rights. Families living in poverty are already disproportionately the subject of child welfare investigations in the United States. Experts have found that poor children disproportionately suffer impositions of the child welfare system, and families who receive public assistance are four times more likely than others to be investigated and have their children removed from the family home on the basis of alleged child maltreatment4.

    Similarly, states are increasingly seeking to impose drug tests on recipients of welfare benefits, with programs that lead to expulsion from the program for repeat offenders.  Such policies are entirely counter-productive, highly intrusive, and punitive where care is required instead.  The justification offered to me in West Virginia was that the state should not be supporting someone who is addicted to drugs.  It would be interesting to see if the same rationale were accepted if it was proposed that legislators and senior officials, who must keep the public trust, should also be regularly drug-tested, and punished for failure to go clean in a short time.

    Similarly, the contrast between the huge sentences handed down to those using drugs such as crack cocaine, contrasts dramatically and incomprehensibly with the approach applied in most cases of opioid addiction.  The key variable seems to be race.  The lesson to be learned is that the generally humane and caring response to opioid users should be applied to most cases of substance addiction.

    8. The use of fraud as a smokescreen

    Calls for welfare reform take place against a constant drumbeat of allegations of widespread fraud in the system.  The contrast with tax reform is instructive.  In that context immense faith is placed in the goodwill and altruism of the corporate beneficiaries, while with welfare reform the opposite assumptions apply.  The poor are inherently lazy, dishonest, and care only about their own interests.  And government officials with whom I met insisted that the states are gaming the system to defraud the federal government, individuals are constantly coming up with new lurks to live high on the welfare hog, and community groups are exaggerating the numbers. The reality, of course, is that there are good and bad corporate actors and there are good and bad welfare claimants.  But while funding for the IRS to audit wealthy taxpayers has been reduced, efforts to identify welfare fraud are being greatly intensified.  The answer is nuanced governmental regulation, rather than an abdication in respect to the wealthy, and a doubling down on intrusive and punitive policies towards the poor.  Revelations of widespread tax avoidance by companies and high-wealth individuals draw no rebuke, only acquiescence and the maintenance of the loopholes and other arrangements designed to facilitate such arrangements.  Revelation of food stamps being used for purposes other than staying alive draw howls of outrage from government officials and their media supporters.

    9. Privatization 

    Solutions to major social challenges in the US are increasingly seen to lie with privatization.  While the firms concerned have profited handsomely, it is far from clear that optimum outcomes have been achieved for the relevant client populations.  In particular, greater consideration needs to be given to the role of corporations in preventing rational policy-making and advocating against reforms in order to maintain their profits at the expense of the poorest members of society. During my visit I was told of many examples.  For example, bail bond corporations which exist in only one other country in the world, precisely because they distort justice, encourage excessive and often unnecessary levels of bail, and fuel and lobby for a system that by definition penalizes the poor.  The rich can always pay, and can avoid the 10% or even more that bail bond companies demand as a non-refundable down-payment. I heard cases of individuals who paid thousands of dollars to post bail, and lost it all when charges were dropped a day later. If they were subsequently charged with a different offence, the whole process begins again and all previous payments are lost.  Other examples include the corporations running private for-profit prisons, as well as bounty-hunters.

    10. Environmental sustainability 

    In Alabama and West Virginia I was informed of the high proportion of the population that was not being served by public sewerage and water supply services.  Contrary to the assumption in most countries that such services should be extended systematically and eventually comprehensively to all areas by the government, in neither state was I able to obtain figures as to the magnitude of the challenge or details of any government plans to address the issues in the future.

    VI. Principal current governmental responses 

    The analysis that follows is primarily focused on the Federal level.  Federalism complicates questions of responsibility but one irony that emerged clearly from my visit is that those who fight hardest to uphold State rights, also fight hard to deny city and county rights.  If the rhetoric about encouraging laboratories of innovation is to be meaningful, the freedom to innovate cannot be restricted to state politicians alone.

    1. Tax reform

    Deep and dramatic changes look likely to be adopted in the space of the next few days as Congress considers a final unified version of the Tax Bill.  From a human rights perspective, the lack of public debate, the closed nature of the negotiation, the exclusion of the representatives of almost half of the American people from the process, and the inability of elected representatives to know in any detail what they are being asked to vote for, all raise major concerns.  Similarly, the proposed immediate upending of many longstanding arrangements on the basis of which citizens have planned their futures, raises important issues relating to the need for a degree of predictability and respect for reasonable expectations in adopting tax reform. 

    One of the overriding concerns however is the enormous impetus given to income and wealth inequality by the proposed reforms. While most other nations, and all of the major international institutions such as the OECD, the World Bank, and the IMF have acknowledged that extreme inequalities in wealth and income are economically inefficient and socially damaging, the tax reform package is essentially a bid to make the US the world champion of extreme inequality.  As noted in the World Inequality Report 2018, in both Europe and the US the top 1% of adults earned around 10% of national income in 1980. In Europe that has risen today to 12%, but in the US it has reached 20%. In the same time period in the US annual income earnings for the top 1% have risen by 205%, while for the top 0.001% the figure is 636%. By comparison, the average annual wage of the bottom 50% has stagnated since 1980.

    At the state level, the demonizing of taxation, as though it is inherently evil, means that legislature effectively refuse to levy taxes even when there is a desperate need.  Instead they impose fees and fines through the back door, some of which fund the justice system and others of which go to fund the pet projects of legislators.  This sleight of hand technique is a winner, in the sense that the politically powerful rich do not have to pay any more taxes, while the politically marginalized poor bear the burden but can do nothing about it.

    2. Welfare reform

    In calculating how the proposed tax cuts can be paid for, the Treasury has explicitly listed welfare reform as an important source of revenue5.  Indeed, various key officials have made the same point that major cuts will need to be made in welfare provision.  Given the extensive, and in some cases unremitting, cuts that have been made in recent years, the consequences for an already overstretched and inadequate system of social protection are likely to be fatal for many programs, and possibly also for those who rely upon them.

    3. Healthcare reform

    The Senate majority leader recently wrote that “the Senate also voted to deliver relief to low- and middle-income Americans by repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate tax. For too long, families have suffered under this unpopular and unfair tax imposed under an unworkable law.” Many observers with whom I spoke consider that this move will, over time, make the rest of the ACA unviable, thus removing many millions of persons from the ranks of the insured.

    There have also been many references in statements by senior officials to the desirability of reducing Medicare and Medicaid expenditures.  When I asked state officials what they thought the consequences would be of repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, the unanimous response was that it would be disastrous, not just for the individuals concerned but also for state health care systems.

    In addition, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), on which almost 9 million low-income children depend for their primary health and dental care6. If long-term funding is not secured, those children could be left unprotected. If funding is secured, but threats to gradually decrease funding for the program over the short-term eventuate, this would also have devastating on the health of millions of poor children in America. 
    Similarly, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQCHs) are federally-funded, “safety-net” providers of comprehensive primary and preventive health care, regardless of the insurance status or ability to pay7. The health center program has been able to grow due to expanded Medicaid eligibility and increases in federal grant funding, including under the Affordable Care Act8. The future of these centers is, however, uncertain, with a re-funding bill having passed the House but Senate consideration being delayed. If the funding is lost, some 2,800 health centers across the country could close9, 9 million patients could lose access to primary and preventive care, more than 51,000 providers and staff could lose their jobs, and $7.5 billion revenue will be foregone in economically distressed communities10. If the funding is decreased, one can only presume the effects will be commensurately devastating.

    4. New information technologies

    The term ‘new information technology’ or ‘new technology’ is not well-defined, despite its frequent use. It is commonly used for such widely different but interrelated phenomena as the spectacular increase in computing power, ‘Big Data’, machine learning, algorithms, artificial intelligence and robotization, among other things. These separate terms often also lack a clear definition11.  There are clear benefits to the rapid development of new information technology. A 2016 White House Report, for example, highlights the major benefits of new artificial intelligence technology “to the public in fields as diverse as health care, transportation, the environment, criminal justice, and economic inclusion” in artificial intelligence12. But the risks are also increasingly clear.  Much more attention needs to be given to the ways in which new technology impacts the human rights of the poorest Americans13.  This inquiry is of relevance to a much wider group since experience shows that the poor are often a testing ground for practices and policies that may then be applied to others.  These are some relevant concerns.

    (i) Coordinated entry systems

    A coordinated entry system (CES) is, in essence, a system set up to match the homeless population with available homeless services. Such systems are gaining in popularity and their human rights impact has not yet been studied extensively14. I spoke to a range of civil society organizations and government officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco about CES.

    In Los Angeles, CES is one of the pillars of mayor Garcetti’s strategy15 to tackle the homelessness crisis in the city. The system is administered by the Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA). Tens of thousands of Los Angeles’ homeless population have been included in the system since it was first set up in 2013.  It works as follows. A homeless service caseworker or volunteer interviews a homeless individual using a survey called the Vulnerability Index-Service Priority Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT). This data is stored in a Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) that stores the data. A ranking algorithm gives the homeless respondent a vulnerability score between 1 and 17 and a second, matching, algorithm, matches the most vulnerable homeless to appropriate housing opportunities.

    The CES replaces a previous system of matching the homeless to housing that was described to me by various interlocutors as dysfunctional. It is based on the principle of ‘Housing First’, which focuses on providing housing before anything else. But despite the good intentions of officials in Los Angeles, there is an Orwellian side to CES. Similar concerns were expressed to me about the San Francisco CES.

    A first, and major, concern is that the VI-SPDAT survey asks homeless individuals to give up the most intimate details of their lives. Among many other questions, the VI-SPDAT survey requires homeless individuals to answer whether they engage in sex work, whether they have ever stolen medications, how often they have been in touch with the police and whether they have “planned activities each day other than just surviving that bring [them] happiness and fulfillment”. One researcher I met with who has interviewed homeless individuals that took the VI-SPDAT survey explained that many feel they are giving up their human right to privacy in return for their human right to housing.

    A civil society organization in San Francisco explained that many homeless individuals feel deeply ambivalent about the millions of dollars that are being spent on new technology to funnel them to housing that does not exist. According to some of my interlocutors, only a minority of those homeless individuals being interviewed actually acquire permanent housing, because of the chronic shortage of affordable housing and Section 8 housing vouchers in California. As one participant in a civil society town hall in San Francisco put it: “Computers and technology cannot solve homelessness”.

    A third concern related to access to and sharing of the wealth of data collected via coordinated entry systems and stored in HMIS. According to 2004 data standards by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, homeless organizations that record, use or process Protected Personal Information on homeless clients for a HMIS may share that information with law enforcement in a number of circumstances, including in response to “an oral request for the purpose of identifying or locating a suspect, fugitive, material witness or missing person” without the need for a warrant or any other form of judicial oversight16.

    I understood from civil society organizations that homeless individuals who have been interviewed for VI-SPDAT have expressed a fear, a fear that does not seem unjustified in light of the current legal regime, that the police would access the very sensitive personal data stored in HMIS.  When I met with the Executive Director of LAHSA, he assured me that LAHSA is working on a policy decision to deny the LAPD access to HMIS, which would be an important step in safeguarding the human right to privacy and other civil rights of the homeless. Other local and county officials have also assured me that the LAPD is currently not allowed access to HMIS.

    However, since federal standards allow such access and given the fact that the LAPD informed me that it is “unfortunate” that they currently have no access to CES data, it is likely there will be continued pressure on LAHSA and similar agencies in other municipalities to give access to the police to this ‘gold mine’ of information. Access by the police to HMIS is only one policy decision away.

    (ii) Risk assessment tools in the pre-trial phase

    Across the United States, a movement is underway to reform the pretrial system. At the heart of the reform is an effort to disconnect pretrial detention from wealth and to tie it to risk instead. And to accomplish that goal, a growing number of jurisdictions are adopting risk assessment tools (also called actuarial tools, or Actuarial Pretrial Risk Assessment Instruments -APRAIs17) to assist in pretrial release and custody decisions18. This move from pretrial detention and money bail to risk assessment is widely supported, but new risks to the human rights of the poor in the United States arise with the use of risk assessment tools.

    Automated risk assessment tools, take “data about the accused, feed it into a computerized algorithm, and generate a prediction of the statistical probability the person will commit some future misconduct, particularly a new crime or missed court appearance.”19 The system will generally indicate whether the risk for the particular defendant, compared to observed outcomes among a population of individuals who share certain characteristics, is ‘high’, ‘moderate’, or ‘low’. Judges maintain discretion, in theory, to ignore the risk score.

    One fundamental critique is that risk assessments are based on turning individual circumstances into risk categories. The overwhelmingly poor defendants who are confronted with these new practices are turned into ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’ risk classes, a demeaning process for those involved which goes directly against the principle of an individualized criminal justice system.

    Several interlocutors warned that these tools may seem to produce objective scores, but that the decision what risk level to qualify as ‘high’ or ‘low’ is not an objective, but a political choice, that should ultimately be decided by voters, not the, often private, developers of these tools.

    Risk assessment tools pose the same risks associated with privatizing public functions that currently plague the money bail system. I met with a Division Chief in the Public Defender’s Office of Los Angeles County who explained the pressure court systems are under to buy risk assessment tools ‘off the shelf’ from private vendors. As in other contexts, the inner workings of such tools as proprietary to the company that sells it, which leads to serious due process concerns that affect the civil rights of the poor in the criminal justice system20.

    (iii) Access to high-speed broadband access in West Virginia

    Civil society organizations have urged me to focus on obstacles to internet connectivity in impoverished communities in West Virginia21. This is a persistent problem in the state, where an estimated 30% of West Virginians lack access to high speed broadband (compared to 10% nationally) and 48% of rural West Virginians lack access (compared to 39% of the rural population nationally)22. But when I asked the Governor’s office in West Virginia about efforts to expand broadband access in poor, rural communities, it could only point to a 2010 broadband expansion effort. It downplayed the extent of the problem by claiming that there were “some issues” with access to Internet in West Virginia’s valleys.

    5. Puerto Rico

    I spent two days of the nine days I traveled outside of Washington, DC, in Puerto Rico. I witnessed the devastation of hurricane Irma and Maria in Salinas and Guayama in the south of the island, as well as in the poor Caño Martin Peña neighborhood in San Juan. Both in the south and in San Juan I listened to individuals in poverty and civil society organizations on how these natural disasters are just the latest in a series of bad news for Puerto Ricans, which include an economic crisis, a debt crisis, an austerity crisis and, arguably, a structural political crisis.

    Political rights and poverty are inextricably linked in Puerto Rico. If it were a state, Puerto Rico would be the poorest state in the Union. But Puerto Rico is not a state, it is a mere ‘territory.’ Puerto Ricans have no representative with full voting rights in Congress and, unless living stateside, cannot vote for the President of the United States. In a country that likes to see itself as the oldest democracy in the world and a staunch defender of political rights on the international stage, more than 3 million people who live on the island have no power in their own capital.

    Puerto Rico not only has a fiscal deficit, it also has a political rights deficit, and the two are not easily disentangled. I met with the Executive Director of the Financial Oversight and Management Board that was imposed by Congress on Puerto Rico as part of PROMESA. This statement is not the place to challenge the economics of the Board’s proposed polices, but there is little indication that social protection concerns feature in any significant way in the Board’s analyses.  At a time when even the IMF is insisting that social protection should be explicitly factored into prescriptions for adjustment (i.e. austerity) it would seem essential that the Board take account of human rights and social protection concerns as it contemplates far-reaching decision on welfare reform, minimum wage and labor market regulation.

    It is not for me to suggest any resolution to the hotly contested issue of Puerto Rico’s constitutional status.  But what is clear is that many, probably most, Puerto Ricans believe deeply that they are presently colonized and that the US Congress is happy to leave them in the no-man’s land of no meaningful Congressional representation and no ability to really move to govern themselves.  In light of recent Supreme Court jurisprudence and Congress’s adoption of PROMESA there would seem to be good reason for the UN Decolonization Committee to conclude that the island is no longer a self-governing territory.

    I am grateful for the superb research and analysis undertaken by Christiaan van Veen, Anna Bulman, Ria Singh Sawhney, and staff of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as the many inputs made by civil society groups, including those organized by the US Human Rights Network, and by leading scholars in the field.

    Notes

    1. Council of Economic Advisers, The Long-Term Decline in Prime-Age Male Labor Force Participation (2016).

    2. Charles Varner, Marybeth Mattingly, & David Grusky, ‘The Facts Behind the Visions,’ Pathways, Spring 2017, p. 2.

    3. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2017-AHAR-Part-1.pdf

    4. Poverty and Human Rights in Alabama.

    5. https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Documents/TreasuryGrowthMemo12-11-17.pdf

    6. https://ccf.georgetown.edu/2017/08/03/what-every-policy-maker-needs-to-know-about-the-childrens-health-insurance-program-chip-a-refresher/https://www.medicaid.gov/chip/downloads/fy-2016-childrens-enrollment-report.pdf;

    7. National Association of Community Health Centers, http://www.nachc.org/about-our-health-centers/find-a-health-center/

    8. Julia Paradise et al, Community Health Centers: Recent Growth and the Role of the ACA (18 January 2017),

    9. National Association of Community Health Centers, http://www.nachc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/NACHC-2017-Policy-Paper-Funding.pdf.

