Category Archives: President Trump

FEAR. Trump in the White House – Bob Woodward.

“Walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually.” Rob Porter, White House staff secretary.

It is a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.

“Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word, fear.” Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump in an interview with Bob Woodward and Robert Costa on March 31, 2016.

In Bannon’s evaluation, Trump was Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.

Interviews for this book were conducted under the journalist ground rule of “deep background.” This means that all the information could be used but I would not say who provided it. The book is drawn from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand participants and witnesses to these events. Nearly all allowed me to tape-record our interviews so the story could be told with more precision. When I have attributed exact quotations, thoughts or conclusions to the participants, that information comes from the person, a colleague with direct knowledge, or from meeting notes, personal diaries, files and government or personal documents.

President Trump declined to be interviewed for this book.

In early September 2017, in the eighth month of the Trump presidency, Gary Cohn, the former president of Goldman Sachs and the president’s top economic adviser in the White House, moved cautiously toward the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

In his 27 years at Goldman, Cohn, 6 foot 3, bald, brash and full of self-confidence, had made billions for his clients and hundreds of millions for himself. He had granted himself walk in privileges to Trump’s Oval Office, and the president had accepted that arrangement.

On the desk was a one-page draft letter from the president addressed to the president of South Korea, terminating the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS.

Cohn was appalled. For months Trump had threatened to withdraw from the agreement, one of the foundations of an economic relationship, a military alliance and, most important, top secret intelligence operations and capabilities.

Under a treaty dating back to the 1950s, the United States stationed 28,500 US. troops in the South and operated the most highly classified and sensitive Special Access Programs (SAP), which provided sophisticated Top Secret, codeword intelligence and military capabilities. North Korean ICBM missiles now had the capability to carry a nuclear weapon, perhaps to the American homeland. A missile from North Korea would take 38 minutes to reach Los Angeles.

These programs enabled the United States to detect an ICBM launch in North Korea within seven seconds. The equivalent capability in Alaska took 15 minutes, an astonishing time differential.

The ability to detect a launch in seven seconds would give the United States military the time to shoot down a North Korean missile. It is perhaps the most important and most secret operation in the United States government. The American presence in South Korea represents the essence of national security.

Withdrawal from the KORUS trade agreement, which South Korea deemed essential to its economy, could lead to an unraveling of the entire relationship. Cohn could not believe that President Trump would risk losing vital intelligence assets crucial to US. national security.

This all stemmed from Trump’s fury that the United States had an $18 billion annual trade deficit with South Korea and was spending $3.5 billion a year to keep U.S. troops there.

Despite almost daily reports of chaos and discord in the White House, the public did not know how bad the internal situation actually was. Trump was always shifting, rarely fixed, erratic. He would get in a bad mood, something large or small would infuriate him, and he would say about the KORUS trade agreement, “We’re withdrawing today.”

But now there was the letter, dated September 5, 2017, a potential trigger to a national security catastrophe. Cohn was worried Trump would sign the letter if he saw it.

Cohn removed the letter draft from the Resolute Desk. He placed it in a blue folder marked “KEEP.”

“I stole it off his desk,” he later told an associate. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”

In the anarchy and disorder of the White House, and Trump’s mind, the president never noticed the missing letter.

Ordinarily Rob Porter, the staff secretary and organizer of presidential paperwork, would have been responsible for producing letters like this to the South Korean president. But this time, alarmingly, the letter draft had come to Trump through an unknown channel. Staff secretary is one of the low-profile but critical roles in any White House. For months, Porter had been briefing Trump on decision memos and other presidential documents, including the most sensitive national security authorizations for military and covert CIA activities.

Porter, 6-foot-4, rail-thin, 40 years old and raised a Mormon, was one of the gray men: an organization man with little flash who had attended Harvard and Harvard Law School and been a Rhodes Scholar.

Porter later discovered there were multiple copies of the draft letter, and either Cohn or he made sure none remained on the president’s desk.

Cohn and Porter worked together to derail what they believed were Trump’s most impulsive and dangerous orders. That document and others like it just disappeared. When Trump had a draft on his desk to proofread, Cohn at times would just yank it, and the president would forget about it. But if it was on his desk, he’d sign it. “It’s not what we did for the country,” Cohn said privately. “It’s what we saved him from doing.”

It was no less than an administrative coup d’e’tat, an undermining of the will of the president of the United States and his constitutional authority.

In addition to coordinating policy decisions and schedules and running the papenwork for the president, Porter told an associate, “A third of my job was trying to react to some of the really dangerous ideas that he had and try to give him reasons to believe that maybe they weren’t such good ideas.”

Another strategy was to delay, procrastinate, cite legal restrictions. Lawyer Porter said, “But slow-walking things or not taking things up to him, or telling him rightly, not just as an excuse, but this needs to be vetted, or we need to do more process on this, or we don’t have legal counsel clearance, that happened 10 times more frequently than taking papers from his desk. It felt like we were walking along the edge of the cliff perpetually.”

There were days or weeks when the operation seemed under control and they were a couple of steps back from the edge. “Other times, we would fall over the edge, and an action would be taken. It was like you were always walking right there on the edge.”

Although Trump never mentioned the missing September 5 letter, he did not forget what he wanted to do about the trade agreement. “There were several different iterations of that letter,” Porter told an associate.

Later in an Oval Office meeting, the South Korean agreement was being heatedly debated. “I don’t care,” Trump said. “I’m tired of these arguments! I don’t want to hear about it anymore. We’re getting out of KORUS.” He started to dictate a new letter he wanted to send.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, took Trump’s words seriously. Jared, 36, was a senior White House adviser and had a self-possessed, almost aristocratic bearing. He had been married to Trump’s daughter Ivanka since 2009.

Because he was sitting closest to the president, Jared started writing down what Trump was saying, taking dictation.

Finish the letter and get it to me so I can sign it, Trump ordered him.

Jared was in the process of turning the president’s dictation into a new letter when Porter heard about it.

“Send me the draft,” he told him. “If we’re going to do this, we cannot do it on the back of a napkin. We have to write it up in a way that isn’t going to embarrass us.”

Kushner sent down a paper copy of his draft. it was not of much use. Porter and Cohn had something typed up to demonstrate they were doing what the president had asked. Trump was expecting an immediate response. They wouldn’t walk in empty-handed. The draft was part of the subterfuge.

At a formal meeting, the opponents of leaving KORUS raised all kinds of arguments, the United States had never withdrawn from a free trade agreement before; there were legal issues, geopolitical issues, vital national security and intelligence issues; the letter wasn’t ready. They smothered the president with facts and logic.

“Well, let’s keep working on the letter,” Trump said. “I want to see the next draft.”

Cohn and Porter did not prepare a next draft. So there was nothing to show the president. The issue, for the moment, disappeared in the haze of presidential decision making. Trump got busy with other things.

But the KORUS issue would not go away. Cohn spoke to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Marine general who was perhaps the most influential voice among Trump’s cabinet and staff. General Mattis, a combat veteran, had served 40 years in the Corps. At 5-foot-9 with ramrod-straight posture, he had a permanently world-weary demeanor.

“We’re teetering on the edge,” Cohn told the secretary. “We may need some backup this time.”

Mattis tried to limit his visits to the White House and stick to military business as much as possible, but realizing the urgency he came to the Oval Office.

“Mr. President,” he said, “Kim Jong Un poses the most immediate threat to our national security. We need South Korea as an ally. It may not seem like trade is related to all this, but it’s central.”

American military and intelligence assets in South Korea are the backbone of our ability to defend ourselves from North Korea. Please don’t leave the deal.

Why is the US. paying $1 billion a year for an antiballistic missile system in South Korea? Trump asked. He was furious about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system, and had threatened to pull it out of South Korea and move it to Portland, Oregon.

“We’re not doing this for South Korea,” Mattis said. “We’re helping South Korea because it helps us.”

The president seemed to acquiesce, but only for the moment.

In 2016, candidate Trump gave Bob Costa and myself his definition of the job of president: “More than anything else, it’s the security of our nation. . . . That’s number one, two and three. . . . The military, being strong, not letting bad things happen to our country from the outside. And I certainly think that’s always going to be my number-one part of that definition.”

The reality was that the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader. Members of his staff had joined to purposefully block some of what they believed were the president’s most dangerous impulses. It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.

What follows is that story.

Chapter One

In August 2010, six years before taking over Donald Trump’s winning presidential campaign, Steve Bannon, then 57 and a producer of right-wing political films, answered his phone.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” asked David Bossie, a longtime House Republican investigator and conservative activist who had chased Bill and Hillary Clinton scandals for almost two decades.

“Dude,” Bannon replied, “I’m cutting these fucking films I’m making for you.”

The 2010 midterm congressional elections were coming up. It was the height of the Tea Party movement and Republicans were showing momentum.

“Dave, we’re literally dropping two more films. I’m editing. I’m working 20 hours a day” at Citizens United, the conservative political action committee Bossie headed, to churn out his anti-Clinton films.

“Can you come with me up to New York?”

“ For what?”

“To see Donald Trump,” Bossie said.

“What about?”

“He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie said.

“Of what country?” Bannon asked.

No, seriously, Bossie insisted. He had been meeting and working with Trump for months. Trump had asked for a meeting.

“I don’t have time to jerk off, dude,” Bannon said. “Donald Trump’s never running for president. Forget it. Against Obama? Forget it. I don’t have time for fucking nonsense.”

“Don’t you want to meet him?”

“No, I have no interest in meeting him.” Trump had once given Bannon a 30-minute interview for his Sunday-aftemoon radio show, called The Victory Sessions, which Bannon had run out of Los Angeles and billed as “the thinking man’s radio show.”

“This guy’s not serious,” Bannon said.

“I think he is serious,” Bossie said. Trump was a TV celebrity and had a famous show, The Apprentice, that was number one on NBC some weeks. “There’s no downside for us to go and meet with him.”

Bannon finally agreed to go to New York City to Trump Tower.

They rode up to the 26th floor conference room. Trump greeted them warmly, and Bossie said he had a detailed presentation. It was a tutorial.

The first part, he said, lays out how to run in a Republican primary and win. The second part explains how to run for president of the United States against Barack Obama. He described standard polling strategies and discussed process and issues. Bossie was a traditional, limited-government conservative and had been caught by surprise by the Tea Party movement.

It was an important moment in American politics, Bossie said, and Tea Party populism was sweeping the country. The little guy was getting his voice. Populism was a grassroots movement to disrupt the political status quo in favor of everyday people.

“I’m a business guy,” Trump reminded them. “I’m not a professional ladder-climber in politics.”

“If you’re going to run for president,” Bossie said, “you have to know lots of little things and lots of big things.” The little things were filing deadlines, the state rules for primaries, minutiae. “You have to know the policy side, and how to win delegates.” But first, he said, “you need to understand the conservative movement.”

Trump nodded.

“You’ve got some problems on issues,” Bossie said.

“I don’t have any problems on issues,” Trump said. “What are you talking about?”

“First off, there’s never been a guy win a Republican primary that’s not pro-life,” Bossie said. “And unfortunately, you’re very pro-choice.”

“What does that mean?”

“You have a record of giving to the abortion guys, the pro-choice candidates. You’ve made statements. You’ve got to be pro-life, against abortion.”

“I’m against abortion,” Trump said. “I’m pro-life.”

“Well, you’ve got a track record.”

“That can be fixed,” Trump said. “You just tell me how to fix that. I’m-what do you call it? Pro-life. I’m pro-life, I’m telling you.”

Bannon was impressed with the Showmanship, and increasingly so as Trump talked. Trump was engaged and quick. He was in great physical shape. His presence was bigger than the man, and took over the room, a command presence. He had something. He was also like a guy in a bar talking to the TV. Street-smart, from Queens. In Bannon’s evaluation, Trump was Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.

“The second big thing,” Bossie said, “is your voting record.”

“What do you mean, my voting record?” “About how often you vote.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well,” Bossie said, “this is a Republican primary.”

“I vote every time,” Trump said confidently. “I’ve voted every time since I was 18, 20 years old.”

“That’s actually not correct. You know there’s a public record of your vote.” Bossie, the congressional investigator, had a stack of records.

“They don’t know how I vote.”

“No, no, no, not how you vote. How often you vote.”

Bannon realized that Trump did not know the most rudimentary business of politics.

“I voted every time,” Trump insisted.

“Actually you’ve never voted in a primary except once in your entire life,” Bossie said, citing the record.

“That’s a fucking lie,” Trump said. “That’s a total lie. Every time I get to vote, I voted.”

“You only voted in one primary,” Bossie said. “It was like in 1988 or something, in the Republican primary.”

“You’re right,” Trump said, pivoting 180 degrees, not missing a beat. “That was for Rudy.” Giuliani ran for mayor in a primary in 1989. “Is that in there?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll get over that,” Trump said.

“Maybe none of these things matter,” Bossie said, “but maybe they do. If you’re going to move forward, you have to be methodical.”

Bannon was up next. He turned to what was driving the Tea Party, which didn’t like the elites. Populism was for the common man, knowing the system is rigged. It was against crony capitalism and insider deals which were bleeding the workers.

“I love that. That’s what I am,” Trump said, “a popularist.” He mangled the word.

“No, no,” Bannon said. “It’s populist.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Trump insisted. “A popularist.”

Bannon gave up. At first he thought Trump did not understand the word. But perhaps Trump meant it in his own way, being popular with the people. Bannon knew popularist was an earlier British form of the word “populist” for the nonintellectual general public.

An hour into the meeting, Bossie said, “We have another big issue.”

“What’s that?” Trump asked, seeming a little more wary.

“Well,” he said, “80 percent of the donations that you’ve given have been to Democrats.” To Bossie that was Trump’s biggest political liability, though he didn’t say so.

“That’s bullshit!”

“There’s public records,” Bossie said.

“There’s records of that!” Trump said in utter astonishment.

“Every donation you’ve ever given.” Public disclosure of all political giving was standard.

“I’m always even,” Trump said. He divided his donations to candidates from both parties, he said.

“You actually give quite a bit. But it’s 80 percent Democratic. Chicago, Atlantic City . . .”

“I’ve got to do that,” Trump said. “All these fucking Democrats run all the cities. You’ve got to build hotels. You’ve got to grease them. Those are people who came to me.”

“Listen,” Bannon said, “here’s what Dave’s trying to say. Running as a Tea Party guy, the problem is that’s what they are complaining about. That it’s guys like you that have inside deals.”

“I’ll get over that,” Trump said. “It’s all rigged. It’s a rigged system. These guys have been shaking me down for years. I don’t want to give. They all walk in. If you don’t write a check . . .”

There was a pol in Queens, Trump said, “an old guy with a baseball bat. You go in there and you’ve got to give him something, normally in cash. If you don’t give him anything, nothing gets done. Nothing gets built. But if you take it in there and you leave him an envelope, it happens. That’s just the way it is. But I can fix that.”

Bossie said he had a roadmap. “It’s the conservative movement. Tea Party comes and goes. Populism comes and goes. The conservative movement has been a bedrock since Goldwater.”

Second, he said, I would recommend you run as if you are running for governor in three states, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. They were the first three caucus or primary states. “Run and sound local, like you want to be their governor.” A lot of candidates made the huge mistake of trying to run in 27 states. “Run three governor’s races, and you’ll have a really good shot. Focus on three. Do well in three. And the others will come.”

“I can be the nominee,” Trump said. “I can beat these guys. I don’t care who they are. I got this. I can take care of these other things.”

Each position could be revisited, renegotiated.

“I’m pro-life,” Trump said. “I’m going to start.”

“Here’s what you’re going to need to do,” Bossie said. “You’re going to need to write between $250,000 and $500,000 worth of individual checks to congressmen and senators. They’ll all come up here. Look them in the eye, shake their hand. You’re going to give them a check. Because we need some markers. You’ve got to do one-on-ones so these guys know. Because later on, that’ll be at least an entry point that you’re building relationships.”

Bossie continued, “Saying, this check is for you. For $2,400”, the maximum amount. “It’s got to be individual checks, hard money, to their campaign so they know it’s coming from you personally. Republicans now know that you’re going to be serious about this.”

All the money, Bossie said, was central to the art of presidential politics. “Later that’s going to pay huge dividends.” Give to Republican candidates in a handful of battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida.

In addition, Bossie said, “You’re going to have to do a policy book. You ought to do a book about what you think about America and these policies.”

Bannon gave an extended brief on China and its successful efforts to take jobs and money from the United States. He was obsessed with the threat.

“What do you think?” Bossie later asked Bannon.

“I’m pretty impressed with the guy,” Bannon said. As for running for president, “Zero chance. First off, those two action items. The fucker will not write one check. He’s not a guy who writes checks. He signs the back of checks” when they come in as payments to him. “It was good you said that because he’ll never write a check.”

“What about the policy book?”

“He’ll never do a policy book. Give me a fucking break. First off, nobody will buy it. It was a waste of time except for the fact that it was insanely entertaining.”

Bossie said he was trying to prepare Trump if he ever did decide to run. Trump had a unique asset: He was totally removed from the political process.

As they walked on, Bossie found himself going through a mental exercise, one that six years later most Americans would go through. He’ll never run. He’ll never file. He’ll never announce. He’ll never file his financial disclosure statement. Right? He’ll never do any of those things. He’ll never win.

“You think he’s going to run?” Bossie finally asked Bannon.

“Not a chance. Zero chance,” Bannon repeated.

“Less than zero. Look at the fucking life he’s got, dude. Come on. He’s not going to do this. Get his face ripped off.”

Chapter Two

Six Years Later

It is almost certain that if events had not unfolded in the following unlikely, haphazard, careless way, the world would be vastly different today. Donald Trump accepted the Republican nomination on July 21, 2016, and his quest for the presidency took a significant turn early the morning of Saturday, August 13, 2016.

Steve Bannon, now the chief of the right-wing Breitbart News operation, sat on a bench in Bryant Park in New York City and huddled with his newspapers, his Saturday ritual. He first thumbed through the Financial Times and then moved to The New York Times.

“The Failing Inside Mission to Tame Trump’s Tongue,” read the headline on the Times front page. The presidential election was three months away.

“Oh, my God,” Bannon thought.

The first act of the Bannon drama is his appearance, the old military field jacket over multiple tennis polo shirts. The second act is his demeanor, aggressive, certain and loud.

The reporters of the Times story said they had 20 Republican unnamed sources close to Trump or in communication with his campaign. The article painted Trump as bewildered, exhausted, sullen, gaffe-prone and in trouble with donors. He was in precarious condition in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, battleground states that would decide the election. It was an ugly portrait, and Bannon knew it was all true. He calculated that Trump could lose to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by perhaps as many as 20 points, certainly double digits.

Trump was a media spectacle for sure, but he still had no operation beyond what the Republican National Committee had supplied. Bannon knew the Trump campaign was a few people in a room, a speechwriter, and an advance team of about six people that scheduled rallies in the cheapest venues, often old, washed-out sports or hockey arenas around the country.

Despite that, Trump had won the Republican nomination over 16 others and was a big, profane, subversive presence, out front seizing the nation’s attention.

Bannon, now 63 years old and a Harvard Business School graduate with fervently nationalistic, America first views, called Rebekah Mercer.

Mercer and her family were one of the biggest and most controversial sources of campaign money in the Republican Party and money was the engine of American politics, especially in the Republican Party. The Mercers were a bit on the fringe but their money bought them a place at the table. They also had an ownership stake in Breitbart.

“This is bad because we’re going to get blamed for this,” Bannon told Mercer. Breitbart had stood by Trump in his darker hours. “This is going to be the end of Breitbart.”

“Why don’t you step in?” Rebekah said.

“I’ve never run a campaign in my life, Bannon replied. Not even close. The idea was preposterous.

“This guy Manafort’s a disaster,” she said, referring to the Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort. “Nobody’s running the campaign now. Trump listens to you. He’s always looking for adult supervision.”

“Look,” Bannon said, “I’ll do it in a second. But why would he do that?”

“He’s been an outsider the entire time,” she said, and mentioned the New York Times article. “This thing’s in panic mode.” In short, Trump might hire Bannon because he was desperate.

The Mercers contacted Trump, who was going to be at the East Hampton, Long Island, home of Woody Johnson, the New York Jets owner, for a fundraiser. Normally the Mercers wrote the checks and said they didn’t even need to see the candidate. This time they wanted 10 minutes with Trump.

In a small sunroom, Rebekah, a tall redhead, let loose. Her father, Bob Mercer, a high-IQ mathematician, barely talked. He was one of the brains behind a fabulously successful hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, that managed $50 billion.

“Manafort has got to go,” she told Trump. She said it was chaos.

“What do you recommend?” Trump asked.

“Steve Bannon will come in,” she said.

“He’ll never do it.”

He “definitely” would, she answered.

Bannon reached Trump that night. “This thing is embarrassing in the paper,” Bannon said, referring to the New York Times piece. “You’re better than this. We can win this. We should be winning this. It’s Hillary Clinton, for God’s sake.”

Trump went off on Manafort. “He’s a stiff,” he said. He can’t do TV effectively.

“Let’s meet tomorrow and put this thing together. We can do this,” Bannon gushed. “But let’s keep it totally quiet.”

Trump agreed to meet the next morning, Sunday.

Another worried political figure that day was Reince Priebus, the 44-year-old chairman of the Republican National Committee, and a Wisconsin lawyer. Priebus had been Mr. Outreach and Mr. Networker in his five years as chairman. His cheery demeanor masked an empire builder. Priebus made the party’s finance decisions, hired the field staff of 6,500 paid workers, appeared on TV regularly and had his own communications operation. He was in an awkward position.

Privately, Priebus viewed the month of August as a catastrophe. “A constant heat lamp that wouldn’t go away.” And the person responsible was candidate Trump.

Priebus had tried to navigate the campaign from the beginning. When Trump called Mexicans “rapists” in the speech announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, Priebus called him and said, “You can’t talk like that. We’ve been working really hard to win over Hispanics.”

Trump would not tone it down, and he attacked anyone who attacked him. No national party chairman had ever dealt with a headache quite like Trump.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the wily Republican majority leader, had called Priebus confidentially. His message: Forget Trump, divert Republican money to us, the Senate candidates, and shut off the money faucet to Donald Trump.

But Priebus wanted to preserve a relationship with Trump, and he decided to plant himself firmly in the middle between Trump and McConnell. It was tactically sound, he thought. Survival for the party and him. He had told Trump, “I’m with you 100 percent. I love you. I’m going to keep working for you. But I have to protect the party. I have a responsibility that’s different than just you.”

Priebus had agreed to come out and campaign with Trump and introduce him at rallies. He saw it as extending a hand to a drowning man.

The Times article about the failure to tame Trump was a jolt. “Holy shit!” Priebus thought. This is really bad stuff.” The campaign was falling apart. “It wasn’t a campaign,” he had concluded. “They were a joke.”

There was so much talking in the Times article that Priebus realized the 20 sources were either trying to sabotage the campaign or, as usual, make themselves look good.

Perilous times, maybe the worst, for Trump and the party, Priebus thought. There was only one path forward: escalation on all fronts. Maximize aggression to conceal vital weakness.

That Sunday morning, Steve Bannon arrived at Trump Tower in Manhattan and told security he had a meeting with Mr. Trump.

“That’s terrific,” the security guard said. “He’s never here on weekends.”

Bannon phoned Trump.

“Hey,” the candidate explained, “I’m in Bedminster”, where Trump National Golf Club was located. “Since you’re not here, I’ll go play golf. Come out here, we’re having lunch. Be here, like, one o’clock.”

He proceeded to give detailed instructions for the drive 40 miles west of New York City.

“1’“ find it,” Bannon said.

No, turn right on Rattlesnake Bridge Road, then take a right for about a mile.

“I’ll find it. It’s your Trump National.”

No, Trump persisted, you’ve got to understand. Trump provided full driving instructions with more detail than Bannon had ever heard him give on anything.

Bannon had a driver take him to Bedminster to arrive at noon to make sure he was on time. Inside the clubhouse, he was shown to a table set for five.

You’re early, said someone from the staff. The others won’t be here until 1 pm.

The others? Bannon asked.

Roger Ailes, Governor Chris Christie and “the Mayor”, Rudy Giuliani-also were attending.

Bannon was pissed. He was not there to audition in front of anyone. He and Trump had agreed, made a deal which should not be reviewable.

Ailes, the founder and head of Fox News and longtime Republican political operative, going back to Richard Nixon, came in first. He had been a mentor to Bannon.

“What the fuck?” Ailes said, and launched into a criticism of the campaign.

“How bad are the numbers?” Bannon asked.

“This is going to be a blowout.”

“I talked to Trump last night,” Bannon said. “The Mercers talked to him. I’m supposed to be coming in and taking over the campaign, but don’t tell the other two guys that.”

“What the fuck?” Ailes said again. “You don’t know anything about campaigns.” It was out of the question.

“I know, but anybody could get more organized than this thing is.”

Though Bannon had known Ailes for years, he would not appear on Ailes’s Fox News network.

Bannon once said, “I’ve never been on Fox because I didn’t want to be beholden to him. . . . Never be beholden to Roger or he fucking owns you.”

This contrasted sharply with his relationship to Trump, who, in his view, was a supplicant. Trump had appeared on a series of Breitbart News Daily radio interviews with Bannon on SiriusXM between November 2015 and June 2016.

Ailes said they were there for their weekly debate prep. The first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton was a month and a half away, on September 26.

“Debate prep?” Bannon said. “You, Christie and Rudy?”

“This is the second one.”

“He’s actually prepping for the debates?” Bannon said, suddenly impressed.

“No, he comes and plays golf and we just talk about the campaign and stuff like that. But we’re trying to get him in the habit.”

Campaign manager Paul Manafort walked in.

Bannon, who regularly called himself “a fire-breathing populist,” was disgusted. Manafort was dressed in what could pass for yachting attire, with a kerchief. Live from Southampton!

Trump arrived and sat down. Hot dogs and hamburgers were laid out. The fantasy diet of an 11year-old kid, Bannon thought, as Trump wolfed down two hot dogs.

Citing the New York Times story about the failure to tame his tongue, Trump asked Manafort how such an article could appear. It was one of Trump’s paradoxes: He attacked the mainstream media with relish, especially the Times, but despite the full-takedown language, he considered the Times the paper of record and largely believed its stories.

“Paul, am I a baby?” Trump asked Manafort. “Is that what you are saying, I’m a baby? You’re terrible on TV. You’ve got no energy. You don’t represent the campaign. I’ve told you nicely. You’re never going on TV again.”

“Donald . . .,” Manafort tried to respond.

Bannon suspected this familiar, first-name, peer-to-peer talk irked Trump.

“One thing you’ve got to understand, Mr. Trump,” Bannon said, “the story had a lot of these unnamed sources, we don’t know the veracity.”

“No, I can tell,” Trump replied, directing his fire at Manafort. “They’re leakers.” He knew the quotes were true.

“A lot of this is not for attribution,” Bannon said. No one by name, all hiding. “The New York Times is, it’s all fucking lies. Come on, this is all bullshit,” Bannon continued his full-body, opposition-party pitch, though he knew the story was true.

Trump wasn’t buying it. The story was gospel, and the campaign was full of leakers. The assassination of Manafort continued for a while. Trump turned to a few war stories for half an hour. Manafort left.

“Stick around,” Trump told Bannon. “This thing’s so terrible. It’s so out of control. This guy’s such a loser. He’s really not running the campaign. I only brought him in to get me through the convention.”

“Don’t worry about any of these numbers,” Bannon said. “Don’t worry about the 12 to 16 points, whatever the poll is. Don’t worry about the battleground states. It’s very simple.” Two thirds of the country thinks we’re on the wrong track, and 75 percent of the country thinks we’re in decline, he argued. That set the stage for a change agent. Hillary was the past. It was that clear.

In a way, Bannon had been waiting all his adult life for this moment. “Here’s the difference,” he explained. “We’re just going to compare and contrast Clinton.

Here’s the thing you’ve got to remember,” he said, and recited one of his mantras: “The elites in the country are comfortable with managing the decline. Right?”

Trump nodded agreement.

“And the working people in the country are not. They do want to make America great again. We’re going to simplify this campaign. She is the tribune of a corrupt and incompetent status quo of elites who are comfortable managing the decline. You’re the tribune of the forgotten man who wants to make America great again. And we’re just going to do it in a couple of themes.

“Number one,” Bannon went on, “we’re going to stop mass illegal immigration and start to limit legal immigration to get our sovereignty back. Number two, you are going to bring manufacturing jobs back to the country. And number three, we’re going to get out of these pointless foreign wars.”

These weren’t new ideas for Trump. In an August 8 speech to the Detroit Economic Club a week before, he had sounded all these notes and hammered Clinton. “She is the candidate of the past. Ours is the campaign of the future.”

“Those are the three big themes that she can’t defend against,” Bannon said. “She’s part of the thing that opened the borders, she’s part of the thing that cut the bad trade deals and let the jobs go to China, and she’s the neocon. Right?”

Trump seemed to agree that Hillary was a neoconservative.

“She’s supported every war out there,” Bannon said. “We’re just going to hammer. That’s it. Just stick to that.”

Bannon added that Trump had another advantage. He spoke in a voice that did not sound political. This was what Barack Obama had in 2008 in the primary contest against Clinton, who spoke like the trained politician she was. Her tempo was overly practiced. Even when telling the truth, she sounded like she was lying to you.