    10. National Association of Community Health Centers, The Health Center Funding Cliff and its Impact, September 2017; Peter Shin et al, What are the Possible Effects of Failing to Extend the Community Health Center Fund?, RCHN Community Health Foundation Research Collaborative
    Policy Research Brief # 49 (21 September 2017), https://publichealth.gwu.edu/sites/default/files/images/GG%20Health%20Center%20Fund%20Brief_9.18_Final.pdf

    11. In a written submission received by the Special Rapporteur from researchers at the Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy, they write: “The concept of AI has been proven to be notoriously difficult to define. A basic though popular definition of AI refers to “intelligence exhibited by machines” or “the science and engineering of making intelligent machines.” These definitions assume that ‘intelligence’ is clearly defined itself, though it, too, is ambiguous. No commonly agreed upon definition of artificial intelligence currently exists.” Available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

    12. Executive Office of the President National Science and Technology Council Committee on Technology’, ‘Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence’, October 2016, p.1.

    13. Cathy O’Neil, ‘The Ivory Tower Can’t Keep Ignoring Tech’, 14 November 2017, available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/opinion/academia-tech-algorithms.html

    14. One important exception is an excellent book that will be published in January: Virginia Eubanks, Automating Inequality: Automating Inequality How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (Forthcoming, 2018)

    15. https://www.lamayor.org/comprehensive-homelessness-strategy

    16. https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2004HUDDataandTechnicalStandards.pdf

    17. The Criminal Justice Policy Program (CJPP) at Harvard Law School, ‘Moving Beyond Money: A Primer on Bail Reform’, October 2016, p. 18.

    18. Sandra G. Mayson, ‘Bail Reform and Restraint for Dangerousness: Are Defendants a Special Case?’ Public Law Research Paper No. 16-30 Yale Law Journal (Forthcoming DO NOT CITE WITHOUT AUTHOR’S PERMISSION), p.1, available from: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2826600; Human Rights Watch, ‘Not in it for Justice: How California’s Pretrial Detention and Bail System Unfairly Punishes Poor People’, April 2017, p. 87-88.

    19. Human Rights Watch, ‘Not in it for Justice: How California’s Pretrial Detention and Bail System Unfairly Punishes Poor People’, April 2017, p. 88.

    20. Written submission from the AI Now Institute: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

    21. Written submission from Access Now: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/Callforinput.aspx

    22. West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy & American Friends Service Committee, ‘2016 State of Working West Virginia: Why is West Virginia so Poor?’, p. 55.

    United Nations 

    An honest Republican’s view. Jeff Flake’s full speech.

    Mr. President, I rise today to address a matter that has been much on my mind, at a moment when it seems that our democracy is more defined by our discord and our dysfunction than it is by our values and our principles. Let me begin by noting a somewhat obvious point that these offices that we hold are not ours to hold indefinitely. We are not here simply to mark time. Sustained incumbency is certainly not the point of seeking office. And there are times when we must risk our careers in favor of our principles.
    Now is such a time.
    It must also be said that I rise today with no small measure of regret. Regret, because of the state of our disunion, regret because of the disrepair and destructiveness of our politics, regret because of the indecency of our discourse, regret because of the coarseness of our leadership, regret for the compromise of our moral authority, and by our — all of our — complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs. It is time for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.
    In this century, a new phrase has entered the language to describe the accommodation of a new and undesirable order — that phrase being “the new normal.” But we must never adjust to the present coarseness of our national dialogue — with the tone set at the top.

    We must never regard as “normal” the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals. We must never meekly accept the daily sundering of our country – the personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms, and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth or decency, the reckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have all been elected to serve.

    None of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal. We must never allow ourselves to lapse into thinking that this is just the way things are now. If we simply become inured to this condition, thinking that this is just politics as usual, then heaven help us. Without fear of the consequences, and without consideration of the rules of what is politically safe or palatable, we must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal.

    Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as “telling it like it is,” when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

    And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else: It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength — because our strength comes from our values. It instead projects a corruption of the spirit, and weakness.

    It is often said that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up? — what are we going to say?

    Mr. President, I rise today to say: Enough. We must dedicate ourselves to making sure that the anomalous never becomes normal. With respect and humility, I must say that we have fooled ourselves for long enough that a pivot to governing is right around the corner, a return to civility and stability right behind it. We know better than that. By now, we all know better than that.

    Here, today, I stand to say that we would better serve the country and better fulfill our obligations under the constitution by adhering to our Article 1 “old normal” — Mr. Madison’s doctrine of the separation of powers. This genius innovation which affirms Madison’s status as a true visionary and for which Madison argued in Federalist 51 — held that the equal branches of our government would balance and counteract each other when necessary. “Ambition counteracts ambition,” he wrote.

    But what happens if ambition fails to counteract ambition? What happens if stability fails to assert itself in the face of chaos and instability? If decency fails to call out indecency? Were the shoe on the other foot, would we Republicans meekly accept such behavior on display from dominant Democrats? Of course not, and we would be wrong if we did.

    When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do — because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseum — when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of the institutions of our liberty, then we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations. Those things are far more important than politics.

    Now, I am aware that more politically savvy people than I caution against such talk. I am aware that a segment of my party believes that anything short of complete and unquestioning loyalty to a president who belongs to my party is unacceptable and suspect.

    If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the president of the United States. If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience. The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters – the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.

    A Republican president named Roosevelt had this to say about the president and a citizen’s relationship to the office:

    “The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly as necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile.” President Roosevelt continued. “To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

    Acting on conscience and principle is the manner in which we express our moral selves, and as such, loyalty to conscience and principle should supersede loyalty to any man or party. We can all be forgiven for failing in that measure from time to time. I certainly put myself at the top of the list of those who fall short in that regard. I am holier-than-none. But too often, we rush not to salvage principle but to forgive and excuse our failures so that we might accommodate them and go right on failing—until the accommodation itself becomes our principle.

    In that way and over time, we can justify almost any behavior and sacrifice almost any principle. I’m afraid that is where we now find ourselves.

    When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us.

    Leadership lives by the American creed: E Pluribus Unum. From many, one. American leadership looks to the world, and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero-sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have also been at our most principled. And when we do well, the rest of the world also does well.

    These articles of civic faith have been central to the American identity for as long as we have all been alive. They are our birthright and our obligation. We must guard them jealously, and pass them on for as long as the calendar has days. To betray them, or to be unserious in their defense is a betrayal of the fundamental obligations of American leadership. And to behave as if they don’t matter is simply not who we are.

    Now, the efficacy of American leadership around the globe has come into question. When the United States emerged from World War II we contributed about half of the world’s economic activity. It would have been easy to secure our dominance, keeping the countries that had been defeated or greatly weakened during the war in their place. We didn’t do that. It would have been easy to focus inward. We resisted those impulses. Instead, we financed reconstruction of shattered countries and created international organizations and institutions that have helped provide security and foster prosperity around the world for more than 70 years.

    Now, it seems that we, the architects of this visionary rules-based world order that has brought so much freedom and prosperity, are the ones most eager to abandon it.

    The implications of this abandonment are profound. And the beneficiaries of this rather radical departure in the American approach to the world are the ideological enemies of our values. Despotism loves a vacuum. And our allies are now looking elsewhere for leadership. Why are they doing this? None of this is normal. And what do we as United States Senators have to say about it?

    The principles that underlie our politics, the values of our founding, are too vital to our identity and to our survival to allow them to be compromised by the requirements of politics. Because politics can make us silent when we should speak, and silence can equal complicity.

    I have children and grandchildren to answer to, and so, Mr. President, I will not be complicit.

    I have decided that I will be better able to represent the people of Arizona and to better serve my country and my conscience by freeing myself from the political considerations that consume far too much bandwidth and would cause me to compromise far too many principles.

    To that end, I am announcing today that my service in the Senate will conclude at the end of my term in early January 2019.

    It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, and who is pro-immigration, has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican party — the party that for so long has defined itself by belief in those things. It is also clear to me for the moment we have given in or given up on those core principles in favor of the more viscerally satisfying anger and resentment. To be clear, the anger and resentment that the people feel at the royal mess we have created are justified. But anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.

    There is an undeniable potency to a populist appeal — but mischaracterizing or misunderstanding our problems and giving in to the impulse to scapegoat and belittle threatens to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking people. In the case of the Republican party, those things also threaten to turn us into a fearful, backward-looking minority party.

    We were not made great as a country by indulging or even exalting our worst impulses, turning against ourselves, glorying in the things which divide us, and calling fake things true and true things fake. And we did not become the beacon of freedom in the darkest corners of the world by flouting our institutions and failing to understand just how hard-won and vulnerable they are.

    This spell will eventually break. That is my belief. We will return to ourselves once more, and I say the sooner the better. Because to have a heathy government we must have healthy and functioning parties. We must respect each other again in an atmosphere of shared facts and shared values, comity and good faith. We must argue our positions fervently, and never be afraid to compromise. We must assume the best of our fellow man, and always look for the good. Until that days comes, we must be unafraid to stand up and speak out as if our country depends on it. Because it does.

    I plan to spend the remaining fourteen months of my senate term doing just that.

    Mr. President, the graveyard is full of indispensable men and women — none of us here is indispensable. Nor were even the great figures from history who toiled at these very desks in this very chamber to shape this country that we have inherited. What is indispensable are the values that they consecrated in Philadelphia and in this place, values which have endured and will endure for so long as men and women wish to remain free. What is indispensable is what we do here in defense of those values. A political career doesn’t mean much if we are complicit in undermining those values.

    I thank my colleagues for indulging me here today, and will close by borrowing the words of President Lincoln, who knew more about healing enmity and preserving our founding values than any other American who has ever lived. His words from his first inaugural were a prayer in his time, and are no less so in ours:

    “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

    President Donald Trump, Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism – Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword.

    In Donald Trump, we have a frightening Venn diagram consisting of three circles: the first is extreme present hedonism; the second, narcissism; and the third, bullying behavior.

    These three circles overlap in the middle to create an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of tyrant, complete with family members sitting at his proverbial “ruling table.”

    Like a fledgling dictator, he plants psychological seeds of treachery in sections of our population that reinforce already negative attitudes.

    To drive home our point, here are what we consider to be two of Trump’s most dangerous quotes:

    • “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is, I don’t know” (remark made during a campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina, August 9, 2016); and

    • “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters” (remark made during a campaign appearance in Sioux City, Iowa, January 23, 2016).

    Before Donald Trump, it was unfathomable for American citizens to consciously consider voting for, and then inaugurating, a person as unbalanced as this president.

    Admittedly, it’s possible, as Guy Winch points out in his February 2, 2016, Psychology Today article, “Study: Half of All Presidents Suffered from Mental Illness.” According to Winch, many of our previous presidents may have suffered from mental health issues, including depression (Abraham Lincoln), bipolar disorder (Lyndon Johnson), alcoholism (Ulysses S. Grant), Alzheimer’s disease (Ronald Reagan), and transient bouts of extreme present hedonism (John F. Kennedy and Bill Clinton). We have also survived a president who blatantly lied to cover his criminal tracks before he was caught in those lies (Richard Nixon).

    In the past, Americans have pulled together and worked to overcome our differences. We moved forward collectively as one great country. Unfortunately, in more recent times, it appears we have become a bipolar nation, with Donald Trump at the helm as his followers cheer him on and others try to resist him.

    Whether or not Donald Trump suffers from a neurological disorder, or narcissistic personality disorder, or any other mental health issue, for that matter, will, undeniably, remain conjecture unless he submits to tests, which is highly unlikely given his personality.

    However, the lack of such tests cannot erase the well-documented behaviors he has displayed for decades and the dangers they pose when embodied in the president of the United States.

    In line with the principles of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California 17 Cal. 3d 425 (1976), known as the “Tarasoff doctrine,” it is the responsibility of mental health professionals to warn the citizens of the United States and the people of the world of the potentially devastating effects of such an extreme present-hedonistic world leader, one with enormous power at his disposal.

    On the whole, mental health professionals have failed in their duty to warn, in a timely manner, not only the public but also government officials about the dangers of President Donald Trump.

    Articles and interviews intent on cautioning the masses prior to the election fell on deaf ears, perhaps in part because the media did not afford the concerned mental health professionals appropriate coverage, perhaps because some citizens discount the value of mental health and have thrown a thick blanket of stigma over the profession, or perhaps because we as mental health professionals did not stand united. Whatever the reason, it’s not too late to follow through.

    In presenting our case that Donald Trump is mentally unfit to be president of the United States, we would be remiss if we did not consider one more factor: the possibility of a neurological disorder such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, which the president’s father, Fred Trump, suffered from.

    We are not trying to speculate diagnoses from afar, but comparing video interviews of Trump from the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s to current video, we find that the differences (significant reduction in the use of essential words; an increase in the use of adjectives such as very, huge, and tremendous; and incomplete, run-on sentences that don’t make sense and that could indicate a loss of train of thought or memory) are conspicuously apparent. Perhaps this is why Trump insists on being surrounded by family members who love and understand him rather than seasoned political advisers, who may note, and then leak, his alarming behavior.

    When an individual is psychologically unbalanced, everything can teeter and fall apart if change does not occur. We wonder how far-reaching, in our society over time, the effects of our unbalanced president’s actions will be and how they will continue to affect us as individuals, communities, a nation, and a planet.

    We believe that Donald Trump is the most dangerous man in the world! A powerful leader of a powerful nation who can order missiles fired at another nation because of his (or a family member’s) personal distress at seeing sad scenes of people having been gassed to death.

    We shudder to imagine what actions might be taken in broader lethal confrontations with his personal and political enemies. We are gravely concerned about Trump’s abrupt, capricious 180-degree shifts and how these displays of instability have the potential to be unconscionably dangerous to the point of causing catastrophe, and not only for the citizens of the United States.

    There are two particularly troubling examples:

    1. His repeatedly lavishing praise on FBI director James Comey’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails and then, in early May 2017, abruptly and abusively firing Comey for the very investigation that garnered such praise, but in this case actually because of Comey’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia; and

    2 His stating during the campaign that NATO was obsolete and then, later, unexpectedly stating that NATO was necessary and acceptable.

    As is the case with extreme present hedonists, Trump is “chumming” for war, possibly for the most selfish of reasons: to deflect attention away from the Russia investigation.

    If another unbalanced world leader takes the bait, Trump will need the formerly “obsolete” and now-essential NATO to back him up.

    We as individuals don’t have to follow our nation’s leader down a path headed in the wrong direction, off a cliff and into a pit of past mistakes. We can stand where we are at this moment in history and face forward, into a brighter future that we create. We can start by looking for the good in one another and for the common ground we share.

    In the midst of the terrorist attacks on places of worship and cemeteries mentioned earlier, something wonderful emerged from the ashes: a spirit of overwhelming goodness in humanity. In the wake of the attacks, Jews and Muslims united: they held fund-raisers to help each other repair and rebuild; they shared their places of worship so that those burned out of theirs could hold gatherings and services; and they offered loving support to those who’d faced hatred.

    By observing ordinary people engaging in acts of everyday heroism and compassion, we have been able to witness the best aspects of humanity. That’s us! That’s the United States of America!

    A final suggestion for our governmental leaders: corporations and companies vet their prospective employees. This vetting process frequently includes psychological testing in the form of exams or quizzes to help the employer make more informed hiring decisions and determine if the prospective employee is honest and/or would be a good fit for the company.

    These tests are used for positions ranging from department store sales clerk to high-level executive. Isn’t it time that the same be required for candidates for the most important job in the world?

    *

    from:

    The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President
    Bandy Lee, MD.D., M.DIV

    get it at Amazon.com

    The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President – Bandy Lee, MD.D., M.DIV.

    Our Witness to Malignant Normality

    ROBERT JAY LIFTON, M.D.

    Concerning malignant normality, we start with an assumption that all societies, at various levels of consciousness, put forward ways of viewing, thinking, and behaving that are considered desirable or “normal.”

    Yet, these criteria for normality can be much affected by the political and military currents of a particular era. Such requirements may be fairly benign, but they can also be destructive to the point of evil.

    I came to the idea of malignant normality in my study of Nazi doctors. Those assigned to Auschwitz, when taking charge of the selections and the overall killing process, were simply doing what was expected of them. True, some were upset, even horrified, at being given this task. Yet, with a certain amount of counseling—one can call it perverse psychotherapy—offered by more experienced hands, a process that included drinking heavily together and giving assurance of help and support, the great majority could overcome their anxiety sufficiently to carry through their murderous assignment.