Politicians like Hillary can’t talk naturally, Bannon said. It was a mechanical way of speaking, right out of the polling and focus groups, answering the questions in political speak. It was soothing, not jarring, not from the heart or from deep conviction, but from some highly paid consultant’s talking points, not angry.

Trump said okay, you become the Chief Executive Officer of the campaign.

“I don’t want some big brouhaha story about palace intrigue,” Bannon said. “Let’s keep Manafort in as chairman. He’ll have no authority. Let me manage that.”

They agreed that Kellyanne Conway, a feisty, outspoken Republican pollster who was already helping the campaign, would be designated campaign manager.

“We’re going to put her on television every day as the female friendly face on the thing,” Bannon proposed. “Because Kellyanne is a warrior. And she’ll just take incoming. But people like her. And that’s what we need is likability.”

In a moment of self-awareness, he added, “I’ll never be on TV.”

Conway had never run a campaign either. That made three of them, the shiny neophyte candidate, the campaign CEO and the campaign manager.

Kellyanne Conway was supervising the filming of some campaign ads that month.

“Am I paying for these people?” Trump asked her.

He complained about the camera setup. The equipment seemed old and he didn’t like the lighting.

The shoot wasn’t high-definition (HD). He groused about the camera crew. “Tell them I’m not going to pay.” It was a standard line.

Later he said, “I want everyone to leave except Kellyanne.”

“Everybody tells me that I’m a much better candidate than Hillary Clinton,” he said, half-asking for her evaluation.

“Well, yes, sir. No poll necessary.” But they could do some things different. “You’re running against the most joyless candidate in presidential history. And it’s starting to feel like we are that way as well.”

“No we’re not.”

“It just feels that way. I used to watch you during the primaries, and you seemed much happier.”

“I miss the days when it was just a few of us flying around doing the rallies, meeting the voters,” Trump said.

“Those days are gone,” she acknowledged. “But in fairness to you, we should be able to replicate them to a general election strategy and process that allows you to maximize those skills and the enjoyment.”

She took a stab at candor. “You know you’re losing? But you don’t have to. I’ve looked at the polls.” CNN that day had him down five to 10 points. “There’s a path back?

“What is it?”

She beiieved that he had done something without realizing it. “This fiction of electability that was sucking the lifeblood out of the Republican Party,” that somehow he could not win and was not electable.

The voters were disillusioned with Republican presidential nominees. These arguments went, “You have to get behind Mitt Romney. He’s the only one who can win. You have to support John McCain. He can win. Jeb can win. Marco can win. This one,” Trump, you, “can’t win. The people decided. I will not be fooled again,” and he had won the Republican nomination.

“You get these massive crowds where you have not erected a traditional political campaign. You have built a movement. And people feel like they’re part of it. They paid no admission. I can tell you what I see in the polling. We have two major impediments.” She said they should never do national polling, ever. “That is the foolishness of the media,” which did national polls. Winning obviously was all about the electoral college, getting the 270 electoral votes. They needed to target the right states, the roughly eight battleground states.

“People want specifics,” Conway said. It had been great when Trump released his 10-point Veterans Administration reform plan in July, or a planned fivepoint tax reform plan. “People want those kinds of specifics, but they need them repeated again and again.

“The second vulnerability I see is people want to make sure you can actually make good on your promises. Because if you can’t deliver, if the businessman can’t execute and deliver, you’re just another politician. And that’s who you’re not.”

It was a sales pitch, a path forward that Trump seemed to embrace.

“Do you think you can run this thing?” he asked.

*

from

FEAR. Trump in the White House

by Bob Woodward

get it at Amazon.com

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.

*

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.

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

“By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis” Inspired by Trump, the world could be heading back to the 1930s – Jonathan Freedland.

The US president tears children from parents, and in Europe his imitators dehumanise migrants. We know where such hatred leads.

“Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

‘Where’s my seven-year-old? This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

You’ll remember Godwin’s law, which holds that the longer an online debate goes on, the likelier it is that someone will mention Hitler or the Nazis. It was an amusing observation and one that served a useful purpose, guarding against hyperbole and fatuous comparison. Except last August, as the American far right staged a torchlight parade in Charlottesville, Mike Godwin suspended his own law. “By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis,” he tweeted. “Again and again. I’m with you.”

Despite that dispensation, I’ve tended to abide by my own version of Godwin’s law. I try to avoid Nazi comparisons, chiefly because they’re almost always wrong and because, far from dramatising whatever horror is under way, they usually serve to minimise the one that killed millions in the 1940s. And yet, there’s a cost to such self-restraint. Because if the Nazi era is placed off limits, seen as so far outside the realm of regular human experience that it might as well have happened on a distant planet Planet Auschwitz then we risk failure to learn its lessons. That would be to squander the essential benefit offered by study of the Third Reich: an early warning system.

So yes, when Donald Trump ordered US government agents on the southern border to separate migrant children from their parents, to tear screaming toddlers from their fathers and even to pull a baby from its mother’s breast, he was not re-enacting the Holocaust. He was not ordering the eradication of an entire people or sending millions to their deaths.

But there were echoes. And we must hear them.

For one, there’s the elemental act of separation itself. If you interview survivors of the Holocaust, one thing you notice is that even those who’ve grown used to describing events of the most extraordinary cruelty, and who can do so without shedding a tear, often struggle when they recall the moment they were parted from a parent. Mostly now in their 80s or older, they are taken back to that moment of childhood terror, one that never leaves them.

The parents ripped from those 2,300 children on the Mexican border were not led off to be murdered. But there are grounds to believe they may never again see their sons or daughters, some of whom were sent thousands of miles away. There is no system in place to reunite them. The children were not properly registered. How can a two-year-old who speaks no English explain who she is? Eighty years from now, perhaps, old men and women will sob as they recall the mother taken from them by uniformed agents of the US government, never to be seen again.

But the echoes don’t end there. The wire cages. The guards telling weeping children they are forbidden from hugging each other. And then this chilling detail, reported by Texas Monthly. It turns out that US border guards don’t always tell parents they’re taking their children away. “Instead, the officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ The child goes off, and in a half-hour, 20 minutes, the parent inquires, ‘Where is my flve year old?’ ‘Where’s my seven-year-old?’

‘This is a long bath.’ And the officer says, ‘You won’t be seeing your child again?” It’s not the same as telling Jews about to die they are merely taking a shower, but in the use of deception the echo is loud.

And if the mechanics of this operation strike a familiar note, so too does the rhetoric and propaganda deployed by those behind it and defending it. You don’t have to go to back to 1930s Germany to know that the first step towards catastrophe is the dehumanisation of a reviled group. It happened that way in Rwanda and the Balkans in the 1990s, and it’s happening in today’s United States. “These aren’t people, these are animals,” the US president said last month.

They want “to pour into and infest our country”, he tweeted this week. “Infest” is a word reserved for rats and insects. This is the language of those seeking to choke off human sympathy, by suggesting those suffering are not even human.

Trump’s defenders reinforce the message. It was a jolt to see Steve Hilton, one time shoeless guru of David Cameron’s Downing Street, now reinvented as a Fox News host, grinning away as pundit Ann Coulter called the crying infants “child actors”. Her message was repeated on Fox by Nigel Farage, who similarly urged Trumb not to be swayed by the “screams coming from the liberal media” and to “stay tough”.

Farage is a reminder that this phenomenon is not confined to the US. Referring to refugees, Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, has called for a purification, or perhaps a cleansing, of his country, “neighbourhood by neighbourhood, street by street”. His plan is to draw up a register of Roma living in Italy. Those with Italian citizenship, “we’ll have to keep, unfortunately”, he said.

The signs are there, if only we can bear to look. Something is happening to our world. Others have noted the way the post-1945 global architecture is beginning to crumble, as Trump undermines the western alliance in favour of authoritarian tyrannies. But the postwar order is unravelling in another, more insidious way too.

Put starkly:

The norms and taboos established after the world witnessed the Holocaust are eroding before our eyes. For 70-odd years, roughly the span of a human life, they endured, keeping the lid on the darker impulses that, we had seen, lurked within all of us.

It steadily became taboo to voice undiluted racism and xenophobia. Those fears, those loathings of the stranger, never went away, of course. But they were held in Check, partly by the knowledge of where such hatred, unrestrained, could lead.

Now, in the US, Italy, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere, the restraints are off. There even seems to be a macho thrill in breaking the taboo, in echoing the words and deeds of that darkest era in human history. It’s as if the boundaries that were drawn after 1945, demarcating acceptable human behaviour, were mere lines in the sand and now the tide is coming in.

It doesn’t happen overnight. It happens bit by bit, word by word, each step taking us lower into the pit. It’s why every one of us has to fight today’s horror. Because if we don’t, who knows what terrors lie ahead?

A Higher Loyalty. Truth Lies and Leadership – James Comey.

Who am I to tell others what ethical leadership is? Anyone claiming to write a book about ethical leadership can come across as presumptuous, even sanctimonious. All the more so if that author happens to be someone who was quite memorably and publicly fired from his last job.

I understand the impulse to think that any book written about one’s life experience can be an exercise in vanity, which is why I long resisted the idea of writing a book of my own. But I changed my mind for an important reason. We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized, and unethical behavior is ignored, excused, or rewarded. This is not just happening in our nation’s capital, and not just in the United States. It is a troubling trend that has touched institutions across America and around the world, boardrooms of major companies, newsrooms, university campuses, the entertainment industry, and professional and Olympic sports. For some of the crooks, liars, and abusers, there has been a reckoning. For others, there remain excuses, justifications, and a stubborn willingness by those around them to look the other way or even enable the bad behavior.

So if there ever was a time when an examination of ethical leadership would be useful, it is now. Although I am no expert, I have studied, read, and thought about ethical leadership since I was a college student and struggled for decades with how to practice it. No perfect leader is available to offer those lessons, so it falls to the rest of us who care about such things to drive the conversation and challenge ourselves and our leaders to do better.

Ethical leaders do not run from criticism, especially self-criticism, and they don’t hide from uncomfortable questions. They welcome them. All people have flaws and I have many. Some of mine, as you’ll discover in this book, are that I can be stubborn, prideful, overconfident, and driven by ego. I’ve struggled with those my whole life. There are plenty of moments I look back on and wish I had done things differently, and a few that I am downright embarrassed by. Most of us have those moments. The important thing is that we learn from them and hopefully do better.

I don’t love criticism, but I know I can be wrong, even when I am certain I am right. Listening to others who disagree with me and are willing to criticize me is essential to piercing the seduction of certainty. Doubt, I’ve learned, is wisdom. And the older I get, the less I know for certain. Those leaders who never think they are wrong, who never question their judgments or perspectives, are a danger to the organizations and people they lead. In some cases, they are a danger to the nation and the world.

I have learned that ethical leaders lead by seeing beyond the short-term, beyond the urgent, and take every action with a view toward lasting values. They might find their values in a religious tradition or a moral worldview or even an appreciation of history. But those values, like truth, integrity, and respect for others, to name just a few, serve as external reference points for ethical leaders to make decisions, especially hard decisions in which there is no easy or good option. Those values are more important than what may pass for prevailing wisdom or the groupthink of a tribe. Those values are more important than the impulses of the bosses above them and the passions of the employees below them. They are more important than the organization’s profitability and bottom line.

Ethical leaders choose a higher loyalty to those core values over their own personal gain.

Ethical leadership is also about understanding the truth about humans and our need for meaning. It is about building workplaces where standards are high and fear is low. Those are the kinds of cultures where people will feel comfortable speaking the truth to others as they seek excellence in themselves and the people around them.

Without a fundamental commitment to the truth-especially in our public institutions and those who lead them-we are lost. As a legal principle, if people don’t tell the truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law begins to dissolve. As a leadership principle, if leaders don’t tell the truth, or won’t hear the truth from others, they cannot make good decisions, they cannot themselves improve, and they cannot inspire trust among those who follow them.

The good news is that integrity and truthtelling can be modeled in powerful ways, shaping cultures of honesty, openness, and transparency. Ethical leaders can mold a culture by their words and, more important, by their actions, because they are always being watched. Unfortunately, the inverse is also true. Dishonest leaders have the same ability to shape a culture, by showing their people dishonesty, corruption, and deception. A commitment to integrity and a higher loyalty to truth are what separate the ethical leader from those who just happen to occupy leadership roles. We cannot ignore the difference.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the title of this book. In one sense, it came out of a bizarre dinner meeting at the White House, where a new president of the United States demanded my loyalty to him, personally over my duties as FBI director to the American people. But in another, deeper sense, the title is the culmination of four decades in law, as a federal prosecutor, business lawyer, and working closely with three U.S. presidents. In all those jobs, I learned from those around me and tried to pass on to those I worked with that there is a higher loyalty in all of our lives, not to a person, not to a party, not to a group. The higher loyalty is to lasting values, most important the truth. I hope this book is useful in stimulating all of us to think about the values that sustain us, and to search for leadership that embodies those values.


Introduction

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Reinhold Niebuhr

THERE ARE TEN BLOCKS between FBI headquarters and Capitol Hill, and each of them is fixed in my memory from countless shuttle missions up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Riding past the National Archives, where tourists were lined up to see America’s documents, the New serum, with the words of the First Amendment carved into its stone front, and the T-shirt vendors and food trucks had become something of a ritual.

It was February 2017, and I was in the back row of a fully armored black FBI Suburban. The middle row of seats had been removed, so I sat in one of the two seats in the back. I had gotten used to watching the world pass by through the small dark bulletproof side windows. I was on the way to yet another classified congressional briefing on the 2016 Russian election interference.

Appearing in front of members of Congress was difficult on a good day, and usually disheartening. Nearly everyone appeared to take a side and seemed to listen only to find the nuggets that fit their desired spin. They would argue with each other through you: “Mr. Director, if someone said X, wouldn’t that person be an idiot?” And the reply would come through you as well: “Mr. Director, if someone said that someone who said X was an idiot, wouldn’t that person be the real idiot?”

When the subject involved the most contentious election in memory, the discussion in the immediate aftermath was even more vicious, with few willing, or able, to put aside their political interests to focus on the truth. Republicans wanted to be assured that the Russians hadn’t elected Donald Trump. Democrats, still reeling from the election results weeks before, wanted the opposite. There was little common ground. It was like having Thanksgiving dinner with a family eating together by court order.

The FBI, with me as its director, was caught in the middle of the partisan bile. This was not really new. We had been sucked into the election starting in July 2015, when our seasoned professionals at the FBI began a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information on her personal email system. It was a time when even using the terms “criminal” and “investigation” was a source of needless controversy. A year later, in July 2016, we began an investigation into whether there was a massive Russian effort to influence the presidential vote by hurting Clinton and helping elect Donald Trump.