    This was a process of adaptation to evil that is all too possible to initiate in such a situation. Above all, there was a normalization of evil that enhanced this adaptation and served to present participating doctors with the Auschwitz institution as the existing world to which one must make one’s adjustments.

    There is another form of malignant normality, closer to home and more recent. I have in mind the participation in torture by physicians (including psychiatrists), and by psychologists, and other medical and psychological personnel. This reached its most extreme manifestation when two psychologists were revealed to be among architects of the CIA’s torture protocol. More than that, this malignant normality was essentially supported by the American Psychological Association in its defense of the participation of psychologists in the so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques that spilled over into torture.

    I am not equating this American behavior with the Nazi example but, rather, suggesting that malignant normality can take different forms. And nothing does more to sustain malignant normality than its support from a large organization of professionals.

    There is still another kind of malignant normality, one brought about by President Trump and his administration. Judith Herman and I, in a letter to the New York Times in March 2017, stressed Trump’s dangerous individual psychological patterns: his creation of his own reality and his inability to manage the inevitable crises that face an American president.

    He has also, in various ways, violated our American institutional requirements and threatened the viability of American democracy. Yet, because he is president and operates within the broad contours and interactions of the presidency, there is a tendency to view what he does as simply part of our democratic process—that is, as politically and even ethically normal.

    In this way, a dangerous president becomes normalized, and malignant normality comes to dominate our governing (or, one could say, our antigoverning) dynamic.

    But that does not mean we are helpless. We remain a society with considerable openness, with institutions that can still be life-enhancing and serve truth. Unlike Nazi doctors, articulate psychological professionals could and did expose the behavior of corrupt colleagues and even a corrupt professional society. Investigative journalists and human rights groups also greatly contributed to that exposure.

    As psychological professionals, we are capable of parallel action in confronting the malignant normality of Trump and his administration. To do so we need to combine our sense of outrage with a disciplined use of our professional knowledge and experience.

    This brings me to my second theme: that of witnessing professionals, particularly activist witnessing professionals. Most professionals, most of the time, operate within the norms (that is, the criteria for normality) of their particular society. Indeed, professionals often go further, and in their practices may deepen the commitment of people they work with to that normality. This can give solace, but it has its perils.

    It is not generally known that during the early Cold War period, a special governmental commission, chaired by a psychiatrist and containing physicians and social scientists, was set up to help the American people achieve the desired psychological capacity to support U.S. stockpiling of nuclear weapons, cope with an anticipated nuclear attack, and overcome the fear of nuclear annihilation. The commission had the task, in short, of helping Americans accept malignant nuclear normality.

    There have also been parallel examples in recent history of professionals who have promoted equally dangerous forms of normality in rejecting climate change. But professionals don’t have to serve these forms of malignant normality. We are capable of using our knowledge and technical skills to expose such normality, to bear witness to its malignance—to become witnessing professionals.

    When I did my study of Hiroshima survivors back in 1962, I sought to uncover, in the most accurate and scientific way I could, the psychological and bodily experience of people exposed to the atomic bomb. Yet, I was not just a neutral observer. Over time, I came to understand myself as a witnessing professional, committed to making known what an atomic bomb could do to a city, to tell the world something of what had happened in Hiroshima and to its inhabitants. The Hiroshima story could be condensed to “one plane, one bomb, one city.” I came to view this commitment to telling Hiroshima’s story as a form of advocacy research. That meant combining a disciplined professional approach with the ethical requirements of committed witness, combining scholarship with activism.

    I believe that some such approach is what we require now, in the Trump era. We need to avoid uncritical acceptance of this new version of malignant normality and, instead, bring our knowledge and experience to exposing it for what it is. This requires us to be disciplined about what we believe we know, while refraining from holding forth on what we do not know. It also requires us to recognize the urgency of the situation in which the most powerful man in the world is also the bearer of profound instability and untruth.

    As psychological professionals, we act with ethical passion in our efforts to reveal what is most dangerous and what, in contrast, might be life-affirming in the face of the malignant normality that surrounds us.

    Finally, there is the issue of our ethical behavior. We talk a lot about our professional ethics having to do with our responsibility to patients and to the overall standards of our discipline. This concern with professional ethics matters a great deal. But I am suggesting something more, a larger concept of professional ethics that we don’t often discuss: including who we work for and with, and how our work either affirms or questions the directions of the larger society. And, in our present situation, how we deal with the malignant normality that faces us.

    This larger ethical model applies to members of other professions who may have their own “duty to warn.” I in no way minimize the significance of professional knowledge and technical skill. But our professions can become overly technicized, and we can be too much like hired guns bringing our firepower to any sponsor of the most egregious view of normality.

    We can do better than that. We can take the larger ethical view of the activist witnessing professional. Bandy Lee took that perspective when organizing the Yale conference on professional responsibility, and the participants affirmed it. This does not make us saviors of our threatened society, but it does help us bring our experience and knowledge to bear on what threatens us and what might renew us.

    A line from the American poet Theodore Roethke brings eloquence to what I have been trying to say: “In a dark time, the eye begins to see.”

    ***

    Professions and Politics

    JUDITH LEWIS HERMAN, M.D., and

    BANDY X. LEE, M.D., M.DIV.

    Soon after the presidential election of 2016, alarmed by the apparent mental instability of the president-elect, we both separately circulated letters among some of our professional colleagues, expressing our concern. Most of them declined to sign. A number of people admitted they were afraid of some undefined form of governmental retaliation, so quickly had a climate of fear taken hold.

    They asked us if we were not wary of being “targeted,” and advised us to seek legal counsel. This was a lesson to us in how a climate of fear can induce people to censor themselves.

    Others who declined to sign our letters of concern cited matters of principle. Psychiatry, we were warned, should stay out of politics; otherwise, the profession could end up being ethically compromised. The example most frequently cited was that of psychiatrists in the Soviet Union who collaborated with the secret police to diagnose dissidents as mentally ill and confine them to prisons that fronted as hospitals (Medvedev and Medvedev 1971).

    This was a serious consideration. Indeed, we need not look beyond our own borders for examples of ethics violations committed by professionals who became entangled in politics. We have recently witnessed the disgrace of an entire professional organization, the American Psychological Association, some of whose leadership, in cooperation with officials from the U.S. military, the CIA, and the Bush White House, rewrote its ethical guidelines to give legal cover to a secret government program of coercive interrogation and to excuse military psychologists who designed and implemented methods of torture (Hoffman et al. 2015; Risen 2014).

    Among the many lessons that might be learned from this notorious example, one in particular stayed with us. It seemed clear that the government officials responsible for abusive treatment of prisoners went to some lengths to find medical and mental health professionals who would publicly condone their practices. We reasoned that if professional endorsement serves as important cover for human rights abuses, then professional condemnation must also carry weight.

    In 2005 the Pentagon organized a trip to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp for a group of prominent ethicists, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Participants toured the facility and met with high-ranking military officers, including the commanding general. They were not allowed to meet or speak with any of the detainees. Dr. Steven Sharfstein, then the president of the American Psychiatric Association, was one of the invited guests on this trip.

    Apparently, what he saw and heard failed to convince him that the treatment of detainees fell within the bounds of ethical conduct. “Our position is very direct,” he stated on return. “Psychiatrists should not participate on these [interrogation] teams because it is inappropriate” (Lewis 2005). Under Dr. Sharfstein’s leadership, the American Psychiatric Association took a strong stand against any form of participation in torture and in the “interrogation of persons held in custody by military or civilian investigative or law enforcement authorities, whether in the United States or elsewhere” (American Psychiatric Association 2006).

    Contrast this principled stand with the sorry tale of the American Psychological Association. Its involvement in the torture scandal illustrates how important it is for leaders in the professions to stand firm against ethical violations, and to resist succumbing to the argument that exceptional political circumstances, such as “the war on terror,” demand exceptions to basic ethical codes. When there is pressure from power is exactly when one must abide by the norms and rules of our ethics.

    Norms and Rules in the Political Sphere

    Norms and rules guide professional conduct, set standards, and point to the essential principles of practice. For these reasons, physicians have the Declaration of Geneva (World Medical Association 2006) and the American Medical Association Principles of Medical Ethics (2001), which guide the American Psychiatric Association’s code for psychiatry (American Psychiatric Association 2013).

    The former confirms the physician’s dedication to the humanitarian goals of medicine, while the latter defines honorable behavior for the physician. Paramount in both is the health, safety, and survival of the patient. Psychiatrists’ codes of ethics derive directly from these principles. In ordinary practice, the patient’s right to confidentiality is the bedrock of mental health care dating back to the ethical standards of the Hippocratic Oath.

    However, even this sacrosanct rule is not absolute. No doubt, the physician’s responsibility is first and foremost to the patient, but it extends “as well as to society” (American Psychiatric Association 2013, p. 2). It is part of professional expectation that the psychiatrist assess the possibility that the patient may harm himself or others. When the patient poses a danger, psychiatrists are not merely allowed but mandated to report, to incapacitate, and to take steps to protect.

    If we are mindful of the dangers of politicizing the professions, then certainly we must heed the so-called “Goldwater rule,” or Section 7.3 of the APA code of ethics (American Psychiatric Association 2013, p. 6), which states: “it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion [on a public figure] unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.”

    This is not divergent from ordinary norms of practice: the clinical approaches that we use to evaluate patients require a full examination. Formulating a credible diagnosis will always be limited when applied to public figures observed outside this intimate frame; in fact, we would go so far as to assert that it is impossible.

    The Goldwater rule highlights the boundaries of practice, helps to preserve professional integrity, and protects public figures from defamation. It safeguards the public’s perception of the field of psychiatry as credible and trustworthy. It is reasonable to follow it. But even this respectable rule must be balanced against the other rules and principles of professional practice.

    A careful ethical evaluation might ask: Do our ordinary norms of practice stop at the office of the president? If so, why? If the ethics of our practice stipulate that the health of our patient and the safety of the public be paramount, then we should not leave our norms at the door when entering the political sphere. Otherwise, a rule originally conceived to protect our profession from scandal might itself become a source of scandal.

    For this very reason, the “reaffirmation” of the Goldwater rule in a separate statement by the American Psychiatric Association (2017) barely two months into the new administration seems questionable to us. The American Psychiatric Association is not immune to the kind of politically pressured acquiescence we have seen with its psychological counterpart. A psychiatrist who disregards the basic procedures of diagnosis and treatment and acts without discretion deserves reprimand. However, the public trust is also violated if the profession fails in its duty to alert the public when a person who holds the power of life and death over us all shows signs of clear, dangerous mental impairment.

    We should pause if professionals are asked to remain silent when they have seen enough evidence to sound an alarm in every other situation. When it comes to dangerousness, should not the president of a democracy, as First Citizen, be subject to the same standards of practice as the rest of the citizenry?

    Assessing dangerousness is different from making a diagnosis: it is dependent on the situation, not the person. Signs of likely dangerousness due to mental disorder can become apparent without a full diagnostic interview and can be detected from a distance, and one is expected to err, if at all, on the side of safety when the risk of inaction is too great.

    States vary in their instructions. New York, for example, requires that two qualifying professionals agree in order to detain a person who may be in danger of hurting himself or others. Florida and the District of Columbia require only one professional’s opinion. Also, only one person need be in danger of harm by the individual, and the threshold is even lower if the individual has access to weapons (not to5 mention nuclear weapons).

    The physician, to whom life-and-death situations are entrusted, is expected to know when it is appropriate to act, and to act responsibly when warranted. It is because of the weight of this responsibility that, rightfully, the physician should refrain from commenting on a public figure except in the rarest instance. Only in an emergency should a physician breach the trust of confidentiality and intervene without consent, and only in an emergency should a physician breach the Goldwater rule.

    We believe that such an emergency now exists.

    Test for Proper Responsibility

    When we circulated our letters of concern, we asked our fellow mental health professionals to get involved in politics not only as citizens (a right most of us still enjoy) but also, specifically, as professionals and as guardians of the special knowledge with which they have been entrusted.

    Why do we think this was permissible? It is all too easy to claim, as we did, that an emergency situation requires a departure from our usual practices in the private sphere. How can one judge whether political involvement is in fact justified? We would argue that the key question is whether mental health professionals are engaging in political collusion with state abuses of power or acting in resistance to them.

    If we are asked to cooperate with state programs that violate human rights, then any involvement, regardless of the purported justification, can only corrupt, and the only appropriate ethical stance is to refuse participation of any sort.

    If, on the other hand, we perceive that state power is being abused by an executive who seems to be mentally unstable, then we may certainly speak out, not only as citizens but also, we would argue, as professionals who are privy to special information and have a responsibility to educate the public. For whatever our wisdom and expertise may be worth, surely we are obligated to share it.

    It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to notice that our president is mentally compromised. Members of the press have come up with their own diagnostic nomenclature, calling the president a “mad king” (Dowd 2017), a “nut job” (Collins 2017), and “emotionally unhinged” (Rubin 2017). Conservative columnist George Will (2017) writes that the president has a “disorderly mind.”

    By speaking out as mental health professionals, we lend support and dignity to our fellow citizens who are justifiably alarmed by the president’s furious tirades, conspiracy fantasies, aversion to facts, and attraction to violence. We can offer a hand in helping the public understand behaviors that are unusual and alarming but that can all too easily be rationalized and normalized.

    An important and relevant question that the public has been asking is this: Is the man simply crazy, or is he crazy like a fox? Is he mentally compromised or simply vile? When he lies, does he know he is lying, or does he believe his own lies? When he makes wild accusations, is he truly paranoid, or is he consciously and cunningly trying to deflect attention from his misdeeds?

    We believe that we can help answer these questions by emphasizing that the two propositions are not mutually exclusive. A man can be both evil and mentally compromised—which is a more frightening proposition.

    Power not only corrupts but also magnifies existing psychopathologies, even as it creates new ones. Fostered by the flattery of underlings and the chants of crowds, a political leader’s grandiosity may morph into grotesque delusions of grandeur. Sociopathic traits may be amplified as the leader discovers that he can violate the norms of civil society and even commit crimes with impunity. And the leader who rules through fear, lies, and betrayal may become increasingly isolated and paranoid, as the loyalty of even his closest confidants must forever be suspect.

    Some would argue that by paying attention to the president’s mental state, we are colluding with him in deflecting attention from that by which he should ultimately be judged: his actions (Frances 2017). Certainly, mental disturbance is not an excuse for tyrannical behavior; nevertheless, it cannot be ignored. In a court of law, even the strongest insanity defense case cannot show that a person is insane all the time.

    We submit that by paying attention to the president’s mental state as well as his actions, we are better informed to assess his dangerousness. Delusional levels of grandiosity, impulsivity, and the compulsions of mental impairment, when combined with an authoritarian cult of personality and contempt for the rule of law, are a toxic mix.

    There are those who still hold out hope that this president can be prevailed upon to listen to reason and curb his erratic behavior. Our professional experience would suggest otherwise; witness the numerous submissions we have received for this volume while organizing a Yale conference in April 2017 entitled “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn?”

    Collectively with our coauthors, we warn that anyone as mentally unstable as Mr. Trump simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.

    ***

    Our Duty to Warn

    BANDY X. LEE, M.D., M.DIV.

    Possibly the oddest experience in my career as a psychiatrist has been to find that the only people not allowed to speak about an issue are those who know the most about it. Hence, truth is suppressed. Yet, what if that truth, furthermore, harbored dangers of such magnitude that it could be the key to future human survival? How can I, as a medical and mental health professional, remain a bystander in the face of one of the greatest emergencies of our time, when I have been called to step in everywhere else?

    How can we, as trained professionals in this very area, be content to keep silent, against every other principle we practice by, because of a decree handed down from above? I am not speaking of the long-standing “Goldwater rule,” which is discussed in many places throughout this book and is a norm of ordinary practice I happen to agree with. I am rather speaking of its radical expansion, beyond the status we confer to any other rule, barely two months into the very presidency that has made it controversial.

    This occurred on March 16, 2017, when our professional organization essentially placed a gag order on all psychiatrists (American Psychiatric Association 2017), and by extension all mental health professionals. I am also speaking of its defect, whereby it does not have a countervailing rule, as does the rest of professional ethics, that directs what to do when the risk of harm from remaining silent outweighs the damage that could result from speaking about a public figure—which, in this case, could even be the greatest possible harm.

    Authors in this volume have been asked to respect the Goldwater rule and not to breach it unnecessarily, but I in turn respect their choices wherever their conscience has prompted them to take the professionally and socially radical step to help protect the public. Therefore, it would be accurate to state that, while we respect the rule, we deem it subordinate to the single most important principle that guides our professional conduct: that we hold our responsibility to human life and well-being as paramount.

    My reasons for compiling this compendium are the same as my reasons for organizing the Yale conference by the title, “Does Professional Responsibility Include a Duty to Warn?”: the issue merits discussion, not silence, and the public deserves education, not further darkness.

    Over the course of preparing the conference, the number of prominent voices in the field coming forth to speak out on the topic astonished me. Soon after the 2016 presidential election, Dr. Herman (coauthor of the Prologue), an old colleague and friend, had written a letter urging President Obama to require that Mr. Trump undergo a neuropsychiatric evaluation before assuming the office of the presidency. Her cosignatories, Drs. Gartrell and Mosbacher (authors of the essay “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger”), helped the letter’s publication in The Huffington Post (Greene, 2016).

    I also reached out to Dr. Lifton (author of the Foreword), whose “Mass Violence” meetings at Harvard first acquainted me with Dr. Herman years ago; together, they had sent a letter to the New York Times (Herman and Lifton 2017). His ready consent to speak at my conference sparked all that was to follow.

    I encountered others along the way: Dr. Dodes (author of “Sociopathy”), who published a letter in the New York Times with thirty-five signatures (Dodes and Schachter 2017); Ms. Jhueck (author of “A Clinical Case for the Dangerousness of Donald J. Trump”), who cowrote and posted a letter to the head of New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with seventy signatures; Dr. Fisher (author of “The Loneliness of Fateful Decisions”), who also expressed concerns in a letter to the New York Times (Fisher 2017); and Dr. Gartner (author of “Donald Trump Is: [A] Bad, [B] Mad, [C] All of the Above”), the initiator of an online petition, now with fifty-five thousand signatures, who cofounded the national coalition, “Duty to Warn,” of (as of this writing) seventeen hundred mental health professionals.

    The Yale Conference

    On April 20, 2017, Dr. Charles Dike of my division at Yale started the town hall–style meeting by reaffirming the relevance and reasons for the Goldwater rule. As assistant professor in law and psychiatry, former chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, chair of the Connecticut Psychiatric Society Ethics Committee, member of the Ethics Committee of the American Psychiatric Association, and Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, he was more than qualified to do so.

    It was important that we start with a firm ethical foundation: whatever our conclusion, it could not hold if we were not scrupulous about our ethical grounding. I invited as additional panelists Drs. Lifton, Herman, and Gilligan (the last the author of “The Issue Is Dangerousness, Not Mental Illness”), with the purpose of bringing together the finest minds of psychiatry I could to address the quandary. They are all colleagues I have known for at least fifteen years and highly esteem not only for their eminence in the field but also for their ethics. They were beacons during other dark times.

    They abided by the Goldwater rule in that they kept the discussion at the level of dangerousness, without attempting to diagnose. The transcript of the meeting can be found in an online appendix, the link to which is at the end of this book.

    The conference was initially meant to be a collaboration between Yale School of Medicine, Yale School of Public Health, and Yale School of Nursing, but when the other schools fell away as the date approached, I released the School of Medicine for what I correctly perceived would be “inevitable politicization.” In case something went wrong, I did not wish to imperil my alma mater and home institution.

    Our nation is now living, in extremes, a paradigm that splits along partisan lines, and the quick conclusion will be that the speakers or contributors of this volume “must be Democrats” if they are casting a negative light on a Republican president.

    However, there are other paradigms. For the mental health professional, the paradigm we practice by is one of health versus disease. We appeal to science, research, observed phenomena, and clinical skill developed over years of practice in order to promote life and to prevent death. These goals cannot be contained within the purposes of a political party or the campaigns of a candidate. Rather, we are constantly trained to bring medical neutrality—or, if we cannot, to recuse ourselves of the therapeutic situation. It is a glimpse of this perspective that we hope to bring to the reader.

    Our meeting gained national and international attention (Milligan 2017; Bulman 2017). While only two dozen physically attended the conference in an atmosphere of fear, about a hundred tuned in online, and hundreds more got in touch with me for recordings or in a show of support. It felt as if we had tapped into a groundswell of a movement among mental health professionals, and also an army of people who wanted to speak about the issue (DeVega 2017).

    What was intended as a publication of the proceedings led to this volume (initially so large that we had to reduce it by a third), and five top-tier publishers in the country vied for it.

    Authors had to submit their manuscripts within three weeks of the meeting. It was a harrowing time, as the nation’s mood changed from relief as Mr. Trump seemed to settle into his office after the first one hundred days, to a new onslaught of scandals, starting with his firing of FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017.

    Many of the contributors here do not need an introduction, and I am humbled to have the opportunity to present such an assembly of brilliant and principled professionals. A Compendium of Expertise This volume consists of three parts, the first being devoted to describing Mr. Trump, with an understanding that no definitive diagnoses will be possible.

    In “Unbridled and Extreme Present Hedonism,” Zimbardo and Sword discuss how the Leader of the Free World has proven himself unfit for duty by his extreme ties to the present moment, without much thought for the consequences of his actions or for the future.

    In “Pathological Narcissism and Politics,” Malkin explains that narcissism happens on a scale, and that pathological levels in a leader can spiral into psychosis and imperil the safety of his country through paranoia, impaired judgment, volatile decision making, and behavior called gaslighting.

    In “I Wrote The Art of the Deal with Trump,” Schwartz reveals how what he observed during the year he spent with Trump to write that book could have predicted his presidency of “black hole-level” low self-worth, fact-free self-justification, and a compulsion to go to war with the world.

    In “Trump’s Trust Deficit Is the Core Problem,” Sheehy highlights the notion that beneath the grandiose behavior of every narcissist lies the pit of fragile self-esteem; more than anything, Trump lacks trust in himself, which may lead him to take drastic actions to prove himself to himself and to the world.

    In “Sociopathy,” Dodes shows that someone who cons others, lies, cheats, and manipulates to get what he wants, and who doesn’t care whom he hurts, may be not just repetitively immoral but also severely impaired, as sociopaths lack a central human characteristic, empathy.

    In “Donald Trump Is: (A) Bad, (B), Mad, (C) All of the Above,” Gartner emphasizes the complexity of Trump’s presentation, in that he shows signs of being “bad” as well as “mad,” but also with a hypomanic temperament that generates whirlwinds of activity and a constant need for stimulation.

    In “Why ‘Crazy Like a Fox’ versus ‘Crazy Like a Crazy’ Really Matters,” Tansey shows that Trump’s nearly outrageous lies may be explained by delusional disorder, about which Tansey invites the reader to make the call; even more frightening are Trump’s attraction to brutal tyrants and also the prospect of nuclear war.

    In “Cognitive Impairment, Dementia, and POTUS,” Reiss writes that a current vulnerability in our political system is that it sets no intellectual or cognitive standards for being president, despite the job’s inherently requiring cognitive clarity; this lack of clarity can be even more serious if combined with other psychiatric disorders.

    In “Donald J. Trump, Alleged Incapacitated Person,” Herb explains how, as a guardianship attorney (in contrast to a mental health professional), he is required to come to a preliminary conclusion about mental incapacity before filing a petition, which he does in his essay, while reflecting on the Electoral College and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

    The second part of the book addresses the dilemmas that mental health professionals face in observing what they do and speaking out when they feel they must.

    In “Should Psychiatrists Refrain from Commenting on Trump’s Psychology?” Glass argues against a technicality that would yield a simple yes-or-no answer to the Goldwater rule; instead, he advocates for a conscientious voicing of hazardous patterns, noting that the presence of mental illness is not as relevant as that of reliable functionality.

    In “On Seeing What You See and Saying What You Know,” Friedman notes that technological advances that allow assessment and treatment from a distance, especially in underserved areas, have changed the clinician’s comfort level with remote evaluations, even when detecting a totalitarian mind-set or a multidimensional threat to the world.

    In “The Issue Is Dangerousness, Not Mental Illness,” Gilligan discusses the ethics of not diagnosing a public figure versus the duty to warn potential victims of danger; when invoking the latter, he emphasizes, what matters is not whether a person is mentally ill but whether he is dangerous, which is possible to assess from a distance.

    In “A Clinical Case for the Dangerousness of Donald J. Trump,” Jhueck notes that the United States legally confers mental health professionals and physicians considerable power to detain people against their will if they pose a danger due to likely mental illness—and Trump more than meets the requisite criteria.

    In “Health, Risk, and the Duty to Protect the Community,” Covitz offers an ancient reference and two fables to illustrate just how unusual the mental health profession’s response is to a dangerous president, as we do not to speak up in ways that would be unthinkable for our role with other members of society.

    In “New Opportunities for Therapy in the Age of Trump,” Doherty claims that the Trump era has ruptured the boundary between the personal and the public, and while clients and therapists are equally distressed, integrating our roles as therapists and citizens might help us better help clients.

    The book’s third part speaks to the societal effects Mr. Trump has had, represents, and could cause in the future.

    In “Trauma, Time, Truth, and Trump,” Teng points out the irony of seeing, as a trauma therapist, all the signs of traumatization and retraumatization from a peaceful election; she traces the sources of the president’s sudden military actions, his generation of crises, his shaken notions of truth and facts, and his role in reminding patients of an aggressive abuser.

    In “Trump Anxiety Disorder,” Panning describes a unique post-election anxiety syndrome that has emerged as a result of the Trump presidency and the task that many therapists face with helping clients manage the stress of trying to “normalize” behavior that they do not feel is normal for a president.

    In her essay “In Relationship with an Abusive President,” West illustrates the dynamics of “other blaming” in individuals who have feelings of low self-worth and hence poor shame tolerance, which lead to vindictive anger, lack of accountability, dishonesty, lack of empathy, and attention-seeking, of which Trump is an extreme example.

    In “Trump’s Daddy Issues,” Wruble draws on his own personal experiences, especially his relationship with his strong and successful father, to demonstrate what a therapist does routinely: uses self-knowledge as an instrument for evaluating and “knowing” the other, even in this case, where the other is the president and his followers.

    In “Birtherism and the Deployment of the Trumpian Mind-Set,” Kessler portrays the broader background from which “birtherism” began and how, by entering into the political fray by championing this fringe sentiment, Trump amplifies and exacerbates a national “symptom” of bigotry and division in ways that are dangerous to the nation’s core principles.

    In “Trump and the American Collective Psyche,” Singer draws a connection between Trump’s personal narcissism and the American group psyche, not through a political analysis but through group psychology—the joining of group self-identity with violent, hateful defenses is as much about us as about Trump.

    In “Who Goes Trump?” Mika explains how tyrannies are “toxic triangles,” as political scientists call them, necessitating that the tyrant, his supporters, and the society at large bind around narcissism; while the three factors animate for a while, the characteristic oppression, dehumanization, and violence inevitably bring on downfall.

    In “The Loneliness of Fateful Decisions,” Fisher recounts the Cuban Missile Crisis and notes how, even though President Kennedy surrounded himself with the “best and the brightest,” they disagreed greatly, leaving him alone to make the decisions—which illustrates how the future of our country and the world hang on a president’s mental clarity.

    In “He’s Got the World in His Hands and His Finger on the Trigger,” Gartrell and Mosbacher note how, while military personnel must undergo rigorous evaluations to assess their mental and medical fitness for duty, there is no such requirement for their commander in chief; they propose a nonpartisan panel of neuropsychiatrists for annual screening.

    A Disclaimer

    In spite of its title, I would like to emphasize that the main point of this book is not about Mr. Trump. It is about the larger context that has given rise to his presidency, and the greater population that he affects by virtue of his position.

    The ascendancy of an individual with such impairments speaks to our general state of health and well-being as a nation, and to how we can respond: we can either improve it or further impair it.

    Mental disorder does not distinguish between political parties, and as professionals devoted to promoting mental health, including public mental health, our duty should be clear: to steer patients and the public on a path toward health so that genuine discussions of political choice, unimpeded by emotional compulsion or defense, can occur.

    Embracing our “duty to warn,” as our professional training and ethics lead us to do at times of danger, therefore involves not only sounding an alarm but continually educating and engaging in dialogue our fellow human beings, as this compilation aspires to do.

    ***

    The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump. 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President
    Bandy Lee, MD.D., M.DIV

    get it at Amazon.com

    Noam Chomsky Diagnoses the Trump Era – Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian.