This was an unfortunate, if unavoidable, situation for the Bureau. Though it is part of the Executive Branch, the FBI is meant to stand apart from politics in American life. Its mission is to find the truth. To do that, the FBI can’t be on anyone’s side except the country’s. Of course, members of the Bureau may have their own private political views, like anybody else, but when its people rise in a courtroom or in Congress to report what they have found, they can’t be seen as Republicans or Democrats or part of anyone’s tribe. Forty years ago, Congress created a ten-year term for the FBI director to reinforce that independence. But in a capital city, and a country, torn by partisan conflict, the FBI’s separateness was both alien and confusing, and constantly tested. This placed an enormous strain on career professionals in the agency, especially as their motives were routinely being questioned.

I glanced over at Greg Brower, the FBI’s new head of congressional affairs, who was riding to the Hill with me. Greg was a fiftythree-year-old Nevadan with salt-and-pepper hair. We had hired him from a law firm. Prior to that, he had been the chief federal prosecutor in Nevada and also an elected state legislator. He knew the business of law enforcement and also the challenging and very different business of politics. His job was to represent the FBI in the shark tank of Congress.

But Brower hadn’t signed up for this kind of turmoil, which only grew after the shocking result of the 2016 election. Greg hadn’t been part of the Bureau for long, so I was worried this craziness and stress might be getting to him. I half wondered whether he might fling open the door of the Suburban and head for the hills. At a younger age, with fewer turns at the witness table in Congress, I might have considered exactly the same thing. As I looked at him, I assumed he was thinking what I was thinking: How did I end up here?

I could see that worry on Brower’s face, so I broke the silence.

“HOW GREAT IS THIS?” I said in a booming voice that no doubt caught the attention of the agents in the front seats.

Brower looked at me.

“We’re in the SHIT,” I said.

Now he seemed confused. Did the FBI director just say “shit”?

Yup, I had.

“We’re waist deep in the shit,” I added with an exaggerated smile, holding my arms out to show just how deep it was. “Where else would you want to be?” Mangling the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare, I added, “People abed in England tonight will wish they were here.”

He laughed and visibly lightened. I lightened, too. Although I’m sure the thought of leaping from the speeding car still crossed Greg’s mind, the tension was broken. We took a breath together. For a moment, we were two people on a road trip. Everything was going to be okay.

Then the moment passed, and we pulled up to the U.S. Capitol to talk about Putin and Trump and collusion allegations and secret dossiers and who knew what else. It was just another high-pressure moment in what was one of the craziest, most consequential, and even educational periods of my, and, some might say, the country’s, life.

And more than once I found myself thinking that same question: How on earth did I end up here?


Chapter 1

THE LIFE

To not think of dying, is to not think of living. Jann Arden.

THE LIFE BEGINS with a lie.

In 1992, I was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York City, and those were the words I heard from a senior member of one of the most notorious crime families in the United States.

Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano was the highest ranking American mobster ever to become a federal witness. He’d flipped to avoid a life sentence in jail, and also because he had heard government tapes in which his boss, John Gotti, said bad things about him behind his back. Now in our custody, Gravano introduced me to the rules of Mafia life.

Membership in La Cosa Nostra-“this thing of ours”, became official only after an oath taken in a secret ceremony in front of the boss, underboss, and consigliere of the family. After the ceremony, the criminal would be known as a “made man.” The first question of the secret initiation was “Do you know why you are here?” The chosen one was required to answer “No,” despite the fact that, as Gravano explained, only an idiot wouldn’t know why the leaders of the family were gathered with him in the basement of some nightclub.

For nearly two decades, the leaders of the American Mafia agreed there would be no new members. In 1957, they “closed the books”, a term reflecting that the process involved the actual sharing of paper among the Mafia families containing the aliases and real names of their members, because of serious concerns about quality control and penetration by informants. But in 1976 they agreed that each family could make ten new members and then the books would be closed again, with new members only admitted to replace those who died. For each family these ten were the most hardened allstar gangsters who had been frozen out for years. Gravano came into the Mafia as part of that “super class.”

Inducting ten new members after so long a shutdown obviously put burdens on the criminal enterprise. In a typical induction ceremony, an initiate is expected to hold in his cupped hands a flaming picture of a Catholic saint, stained with blood dripped from his trigger finger, and recite, “My soul should burn like this saint if I ever betray Cosa Nostra.” Gravano recalled that when they reached the dramatic conclusion of his ceremony, he was forced to recite those words while holding a flaming bloodstained tissue instead. The Gambino family hadn’t bothered to get enough saint pictures to burn.

Gravano’s induction ceremony not only began with lies, it also ended with them. The boss reviewed for him the rules of American Cosa Nostra: no killing with explosives; no killing law enforcement; no killing other made men without official permission; no sleeping with another made man’s wife; and no dealing in narcotics. As a general rule, the Mafia did a good job following the first two rules. The American government would crush anyone who harmed innocents with explosions or killed law enforcement. But the promises not to kill made guys, bed their wives, or deal dope were lies. Gravano and his fellow Mafia members routinely did all three. As my fellow prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald explained it, they were like the rules against fighting in hockey, on the books as a no-no, but still a regular feature of the game.

The closely related Sicilian Mafia had a different rule, one that highlighted the centrality of dishonesty to the entire enterprise of organized crime on both sides of the Atlantic. Newly inducted members were told that they were forbidden to lie to another “made member”, called a “man of honor” in Sicily, unless, and this was a big unless, it was necessary to lure him to his death. I once questioned another government witness, Sicilian Mafia killer Francesco Marino Mannoia, about this rule.

“Franco,” I said, “that means you can trust me unless we are about to kill you.”

“Yes,” he replied, confused by my question. “Men of honor may only lie about the most important things.”

The Life of Lies. The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. Loyalty oaths. An us-versus-them worldview. Lying about things, large and small, in service to some warped code of loyalty. These rules and standards were hallmarks of the Mafia, but throughout my career I’d be surprised how often I’d find them applied outside of it.

My early career as a prosecutor, especially my role in confronting the Mafia, reinforced my belief that I’d made the right career choice. The law hadn’t been an obvious route for me. Ultimately I chose a career in law enforcement because I believed it was the best way I could help other people, especially those suffering at the hands of the powerful, the crime bosses, the bullies. I didn’t know it at the time, but it’s possible that a life-altering experience I had when l was sixteen years old, with a gun literally pointed to my head, made that choice inevitable.

* * *

The gunman didn’t know I was home that night. He had been watching through a basement window and saw my parents say good-bye to the figure lying on the floor of the family room, lit only by the television’s light. He probably thought that figure was my sister, Trish. But it actually was my younger brother, Pete (Trish had returned to college after fall break and our youngest brother, Chris, was out at a Boy Scouts meeting). Minutes after my parents drove away, he kicked in the front door of our modest ranch style house and headed straight downstairs.

October 28, 1977, the day that changed my life, was a Friday. For most of the New York area, the prior few months were known as the Summer of Sam, when the city and its suburbs were gripped by a serial killer preying on couples sitting in cars. But for northern New Jersey, it was the summer-and fall-of the Ramsey Rapist. The attacker was named for the dozen attacks that had begun in a town called Ramsey; our town, sleepy Allendale, was just to the south.

Hearing heavy steps on the creaking basement stairs and a low growl from our dog, Pete jumped up and moved out of view. But the gunman knew he was there. He pointed a handgun and ordered my brother to come out from his hiding place. He asked if anyone else was home. Pete lied and said no.

At the time, I was a high school senior and a nerd with few close friends. As if to prove it, I was home that night, finishing a piece for the school’s literary magazine. It was to be a brilliant social satire of the cool kids, the bullies, and the suffocating peer pressure of high school. The piece was late, and short on brilliance, but I had nothing else to do on a Friday night. So I sat at the desk in my little bedroom, writing.

In the basement with Pete, the gunman demanded to be taken up to the master bedroom. Shortly I heard two sets of footsteps just outside my door, headed for my parents’ room. Then I heard more sounds, as the closet and dresser drawers opened and closed. Out of annoyance and curiosity, I stood and opened the sliding wood door to the bathroom that connected my room to my parents’. Their room was brightly lit, and through the bathroom I could see Pete lying on the side of the bed, his head turned toward me, but with his eyes tightly closed.

I stepped into the room, looked to my right, and froze. A stocky, middle-aged white guy wearing a knit cap was holding a gun and looking in my parents’ closet. Time slowed down in a way I have never again experienced. I lost my sight for an instant; it returned in a strange haze and my entire body pulsed, as if my heart had grown too big for my chest. Spotting me, the gunman moved quickly to Pete and put his knee in the middle of his back, using his left hand to push the gun barrel against my fifteen-year-old brother’s head. He turned to me.

“You move, kid, and I’ll blow his head off.”

I didn’t move.

The gunman had angry words for Pete. “I thought you told me nobody else was home.”

The gunman then stepped off Pete and ordered me to lie on the bed next to my brother. Standing at my feet, he demanded to know where he might find money. I later learned Pete had money in his jeans pocket as we lay there, and never gave it up. I gave it all up. I told him every place I could possibly think of, piggy banks, wallets, dollar coins received from grandparents for special events, everything. Armed with my leads, the gunman left us lying on the bed and went searching.

A short time later, he returned and simply stood above us, pointing his gun in our direction. I don’t know how long he pointed it without a sound, but it was long enough that the moment changed me. I was certain I was about to die. Hopelessness, panic, and fear smothered me. I began to pray silently, knowing that my life was about to end. In the next instant, a strange wave of cold washed over me, and my fear disappeared. I began reasoning, thinking that if he shot Pete first, I would roll off the bed and try to grab the gunman’s legs. And then I began to speak, to lie, more precisely. The lies came pouring out. I explained how estranged we were from our parents, hated them, actually, didn’t care what he took from them, and wouldn’t tell anyone he had been there. I lied again and again and again.

The gunman told me to shut up and ordered both of us to our feet. He then began pushing us down the narrow hallway from my parents’ room, pausing to search rooms and closets he passed. I was now convinced, temporarily at least, that l was going to live and began trying to get a clear look at his face so I could tell the police about him. He jammed me in the back several times with the gun barrel, telling me to turn my head away from him.

I again began talking, telling him over and over that he should just put us someplace and we would stay there so he could get away. I began racking my brain, trying to think of such a place in the house, a place where we could be locked. Against all reason, I suggested the basement bathroom, telling him we couldn’t open the small window because my father had sealed it for the winter. That was only partly true: my dad had put clear plastic on the window frame to reduce the draft, but the window opened simply by raising the bottom half.

He took us to the basement bathroom, motioned us inside, and said, “Tell your mommy and daddy you’ve been good little boys.” He wedged something against the bathroom door to keep us from escaping.

We heard the door to the garage open and close as the gunman left. I started to shudder as the adrenaline wore off. Shaking, I looked at the little window and suddenly the gunman’s face filled it. He was checking the window from the outside. The sight made me gasp for air. After his face disappeared, I told Pete that we were going to stay there until Mom and Dad came home. Pete had other ideas. He said, “You know who that is. He is going to hurt other people. We’ve got to get help.” In my shaky state, I don’t think it fully dawned on me what Pete was saying, or how the evening might have played out if our nineteen-year-old sister, Trish, actually had been home.

Instead I resisted. I was afraid. Pete argued with me briefly and then announced that he was leaving. He pulled the plastic from the window, turned the half-moon latch, and raised the window open. He swung himself out feetfirst and into the backyard.

Though it was probably only a second or two, in my memory I stood for a long time contemplating the open window and the dark night. Should I stay or should I follow? I swung my feet through the window. The moment they hit the cold dirt of my mother’s garden, I heard the gunman shouting. I dropped to my hands and knees and crawled furiously into thick bushes at the back of the house. The gunman already had grabbed Pete and now was shouting toward me, “Come out of there, kid, or your brother is getting hurt.” I emerged, and the gunman berated me for lying to him. Fresh out of another clever lie, I replied, “We’ll go right back in,” and I moved toward the open window.

“Too late,” he said. “Against the fence.”

For the second time that night I thought I was going to die. That was, until I heard our neighbor’s huge Siberian husky, Sundance, bound into our backyard with his owner, Steve Murray, the high school German teacher and football coach, bounding in after him.

The next seconds are a blur in my memory. I remember running from the gunman into my house with Pete and Coach Murray close behind and then slamming the door behind me. We locked the door, leaving the gunman outside to terrorize Coach’s wife and mother, who had followed him toward the commotion at our house, a move that makes me cringe with guilt even decades later.

We then raced up the stairs, turning out all the lights and arming ourselves. I held a large butcher knife. We didn’t have 911 in those days, so we dialed the operator and I asked to be connected to the police. I spoke to a dispatcher, who kept telling me to calm down. I explained that I couldn’t calm down, that a man with a gun was at our house and he was coming back in and we needed help now. We waited by the front door in the dark and debated going after the gunman. A police car pulled up in front of my house. We blinked the front lights and the car came to a stop. We ripped open the front door and ran straight at the officer, me barefoot and holding a large butcher knife. The officer quickly stepped from his car and his hand went to his weapon. I shouted, “No, no!” and pointed toward the Murrays’ house. “There he goes. He has a gun!” The gunman burst out from the Murrays’ front door and took off running toward the nearby woods.

As police cars from many jurisdictions converged on our little street, I jumped on my Schwinn ten-speed, barefoot, and pedaled the quarter mile to the church hall where my parents were taking ballroom dancing lessons. I jumped off the bike, letting it crash, ripped open the church hall door, and yelled “Dad!” at the top of my lungs. Everyone stopped and the crowd moved toward me, my mother and father in the lead. My mother started crying the moment she saw my face.

The police didn’t find the Ramsey Rapist that night. A suspect was arrested days later, but the case was never made and he was released. But that night the long string of Ramsey Rapist robberies and sexual assaults stopped.

My encounter with the Ramsey Rapist brought me years of pain. I thought about him every night for at least five years not most nights, every night, and I slept with a knife at hand for far longer. I couldn’t see it at the time, but the terrifying experience was, in its own way, also an incredible gift. Believing, knowing, in my mind that I was going to die, and then surviving, made life seem like a precious, delicate miracle. As a high school senior, I started watching sunsets, looking at buds on trees, and noticing the beauty of our world. That feeling lasts to this day, though sometimes it expresses itself in ways that might seem corny to people who fortunately never had the experience of measuring their time on this earth in seconds.

The Ramsey Rapist taught me at an early age that many of the things we think are valuable have no value. Whenever I speak to young people, I suggest they do something that might seem a little odd: Close your eyes, I say. Sit there, and imagine you are at the end of your life. From that vantage point, the smoke of striving for recognition and wealth is cleared. Houses, cars, awards on the wall? Who cares? You are about to die. Who do you want to have been?

I tell them that I hope some of them decide to have been people who used their abilities to help those who needed it, the weak, the struggling, the frightened, the bullied. Standing for something. Making a difference. That is true wealth.

The Ramsey Rapist didn’t drive me to law enforcement in any conscious way, at least not immediately. I still thought I wanted to be a doctor, and became a premed student with a chemistry major at the College of William & Mary. But one day I was headed to a chem lab and noticed the word DEATH on a bulletin board. I stopped. It was an advertisement for a class in the religion department, which shared the building with the chemistry department. I took the course, and everything changed. The class allowed me to explore a subject of intense interest to me and see how religions of the world dealt with death. I added religion as a new second major.

*

from

A Higher Loyalty. Truth Lies and Leadership

by James Comey

get it at Amazon.com

Inside The Epic Fantasy That’s Driven Donald Trump For 33 Years – Randall Lane.

This story appeared in the October 19, 2015 issue of Forbes.

For a man who has driven the national news cycle pretty much every day for the past four months with his disruptive presidential campaign, Donald Trump works out of an office suite that is shockingly calm. No yelling, no running, no extraneous advisors or flunkies, it has the sleepy, orderly pace of an accounting firm in Boise, albeit one with a taste for mirrors, regal gold and lots and lots of framed articles about Donald Trump.

On this Monday in late September only the most important of the important requests seep into the corner office. “I have the Stephen Colbert pre-interview,” one of his assistants reports. Responds Trump: “Would you do me a favor? We’ll call them back.” His daughter Ivanka apparently wants to follow up about something. “Little Ivanka,” he smiles, before relaying that he’ll get back to her later. Someone from 60 Minutes, which will tape Trump the following day and broadcast its interview with him that Sunday, asks to talk. The iconic show will have to wait, too.

The most in demand person on the planet has gone into hold-all-my-calls mode for nearly two hours to sit down with FORBES and tackle, piece by piece, a subject that he cares about to the depths of his soul: how much FORBES says he’s worth. Since The Forbes 400 list of richest Americans debuted in 1982, the dynamism of the US. economy and the hand of the grim reaper have resulted in exactly 1,538 people making the cut at one time or another. Of those 1,538 tycoons, not one has been more fixated with his or her net worth estimate on a year-in, year-out basis than Donald J. Trump.

Trump’s valuation this year holds extra importance, of course, due to his audacious second act: his highly unlikely, but no longer inconceivable-path to the presidency. Trump has filed statements claiming he’s worth at least $10 billion or, as he put in a press release, TEN BILLION DOLLARS (capitalization his). After interviewing more than 80 sources and devoting unprecedented resources to valuing a single fortune, we’re going with a figure less than half that, $4.5 billion, albeit still the highest figure we’ve ever had for him.

“I’m running for President,” says Trump. “I’m worth much more than you have me down for. I don’t look good, to be honest. I mean, I look better if I’m worth $10 billion than if I’m worth $4 billion.”

To The Forbes 400 crowd, perhaps. But when pushed, even Trump concedes that, for voters, the difference between $4 billion and $10 billion is as abstractly irrelevant as a star that’s either 4 billion or 10 billion light years away. Ultimately, Trump’s beef with our numbers is driven by Trump: how his peers view him and, more acutely, how he views himself. It always has been. The paradoxical Trump that now transfixes American political culture is the same one that The Forbes 400 has been dancing with for 33 years. And the history of his net worth fixation opens windows into Trump the entrepreneur, the candidate and the person.

The Inaugural Edition of The Forbes 400 in 1982 introduced all sorts of names into the national discourse, and many of these previously under the radar tycoons fought back against their newfound recognition. Florida land baron William Graham asked FORBES to move his decimal one place to the left. The lawyer for an Oklahoma titan offered to dig up a replacement if his client was taken off the list. Then there was New York real estate developer Donald Trump, 36, whose very first entry, which estimated that he and his father, Fred, equally split a $200 million fortune, ends thusly: “Donald claims $500 million.”

Trump has measured himself by lining up assets against liabilities for his entire adult life. In his 1987 bestseller, The Art of the Deal, he recalled his net worth when he graduated from college (“perhaps $200,000,” probably the only time he ever low-balled his stash), publicly memorializing a benchmark for measuring his future success.

He added three and almost four zeroes to that figure during the 1980s as a tabloid caricature. As “The Donald” he honed the art of net worth lobbying. Financial summaries would arrive at the FORBES offices, often on gilded Trump embossed letterheads for extra pop. “We soon learned to take the number he threw out to us for his net worth, immediately divide it by three and refine it from there,” remembers Harold Seneker, who ran The Forbes 400 for the first 15 years of its existence. And, indeed, the “divide by three” rule seemed to hold throughout the 1980s, including 1988, when we pegged him at an even $1 billion. The Donald, not content with his new billionaire status, countered with $3.74 billion.

As the years went on, Trump adopted a more personal touch, via phone calls and lunches, enlisting his longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, in the process. Good with names and dishing out tidbits like candy, Trump can be quite charming. The first time I interviewed him for FORBES, more than 20 years ago, he called me from a hospital waiting room. His second wife, Marla Maples, had just given birth to a daughter Tiffany, he confided.

Trump’s motivations for inflating his net worth were partially driven by dollars and cents. “It was good for financing,” Trump now acknowledges, echoing what other developers have told us over the years: that slapping a high Forbes 400 estimate on a banker‘s desk can sometimes help secure bigger loans and better rates. When I was a $27,000-a-year cub reporter on The Forbes 400, the largest stripmall developer in Texas, the late Jerry J. Moore, offered me a six-figure p.r. job “with lots of golf” if l would only nudge his number closer to billionaire status.

Trump was also a pioneer at turning his eponymous developments into a luxury brand umbrella. His financial success defined what the brand “Trump” meant. When a reporter named Timothy O’Brien came out with a book, TrumpNation, in 2005, a huge excerpt appeared in the New York Times alleging that Trump was worth $250 million tops (versus the $2.7 billion FORBES estimated and the $7.8 billion Trump fancied). Trump sued for a fantastical $5 billion in damages. While O’Brien’s methodology was faulty, the case was dismissed. But Trump’s lengthy deposition, obtained by FORBES, underscores the connection he sees between his wealth and his brand. “I wasn’t doing poorly then, but I was perceived Trump testified. As a result, “I think that article hurt my brand, and it hurt me.”

As in personally. “For the record, he regards the 400 as something of a bible,” says a note in FORBES’ Trump file, following a 1990s power lunch with Forbes 400 staffers at New York’s Gotham Bar & Grill, “and is convinced others do, too.”

When fully engaged, the Donald Trump net worth experience is a full show-and-tell affair, complete with sketches of buildings, aerial photography and guided tours. The latter starts in the Trump Tower gym, which looks like a Sheraton workout room, save for the staggering view, and is somehow supposed to persuade us to juice the $530 million we ascribe to The Donald’s holdings within his signature building by a factor of five or six. The only exercising going on occurs when Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, hustles in and whispers urgently in his boss’ ear.

Trump turns to me. “Scott Walker just quit the race,” he says, referring to the Wisconsin governor, who, until Trump upended everything, had been considered a top-tier presidential hopeful. “I think that’s good.” Surely, every other candidate is convening a war room, figuring out how this changes the landscape. Not Trump. “Not much to divvy up,” he shouts at the retreating Lewandowski. “See if you can get his one vote, Corey.”

Trump would rather take me up to his three story penthouse and prove it’s surely worth twice the $100 million value we put on it. An offer to see the over-the-top Versailles-in-the-sky needs no arm twisting, but Trump sells it anyway: “I’ll show you the first floor of my apartment, which I’ve never done before, I don’t do that.”

Except he has. To Access Hollywood . And Newsweek. And Extra . And a FORBES photographer way back in 2000. Heck, his 60 Minutes interview would take place in the first floor of the penthouse the next day, to be shared with 15 million people on Sunday. Trump has never let small details get in the way of good pitch.

In 1990, however, Trump hyperbole blew back on him. The New York real estate market was crashing, his Atlantic City casinos began struggling, and he was underwater with his new toy, the Trump Shuttle airline. In 1989 FORBES had his net worth at $1.7 billion. By spring 1990 FORBES figured it was $500 million at best. By that fall the overleveraged Trump was “within hailing distance of zero” and dropped from The Forbes 400.

As with today, Trump sat in his corner office and provided a rebuttal. It wasn’t very convincing. “I’m going to show you cashflow numbers I’ve never shown anyone before,” he said back then, in familiar spin mode, but he folded the pages to obscure the final column. And while he insisted he was worth between $4 billion and $5 billion, FORBES obtained records that Trump had submitted to a governmental body, professing that as of May 1989 his net assets were only $1.5 billion, one-third of what he had told us and even a bit less than the number FORBES, which strives for conservative estimates, had arrived at the previous year.

The fibbing was more brazen when they delved into specifics. In 1988 Trump sent FORBES a document listing his personal residences, including Mar-aLago, his Palm Beach mansion, with a total net value of $50 million. At the same time sworn statements placed their total asset value at $30 million, along with a debt load of $40 million, a net liability. Trump also said he owned $159 million in stock and bonds, all unencumbered. But documents filed with the SEC showed that he borrowed big-time to buy the stock, which subsequently dipped.

Trump did not like this challenge to his reputation. He published an essay for the Los Angeles Times syndicate: “Forbes Carried Out Personal Vendetta in Print.” He argued that the “willfully wrong” piece was driven by the desire to sell magazines and damage his reputation. He told ABC’s Sam Donaldson that “Forbes has been after me for years, consistently after me.”

“Forbes is doing everything they can, possibly, to make me look as bad as possible.”

Fast-forward 25 years. Trump is famously loath to apologize. (Ask John McCain.) But he does now admit the obvious: that he stretched the facts in those dark days. Then, without irony, he criticizes FORBES because “you were actually high.” Adds Trump: “I deserved to be off the list.”

“By the way, I never complained.” When reminded that he did indeed complain. Trump shrugs.

“Yeah, whatever.”

Other than in some version of a joke about people who walk into a bar, the pope and Donald Trump have probably never appeared in the same sentence. But providence intervened at the end of September when Pope Francis, on his first visit to America, decided to hold evening prayers at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the papal planners decided that the formal procession down Fifth Avenue, led by the Popemobile, would commence below Trump Tower.

And so Trump asks if we can truncate a FORBES cover shoot in favor of an impromptu viewing party. As the Holy Father’s motorcade approaches, Trump leads a half-dozen people down to a fifth-floor corner balcony attached to his campaign headquarters, the “best-located political floor in history.” At $2,170-per-square-foot (or $10,580 if you take Trump’s number), no exaggeration there. Yet aside from posters and a forlorn table or two, it’s completely dead. The richest man ever to run for President oversees a skeletal operation, based on gut instincts and free media. “I literally have spent $543,000 on my campaign,” says Trump. “Other people have spent $20 million, $25 million already. Like Bush and all these people. They’re spending a fortune.”

The famous Popemobile idles perhaps 50 feet under us, waiting for its passenger. (Trump isn’t a fan of its open sides: “That’s a dangerous-looking sucker.” And he’s even less impressed by the very modest, un-Trump-like Fiat that Francis is arriving in. “I don’t like the little car. He’s trying to be ‘of the people,’ but I don’t know. It just doesn’t look right”)

Also 50 feet below: thousands of people who’ve lined Fifth Avenue for a papal glimpse. Given the pool of New York City Catholics and the visit of an Argentinian pope, they’re roughly half Latino. (“Francis-co, Fran-cis-co,” went the cheers as the pontiff approached.) Not exactly Trump’s base. For once, Trump wasn’t looking for attention: “I’ll look like an idiot. This is the pope’s day.” But lately, especially at 6-foot-3, with that mane, he doesn’t have a choice. So Trump waves from his perch, an orange haired Juan Peron.

Jeers and whistles ensue. Undaunted, Trump turns to me. “Ninety percent positive,” he says. “Ninety percent is pretty good. You’ll take that in an election right away.”

Did Trump hear what everyone else heard, yet immediately spin toward the absurd? (While there was a smattering of applause, the catcalls clearly carried the day.) Or did he just hear what he wanted to?

In some ways it doesn’t matter. Colleagues of Steve Jobs famously described his “reality-distortion field”, his ability to see what he wanted to see and then will the delusion into truth. Way before that another master capitalist, Andrew Carnegie, declared that “all riches, and all material things that anyone acquires through self-effort, begin in the form of a clear, concise mental picture of the thing one seeks.”

Trump has a healthy dose of this gene. In the O’Brien deposition, taken in 2007, Trump declared that his estimates of personal net worth were subject to day-to-day whims. “Even my own feelings affect my value to myself,” he said. When asked to specify, he described it as “my general attitude at the time that the question may be asked.” And if that general attitude is negative? “You wouldn’t tell a reporter you’re doing poorly.”

As the pope rolls below Trump’s perfect aerie, Trump’s general attitude is extra-positive. “You see what I mean about this real estate? This is really a great piece of real estate. Boy, do we have a good location.” During an earlier conversation Trump at different times said he could sell his stake in Trump Tower for $2 billion or $2.5 billion or $3 billion. When an extra $1 billion is created that easily (much less the difference compared with our appraisal for the building of $530 million), it’s easy to see how he conjures $10 billion.

This just-do-it business worldview provides a feasible explanation to what’s perhaps the greatest riddle surrounding candidate Trump: How can someone who’s quite clever and smart (as he’ll quickly remind you) also promote know-nothing, sometimes dangerous bunk, whether a disproven link between vaccinations and autism or the Obama-might-have-been-born-in-Kenya lie?

And by keeping his message simple and repeating it with conviction over and over, Trump has the ability to shape facts. When Trump appears on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the following day, the liberal host states that Trump is worth $10 billion, with nary a caveat.

Since Trump’s return to the list in 1996 he has had a more nuanced relationship with The Forbes 400. From the FORBES side the policy channels Reagan: Trust but verify. Trump shares more information than almost anyone else on the list, and we accept the basics. But without proof of ownership or debt or specific assets, we err on the side of caution. Usually Trump’s team shows us their liquid investments. Last year we saw documentation for cash and cash equivalents of $307 million. Now they’re claiming $793 million but are unwilling to show it. So we play it safe with $327 million (grossed up to include proceeds from of the Miss Universe sale.)

Similarly, in real estate, FORBES values Trump’s using models of net operating income, or direct comps. Trump’s team assumes cash-rich buyers will emerge, zoning permits will be granted and that golf course homes will be built at no cost to him. Just like the old days, our estimates run roughly one-third of his.

And as for the worth of the Trump brand, which his camp often values in phantom billions, we now consistently give it a value of zero (see below). We say the value of it to these deals is already built into his net worth and don’t assign it a present-day theoretical value to future deals.

But Trump and his team also corrected us on things like Niketown’s square footage (too low) and debt loads at Trump Park Avenue and the Old D.C. Post Office ($170 million down to $8 million). We also, at his urging, reanalyzed Trump Tower and the Doral golf course. All told we added $700 million to our initial net worth estimate.

Meanwhile, Trump, as is his wont, talks tough. “He’s an alpha male-in spades,” says Phil Ruffln, a fellow Forbes 400 member whose Las Vegas partnership with Trump has yielded each man $96 million. “He’s strong. He’s competitive, extremely competitive.”