    The president has abetted the collapse of a decaying system; Chomsky explains how.
    This interview has been excerpted from Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, the new book by Noam Chomsky and David Barsamian to be published this December.
    .
    David Barsamian: You have spoken about the difference between Trump’s buffoonery, which gets endlessly covered by the media, and the actual policies he is striving to enact, which receive less attention. Do you think he has any coherent economic, political, or international policy goals? What has Trump actually managed to accomplish in his first months in office?
    .
    Noam Chomsky: There is a diversionary process under way, perhaps just a natural result of the propensities of the figure at center stage and those doing the work behind the curtains.
    .
    At one level, Trump’s antics ensure that attention is focused on him, and it makes little difference how. Who even remembers the charge that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton, depriving the pathetic little man of his Grand Victory? Or the accusation that Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower? The claims themselves don’t really matter. It’s enough that attention is diverted from what is happening in the background. There, out of the spotlight, the most savage fringe of the Republican Party is carefully advancing policies designed to enrich their true constituency: the Constituency of private power and wealth, “the masters of mankind,” to borrow Adam Smith’s phrase.
    .
    These policies will harm the irrelevant general population and devastate future generations, but that’s of little concern to the Republicans. They’ve been trying to push through similarly destructive legislation for years. Paul Ryan, for example, has long been advertising his ideal of virtually eliminating the federal government, apart from service to the Constituency—though in the past he’s wrapped his proposals in spreadsheets so they would look wonkish to commentators. Now, while attention is focused on Trump’s latest mad doings, the Ryan gang and the executive branch are ramming through legislation and orders that undermine workers’ rights, cripple consumer protections, and severely harm rural communities. They seek to devastate health programs, revoking the taxes that pay for them in order to further enrich their constituency, and to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed some much-needed constraints on the predatory financial system that grew during the neoliberal period.
    .
    That’s just a sample of how the wrecking ball is being wielded by the newly empowered Republican Party. Indeed, it is no longer a political party in the traditional sense. Conservative political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have described it more accurately as a “radical insurgency,” one that has abandoned normal parliamentary politics.
    .
    Much of this is being carried out stealthily, in closed sessions, with as little public notice as possible. Other Republican policies are more open, such as pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, thereby isolating the US as a pariah state that refuses to participate in international efforts to confront looming environmental disaster. Even worse, they are intent on maximizing the use of fossil fuels, including the most dangerous; dismantling regulations; and sharply cutting back on research and development of alternative energy sources, which will soon be necessary for decent survival.
    .
    The reasons behind the policies are a mix. Some are simply service to the Constituency. Others are of little concern to the “masters of mankind” but are designed to hold on to segments of the voting bloc that the Republicans have cobbled together, since Republican policies have shifted so far to the right that their actual proposals would not attract voters. For example, terminating support for family planning is not service to the Constituency. Indeed, that group may mostly support family planning. But terminating that support appeals to the evangelical Christian base—voters who close their eyes to the fact that they are effectively advocating more unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, increasing the frequency of resort to abortion, under harmful and even lethal conditions.
    .
    Not all of the damage can be blamed on the con man who is nominally in charge, on his outlandish appointments, or on the congressional forces he has unleashed. Some of the most dangerous developments under Trump trace back to Obama initiatives—initiatives passed, to be sure, under pressure from the Republican Congress.
    .
    The most dangerous of these has barely been reported. A very important study in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published in March 2017, reveals that the Obama nuclear-weapons-modernization program has increased “the overall killing power of existing US ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three—and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” As the analysts point out, this new capacity undermines the strategic stability on which human survival depends. And the chilling record of near disaster and reckless behavior of leaders in past years only shows how fragile our survival is. Now this program is being carried forward under Trump. These developments, along with the threat of environmental disaster, cast a dark shadow over everything else—and are barely discussed, while attention is claimed by the performances of the showman at center stage.
    .
    Whether Trump has any idea what he and his henchmen are up to is not clear. Perhaps he is completely authentic: an ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac whose only ideology is himself. But what is happening under the rule of the extremist wing of the Republican organization is all too plain.
    .
    DB: Do you see any encouraging activity on the Democrats’ side? Or is it time to begin thinking about a third party?
    .
    NC: There is a lot to think about. The most remarkable feature of the 2016 election was the Bernie Sanders campaign, which broke the pattern set by over a century of US political history. A substantial body of political science research convincingly establishes that elections are pretty much bought; campaign funding alone is a remarkably good predictor of electability, for Congress as well as for the presidency. It also predicts the decisions of elected officials. Correspondingly, a considerable majority of the electorate—those lower on the income scale—are effectively disenfranchised, in that their representatives disregard their preferences. In this light, there is little surprise in the victory of a billionaire TV star with substantial media backing: direct backing from the leading cable channel, Rupert Murdoch’s Fox, and from highly influential right-wing talk radio; indirect but lavish backing from the rest of the major media, which was entranced by Trump’s antics and the advertising revenue that poured in.
    .
    The Sanders campaign, on the other hand, broke sharply from the prevailing model. Sanders was barely known. He had virtually no support from the main funding sources, was ignored or derided by the media, and labeled himself with the scare word “socialist.” Yet he is now the most popular political figure in the country by a large margin.
    .
    At the very least, the success of the Sanders campaign shows that many options can be pursued even within the stultifying two-party framework, with all of the institutional barriers to breaking free of it. During the Obama years, the Democratic Party disintegrated at the local and state levels. The party had largely abandoned the working class years earlier, even more so with Clinton trade and fiscal policies that undermined US manufacturing and the fairly stable employment it provided.
    .
    There is no dearth of progressive policy proposals. The program developed by Robert Pollin in his book Greening the Global Economy is one very promising approach. Gar Alperovitz’s work on building an authentic democracy based on worker self-management is another. Practical implementations of these approaches and related ideas are taking shape in many different ways. Popular organizations, some of them outgrowths of the Sanders campaign, are actively engaged in taking advantage of the many opportunities that are available.
    .
    At the same time, the established two-party framework, though venerable, is by no means graven in stone. It’s no secret that in recent years, traditional political institutions have been declining in the industrial democracies, under the impact of what is called “populism.” That term is used rather loosely to refer to the wave of discontent, anger, and contempt for institutions that has accompanied the neoliberal assault of the past generation, which led to stagnation for the majority alongside a spectacular concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.
    .
    Functioning democracy erodes as a natural effect of the concentration of economic power, which translates at once to political power by familiar means, but also for deeper and more principled reasons. The doctrinal pretense is that the transfer of decision-making from the public sector to the “market” contributes to individual freedom, but the reality is different. The transfer is from public institutions, in which voters have some say, insofar as democracy is functioning, to private tyrannies—the corporations that dominate the economy—in which voters have no say at all. In Europe, there is an even more direct method of undermining the threat of democracy: placing crucial decisions in the hands of the unelected troika—the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission—which heeds the northern banks and the creditor community, not the voting population.
    .
    These policies are dedicated to making sure that society no longer exists, Margaret Thatcher’s famous description of the world she perceived—or, more accurately, hoped to create: one where there is no society, only individuals. This was Thatcher’s unwitting paraphrase of Marx’s bitter condemnation of repression in France, which left society as a “sack of potatoes,” an amorphous mass that cannot function. In the contemporary case, the tyrant is not an autocratic ruler—in the West, at least—but concentrations of private power.
    .
    The collapse of centrist governing institutions has been evident in elections: in France in mid-2017 and in the United States a few months earlier, where the two candidates who mobilized popular forces were Sanders and Trump—though Trump wasted no time in demonstrating the fraudulence of his “populism” by quickly ensuring that the harshest elements of the old establishment would be firmly ensconced in power in the luxuriating “swamp.”
    .
    DB: Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia. What significance do you see in that, and what does it mean for broader Middle East policies? And what do you make of Trump’s animus toward Iran?
    .
    NC: Saudi Arabia is the kind of place where Trump feels right at home: a brutal dictatorship, miserably repressive (notoriously so for women’s rights, but in many other areas as well), the leading producer of oil (now being overtaken by the United States), and with plenty of money. The trip produced promises of massive weapons sales—greatly cheering the Constituency—and vague intimations of other Saudi gifts. One of the consequences was that Trump’s Saudi friends were given a green light to escalate their disgraceful atrocities in Yemen and to discipline Qatar, which has been a shade too independent of the Saudi masters. Iran is a factor there. Qatar shares a natural gas field with Iran and has commercial and cultural relations with it, frowned upon by the Saudis and their deeply reactionary associates.
    .
    Iran has long been regarded by US leaders, and by US media commentary, as extraordinarily dangerous, perhaps the most dangerous country on the planet. This goes back to well before Trump. In the doctrinal system, Iran is a dual menace: It is the leading supporter of terrorism, and its nuclear programs pose an existential threat to Israel, if not the whole world. It is so dangerous that Obama had to install an advanced air defense system near the Russian border to protect Europe from Iranian nuclear weapons—which don’t exist, and which, in any case, Iranian leaders would use only if possessed by a desire to be instantly incinerated in return.
    .
    That’s the doctrinal system. In the real world, Iranian support for terrorism translates to support for Hezbollah, whose major crime is that it is the sole deterrent to yet another destructive Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and for Hamas, which won a free election in the Gaza Strip—a crime that instantly elicited harsh sanctions and led the US government to prepare a military coup. Both organizations, it is true, can be charged with terrorist acts, though not anywhere near the amount of terrorism that stems from Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the formation and actions of jihadi networks.
    .
    As for Iran’s nuclear-weapons programs, US intelligence has confirmed what anyone can easily figure out for themselves: If they exist, they are part of Iran’s deterrent strategy. There is also the unmentionable fact that any concern about Iranian weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) could be alleviated by the simple means of heeding Iran’s call to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. Such a zone is strongly supported by the Arab states and most of the rest of the world and is blocked primarily by the United States, which wishes to protect Israel’s WMD capabilities.
    .
    Since the doctrinal system falls apart on inspection, we are left with the task of finding the true reasons for US animus toward Iran. Possibilities readily come to mind. The United States and Israel cannot tolerate an independent force in a region that they take to be theirs by right. An Iran with a nuclear deterrent is unacceptable to rogue states that want to rampage however they wish throughout the Middle East. But there is more to it than that. Iran cannot be forgiven for overthrowing the dictator installed by Washington in a military coup in 1953, a coup that destroyed Iran’s parliamentary regime and its unconscionable belief that Iran might have some claim on its own natural resources. The world is too complex for any simple description, but this seems to me the core of the tale.
    .
    It also wouldn’t hurt to recall that in the past six decades, scarcely a day has passed when Washington was not tormenting Iranians. After the 1953 military coup came US support for a dictator described by Amnesty International as a leading violator of fundamental human rights. Immediately after his overthrow came the US-backed invasion of Iran by Saddam Hussein, no small matter. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians were killed, many by chemical weapons. Reagan’s support for his friend Saddam was so extreme that when Iraq attacked a US ship, the USS Stark, killing 37 American sailors, it received only a light tap on the wrist in response. Reagan also sought to blame Iran for Saddam’s horrendous chemical warfare attacks on Iraqi Kurds.
    .
    Eventually, the United States intervened directly in the Iran-Iraq War, leading to Iran’s bitter capitulation. Afterward, George H.W. Bush invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in nuclear-weapons production—an extraordinary threat to Iran, quite apart from its other implications. And, of course, Washington has been the driving force behind harsh sanctions against Iran that continue to the present day.
    .
    Trump, for his part, has joined the harshest and most repressive dictators in shouting imprecations at Iran. As it happens, Iran held an election during his Middle East travel extravaganza—an election which, however flawed, would be unthinkable in the land of his Saudi hosts, who also happen to be the source of the radical Islamism that is poisoning the region. But US animus against Iran goes far beyond Trump himself. It includes those regarded as the “adults” in the Trump administration, like James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the secretary of defense. And it stretches a long way into the past.
    .
    DB: What are the strategic issues where Korea is concerned? Can anything be done to defuse the growing conflict?
    .
    NC: Korea has been a festering problem since the end of World War II, when the hopes of Koreans for unification of the peninsula were blocked by the intervention of the great powers, the United States bearing primary responsibility.
    .
    The North Korean dictatorship may well win the prize for brutality and repression, but it is seeking and to some extent carrying out economic development, despite the overwhelming burden of a huge military system. That system includes, of course, a growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, which pose a threat to the region and, in the longer term, to countries beyond—but its function is to be a deterrent, one that the North Korean regime is unlikely to abandon as long as it remains under threat of destruction.
    .
    Today, we are instructed that the great challenge faced by the world is how to compel North Korea to freeze these nuclear and missile programs. Perhaps we should resort to more sanctions, cyberwar, intimidation; to the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, which China regards as a serious threat to its own interests; perhaps even to direct attack on North Korea—which, it is understood, would elicit retaliation by massed artillery, devastating Seoul and much of South Korea even without the use of nuclear weapons.
    .
    But there is another option, one that seems to be ignored: We could simply accept North Korea’s offer to do what we are demanding. China and North Korea have already proposed that North Korea freeze its nuclear and missile programs. The proposal, though, was rejected at once by Washington, just as it had been two years earlier, because it includes a quid pro quo: It calls on the United States to halt its threatening military exercises on North Korea’s borders, including simulated nuclear-bombing attacks by B-52s.
    .
    The Chinese-North Korean proposal is hardly unreasonable. North Koreans remember well that their country was literally flattened by US bombing, and many may recall how US forces bombed major dams when there were no other targets left. There were gleeful reports in American military publications about the exciting spectacle of a huge flood of water wiping out the rice crops on which “the Asian” depends for survival. They are very much worth reading, a useful part of historical memory.
    .
    The offer to freeze North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in return for an end to highly provocative actions on North Korea’s border could be the basis for more far-reaching negotiations, which could radically reduce the nuclear threat and perhaps even bring the North Korea crisis to an end. Contrary to much inflamed commentary, there are good reasons to think such negotiations might succeed. Yet even though the North Korean programs are constantly described as perhaps the greatest threat we face, the Chinese-North Korean proposal is unacceptable to Washington, and is rejected by US commentators with impressive unanimity. This is another entry in the shameful and depressing record of near-reflexive preference for force when peaceful options may well be available.
    .
    The 2017 South Korean elections may offer a ray of hope. Newly elected President Moon Jae-in seems intent on reversing the harsh confrontationist policies of his predecessor. He has called for exploring diplomatic options and taking steps toward reconciliation, which is surely an improvement over the angry fist-waving that might lead to real disaster.
    .
    DB: You have in the past expressed concern about the European Union. What do you think will happen as Europe becomes less tied to the US and the UK?
    .
    NC: The EU has fundamental problems, notably the single currency with no political union. It also has many positive features. There are some sensible ideas aimed at saving what is good and improving what is harmful. Yanis Varoufakis’s DiEM25 initiative for a democratic Europe is a promising approach.
    .
    The UK has often been a US surrogate in European politics. Brexit might encourage Europe to take a more independent role in world affairs, a course that might be accelerated by Trump policies that increasingly isolate us from the world. While he is shouting loudly and waving an enormous stick, China could take the lead on global energy policies while extending its influence to the west and, ultimately, to Europe, based on the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the New Silk Road.
    .
    That Europe might become an independent “third force” has been a matter of concern to US planners since World War II. There have long been discussions of something like a Gaullist conception of Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals or, in more recent years, Gorbachev’s vision of a common Europe from Brussels to Vladivostok.
    .
    Whatever happens, Germany is sure to retain a dominant role in European affairs. It is rather startling to hear a conservative German chancellor, Angela Merkel, lecturing her US counterpart on human rights, and taking the lead, at least for a time, in confronting the refugee issue, Europe’s deep moral crisis. On the other hand, Germany’s insistence on austerity and paranoia about inflation and its policy of promoting exports by limiting domestic consumption have no slight responsibility for Europe’s economic distress, particularly the dire situation of the peripheral economies. In the best case, however, which is not beyond imagination, Germany could influence Europe to become a generally positive force in world affairs.
    .
    DB: What do you make of the conflict between the Trump administration and the US intelligence communities? Do you believe in the “deep state”?
    .
    NC: There is a national-security bureaucracy that has persisted since World War II. And national-security analysts, in and out of government, have been appalled by many of Trump’s wild forays. Their concerns are shared by the highly credible experts who set the Doomsday Clock, advanced to two and a half minutes to midnight as soon as Trump took office—the closest it has been to terminal disaster since 1953, when the US and USSR exploded thermonuclear weapons. But I see little sign that it goes beyond that, that there is any secret “deep state” conspiracy.
    .
    DB: To conclude, as we look forward to your 89th birthday, I wonder: Do you have a theory of longevity?
    .
    NC: Yes, it’s simple, really. If you’re riding a bicycle and you don’t want to fall off, you have to keep going—fast.
    .
    ***
    .
    Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor emeritus at MIT, has written many books and articles on international affairs, in particular on Israel and Palestine. His latest book, Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy, will be published in December 2017.
    .
    David Barsamian is the director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado
    .

    The Nation

    .

    Public Choice Theory. The idea that climate scientists are in it for the cash has deep ideological roots – Graham Readfearn. 

    Author and academic Nancy MacLean says cynicism about the motives of public servants, including government-backed climate scientists, can be traced to a group of neoliberals and their ‘toxic’ ideas.

    You’ll have heard that line of argument about cancer scientists, right?

    The one where they’re just in it for the government grant money and that they don’t really want to find a cure, because if they did they’d be out of a job?

    No, of course you haven’t. That’s because it’s ridiculous and a bit, well, vomit-inducing.

    To make such an argument, you would need to be deeply cynical about people’s motives for consistently putting their own pay packets above the welfare of millions of people.

    You would have to think that scientists were not motivated to help their fellow human beings, but instead were driven only by self-interest.

    Suggesting that climate scientists are pushing a line about global warming because their salaries depend on it is a popular talking point that deniers love to throw around.

    But why do so many “sceptics”, particularly those who form part of the organised machinery of climate science denial, feel comfortable in accusing climate scientists of only being in it for the money?

    Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean suggests some answers in her new book Democracy in Chains: the Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.

    Charles Koch

    The book documents how wealthy conservatives, in particular petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch, teamed up with neoliberal academics with the objective, MacLean says, of undermining the functions of government in the United States.

    MacLean’s central character is the late James McGill Buchanan, a political theorist and economist who won a Nobel award in 1986 for his development of “public choice theory”.

    Buchanan and Koch developed and propagated their ideas through a private organisation called the Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) – an influential group known as the “neoliberal thought collective” that was established in 1947 by famed free market economist Friedrich Hayek. Buchanan was a former president and joined in 1957. Koch, who has poured millions into groups attacking mainstream climate science, joined MPS in 1970. MPS has about 500 members in more than 40 countries.

    In the US it has many members who also work at think tanks that push climate science misinformation and attack renewable energy. A membership list from 2013 showed Australian members included the Institute of Public Affairs boss John Roskam, former prime minister John Howard business figure Maurice Newman and former senator Bob Day. 

    MacLean argues that in the minds of many exponents of this “public choice” school, people are motivated primarily by self-interest.

    Public choice advocates will argue that people who work in government will push for increased departmental budgets primarily to protect their job prospects.

    In an interview at the Brisbane writers festival, MacLean told me: “If you read some of the stuff that comes out of the people in the ‘public choice’ school, they will say that these climate scientists are just after the next federal grant … they will try and discredit them as human beings. It’s really toxic stuff.”

    When Buchanan received his Nobel award, Prof Steven Kelman, at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy school of government, wrote that Buchanan’s view was a “terrible caricature of reality ” and belied the public spirit of elected representatives and government officials.

    This brings us back to the notion that cancer doctors might have a personal interest in not finding a cure. Proponents of public choice – including those who worked with Buchanan – have made just those claims.

    In 1992, two academics from the Center for the Study of Public Choice at George Mason University (a centre established and led by Buchanan), wrote a book called The Economics of Smoking. In the book, economist Robert Tollison argued that the “anti-cancer bureaucracy will face weaker incentives to find and develop effective treatments of and cures for cancer, as well as facing incentives to magnify the risks of cancer”.

    “A cure for cancer would put many cancer bureaucrats out of work,” Tollison wrote.

    So the argument goes that these anti-cancer “bureaucrats” were not so much motivated to protect people from painful and deadly conditions linked to smoking, such as cancer and heart disease. Instead, they might work a bit less stringently to find a cure in return for a wage.

    There’s an irony in this accusation of people acting in their self-interest. Before and after writing that book chapter, Tollison was paid consultancy fees by the tobacco industry.

    In the archives of tobacco documents released as part of US litigation, you can find a 1988 invoice sent to the Tobacco Institute for Tollison work on a “media tour”.

    In 1993, the archives reveal, Tollison and his GMU colleague Robert Wagner, who co-wrote The Economics of Smoking, pitched to the tobacco industry a report attacking the World Health Organization, which would cost $20,000.

    Again, the pair would accuse “WHO bureaucrats” of engaging in spending patterns that “reflect the interests of bureaucrats”. The WHO should not be spending money on programs “against cigarettes”, the pair wrote.

    MacLean points to a Bloomberg column by the liberal economist and Buchanan acolyte Amity Schlaes, written after Buchanan’s death.

    Schlaes wrote glowingly that Buchanan’s “public-choice theory explained everything” to her about the true motives of public officials.

    “Health officials’ interests in testing small children’s blood for lead made sense when one considered that finding poisoned children validated their jobs,” wrote Schlaes, who became a member of the Mont Pelerin Society in 2008.