“I think you’re trying to make me as poor as possible,” says Trump, whose campaign filings claim that this year alone his worth has risen from $8.7 billion ($3.3 billion of that from brand goodwill) to more than $10 billion. Over the course of our interviews, he raises that to “much more than 10 billion” and says that another “respected magazine that’s coming out” is going with $11.5 billion.

“You’re gonna look bad,” he adds. “And look, all I can say is FORBES is a bankrupt magazine, doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That’s all I’m gonna say. ‘Cause it’s embarrassing to me.”

My overarching question for Trump is a simple one: Does he think FORBES uses a different methodology to value him than it uses for every other real estate titan on The Forbes 400? “Yes, I do,” he responds. “Yes, I do.”

Really? Why? “Because I’m famous, and they’re not. Because when Richard LeFrak had dinner at Joe’s Stone Crab, he calls me up and he says, ‘Could you help me get a reservation?’”

But make no mistake, Trump cares. Over the past few years he’s taken to sending handwritten notes to Forbes 400 reporters, atop articles favorable to him. (“Insurance cos. + other developers put this much money in-not me,” he scrawls in Magic Marker in the margins of his personal issue of Golf, Inc. , which he sends over.) On an evening when he should have been boning up for 60 Minutes and Colbert, he calls me to clarify the status of one mortgage on one building in his portfolio. And on the Monday he announces his tax plan, his assistant scans and e-mails a personal note from him suggesting ranges for his brand value.

And at the end of our last interview he asks if I have a headline in mind for the story. I tell him, truthfully, that I don’t. Then I ask him what he would suggest. The populist who wants to be President, with the billionaire’s bank account and the papal perch, barely pauses to think: “The King.”

Populism isn’t a dirty word it’s time for the left to reclaim it * Populism Now! – David McKnight.

When the political class adopted Neoliberalism, it effectively transferred significant amounts of political power, the democratic power of governments, to private corporations.

We need to take it back! (Hans)

David McKnight makes the case for a people power that doesn’t scapegoat immigrants or minorities.

INTRODUCTION

Here’s a quick quiz. What do the following political figures have in common: Pauline Hanson, Bill Shorten, Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders?

Answer: all have been accused of populism. Whether they’ve bashed banks, billionaires or boat people, they’ve been damned as populists. Yet these political figures come from wildly different parts of the Left and Right. Can they all be populists?

Mostly, when I hear people damning someone as a populist, they are talking about a right-wing version. But it’s not that simple. In this book, I argue that a progressive version of populism exists too.

A progressive populism takes up the genuine economic grievances of everyday Australians without scapegoating migrants or minorities in the way Donald Trump and the proBrexit forces have done. In fact, a progressive form of populism is the best way of defeating the racist backlash of right-wing populism because it addresses the social and economic problems which partly drive the rise of right-wing populism. As well, it asserts our common humanity, whatever diversity we also express.

I first discovered populism when I began teaching investigative journalism in the late 1990s at university. I had some understanding of the subject already, having worked on the ABC’s investigative TV program Four Corners. Like other journalists, I knew about the role of investigative journalism in the Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. However, to teach it as an academic course I needed to know about its historical origins. I found that investigative journalism (originally called muckraking) began in the United States around 1900 during what Americans call ‘the Progressive Era’. It was called this because it was a period of radical ideas and activism about social reform. One expression of this was the emergence of a new political party, the People’s Party, in 1890-91. It stood for the interests of ordinary people farmers and workers against the ‘robber barons’ in the privately owned banking, oil and railway industries. Friends and enemies alike described the approach of the People’s Party as Populism and its supporters as Populists.

The muckraking journalists were crusaders on issues which they shared with the Populists. For example, in his book The Jungle, writer Upton Sinclair exposed the dangerous and filthy conditions endured by the Chicago meatworkers. Years later his book was recognised as one of the forces behind the introduction of food safety laws. One of the first female muckrakers, Ida Tarbell, exposed the ruthless practices of Standard Oil in crushing rival companies in a series of articles published in McClure’s Magazine, and eventually a book, The History of the Standard Oil Company. Today, Standard Oil is better known as Exxon and remains a ruthless corporation. Lincoln Steffens’ book The Shame of the Cities exposed the corruption of political machines linked to gambling, prostitution and bribery. Other muckrakers attacked the role of big money in government and the power of Wall Street. Their journalism, I realised, was a key contribution to the progressive causes shared with the Populists.

The key idea of the Populists was that the interests of ordinary people were in conflict with those of the elite. Some of the Populists had conspiratorial ideas about money and power but their movement was a powerful challenge to aggressive, unregulated big business. Having been on the Left of politics since my teens, I found this history of a forgotten reform movement fascinating. its goals of economic and social justice for ordinary people are still relevant today.

Years later I rediscovered American populism when I read a book by journalist Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? Published in the wake of the election of George W Bush, his book pointed out that Kansas, now a conservative Republican state, was once a centre of radical activity. One Kansas town produced a socialist newspaper, Appeal to Reason, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. In the 1890s its farmers, driven to the brink of ruin by years of bad prices and debt, held huge meetings where Kansas radicals like Mary Elizabeth Lease urged the farmers to ‘raise less corn and more hell’. From this situation, the People’s Party emerged as the enemy of the ‘money power’ and as an alternative to both Democrats and Republicans. It advocated publicly owned railways and banks along with a progressive income tax on the rich. For this, Frank tells us, they were reviled ‘for their bumpkin assault on free market orthodoxy’.

In 2015 and 2016 I found myself hearing commentators talk about the rise of modern forms of populism during the looming US presidential election. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were referred to as populists. Sanders had opened his campaign with the statement: ‘This country and our government belongs to all of us, not just a handful of billionaires’. It was a modern echo of the progressive side of the American populist tradition. Although he didn’t win the Democrats’ presidential nomination, Sanders shifted the political agenda and challenged the untrammelled power of the wealthy in the name of ordinary people.

Trump, a right-wing populist, represented the worst aspects of popular prejudice. Yet he won. Like many others, I was stunned as I read the first online news reports announcing this. How could it have happened? One of the most illuminating insights came from Thomas Frank, who argued that Trump’s populist campaign on economic issues was far more important than most people realised at the time and had been the key to him winning crucial states. The abandoned factories and crumbling buildings in cities devastated by free trade deals had created a ‘heartland rage’ that swamped the Democrats.

All of this was ‘the utterly predictable fruit of the Democrats’ neoliberal turn’, he said. ‘Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go”, they were making what happened last November, Trump’s win, a little more likely.’

Such sentiments inspired this book. And all of this is relevant to Australia because both our Labor and Liberal politicians have, in recent decades, largely accepted the principles of deregulation, privatisation and small government, together known as neoliberalism. In part, this book is an investigation into the failures of these principles in Australia.

The final reason for writing this book is more personal. I grew up in a single-income, bluecollar family with my mother suffering from a severe mental illness. Yet we survived and thrived thanks in part to a strong public sector, especially in health and education. This public sector was grounded in the major parties’ consensus that it was both morally obligatory and economically sound that important public services should be equally available to all and provided collectively. Now this consensus is being broken apart and discarded. This is not some misty-eyed memory about a non-existent golden age, an error often made by right-wing populists when they equate the White Australia Policy years with better conditions overall. Australia is a better and more open society today, not least because it is more culturally diverse. But in terms of simple practical things such as expecting a secure wellpaid job, social services and a home to live in, we are going backwards.

When I started researching this book in the wake of the shock Trump victory and the vote for Brexit I was already a critic of neoliberalism. But as I probed more deeply I grew angrier and angrier. My research revealed that the orthodoxies of deregulation and privatisation, regarded as supreme common sense by the political and economic elite, are radically transforming Australia. The gulf between billionaires and the poor is widening as old egalitarian Australia crumbles; deregulated banks have become parasitic to the rest of the economy; corporate tax avoidance is out of control; and our pay and conditions are being eroded. As it had with me, this has angered many ordinary Australians. Some falsely blame migrants and refugees while others rightly blame a corporate and political elite. To change things, we need to rebuild a new progressive agenda which unites ordinary Australians against these elitedriven policies.

Of prime importance in such a renewed progressive agenda is genuine action on the biggest danger of all, irreversible climate change, which will hit ordinary Australians first. A progressive populist approach aims to unite Australians in the broadest possible new movement one that will provide the necessary people power to avert the worst kinds of changes in the future. Nothing less than the survival of humanity is at stake.

CHAPTER 1

THE POLITICS OF POPULISM

We forced discussions on issues the establishment had swept under the rug for too long. We brought attention to the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in this country and the importance of breaking up the large banks, we are stronger when we stand together and do not allow demagogues to divide us by race, gender, sexual orientation or where we were born.

US presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders

*

The establishment complains I don’t play by the rules. By which they mean their rules. We can’t win, they say, because we don’t play their game. We don’t fit in their cosy club. We don’t accept that it is natural for Britain to be governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax-dodgers, and we don’t accept that the British people just have to take what they’re given.

British Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn

*

With Donald Trump’s successful campaign to win the US presidency and Britain’s decision to ‘Brexit’ from Europe, we suddenly began to hear a lot of the word ‘populism’ in the political discourse. At first it was used to describe the attack Donald Trump made on illegal Mexican immigration when he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in mid 2015. With his trademark bombast, he declaimed, ‘When Mexico sends its people they’re not sending their best They’re sending people who have lots of problems They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists’. He then added, ‘and some, I assume, are good people’. His call to build a wall on the US-Mexico border (‘which Mexico will pay for’) became a recurrent theme of his campaign and later, his presidency.

Nor was his abuse limited to Mexicans. After a Muslim US citizen committed a terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California, Trump called for a ban preventing Muslims from entering the United States, at one point including those who were American citizens currently abroad. Trump’s campaign received what seemed to be a certain death blow in October 2016, when the Washington Post revealed an audio tape of his boast that, because he was ‘a star’, he could grab women ‘by the pussy’ and get away with it.

By the normal rules of elections in the United States and elsewhere, his popular support should have shrunk. Trump’s coded appeals to racism, crude misogyny and calculated abuse should have fatally wounded his bid for the White House. But his popular support grew and Trump eventually attained the most powerful position in the world. In office, he has confirmed the worst expectations, responding to North Korea’s threat to the United States with a warning that North Korea ‘will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen before’, a thinly disguised threat to unleash a nuclear war.

How did we get into this situation? Trump’s election victory owed a lot to two factors. One was his economic populism, which criticised free trade and globalisation. This received a warm response from many working Americans. He threatened to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement. He promised to impose high tariffs on runaway US companies which moved production overseas. He threatened restrictions on imported Chinese goods. Globalisation, he said, helped ‘the financial elite’ while leaving ‘millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache’. All the while he targeted the states hardest hit by economic globalisation. Much of this was downplayed or never reported by both social media and the traditional news media, which preferred to concentrate on his more colourful outbursts and tweets.

The second key to his victory was his skilful use of social media, which he credited with being a way to counteract what he called the ‘fake news’ propagated by mainstream news media. On Facebook and Twitter his popularity eclipsed that of Hillary Clinton and it was there that he circulated his own ‘alternative facts’. The algorithms of social media, which suggest news based on past activity, transformed this popularity into self-reinforcing echo chambers of Trump supporters. And all of this was fed by the crisis in traditional journalism, whose capacity to report news had been eroded by the power of that selfsame social media.

The election of Donald Trump has taken us all into a new and dangerous place. If it had been an isolated incident it would not matter so much. But it was far from that. A few months before Trump’s election, Britain went to the polls to decide whether or not to leave the European Union (EU). The vote was voluntary but the turnout was high. More than 30 million people voted, with a majority in favour of Britain’s exit, styled Brexit. Another victory for populism, said the commentators.

The British vote to leave the EU spanned traditional Right and Left and drew support from unexpected places. While the ‘Leave’ vote was highest in traditionally Conservative areas, it was also high in some working-class Labour strongholds. For some, voting to leave the EU was a protest against the economic effects of the globalised economy, with its problems of unemployment and low wages. For others, their main concern was the immigration which had ensued from open borders. ‘We want our country back!’ was a common cry. Donald Trump, then campaigning for president, hailed the Brexit vote as a ‘great victory’ and drew parallels to his own opposition to ‘rule by the global elite’. A new populist Right was on the move globally.

Soon populism seemed to be everywhere. In Europe the established parties saw their dominance challenged by right-wing populism. In France in 2017 the antiimmigrant and anti-Muslim National Front achieved 34 per cent of the presidential vote, its highest yet. That same year the far right Alternative for Germany won an unprecedented 13 per cent of the vote and 90 seats in the Bundestag. In the Netherlands Geert Wilders’ xenophobic Party for Freedom advanced in the 2017 general elections.

In Australia too Trump-style political disaffection is taking hold. A reputable study by academics at the Australian National University (ANU) shows that key indicators, including satisfaction with democracy, trust in government and loyalty to major parties are at record lows among Australians. The study was conducted following the July 2016 election and found that only 26 per cent of Australians think the government can be trusted (the lowest level since it was first measured in 1969). Forty per cent of Australians were not satisfied with democracy (the lowest level since the period after Gough Whitlam was dismissed in 1975); and there was a record low level of interest (30 per cent) in the 2016 election.

The study’s lead researcher, Professor Ian McAllister, said that we are seeing ‘the stirrings among the public of what has happened in the United States of the likes of Trump, Brexit in Britain, in Italy and a variety of other European countries, it’s coming here and I would have thought this a wake-up call for the political class’. Australian conservatives, hoping to take advantage of this disillusion, welcomed Trump’s victory, with Tony Abbott tweeting: ‘Congrats to the new president who appreciates that Middle America is sick of being taken for granted’. Mining magnate Gina Rinehart urged Australia to follow Trump’s lead and Andrew Bolt told his audience: ‘The revolution is on!’ Very much part of this phenomenon, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party achieved an unprecedented four seats in the Senate in the 2016 election.

But what is populism?

To many, ‘populism’ is a shorthand term for pandering to people’s baser instincts, exemplified in Trump’s campaign and his presidency. It inflames a desire to blame ethnic and religious minorities; it is a lust for cheap popularity and it is a phony hostility to the Establishment and to ‘the elite’, such is the common understanding. Populist leaders are seen to be posing as outsiders and as representatives of the underdog. Above all, populism is regarded as a right-wing phenomenon.

But it’s not that simple. This book argues that a progressive version of populism exists too. A progressive populism fights for the genuine economic grievances of everyday people without blaming minorities or migrants. In fact, a progressive populism is a very good way to neutralise this sort of scapegoating because it addresses the social and economic problems which partly drive the rise of right-wing populism.

Populism is a notoriously loose description of a political stance. In many ways it is a style of doing politics rather than a series of particular policies. Some people think populism means trying to be popular, but this is misleading. The words populist and populism come from the Latin word for ‘the people’ (populus) what today we’d call the public. The meaning survives in the expression vox populi, the voice of the people. Generally speaking, populism is a style of politics which frames politics as a conflict between the people and an elite. But the identity of the people and the nature of the elite can vary widely. On this basis populism can be either a right-wing or a left-wing phenomenon. In some countries today, the traditional battle between right and left is being channelled through a populist filter.

Academic Margaret Canovan conducted one of the early studies of populism. She argues that there are two broad strands to populist movements. The first is rural, based on organisations of peasants or farmers, a kind which typically emerges when these people are confronting modernisation. The second is characterised by highlighted tensions between the elite and the grassroots. This can take the form of ‘idealisations of the man in the street or of politicians’ attempts to hold together shaky coalitions in the name of “the people”’. Canovan concludes that populism can take right-wing or left-wing forms but that ‘all forms of populism without exception involve some kind of exaltation of and appeal to “the people” and all are in one sense or another anti-elitist’.

The American writer John Judis, author of the recent book The Populist Explosion, also argues that populism is ‘not an ideology but a way of thinking about politics’. He too supports the view that populism can exist in both left and right forms. Left-wing populists champion the people against an elite or establishment (as in Occupy Wall Street’s slogan about the One Per Cent versus the 99 per cent). Right-wing populists are against an elite ‘that they accuse of coddling a third group, which can consist, for instance, of immigrants, lslamists or African American militants’.

Judis notes that the original US People’s Party was formed in the 1890s when Kansas farmers united with an early workers’ organisation and challenged the existing establishment of Republicans and Democrats. The People’s Party developed policies against monopolistic railroads and greedy banks and in favour of progressive income tax and expanding public controls. As one populist writer said, they aimed to get rid of ‘the plutocrats, the aristocrats, and all the other rats’. To the Australian Labor Party, emerging in the same tumultuous decade of the 1890s, the US People’s Party was something of a model and there were early proposals to call the new Australian party the People’s Party, rather than the Labour Party.

This progressive strand within American populism re-emerged in 2015-16 when Bernie Sanders competed with Hillary Clinton to become the Democrats’ presidential candidate. At the start of that campaign he was seen as little more than an eccentric, rumpled, 70-plus year old running an unusual campaign. One newspaper described him as a ‘grumpy grandfather type’ who ‘embraces his reputation for being gruff, abrupt and honest and promises to be bold’. As time went on, observers began to note the cheering, youthful crowds that he drew, his calls for a ‘political revolution’ and his strong social media campaign on Facebook.

Although he did not win the Democratic nomination, Sanders surprised everyone by doing well enough in the battle for the presidential nomination to win 23 primary and caucus races to Clinton’s 34. With no big corporate donors, he raised millions of dollars in small donations from a growing support base, especially from the young. Most surprising of all were his campaign’s public statements and appeals. Sanders attacked ‘the One Per Cent’ of super-rich people who had benefitted enormously from the globalised economy while others struggled to survive. In one speech at Liberty University, he said: ‘In my view there is no economic justice when the 15 wealthiest people in this country in the last two years saw their wealth increase by $170 billion’. It was a fact he repeated all through his energetic campaign.

Another Sanders target was the deregulated banking system that had caused the global financial crisis. Sanders charged: ‘Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when Wall Street collapsed, they used their wealth and power to get bailed out’.‘ The contrast he pointed out in several speeches was with the 41 per cent of American workers who didn’t take a single day of paid vacation in 2015 and with the third of workers in the private sector who cannot even claim paid sick leave.

Like Trump, Bernie Sanders was also widely regarded as a populist, reviving a long American tradition in which the central conflict is seen to be between the people and the elite.

Sanders happily described himself as a democratic socialist and pointed to the socialdemocratic states of Scandinavia as models. In his platform, Sanders said he supported: a national public healthcare system; an end to corporate welfare; abolishing fees for college degrees; a full employment policy; raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour; and preventing ‘greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry’. The money to achieve these aims was to be raised by compelling wealthy individuals and corporations to pay their fair share of tax.

All of these policies, advocating a stronger role for government, effectively rejected the decades-long dominance of the ideology known as neoliberalism the ideology of small government, of globalising in the form of deregulated markets and of faith in market forces to guide and manage the economy.

Progressive populism in the Sanders mould attributes today’s social and economic problems not to migrants or minorities nor to the ‘politically correct’ mainstream media, but to the failure of neoliberal policies. And because progressive populism addresses the forces driving the rise of right-wing populism, it is the most effective antidote.

The political theorist Chantal Mouffe is not surprised by the rise of right-wing populism:

In a context where the dominant discourse proclaims that there is no alternative to the current neoliberal form of globalisation and that we have to submit to its diktats, it is small wonder that more and more workers are keen to listen to those who claim that alternatives do exist, and that they will give back to the people the power to decide.

And this is just what Trump promised. Unlike the campaign of Hillary Clinton, issues of economic injustice featured heavily in his winning campaign. Just a few days before the November election, Trump told a huge crowd in an aircraft hangar in Pittsburgh: ‘When we win, we are bringing steel back, we are going to bring steel back to Pennsylvania, like it used to be. We are putting our steel workers and miners back to work’. Trump touched a raw nerve. No steel mills now exist in Pittsburgh and hundreds of thousands of steelworkers had lost their jobs since the 1980s, in part due to freer global trade. Whether Trump was sincere in (or even capable of delivering) his promise to bring steel jobs back to Pittsburgh is not the point. Identifying economic grievances and blaming them on free trade and globalisation is almost unprecedented by a Republican candidate. More importantly, it was a challenge which Hillary Clinton, as a long time supporter of neoliberal free trade, could not rebut. As it turned out, Trump did win in Pennsylvania. It was one of the three ‘rust belt’ states that made the difference to victory or defeat in the presidential election.

Both Trump and Sanders were outsiders in US politics. Both denounced the domination of big business and the banks and blamed them for much of US economic woes. Both based their campaign on appeals to ordinary Americans and both were described as populists. Unlike Trump, Sanders was a progressive populist. When he talked about the elite and the establishment, he meant the economic elite and the corporate establishment. Unlike Trump, Sanders did not scapegoat immigrants or ethnic minorities.

The groundswell grows

The groundswell of populism soon saw Sanders joined by the leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. When he began his election campaign in April 2017, Corbyn faced deep opposition from many of his fellow Labour members of parliament. Like most media commentators, they also believed that because of his leftwing history and left-wing policies he could not possibly win. And certainly he was in trouble at the beginning of the campaign, when polls were placing Labour up to 24 points behind the Conservatives.

From the start of the 2017 election campaign Corbyn framed the contest in the language of progressive populism. He described the election as a battle of ‘the establishment versus the people’ and promised to overturn ‘a rigged system’ that favoured the rich and powerful. Under him, Labour would not be part of the ‘cosy club’ whose members think it is natural for Britain to be ‘governed by a ruling elite, the City and the tax dodgers’, he said. His opponents believed such deeply controversial rhetoric was guaranteed to result in a huge loss.

But his message was straightforward and cut through the spin and PR fog of traditional political rhetoric. And these policies proved popular among the British people. Early opinion polling showed that up to 71 per cent of people supported his proposal to raise the minimum wage to ten pounds an hour. A similar proportion of the British public (62 per cent) supported his plan to raise taxes on the rich and high income earners.

Corbyn’s manifesto broke other unspoken rules of the economic consensus of neoliberalism. He argued that the railways and water supply should return to public ownership. He promised to extend free school meals by a tax on private school fees. He also urged increased funding for social housing, and his pledge to abolish university fees helped build a powerful momentum among young people, who registered to vote at unprecedented levels and voted Labour on election day.

The Conservatives had called the election, confident they would increase their majority in parliament, and Corbyn’s campaign of progressive populism destroyed their majority and almost beat them.

There were close parallels between the movements around Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn. Officials from Sanders’ campaign helped Corbyn with ideas on strategy and fundraising. Sanders himself visited Britain just days before the election campaign and drew comparisons between his own policies and Corbyn’s:

Too many people run away from the grotesque levels of income and wealth inequality that exist in the United States, the UK and all over the world Globalisation has left far too many people behind. Workers all over the world are seeing a decline in their standard of living. Unfettered free trade has allowed multinational companies to enjoy huge profits and make the very rich even richer while workers are sucked into a race for the bottom.

The spread of progressive populist ideas has not been confined to the United States and Britain. In Spain the progressive populist party Podemos emerged in 2014 and grew so rapidly that it secured 20 per cent in the 2015 elections, campaigning on an anti-austerity platform, supporting increased public spending and strong anti-corruption measures. In the 2016 election it retained its electoral support. In Greece, another new progressive party, Syriza, formed out of a coalition of left-wing and environment groups and received 35 per cent of the vote in the 2015 elections, later forming government. While the majority trend within European populism is rightwing, the significance of a new left populism should not be underestimated.

Neoliberal globalisation

Driving the emergence of right and left-wing populism is the set of policies known as neoliberalism.

Neoliberalism became the mindset of the political class in the 1980s and was a very deliberate project to wind back the welfare state, reducing the public sphere with its public goods of health, education, transport and culture, along with the tax system which paid for it.

The neoliberal project is based on the idea that the market is the most efficient distributor of goods because it combines the profit motive and competition. It takes no account of justice, inequality or social cohesion. Ultimately this promotes the transformation of all human relationships (not just economic ones) into commercial transactions.

It was neoliberalism with its floating currencies and deregulated markets which drove the present form of globalisation. But neoliberal globalisation means much more than a loosening of trade. It means the unplanned transfer of blue and white-collar jobs from erstwhile industrial countries to less developed nations. It also means national governments are less able to control what happens in their own society and economy.

When the political class adopted neoliberalism, it effectively transferred significant amounts of political power, the democratic power of governments, to private corporations. While benefitting a corporate elite, the neoliberal experiment demonstrably failed in the global financial crisis and the effects of that failure are still with us.

What had been a crisis of private debt was transformed by government bail-outs into an alleged crisis of public debt. This sleight of hand reinforced the neoliberal dogma that the problem was always governments. The ideology of ‘small government’ meant that governments imposed even more stringent cost-cutting measures.

The failure of neoliberalism in Australia

The populist groundswell in the United States, Britain and Europe and elsewhere is reflected by similar movements in Australia, prompted by similar causes. In the following chapters I examine the ways in which Neo-liberalism has failed to produce a good society, as well as its role in fostering a populist backlash.

First and most significantly, 30 years of neoliberal globalisation and deregulation have produced a polarisation of wealth which has undermined Australia’s egalitarian ethos. The gulf between the super-rich and the rest of us is widening. We are becoming a more divided society with a tiny wealthy elite at one extreme and a significant group of poor at the other.

Nor is it solely a matter of fuelling material inequality. As important as inequality (and more important in the long term) is climate change. The ideology of small government and deregulation is impeding our response to accelerating climate change despite the clear warning signs in record high temperatures and the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Whatever combination of market and state arrangements is best at fostering renewable energy, it will need tough government action to implement this and to defeat the power of the coal and oil industries. To support such action we need a broad populist coalition of all the diverse forces demanding real action on climate.

And just as it has in the United States and Britain, privatisation is spreading throughout Australian society, changing services that used to be provided to all citizens into profitmaking enterprises. The sale of public assets like seaports, airports and electricity poles and wires has simply created expensive monopolies. Billions have also been wasted in attempting to privatise technical and vocational education. Despite these failures, private companies are now being encouraged to move deeper into education, aged care and disability services.

Likewise, Australia has its own rust belt of closed factories and, for those in employment, jobs are increasingly casual, part time and less secure. The deregulation of Australian workplaces means that for younger workers, jobs with paid holidays and fair wages are becoming less common. And thanks to a variety of temporary overseas visa schemes a casualised, cashinhand underclass is spreading in the agriculture, retail and hospitality sectors. Such workers are exploited and their labour conditions undermine those of local workers. This is not occurring accidentally but because economic orthodoxy (backed by employers) demands this labour deregulation. The resulting job insecurity combined with low wages is one factor stoking a right-wing populist backlash based on xenophobia and hostility to overseas workers.

While low-paid workers are made increasingly vulnerable, at the other end of the scale big corporations do everything they can to avoid paying tax, a practice made easier in the globalised world of neoliberalism. In 2014, the Australian branch of the tech giant Apple paid $80 million in tax just 1 per cent of its total Australian income of $6 billion. Its rival, Microsoft, paid just 5 per cent of its income. Over several years big mining companies like BHP and Rio Tinto shifted billions through Singapore, where tax rates can be a mere 2.5 per cent. Nor is it just corporations. Some of Australia’s richest families and individuals pay little or no tax. When the Panama Papers were leaked, up to 800 wealthy Australians were associated with shell companies in tax havens like Panama. Meanwhile, ordinary Australians are left to pick up the tab for hospitals, roads and schools, effectively subsidising those who refuse to pay their share.

Finally, compounding the problem of wealth inequality, the banking and finance sector has swollen enormously since it was deregulated. In Australia we have some of the biggest and most profitable banks in the world. Together they form a rapacious oligopoly which extracts more than $30 billion in profits each year from the rest of Australia.

In their zeal to lend money, deregulated banks have fuelled a housing price boom, the result of which is that fewer Australians now own their own home than 40 years ago.

It’s now time to look again at regulating banks and the finance industry to ensure that they act in the public interest.

Overall, the spread of neoliberal orthodoxy through society has corroded many of the institutions and relationships on which citizens rely and which offer protection from the vagaries of the market. This orthodoxy has shrunk the democratic space by removing all sorts of functions from the public to the private sphere. The real meaning of ‘small government’ is that we have ended up with a small democracy, because governments are still the only institutions we have for exercising our democratic, collective voice. The zealous advocacy of theories of selfinterest, competition and small government has led to a dead end.

All of this spawns populisms of both the Right and Left. The crucial point of difference between them concerns the meaning of and response to globalisation. Are the problems of globalisation primarily issues of economics and economic justice or are they mainly an issue of immigrants and of changing the ethnic mix? Progressive populists are alarmed by the damage that open economic borders, which import cheap products and export jobs, do to local jobs and the national economy. Right-wing populism dredges the deepest and most dangerous emotions to reject the changing ethnic mix which results after years of relatively open immigration.

When right-wing populists define what they mean by the ‘elite’ they take aim at the progressive middle class, the so-called politically correct, who abhor racism and gender inequality. Progressive populists, by contrast, define the ‘elite’ in economic terms as the super-rich and corporate moguls. When talking about ‘the people’, progressives seek to unify the middle class and working class in an alliance for reform. Progressive populists emphasise the common ground which the majority of people share on issues of economic justice.

By focussing attention on genuine economic grievances, a progressive populist agenda can undercut the way ethnic and religious minorities are demonised.