    “This is how someone could think,” MacLean tells me. “That a doctor would not be concerned about preventing a child from getting lifelong brain damage … no … they just wanted to expand their checking accounts. It’s really toxic.

    “You’ve created this toxic wasteland now, and you can see the damage that those ideas have done,” she says.

    It would be hopelessly naive to argue that money never motivates people to do certain things.

    But to suggest global warming exists only because climate scientists need the money, you need to ignore melting ice sheets, rising sea levels, increasing extreme weather events, strings of record hot years, retreating glaciers, acidifying oceans, warming sea temperatures and bleaching corals. Or claim there is a conspiracy to manufacture these impacts in exchange for a wage.

    The Guardian 

    Democracy In Chains Introduction

    THE DEEP HISTORY OF THE RADICAL RIGHT’S STEALTH PLAN FOR AMERICA

    .

    From 9/11 to Humpty Dumpty – Roger Cohen. 

    I watched my president perforate at the Pentagon and all I could think as he held forth about heroism on the 16th anniversary of 9/11 was how did we end up with Humpty Dumpty.

    It was Humpty Dumpty, of course, who declared: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” At least Humpty Dumpty said it without that repetitive thumb-to-stubby-forefinger gesture of our esteemed leader.

    Words cascade from that pinched mouth and they mean nothing, because when a man of moral emptiness tries to exhort a nation to moral greatness the only thing communicated is pitiful, almost comical, hypocrisy.

    Between a hero and a huckster, between speaking and mouthing, the distance is great. Watching the esteemed leader’s head turning jerkily, like an old electric fan, from teleprompter to teleprompter, I almost felt pity. His is the Age of Indecency

    President Trump seems lonely in his evident unfitness. Between him and his wife Melania I imagine what John Lanchester once described as “one of those silences which can only be incubated by at least two decades of attritional intimacy.” Well, they’ve known each other for 19 years. 

    We’ve had a big fall. For the perpetrators of the attack on America, the biggest success has been the injection of fear into the national psyche. Not even they could imagine how social media could turn fear into contagion and how the politics of fear would help propel a buffoon with feral instincts to the White House.

    Looking back over the years since the attack that bright September morning — it was my daughter Adele’s 4th birthday and she had just recovered from an infection so serious I had to hold her little body while doctors performed a spinal tap — I am reminded of lines from Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises.”

    “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

    “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

    First, there was the downward glide: the misbegotten war, the soldiers and shoppers, financial implosion, impunity for the mighty, recession, anxiety and polarization. Then Americans, and not only Americans, decided it was better to blow things up than have more of the same. That’s when things precipitated.

    The esteemed leader won even though Americans know he makes stuff up and wants a victorious small-to-medium-sized war that will allow him to proclaim American greatness restored. People do crazy things. They invade Russia, for example. Just look at history. Trump might think bombing Iran is his ticket in 2020.

    What is all the fear about? It’s the loss of sanctuary. Menace could be anywhere since it came out of a clear blue sky. It’s the loss of victory. There is none to be had. It’s the loss of confidence. America’s power is greater than its ability to use it. It’s the loss of community. Technology is a great connector but also a great isolator. It’s the loss of self-worth. Life in the Facebook age can become an endless invitation to feel inferior or unloved.

    All of this has fed a tissue of fear and disquiet easily exploited by the esteemed leader, whose instincts are above all for human weakness.

    Hence Muslims and Mexicans and Mullahs and trade manipulators and all the other menaces to America that the leader deploys as needed.

    In “The Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway wrote something else: “It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing.”

    It’s hard to shrug off the darkening skies. The worst of 9/11, almost a generation on, is the feeling that the perpetrators won. They didn’t buckle Western freedom and democracy, but they injured them. They disoriented the West. They sucked some of the promise out of a new century.

    The assassins of Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi and John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King took the lives of great men but did not destroy their ideas. Perhaps they reinforced the immortality of those ideas. The assassin of Yitzhak Rabin and the mass murderers of 9/11 dispatched by Osama bin Laden were, however, more successful.

    Yigal Amir, Rabin’s killer, uprooted the Oslo seeds of peace by assuring that Israeli Messianic-nationalist religious ideologues got the upper hand over secular pragmatists. They have never relinquished it. Bin Laden sapped America’s confidence, wove fear into the nation’s fabric, and inspired a metastasizing form of jihadi fanaticism that continues to terrorize the West in the crazed pursuit of a restored caliphate.

    And Humpty Dumpty wants to build a wall he can sit on to contemplate xenophobia and Islamophobia.

    I broke down a couple of days after 9/11 when I saw an image of a woman’s ultrasound stuck on a subway wall at 42nd Street with the words: “Looking for the father of this child.” Perhaps, in retrospect, my sobs were for all the innocence lost that day, the dreams unborn.

    Adele was very brave through the spinal tap. Today she’s a brave young woman. They are out there: the brave, the stoical, the imaginative and the decent. Despite everything, they will have their day.

    NY Times

    .

    THE REBUKE OF HISTORY. The Southern Agrarians and American conservative thought – Paul V Murphy. 

    In November 1980 the prophets returned to Nashville, Tennessee, to be honored. Vanderbilt University hosted a symposium honoring the Southern Agrarians on the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition (1930).

    I’ll Take My Stand was an indictment of the industrial civilization of modern America. The authors hoped to preserve the manners and culture of the rural South as a healthy alternative. The book was the inspiration of two Vanderbilt English professors and poets, John Crowe Ransom and Donald Davidson, and their former student, the poet Allen Tate.

    It was composed of twelve essays written by twelve separate individuals, the title page declaring them to be Twelve Southerners.

    An essayist in Time magazine, claiming that 150 doctoral theses had been written about the book, remarked on the appeal of Agrarianism to modern-day environmentalists and theorists of the “zero-sum” society.

    “Why do the Agrarians, with their crusty prophecies and affirmations, still sound so pertinent, half a very non-agrarian century later?” he asked.

    The answer, he felt, lay in the power of Agrarianism as a poetic metaphor. This was a view shared by the organizers of the event, who, in a volume derived from it, argued that I’ll Take My Stand was a prophetic book. Once dismissed as a nostalgic, backward-looking defense of a romanticized Old South, the book was rather “an affirmation of universal values” and a defense of the “religious, aesthetic, and moral foundations of the old European civilization.”

    Industrial society devalues human labor by replacing it with machines, argued the Twelve Southerners. Machine society undercut the dignity of labor and left modern man bereft of vocation and in an attenuated state of “satiety and aimlessness,” glutted with the surfeit of consumer goods produced by the industrial economy. Industrialism, they argued, was inimical to religion, the arts, and the elements of a good life, leisure, conversation, hospitality.

    The Twelve Southerners were frankly reactionary and seriously proposed returning to an economy dominated by subsistence agriculture.

    The theory of agrarianism, they declared, “is that the culture of the soil is the best and most sensitive of vocations, and that therefore it should have the economic preference and enlist the maximum number of workers.” Why, they asked, should modern men accept a social system so manifestly inferior to what had gone before? “If a community, or a section, or a race, or an age, is groaning under industrialism, and well aware that it is an evil dispensation,” the Twelve Southerners declared, “it must find the way to throw it off. To think that this cannot be done is pusillanimous.”

    I’ll Take My Stand was a self-conscious defense of the South, undertaken sixty-five years after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

    The passage of years revealed an almost protean quality to Agrarianism. It came to mean very different things to a variety of different thinkers. Indeed, the contributors themselves, over the years, interpreted and reinterpreted their original impulse in light of changing convictions and interests. In 1930, I’ll Take My Stand was an indictment of industrial capitalism and a warning of its potential to destroy what the Agrarians considered a more humane and leisurely social order.

    For some, it later came to be a statement of Christian humanism. For others, it was a rousing defense of the southern heritage and southern culture, which, in turn, meant a defense of the Western tradition. For others, Agrarianism was merely a metaphor for the simple life—one not consumed with materialism. For others still, the symposium was part of a traditional southern political discourse, which warned against centralized power and a strong state and which stood against bourgeois liberalism.

    After World War II, the nascent conservative movement—poised against what it perceived to be an unwise liberal elite and in defense of traditional values and American capitalism—subsumed the Agrarians within its intellectual tradition. The Agrarians became respected, if quixotic, dissenters from the main trend of American progressivism.

    Since the founding of the nation, southerners had sought a way to reconcile modernity and tradition, to participate in the modern market economy while retaining the shockingly premodern (yet profitable) system of slave labor. Slaveholders were alternately beguiled by the riches of the capitalist marketplace and appalled at the prospect of a society based on the pecuniary impulse and the self-interest, chicanery, and competitiveness of the market.

    The 1920s offered a richer discourse on the crises of faith, morals, and science produced by modernity than any decade since. Agrarianism was an attempt to respond to questions being asked by others besides southerners: Is it possible to satisfy the felt needs for community, leisure, and stability in the dizzying whirl of modern life? How do we validate values in a disenchanted and secular age?

    The Twelve Southerners’ response was both radical and conservative. They rejected industrial capitalism and the culture it produced. In I’ll Take My Stand they called for a return to the small-scale economy of rural America as a means to preserve the cultural amenities of the society they knew. Ransom and Tate believed that only by arresting the progress of industrial capitalism and its imperatives of science and efficiency could a social order capable of fostering and validating humane values and traditional religious faith be preserved.

    The South as a symbolic marker of both traditional society and Western civilization became the central element of the Agrarian discourse. Modernism and modernization were no longer deeply related; what was a radical conservatism was now southern traditionalism. This bifurcation of economic and cultural analysis, which the Agrarians had originally resisted, reflects a distinctive attribute of the conservative movement that was emerging in the 1950s and transforming the leadership of the American Right.

    Conservatives, southern and otherwise, constitute the final group to preserve the memory of the Agrarians. Conservatives have proudly honored the Agrarians as perceptive forefathers and tend to present them as southern traditionalists—proponents of a social order based on religion, opponents of a godless and untraditional leviathan state, critics of a rootless individualism, and, above all, stout defenders of the South, which necessarily entails a defense of southern tradition, culture, and values.

    The paradox for southerners of the Agrarians’ generation, to change but to remain loyal to history, remained a continuing source of division for the Agrarians and undercut the radical conservatism of I’ll Take My Stand.

    The growth of great nation-states, even if democratic, had marginalized the individual. Indeed, the individual was reduced to meaninglessness, with no sense of responsibility, no sense of past and place. In this context, the Agrarian image of a better antebellum South came to represent for Warren a potential source of spiritual revitalization. The past recalled not as a mythical “golden age” but “imaginatively conceived and historically conceived in the strictest readings of the researchers” could be a “rebuke to the present.”

    In the end, the history of the Agrarian tradition was shaped by the pressure of the past on this group of southern intellectuals, a past whose legacy included segregation and white supremacy.

    The southerner, Ransom wrote in I’ll Take My Stand, “identifies himself with a spot of ground, and this ground carries a good deal of meaning; it defines itself for him as nature.”

    This may be so, but the interpretation of this meaning has been the subject of much conflict among southerners, white and black, throughout the century. At the heart of Agrarianism was the question not only of where do I stand, but also, who belongs? And it was not the ground that provided the answers but the human beings who took their stands upon it.

    ***

    THE REBUKE OF HISTORY. The Southern Agrarians and American conservative thought. 

    Paul V Murphy

    get it at Amazon.com

    .

    There Once Was a Great Nation With an Unstable Leader – Nicholas Kristof. 

    What happens when the people of a great nation gradually realize that their leader may not be, er, quite right in the head?

    When Caligula became Roman emperor in A.D. 37, the people rejoiced. “On all sides, you could see nothing but altars and sacrifices, men and women decked in their holiday best and smiling,” according to the first-century writer Philo.

    The Senate embraced him, and he was hailed as a breath of fresh air after the dourness, absenteeism and miserliness of his great-uncle, Emperor Tiberius. Caligula was colorful and flamboyant, offering plenty of opportunities for ribald gossip. Caligula had four wives in rapid succession, and he was said to be sleeping with his sister. (Roman historians despised him, so some of the gossip should be treated skeptically.)

    He was charming, impetuous and energetic, sleeping only three hours a night, and he displayed a common touch as he constantly engaged with the public. His early months as emperor brimmed with hope.

    Initially, Caligula focused on denouncing his predecessor and reversing everything that he had done. Caligula also made popular promises of tax reform so as to reduce the burden on the public. He was full of grandiose pledges of infrastructure projects, such as a scheme to cut through the Isthmus of Corinth.

    But, alas, Caligula had no significant government experience, and he proved utterly incompetent at actually getting things done. Meanwhile, his personal extravagance actually increased the need for tax revenue.

    Suetonius, the Roman historian, recounted how Caligula’s boats had “sterns set with gems, parti-colored sails, huge spacious baths, colonnades and banquet halls, and even a great variety of vines and fruit trees.”

    Romans initially accepted Caligula’s luxurious tastes, perhaps intrigued by them. But Caligula’s lavish spending soon exhausted the surplus he had inherited, and Rome ran out of money.

    This led to increasingly desperate, cruel and tyrannical behavior. Caligula reportedly opened a brothel in the imperial palace to make money, and he introduced new taxes. When this wasn’t enough, he began to confiscate estates, antagonizing Roman elites and sometimes killing them.

    A coward himself, Caligula was said to delight in the torture of others; rumor had it that he would tell his executioners: “Kill him so that he can feel he is dying.”

    Caligula, a narcissist and megalomaniac, became increasingly unhinged. He supposedly rolled around on a huge pile of gold coins, and he engaged in conversations with the moon, which he would invite into his bed. He replaced the heads of some statues of gods with his own head, and he occasionally appeared in public dressed as a god. He was referred to as a god in certain circumstances, and he set up a temple where he could be worshiped.

    “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody,” he told his grandmother, according to Suetonius.

    Caligula had a thing for generals, and he periodically wore the garb of a triumphant military commander. He removed the breastplate of Alexander the Great from his sarcophagus and wore it himself at times.

    The Senate, dignified and traditional, watched Caligula with increasing alarm. He scandalized the public by sometimes dressing as a woman, and he aggravated tensions by scathingly denouncing the Senate, relying on sarcasm and insult, and showing utter contempt for it.

    One of Caligula’s last allies was his beloved racehorse, Incitatus, who wore a collar of precious stones and lived in a marble stall. Caligula would invite Incitatus to dine with him.

    Edward Champlin, a historian of Rome at Princeton University, says that Caligula pursued “a love of pranks that a 4-year-old might disdain” and had a penchant for “blurting out whatever is on his mind” — such as suggesting that Incitatus could become consul. These rash statements rippled through Rome, for leaders of great powers are often taken not just seriously but also literally.

    Yet as Caligula wreaked havoc, Rome also had values, institutions and mores that inspired resistance. He offended practically everyone, he couldn’t deliver on his promises, his mental stability was increasingly doubted and he showed he simply had no idea how to govern. Within a few years, he had lost all support, and the Praetorian Guard murdered him in January 41 (not a path I would ever condone).

    Caligula was as abominable a ruler as a great nation could have, yet Rome proved resilient.

    Likewise, Rome survived Emperor Nero a generation later, even as Nero apparently torched Rome, slaughtered Christians, slept with and then murdered his mother, kicked his pregnant wife to death, castrated and married a man and generally mismanaged the empire.

    “If there’s a hero in the story of first-century Rome, it’s Roman institutions and traditional expectations,” reflects Emma Dench, a Harvard scholar of the period. “However battered or modified, they kept the empire alive for future greatness.”

    To me, the lesson is that Rome was able to inoculate itself against unstable rulers so that it could recover and rise to new glories. Even the greatest of nations may suffer a catastrophic leader, but the nation can survive the test and protect its resilience — if the public stays true to its values, institutions and traditions. That was true two millennia ago, and remains true today.

    New York Times 

    Unlearning the Myth of American Innocence – Suzy Hansen. 

    My mother recently found piles of my notebooks from when I was a small child that were filled with plans for my future. I was very ambitious. I wrote out what I would do at every age: when I would get married and when I would have kids and when I would open a dance studio.

    When I left my small hometown for college, this sort of planning stopped. The experience of going to a radically new place, as college was to me, upended my sense of the world and its possibilities. The same thing happened when I moved to New York after college, and a few years later when I moved to Istanbul. All change is dramatic for provincial people. But the last move was the hardest. 

    In Turkey the upheaval was far more unsettling: after a while, I began to feel that the entire foundation of my consciousness was a lie.

    Who do we become if we don’t become Americans? If we discover that our identity as we understood it had been a myth?

    My years as an American abroad in the 21st century were not a joyous romp of self-discovery and romance. Mine were more of a shattering and a shame, and even now, I still don’t know myself.

    The politics I heard about as a kid had to do with taxes and immigrants, and not much else. Bill Clinton was not popular in my house.

    We were all patriotic, but I can’t even conceive of what else we could have been, because our entire experience was domestic, interior, American. We went to church on Sundays, until church time was usurped by soccer games. I don’t remember a strong sense of civic engagement. Instead I had the feeling that people could take things from you if you didn’t stay vigilant. Our goals remained local: homecoming queen, state champs, a scholarship to Trenton State, barbecues in the backyard. The lone Asian kid in our class studied hard and went to Berkeley; the Indian went to Yale. Black people never came to Wall. The world was white, Christian; the world was us.

    We did not study world maps, because international geography, as a subject, had been phased out of many state curriculums long before. There was no sense of the US being one country on a planet of many countries. Even the Soviet Union seemed something more like the Death Star – flying overhead, ready to laser us to smithereens – than a country with people in it.

    We were free – at the very least we were that. Everyone else was a chump, because they didn’t even have that obvious thing. Whatever it meant, it was the thing that we had, and no one else did. It was our God-given gift, our superpower.

    By the time I got to high school, I knew that communism had gone away, but never learned what communism had actually been (“bad” was enough). Religion, politics, race – they washed over me like troubled things that obviously meant something to someone somewhere, but that had no relationship to me, to Wall, to America. I certainly had no idea that most people in the world felt those connections deeply. History – America’s history, the world’s history – would slip in and out of my consciousness with no resonance whatsoever.

    Racism, antisemitism and prejudice, however – those things, on some unconscious level, I must have known. They were expressed in the fear of Asbury Park, which was black; in the resentment of the towns of Marlboro and Deal, which were known as Jewish; in the way Hispanics seemed exotic. Much of the Jersey Shore was segregated as if it were still the 1950s, and so prejudice was expressed through fear of anything outside Wall, anything outside the tiny white world in which we lived. If there was something that saved us from being outwardly racist, it was that in small towns such as Wall, especially for girls, it was important to be nice, or good – this pressure tempered tendencies toward overt cruelty when we were young.

    I was a child of the 90s, the decade when, according to America’s foremost intellectuals, “history” had ended, the US was triumphant, the cold war won by a landslide. The historian David Schmitz has written that, by that time, the idea that America won because of “its values and steadfast adherence to the promotion of liberalism and democracy” was dominating “op-ed pages, popular magazines and the bestseller lists”. These ideas were the ambient noise, the elevator music of my most formative years.

    I came across a line in a book in which a historian argued that, long ago, during the slavery era, black people and white people had defined their identities in opposition to each other. The revelation to me was not that black people had conceived of their identities in response to ours, but that our white identities had been composed in conscious objection to theirs. I’d had no idea that we had ever had to define our identities at all, because to me, white Americans were born fully formed, completely detached from any sort of complicated past. Even now, I can remember that shiver of recognition that only comes when you learn something that expands, just a tiny bit, your sense of reality. What made me angry was that this revelation was something about who I was. How much more did I not know about myself?

    It was because of this text that I picked up the books of James Baldwin, who gave me the sense of meeting someone who knew me better, and with a far more sophisticated critical arsenal than I had myself. There was this line:

    But I have always been struck, in America, by an emotional poverty so bottomless, and a terror of human life, of human touch, so deep, that virtually no American appears able to achieve any viable, organic connection between his public stance and his private life.

    And this one:

    All of the western nations have been caught in a lie, the lie of their pretended humanism; this means that their history has no moral justification, and that the west has no moral authority.

    And this one:

    White Americans are probably the sickest and certainly the most dangerous people, of any colour, to be found in the world today.

    I know why this came as a shock to me then, at the age of 22, and it wasn’t necessarily because he said I was sick, though that was part of it. It was because he kept calling me that thing: “white American”. In my reaction I justified his accusation. I knew I was white, and I knew I was American, but it was not what I understood to be my identity. For me, self-definition was about gender, personality, religion, education, dreams. I only thought about finding myself, becoming myself, discovering myself – and this, I hadn’t known, was the most white American thing of all.

    I still did not think about my place in the larger world, or that perhaps an entire history – the history of white Americans – had something to do with who I was. My lack of consciousness allowed me to believe I was innocent, or that white American was not an identity like Muslim or Turk.

    Of this indifference, Baldwin wrote: “White children, in the main, and whether they are rich or poor, grow up with a grasp of reality so feeble that they can very accurately be described as deluded.”

    Young white Americans of course go through pain, insecurity and heartache. But it is very, very rare that young white Americans come across someone who tells them in harsh, unforgiving terms that they might be merely the easy winners of an ugly game, and indeed that because of their ignorance and misused power, they might be the losers within a greater moral universe.

    In 2007, after I had worked for six years as a journalist in New York, I won a writing fellowship that would send me to Turkey for two years. I had applied for it on a whim. No part of me expected to win the thing. Even as my friends wished me congratulations, I detected a look of concern on their faces, as if I was crazy to leave all this, as if 29 was a little too late to be finding myself. I had never even been to Turkey before.

    In the weeks before my departure, I spent hours explaining Turkey’s international relevance to my bored loved ones, no doubt deploying the cliche that Istanbul was the bridge between east and west. I told everyone that I chose Turkey because I wanted to learn about the Islamic world. The secret reason I wanted to go was that Baldwin had lived in Istanbul in the 1960s, on and off, for almost a decade. I had seen a documentary about Baldwin that said he felt more comfortable as a black, gay man in Istanbul than in Paris or New York.

    When I heard that, it made so little sense to me, sitting in my Brooklyn apartment, that a space opened in the universe. I couldn’t believe that New York could be more illiberal than a place such as Turkey, because I couldn’t conceive of how prejudiced New York and Paris had been in that era; and because I thought that as you went east, life degraded into the past, the opposite of progress. The idea of Baldwin in Turkey somehow placed America’s race problem, and America itself, in a mysterious and tantalising international context. I took a chance that Istanbul might be the place where the secret workings of history would be revealed.

    In Turkey and elsewhere, in fact, I would feel an almost physical sensation of intellectual and emotional discomfort, while trying to grasp a reality of which I had no historical or cultural understanding. I would go, as a journalist, to write a story about Turkey or Greece or Egypt or Afghanistan, and inevitably someone would tell me some part of our shared history – theirs with America – of which I knew nothing. If I didn’t know this history, then what kind of story did I plan to tell?

    My learning process abroad was threefold: I was learning about foreign countries; I was learning about America’s role in the world; and I was also slowly understanding my own psychology, temperament and prejudices. No matter how well I knew the predatory aspects of capitalism, I still perceived Turkey’s and Greece’s economic advances as progress, a kind of maturation. No matter how deeply I understood the US’s manipulation of Egypt for its own foreign-policy aims, I had never considered – and could not grasp – how American policies really affected the lives of individual Egyptians, beyond engendering resentment and anti-Americanism. No matter how much I believed that no American was well-equipped for nation-building, I thought I could see good intentions on the part of the Americans in Afghanistan. I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilisation, and everyone else was trying to catch up.

    American exceptionalism did not only define the US as a special nation among lesser nations; it also demanded that all Americans believe they, too, were somehow superior to others. How could I, as an American, understand a foreign people, when unconsciously I did not extend the most basic faith to other people that I extended to myself? This was a limitation that was beyond racism, beyond prejudice and beyond ignorance. This was a kind of nationalism so insidious that I had not known to call it nationalism; this was a self-delusion so complete that I could not see where it began and ended, could not root it out, could not destroy it.

    In my first few months in Istanbul, I lived a formless kind of existence, days dissolving into the nights. I had no office to go to, no job to keep, and I was 30 years old, an age at which people either choose to grow up or remain stuck in the exploratory, idle phase of late-late youth. Starting all over again in a foreign country – making friends, learning a new language, trying to find your way through a city – meant almost certainly choosing the latter. I spent many nights out until the wee hours – such as the evening I drank beer with a young Turkish man named Emre, who had attended college with a friend of mine from the US.

    A friend had told me that Emre was one of the most brilliant people he had ever met. As the evening passed, I was gaining a lot from his analysis of Turkish politics, especially when I asked him whether he voted for Erdoğan’s Justice and Development party (AKP), and he spat back, outraged, “Did you vote for George W Bush?” Until that point I had not realised the two might be equivalent.

    Then, three beers in, Emre mentioned that the US had planned the September 11 attacks. I had heard this before. Conspiracy theories were common in Turkey; for example, when the military claimed that the PKK, the Kurdish militant group, had attacked a police station, some Turks believed the military itself had done it; they believed it even in cases where Turkish civilians had died. In other words, the idea was that rightwing forces, such as the military, bombed neutral targets, or even rightwing targets, so they could then blame it on the leftwing groups, such as the PKK. To Turks, bombing one’s own country seemed like a real possibility.

    “Come on, you don’t believe that,” I said.

    “Why not?” he snapped. “I do.”

    “But it’s a conspiracy theory.”

    He laughed. “Americans always dismiss these things as conspiracy theories. It’s the rest of the world who have had to deal with your conspiracies.”

    I ignored him. “I guess I have faith in American journalism,” I said. “Someone else would have figured this out if it were true.”

    He smiled. “I’m sorry, there’s no way they didn’t have something to do with it. And now this war?” he said, referring to the war in Iraq. “It’s impossible that the United States couldn’t stop such a thing, and impossible that the Muslims could pull it off.”

    Some weeks later, a bomb went off in the Istanbul neighborhood of Güngören. A second bomb exploded out of a garbage bin nearby after 10pm, killing 17 people and injuring 150. No one knew who did it. All that week, Turks debated: was it al-Qa’ida? The PKK? The DHKP/C, a radical leftist group? Or maybe: the deep state?

    The deep state – a system of mafia-like paramilitary organisations operating outside of the law, sometimes at the behest of the official military – was a whole other story. Turks explained that the deep state had been formed during the cold war as a way of countering communism, and then mutated into a force for destroying all threats to the Turkish state. The power that some Turks attributed to this entity sometimes strained credulity. But the point was that Turks had been living for years with the idea that some secret force controlled the fate of their nation.

    In fact, elements of the deep state were rumoured to have had ties to the CIA during the cold war, and though that too smacked of a conspiracy theory, this was the reality that Turkish people lived in. The sheer number of international interventions the US launched in those decades is astonishing, especially those during years when American power was considered comparatively innocent. There were the successful assassinations: Patrice Lumumba, prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 1961; General Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, also in 1961; Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam, in 1963. There were the unsuccessful assassinations: Castro, Castro, and Castro. There were the much hoped-for assassinations: Nasser, Nasser, Nasser. And, of course, US-sponsored, -supported or -staged regime changes: Iran, Guatemala, Iraq, Congo, Syria, Dominican Republic, South Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay and Argentina. The Americans trained or supported secret police forces everywhere from Cambodia to Colombia, the Philippines to Peru, Iran to Vietnam. Many Turks believed that the US at least encouraged the 1971 and 1980 military coups in Turkey, though I could find little about these events in any conventional histories anywhere.

    But what I could see was that the effects of such meddling were comparable to those of September 11 – just as huge, life-changing and disruptive to the country and to people’s lives. Perhaps Emre did not believe that September 11 was a straightforward affair of evidence and proof because his experience – his reality – taught him that very rarely were any of these surreally monumental events easily explainable. I did not think Emre’s theory about the attacks was plausible. But I began to wonder whether there was much difference between a foreigner’s paranoia that the Americans planned September 11 and the Americans’ paranoia that the whole world should pay for September 11 with an endless global war on terror.

    The next time a Turk told me she believed the US had bombed itself on September 11 (I heard this with some regularity; this time it was from a young student at Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University), I repeated my claim about believing in the integrity of American journalism. She replied, a bit sheepishly, “Well, right, we can’t trust our journalism. We can’t take that for granted.”

    The words “take that for granted” gave me pause. Having lived in Turkey for more than a year, witnessing how nationalistic propaganda had inspired people’s views of the world and of themselves, I wondered from where the belief in our objectivity and rigour in journalism came. Why would Americans be objective and everyone else subjective?

    I thought that because Turkey had poorly functioning institutions – they didn’t have a reliable justice system, as compared to an American system I believed to be functional – it often felt as if there was no truth. Turks were always sceptical of official histories, and blithely dismissive of the government’s line. But was it rather that the Turks, with their beautiful scepticism, were actually just less nationalistic than me?

    American exceptionalism had declared my country unique in the world, the one truly free and modern country, and instead of ever considering that that exceptionalism was no different from any other country’s nationalistic propaganda, I had internalised this belief. Wasn’t that indeed what successful propaganda was supposed to do? I had not questioned the institution of American journalism outside of the standards it set for itself – which, after all, was the only way I would discern its flaws and prejudices; instead, I accepted those standards as the best standards any country could possibly have.

    By the end of my first year abroad, I read US newspapers differently. I could see how alienating they were to foreigners, the way articles spoke always from a position of American power, treating foreign countries as if they were America’s misbehaving children. I listened to my compatriots with critical ears: the way our discussion of foreign policy had become infused since September 11 with these officious, official words, bureaucratic corporate military language: collateral damage, imminent threat, freedom, freedom, freedom.

    Even so, I was conscious that if I had long ago succumbed to the pathology of American nationalism, I wouldn’t know it – even if I understood the history of injustice in America, even if I was furious about the invasion of Iraq. I was a white American. I still had this fundamental faith in my country in a way that suddenly, in comparison to the Turks, made me feel immature and naive.

    I came to notice that a community of activists and intellectuals in Turkey – the liberal ones – were indeed questioning what “Turkishness” meant in new ways. Many of them had been brainwashed in their schools about their own history; about Ataturk, Turkey’s first president; about the supposed evil of the Armenians and the Kurds and the Arabs; about the fragility of their borders and the rapaciousness of all outsiders; and about the historic and eternal goodness of the Turkish republic.

    “It is different in the United States,” I once said, not entirely realising what I was saying until the words came out. I had never been called upon to explain this. “We are told it is the greatest country on earth. The thing is, we will never reconsider that narrative the way you are doing just now, because to us, that isn’t propaganda, that is truth. And to us, that isn’t nationalism, it’s patriotism. And the thing is, we will never question any of it because at the same time, all we are being told is how free-thinking we are, that we are free. So we don’t know there is anything wrong in believing our country is the greatest on earth. The whole thing sort of convinces you that a collective consciousness in the world came to that very conclusion.”

    “Wow,” a friend once replied. “How strange. That is a very quiet kind of fascism, isn’t it?”

    It was a quiet kind of fascism that would mean I would always see Turkey as beneath the country I came from, and also that would mean I believed my uniquely benevolent country to have uniquely benevolent intentions towards the peoples of the world.

    During that night of conspiracy theories, Emre had alleged, as foreigners often did, that I was a spy. The information that I was collecting as a journalist, Emre said, was really being used for something else. As an American emissary in the wider world, writing about foreigners, governments, economies partaking in some larger system and scheme of things, I was an agent somehow. Emre lived in the American world as a foreigner, as someone less powerful, as someone for whom one newspaper article could mean war, or one misplaced opinion could mean an intervention by the International Monetary Fund. My attitude, my prejudice, my lack of generosity could be entirely false, inaccurate or damaging, but would be taken for truth by the newspapers and magazines I wrote for, thus shaping perceptions of Turkey for ever.

    Years later, an American journalist told me he loved working for a major newspaper because the White House read it, because he could “influence policy”. Emre had told me how likely it was I would screw this up. He was saying to me: first, spy, do no harm.

    The Guardian

    G20: Does Donald Trump’s awkward performance indicate America’s decline as a world power? – Chris Uhlmann. 

    The G20 became the G19 as it ended. On the Paris climate accords the United States was left isolated and friendless.

    It is, apparently, where this US President wants to be as he seeks to turn his nation inward.

    Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.

    He is a character drawn from America’s wild west, a travelling medicine showman selling moonshine remedies that will kill the patient.

    And this week he underlined he has neither the desire nor the capacity to lead the world.

    Given the US was always going to be one out on climate change, a deft American President would have found an issue around which he could rally most of the leaders.

    He had the perfect vehicle — North Korea’s missile tests.

    So, where was the G20 statement condemning North Korea? That would have put pressure on China and Russia? Other leaders expected it and they were prepared to back it but it never came.

    There is a tendency among some hopeful souls to confuse the speeches written for Mr Trump with the thoughts of the man himself.

    He did make some interesting, scripted, observations in Poland about defending the values of the West.

    And Mr Trump is in a unique position — he is the one man who has the power to do something about it.

    But it is the unscripted Mr Trump that is real. A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions — like the judiciary, independent government agencies and the free press.

    He was an uneasy, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.

    Mr Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.

    So, what did we learn this week?

    We learned Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation and to confuse and alienate his allies.

    He will cede that power to China and Russia — two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.

    Some will cheer the decline of America, but I think we’ll miss it when it is gone.

    And that is the biggest threat to the values of the West which he claims to hold so dear.

    ABC

    President Trump’s Lies to 21 June, the Definitive List – The New York Times. 

    JAN. 21 “I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq.” (He was for an invasion before he was against it.)JAN. 21 “A reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine.” (Trump was on the cover 11 times and Nixon appeared 55 times.)JAN. 23 “Between 3 million and 5 million illegal votes caused me to lose the popular vote.” (There’s no evidence of illegal voting.)JAN. 25 “Now, the audience was the biggest ever. But this crowd was massive. Look how far back it goes. This crowd was massive.” (Official aerial photos show Obama’s 2009 inauguration was much more heavily attended.)JAN. 25 “Take a look at the Pew reports (which show voter fraud.)” (The report never mentioned voter fraud.)JAN. 25 “You had millions of people that now aren’t insured anymore.” (The real number is less than 1 million, according to the Urban Institute.)JAN. 25 “So, look, when President Obama was there two weeks ago making a speech, very nice speech. Two people were shot and killed during his speech. You can’t have that.” (There were no gun homicide victims in Chicago that day.)JAN. 26 “We’ve taken in tens of thousands of people. We know nothing about them. They can say they vet them. They didn’t vet them. They have no papers. How can you vet somebody when you don’t know anything about them and you have no papers? How do you vet them? You can’t.”(Vetting lasts up to two years.)JAN. 26 “I cut off hundreds of millions of dollars off one particular plane, hundreds of millions of dollars in a short period of time. It wasn’t like I spent, like, weeks, hours, less than hours, and many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. And the plane’s going to be better.” (Most of the cuts were already planned.)JAN. 28 “Thr coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost gas been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its dwindling subscribers and readers.” (It never apologized.)JAN. 29 “The Cuban-Americans, I got 84 percent of that vote.” (There is no support for this.)JAN. 30 “Only 109 people out of 325,000 were detained and held for questioning. Big problems at airports were caused by Delta computer outage” (At least 746 people were detained and processed, and the Delta outage happened two days later.)FEB. 3 “Professional anarchists, thugs and paid protesters are proving the point of the millions of people who voted to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” (There is no evidence of paid protesters.)FEB. 4 “After being forced to apologize for its bad and inaccurate coverage of me after winning the election, the FAKE NEWS @nytimes is still lost!” (It never apologized.)FEB. 5 “We had 109 people out of hundreds of thousands of travelers and all we did was vet those people very, very carefully.” (About 60,000 people were affected.)FEB. 6 “I have already saved more than $700 million when I got involved in the negotiation on the F-35.” (Much of the price drop was projected before Trump took office.)FEB. 6 “It’s gotten to a point where it is not even being reported. And in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.” (Terrorism has been reported on, often in detail.)FEB. 6 “The failing @nytimes was forced to apologize to its subscribers for the poor reporting it did on my election win. Now they are worse!” (It didn’t apologize.)FEB. 6 “And the previous administration allowed it to happen because we shouldn’t have been in Iraq, but we shouldn’t have gotten out the way we got out. It created a vacuum, ISIS was formed.” (ISIS has existed since 2004.)FEB. 7 “And yet the murder rate in our country is the highest it’s been in 47 years, right? Did you know that? Forty-seven years.” (It was higher in the 1980s and ’90s.)FEB. 7 “I saved more than $600 million. I got involved in negotiation on a fighter jet, the F-35.” (The Defense Department projected this price drop before Trump took office.)FEB. 9 “Chris Cuomo, in his interview with Sen. Blumenthal, never asked him about his long-term lie about his brave ‘service’ in Vietnam. FAKE NEWS!” (It was part of Cuomo’s first question.)FEB. 9 Sen. Richard Blumenthal “now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?” (The Gorsuch comments were later corroborated.)FEB. 10 “I don’t know about it. I haven’t seen it. What report is that?” (Trump knew about Flynn’s actions for weeks.)FEB. 12 “Just leaving Florida. Big crowds of enthusiastic supporters lining the road that the FAKE NEWS media refuses to mention. Very dishonest!” (The media did cover it.)FEB. 16 “We got 306 because people came out and voted like they’ve never seen before so that’s the way it goes. I guess it was the biggest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan.” (George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama all won bigger margins in the Electoral College.)FEB. 16 “That’s the other thing that was wrong with the travel ban. You had Delta with a massive problem with their computer system at the airports.” (Delta’s problems happened two days later.)FEB. 16 “Walmart announced it will create 10,000 jobs in the United States just this year because of our various plans and initiatives.” (The jobs are a result of its investment plans announced in October 2016.)FEB. 16 “When WikiLeaks, which I had nothing to do with, comes out and happens to give, they’re not giving classified information.” (Not always. They have released classified information in the past.)FEB. 16 “We had a very smooth rollout of the travel ban. But we had a bad court. Got a bad decision.” (The rollout was chaotic.)FEB. 16 “They’re giving stuff — what was said at an office about Hillary cheating on the debates. Which, by the way, nobody mentions. Nobody mentions that Hillary received the questions to the debates.” (It was widely covered.)FEB. 18 “And there was no way to vet those people. There was no documentation. There was no nothing.” (Refugees receive multiple background checks, taking up to two years.)FEB. 18 “You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” (Trump implied there was a terror attack in Sweden, but there was no such attack.)FEB. 24 “By the way, you folks are in here — this place is packed, there are lines that go back six blocks.” (There was no evidence of long lines.)FEB. 24 “ICE came and endorsed me.” (Only its union did.)FEB. 24 “Obamacare covers very few people — and remember, deduct from the number all of the people that had great health care that they loved that was taken away from them — it was taken away from them.” (Obamacare increased coverage by a net of about 20 million.)FEB. 27 “Since Obamacare went into effect, nearly half of the insurers are stopped and have stopped from participating in the Obamacare exchanges.” (Many fewer pulled out.)FEB. 27 “On one plane, on a small order of one plane, I saved $725 million. And I would say I devoted about, if I added it up, all those calls, probably about an hour. So I think that might be my highest and best use.” (Much of the price cut was already projected.)FEB. 28 “And now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.” (NATO countries agreed to meet defense spending requirements in 2014.)FEB. 28 “The E.P.A.’s regulators were putting people out of jobs by the hundreds of thousands.” (There’s no evidence that the Waters of the United States rule caused severe job losses.)FEB. 28 “We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials.” (They can’t lobby their former agency but can still become lobbyists.)MARCH 3 “It is so pathetic that the Dems have still not approved my full Cabinet.” (Paperwork for the last two candidates was still not submitted to the Senate.)MARCH 4 “Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!” (There’s no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 4 “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!” (There’s no evidence of a wiretap.)MARCH 7 “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!” (113 of them were released by President George W. Bush.)MARCH 13 “I saved a lot of money on those jets, didn’t I? Did I do a good job? More than $725 million on them.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 13 “First of all, it covers very few people.” (About 20 million people gained insurance under Obamacare.)MARCH 15 “On the airplanes, I saved $725 million. Probably took me a half an hour if you added up all of the times.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 17 “I was in Tennessee — I was just telling the folks — and half of the state has no insurance company, and the other half is going to lose the insurance company.” (There’s at least one insurer in every Tennessee county.)MARCH 20 “With just one negotiation on one set of airplanes, I saved the taxpayers of our country over $700 million.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 21 “To save taxpayer dollars, I’ve already begun negotiating better contracts for the federal government — saving over $700 million on just one set of airplanes of which there are many sets.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MARCH 22 “I make the statement, everyone goes crazy. The next day they have a massive riot, and death, and problems.” (Riots in Sweden broke out two days later and there were no deaths.)MARCH 22 “NATO, obsolete, because it doesn’t cover terrorism. They fixed that.” (It has fought terrorism since the 1980s.)MARCH 22 “Well, now, if you take a look at the votes, when I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong — in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people.” (There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud.)MARCH 29 “Remember when the failing @nytimes apologized to its subscribers, right after the election, because their coverage was so wrong. Now worse!”(It didn’t apologize.)MARCH 31 “We have a lot of plants going up now in Michigan that were never going to be there if I — if I didn’t win this election, those plants would never even think about going back. They were gone.” (These investments were already planned.)APRIL 2 “And I was totally opposed to the war in the Middle East which I think finally has been proven, people tried very hard to say I wasn’t but you’ve seen that it is now improving.”(He was for an invasion before he was against it.)APRIL 2 “Now, my last tweet — you know, the one that you are talking about, perhaps — was the one about being, in quotes, wiretapped, meaning surveilled. Guess what, it is turning out to be true.”(There is still no evidence.)APRIL 5 “You have many states coming up where they’re going to have no insurance company. O.K.? It’s already happened in Tennessee. It’s happening in Kentucky. Tennessee only has half coverage. Half the state is gone. They left.” (Every marketplace region in Tennessee had at least one insurer.)APRIL 6 “If you look at the kind of cost-cutting we’ve been able to achieve with the military and at the same time ordering vast amounts of equipment — saved hundreds of millions of dollars on airplanes, and really billions, because if you take that out over a period of years it’s many billions of dollars — I think we’ve had a tremendous success.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 11 “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late. I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve.” (He knew Steve Bannon since 2011.)APRIL 12 “You can’t do it faster, because they’re obstructing. They’re obstructionists. So I have people — hundreds of people that we’re trying to get through. I mean you have — you see the backlog. We can’t get them through.” (At this point, he had not nominated anyone for hundreds of positions.)APRIL 12 “The New York Times said the word wiretapped in the headline of the first edition. Then they took it out of there fast when they realized.” (There were two headlines, but neither were altered.)APRIL 12 “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism. I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism.” (NATO has been engaged in counterterrorism efforts since the 1980s.)APRIL 12 “Mosul was supposed to last for a week and now they’ve been fighting it for many months and so many more people died.” (The campaign was expected to take months.)APRIL 16 “Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over!” (There’s no evidence of paid protesters.)APRIL 18 “The fake media goes, ‘Donald Trump changed his stance on China.’ I haven’t changed my stance.” (He did.)APRIL 21 “On 90 planes I saved $725 million. It’s actually a little bit more than that, but it’s $725 million.” (Much of the price cuts were already projected.)APRIL 21 “When WikiLeaks came out … never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it.” (He criticized it as early as 2010.)APRIL 27 “I want to help our miners while the Democrats are blocking their healthcare.” (The bill to extend health benefits for certain coal miners was introduced by a Democrat and was co-sponsored by mostly Democrats.)APRIL 28 “The trade deficit with Mexico is close to $70 billion, even with Canada it’s $17 billion trade deficit with Canada.” (The U.S. had an $8.1 billion trade surplus, not deficit, with Canada in 2016.)APRIL 28 “She’s running against someone who’s going to raise your taxes to the sky, destroy your health care, and he’s for open borders — lots of crime.” (Those are not Jon Ossoff’s positions.)APRIL 28 “The F-35 fighter jet program — it was way over budget. I’ve saved $725 million plus, just by getting involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “They’re incompetent, dishonest people who after an election had to apologize because they covered it, us, me, but all of us, they covered it so badly that they felt they were forced to apologize because their predictions were so bad.” (The Times did not apologize.)APRIL 29 “As you know, I’ve been a big critic of China, and I’ve been talking about currency manipulation for a long time. But I have to tell you that during the election, number one, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)APRIL 29 “I’ve already saved more than $725 million on a simple order of F-35 planes. I got involved in the negotiation.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “We’re also getting NATO countries to finally step up and contribute their fair share. They’ve begun to increase their contributions by billions of dollars, but we are not going to be satisfied until everyone pays what they owe.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)APRIL 29 “When they talk about currency manipulation, and I did say I would call China, if they were, a currency manipulator, early in my tenure. And then I get there. Number one, they — as soon as I got elected, they stopped.” (China stopped in 2014.)APRIL 29 “I was negotiating to reduce the price of the big fighter jet contract, the F-35, which was totally out of control. I will save billions and billions and billions of dollars.” (Most of the cuts were planned before Trump.)APRIL 29 “I think our side’s been proven very strongly. And everybody’s talking about it.” (There’s still no evidence Trump’s phones were tapped.)MAY 1 “Well, we are protecting pre-existing conditions. And it’ll be every good — bit as good on pre-existing conditions as Obamacare.” (The bill weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions.)MAY 1 “The F-35 fighter jet — I saved — I got involved in the negotiation. It’s 2,500 jets. I negotiated for 90 planes, lot 10. I got $725 million off the price.” (Much of the price cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 1 “First of all, since I started running, they haven’t increased their — you know, they have not manipulated their currency. I think that was out of respect to me and the campaign.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 2 “I love buying those planes at a reduced price. I have been really — I have cut billions — I have to tell you this, and they can check, right, Martha? I have cut billions and billions of dollars off plane contracts sitting here.” (Much of the cost cuts were planned before Trump.)MAY 4 “Number two, they’re actually not a currency [manipulator]. You know, since I’ve been talking about currency manipulation with respect to them and other countries, they stopped.” (China stopped years ago.)MAY 4 “We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world.” (We’re not.)MAY 4 “Nobody cares about my tax return except for the reporters.” (Polls show most Americans do care.)MAY 8 “You know we’ve gotten billions of dollars more in NATO than we’re getting. All because of me.” (The deal was struck in 2014.)MAY 8 “But when I did his show, which by the way was very highly rated. It was high — highest rating. The highest rating he’s ever had.”(Colbert’s “Late Show” debut had nearly two million more viewers.)MAY 8 “Director Clapper reiterated what everybody, including the fake media already knows- there is ‘no evidence’ of collusion w/ Russia and Trump.” (Clapper only said he wasn’t aware of an investigation.)MAY 12 “Again, the story that there was collusion between the Russians & Trump campaign was fabricated by Dems as an excuse for losing the election.” (The F.B.I. was investigating before the election.)MAY 12 “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?” (Clapper said he wouldn’t have been told of an investigation into collusion.)MAY 13 “I’m cutting the price of airplanes with Lockheed.” (The cost cuts were planned before he became president.)MAY 26 “Just arrived in Italy for the G7. Trip has been very successful. We made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” (He’s referencing an arms deal that’s not enacted and other apparent deals that weren’t announced on the trip.)JUNE 1 “China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (The agreement doesn’t allow or disallow building coal plants.)JUNE 1 “I’ve just returned from a trip overseas where we concluded nearly $350 billion of military and economic development for the United States, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.” (Trump’s figures are inflated and premature.)JUNE 4 “At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’” (The mayor was specifically talking about the enlarged police presence on the streets.)JUNE 5 “The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.” (Trump signed this version of the travel ban, not the Justice Department.)JUNE 21 “They all say it’s ‘nonbinding.’ Like hell it’s nonbinding.” (The Paris climate agreement is nonbinding — and Trump said so in his speech announcing the withdrawal.)JUNE 21 “Right now, we are one of the highest-taxed nations in the world.” (We’re not.)

    New York Times 

    Only Mass Deportation Can Save America – Bret Stephens, NYTimes. 

    In the matter of immigration, mark this conservative columnist down as strongly pro-deportation. The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system.

    They need to return whence they came.

    I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning.

    On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones.

    Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.

    Religious piety — especially of the Christian variety? More illegal immigrants identify as Christian (83 percent) than do Americans (70.6 percent), a fact right-wing immigration restrictionists might ponder as they bemoan declines in church attendance.

    Business creation? Nonimmigrants start businesses at half the rate of immigrants, and accounted for fewer than half the companies started in Silicon Valley between 1995 and 2005. Overall, the share of nonimmigrant entrepreneurs fell by more than 10 percentage points between 1995 and 2008, according to a Harvard Business Review study.

    Nor does the case against nonimmigrants end there. The rate of out-of-wedlock births for United States-born mothers exceeds the rate for foreign-born moms, 42 percent to 33 percent. The rate of delinquency and criminality among nonimmigrant teens considerably exceeds that of their immigrant peers. A recent report by the Sentencing Project also finds evidence that the fewer immigrants there are in a neighborhood, the likelier it is to be unsafe.

    And then there’s the all-important issue of demographics. The race for the future is ultimately a race for people — healthy, working-age, fertile people — and our nonimmigrants fail us here, too. “The increase in the overall number of U.S. births, from 3.74 million in 1970 to 4.0 million in 2014, is due entirely to births to foreign-born mothers,” reports the Pew Research Center. Without these immigrant moms, the United States would be faced with the same demographic death spiral that now confronts Japan.

    Bottom line: So-called real Americans are screwing up America. Maybe they should leave, so that we can replace them with new and better ones: newcomers who are more appreciative of what the United States has to offer, more ambitious for themselves and their children, and more willing to sacrifice for the future. In other words, just the kind of people we used to be — when “we” had just come off the boat.

    O.K., so I’m jesting about deporting “real Americans” en masse. Who would take them in, anyway? But then the threat of mass deportations has been no joke with this administration.

    New York Times

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