Some see progressive populism as the natural continuation and revival of social-democratic and labour politics which have been compromised by their turn to ‘third way’ politics. One critic is political theorist Chantal Mouffe. She argues that the neoliberal consensus between conservative and once-radical workers’ parties has created a favourable ground for the rise of populism because many people feel their voices are unheard and ignored in the representative system. The problem is that this often takes the form of a right-wing populism which sees ‘the people’ defined to exclude immigrants and minorities.

On this basis many people criticise ‘populism’ negatively. She responds:

This is a mistake, because populism represents an important dimension of democracy. Democracy understood as ‘the power of the people’ requires the existence of a ‘demos’ a people. Instead of rejecting the term populist, we should reclaim it.

In this book my intention is to reclaim populism by fostering a progressive version of it which puts the interests of the common man and woman first, ahead of the priorities of a wealthy global elite whose interests and priorities have dominated for far too long.

CHAPTER 2

THE RISE AND RISE OF THE SUPER-RICH

There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war and we ’re winning.

Warren Buffett, billionaire investor

*

With their collective wealth estimated at $US7.7 trillion, the global elite of the super-rich are the natural opponents of progressive populism. Some of that global elite are household names in Australia. In July 2016 over 200 of them gathered for a huge celebration in the dazzling blue waters of the Mediterranean. Trucking billionaire Lindsay Fox was throwing an all expenses paid birthday party and had invited his closest friends to enjoy a cruise from Athens to Venice via Corfu. Fox’s ship of choice was Seabourn Odyssey, renting for over a million dollars a week and containing 225 luxury suites.

Lindsay Fox’s own wealth totals $2.9 billion. His fellow passengers included the mining billionaires Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest.

According to the Australian Financial Review’s 2017 Rich List they are worth (in Australian dollars) $10.4 billion and $6.8 billion respectively. Shopping centre king John Gandel ($6.1 billion) and retail giant Solomon Lew ($2.3 billion) also took part in the exclusive celebration on the high seas. Further down the guest list for the stylish cruise were former Liberal Treasurer Joe Hockey, former Liberal Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett, media businessman Harold Mitchell and golfer Greg Norman.‘

This public airing of the details of a party for Australian billionaires is rare. It’s not always easy to get information on the super-rich. A key source is the Financial Review’s annual Rich List. The 2017 edition identified 60 Australian billionaires, headed by the paper manufacturing magnate Anthony Pratt ($12.6 billion). The most modest billionaire (scraping in at just $1 billion) is Melbourne-based Peter Gunn, who owns PGA Group, a private investment business that holds a property empire in office and industrial blocks and is also involved in cattle production. Others among the ten wealthiest are James Packer ($4.75 billion), whose money is in casinos; Harry Triguboff ($11.45 billion), who made a fortune from building tower blocks; and Frank Lowy ($8.26 billion), the Westfield shopping centre magnate. The eighth wealthiest Australian is Hui Wang Mau ($6 billion), who made much of his money in Hong Kong property and took out Australian citizenship after studying in South Australia in the early 1990s.


from

Populism Now!

by David McKnight

get it at Amazon.com

It’s Time to Panic Now! – Fred Kaplan.

John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser puts us on a path to war.

.

It’s time to push the panic button.

John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser, a post that requires no Senate confirmation, puts the United States on a path to war. And it’s fair to say President Donald Trump wants us on that path.

After all, Trump gave Bolton the job after the two held several conversations (despite White House chief of staff John Kelly’s orders barring Bolton from the building). And there was this remark that Trump made after firing Rex Tillerson and nominating the more hawkish Mike Pompeo to take his place:

”We’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things I want.”

Bolton has repeatedly called for launching a first strike on North Korea, scuttling the nuclear arms deal with Iran, and then bombing that country too. He says and writes these things not as part of some clever ”madman theory” to bring Kim Jong-un and the mullahs of Tehran to the bargaining table, but rather because he simply wants to destroy them and America’s other enemies too.

His agenda is not ”peace through strength,” the motto of more conventional Republican hawks that Trump included in a tweet on Wednesday, but rather regime change through war. He is a neocon without the moral fervor of some who wear that label, i.e., he is keen to topple oppressive regimes not in order to spread democracy but rather to expand American power.

In the early days of the George W. Bush administration, Vice President Dick Cheney finagled Bolton a job as undersecretary of state for arms control, an inside joke, since Bolton has never read an arms, control treaty that he liked. But his real assignment was to serve as Cheney’s spy in Foggy Bottom, monitoring and, when possible, obstructing any attempts at peaceful diplomacy mounted by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

When Powell got the boot, Cheney wanted to make Bolton deputy secretary of state, replacing Richard Armitage, who resigned along with his best friend Powell. But Powell’s replacement, Condoleezza Rice, who had been Bush’s national security adviser, blocked the move, fully aware of Bolton’s obstructionist ideology.

As a compromise, Bush nominated Bolton to be United Nations ambassador, but that move proved unbearable to even the Republican controlled Senate at the time. It was one thing to be critical of the U.N., it’s a body deserving of criticism, but Bolton opposed its very existence. ”There is no such thing as the United Nations,” he once said in a speech, adding, ”If the UN. Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a lot of difference.”

More than that, he was hostile to the idea of international law, having once declared, ”It is a big mistake for us to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so, because over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.”

These might be quaint notions for some eccentric midlevel aide to espouse, but the United Nations is founded on international law, Security Council resolutions are drafted to enforce international law, and, as even Bush was beginning to realize by the start of his second term, around the time of Bolton’s nomination, some of those resolutions were proving useful for expressing, and sometimes enforcing, US. national security interests. How could someone with these views serve as the US. ambassador to the U.N.?

In his confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bolton put on a dreadful show, grumbling and scowling through his walrus mustache. Finally, in a tie vote, the committee sent Bolton’s nomination to the full Senate ”without recommendation.” Properly fearing that this foretold a rejection on the floor, Bush gave Bolton the job as a ”recess appointment” after Congress went on holiday. But the law allowing this evasion gave the Senate a chance to take a vote 18 months later. In the second round of hearings, Bolton behaved even more obnoxiously than in the first. When one Republican senator asked him whether his year and a half in the UN. had altered his ideas about the place, Bolton, rather than seizing the chance to mollify skeptics, replied, ”Not really.” The head counters in the White House withdrew the nomination, and Bolton headed back to neocon central at the American Enterprise Institute.

During Trump’s presidential transition, Bolton made the short list of candidates for deputy secretary of state, but Tillerson, who would soon get the nod for secretary, expressed misgivings about working with the guy. (Trump might have recalled that conversation earlier this month, when he decided to fire Tillerson.) After Michael Flynn flamed out as national security adviser, Bolton was also on the short list to replace him. Gen. H.R. McMaster got the nod, but Trump publicly said he liked Bolton and that he too would soon be working for the White House ”in some capacity.” And now, here he is.

In his one year and one month on the job, McMaster, who is still an active-duty Army three-star general, proved a deep disappointment to his friends and erstwhile admirers. He’d made his reputation 20 years ago, as the author of a dissertation turned book, Dereliction of Duty, which lambasted the top generals of the Vietnam era for failing to give their honest military advice to President Lyndon Johnson. And now, in his only tour as a policy adviser in Washington, McMaster has wrecked that reputation, committing his own derelictions by pandering to Trump’s proclivities and tolerating his falsehoods.

But at least McMaster assembled, and often listened to, a professional staff at the National Security Council and insisted on ousting amateur ideologues, several of them acolytes of Flynn.

Bolton is not likely to put up with a professional staff, and the flood of White House exiles will soon intensify.

One subject of discussion at Bolton’s Senate hearings, back in 2005, was his intolerance of any views that differed from his own. He displayed this trait most harshly when, as undersecretary of state, he tried to fire two intelligence analysts who challenged his (erroneous) view that Cuba was developing biological weapons and supplying the weapons to rogue regimes.

Nor is Bolton at all suited to perform one of a national security adviser’s main responsibilities, assembling the Cabinet secretaries to debate various options in foreign and military policy, mediating their differences, and either hammering out a compromise or presenting the choices to the president.

Then again, there may now no longer be many differences to mediate in this administration. The last of the grown ups is Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the retired Marine four-star general, who got that job mainly because Trump had heard his nickname was ”mad dog.” He didn’t know that Mattis regularly consulted a personal library of some 7,000 volumes on history and strategy, that (like most generals) he’s not too keen to go to war unless he really has to, and that (also like most generals) he takes the Geneva Conventions seriously and opposes torture.

In recent weeks, Trump was said to be tiring of aides who kept telling him no. He might soon tire of Bolton, who, whatever else he is, can’t be pegged as a yes man. But in the short term, Bolton may be just the man to excite Trump’s darker instincts, to actualize the frustrated hitman who raged about pelting Kim Jong-un with ”fire and fury like the world has never seen” or fomenting ”the total collapse of the Iranian regime,” which he somehow believes was about to happen, if only Obama hadn’t signed the nuclear deal and lifted sanctions.

With Tillerson out, Bolton in, and Pompeo waiting in the wings for confirmation, Trump is feeling his oats, coming into his own, like Trump is free to be Trump. Finding out just who that is may make the rest of us duck and cover.

Real Facts about Tariffs. Trump’s plan brings a gun to a knife fight, a gun aimed at his foot – Greg Jericho.

It wasn’t a total surprise that Australia was spared the steel and aluminium tariffs as Trump’s bluster of levelling tariffs for everyone is weakening.

This week saw leaders around the world trying to remember whether they were meant to take Donald Trump seriously, but not literally, or literally but not seriously, and also wondering if they have a Greg Norman somewhere they could use.

When US president Trump announced early in the week he was going to levy a 25% tariff on steel and a 15% tariff on aluminium imports, he suggested it was in order to protect national security. As with most Trump utterances, it left everyone trying to decipher just what he meant, because the US imports nearly half its steel from four nations Canada, Brazil, South Korea and Mexico which are hardly enemies of the US.

Was he doing this to attack China? He did write a series of tweets that suggested trade with China is in his sights, but while China is the biggest producer of steel, it only exports a small percentage of it to the US.

Some of his other tweets suggested that Trump was instead targeting Europe, but again, hitting steel imports was an odd way to go about it, given Europe made it quickly obvious that it would retaliate with tariffs of its own and the European Union is one of the few economies with enough grunt not to get pushed around by the US.

Then came the suggestion that Trump was using this to negotiate with Canada and Mexico over Nafta but that was also odd because that shot down his national security reasoning and opened the US up to retaliation under the World Trade Organisation rules (which would be likely anyway, given his national security reasoning was clearly bogus).

And using the threat of increasing tariffs in free trade negotiations is a weird way to go about things.

The tariffs do hurt the countries that export steel and aluminium to the US, because they force them to charge more for their product, thereby giving American steel companies an advantage, but they also hurt the US.

Tariffs are effectively consumption taxes designed to give local industries an advantage (or at least an equal footing with international competitors), and they work by raising the price of imports. Now that is great for the owners and possibly workers of those industries, but not so good for anyone else who wants to buy those goods, because now they have to pay more.

A tariff on steel and aluminium imports might help create a few extra jobs in the steel industry, but it also increases the price of all things made with steel and aluminium. That leads to job losses in those industries and also reduces the living standards for everyone because suddenly they have to pay more for things like canned goods, beer, and cars.

One study suggested that for every job gained in the steel and aluminium industries, five would be lost elsewhere.

That does not mean all free trade is a win for everyone and international trade does not occur in a textbook, but rather in the real world where governments subsidise and assist industries. But the general rule is that the costs to the economy increase with the size of the tariff and the number of industries affected (and similarly the benefits of lowering them reduce as the tariff gets closer to zero). A 25% tariff on steel is thus a rather hefty whack.

Trump is in effect going to the negotiating table with a massive weapon, a bit like taking a gun to a knife fight. The only problem is he has the gun aimed at his own foot.

And so it wasn’t a total surprise to see Trump back down and exempt Canada and Mexico, and then later give one to Australia. As the trade minister, Steve Ciobo noted this week, our steel exports to the US amount to about 0.800 of the US market and our aluminium exports account for about 1.5% so exempting Australia makes little difference.

To that end, reports that we have engaged Greg Norman to do some lobbying on our behalf seem eminently sensible. Not because Norman is some master trade negotiator, but because when dealing with Trump, nations always need to realise he is an insecure, ego driven fool who needs praise for doing the most ordinary of activities, and who sees every discussion and issue through the prism of how it makes him look.

Norman is probably the only Australian Trump has heard of, and the fact that Norman is famous and successful and would be seeking a favour from Trump would appeal to Trump’s vanity.

We could bemoan the fact that America’s electoral college system has selected this vainglorious ignoramus, or we can suck it up and use it to our advantage.

For now it appears his bluster of levelling tariffs for everyone is weakening. Trump clearly believes this the best way to negotiate trade deals, like any good swindler he’ll ignore the costs and talk only of the benefits.

The danger for Australia has always been not from a direct US tariff but should retaliation come from Europe and China. The last thing a small open economy needs is for the large economies of the world to start playing like it is 1930.

For now everyone is trying to work out just what Trump is after, mostly he is after things that he can call a win (even if they are really not). So I; nations will be thinking of things they give Trum that don’t matter in order for him to claim victory in the negotiation.

Or they can see if Greg Norman is available for hire.

The Guardian

What happened when the US last introduced tariffs? – Dominic Rushe.

Anyone?

Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot were reviled for a bill blamed for triggering the Great Depression. Will Trump follow their lead?

America inches towards a potential trade war over steel prices, can Donald Trump hear whispering voices?

Alone in the Oval Office in the wee dark hours, illuminated by the glow of his Twitter app, does he feel the sudden chill flowing from those freshly hung gold drapes? It is the shades of Smoot and Hawley.

Willis Hawley and Reed Smoot have haunted Congress since the 1930s when they were the architects of the Smoot Hawley tariff bill, among the most decried pieces of legislation in US history and a bill blamed by some for not only for triggering the Great Depression but also contributing to the start of the second world war.

Pilloried even in their own time, their bloodied names have been brought out like Jacob Marley’s ghost every time America has taken a protectionist turn on trade policy. And America has certainly taken a protectionist turn.

Successful presidents including Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have campaigned on the perils of free trade only to drop the rhetoric once installed in the White House. Trump called Mexicans “rapists” on the campaign trail. And China? “There are people who wish I wouldn’t refer to China as our enemy. But that’s exactly what they are,” Trump said.

As commander in chief he has shown no signs of softening and this week took major action announcing steel imports would face a 25% tariff and aluminium 10%.

Canada and the EU said they would bring forward their own countermeasures. Mexico, China and Brazil have also said they are considering retaliatory steps.

Trump doesn’t seem worried. “Trade wars are good,” he tweeted even as the usually friendly Wall Street Journal thundered that “Trump’s tariff folly ”is the “biggest policy blunder of his Presidency”.

It is not his first protectionist move. In his first days in office the president has vetoed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the biggest trade deal in a generation, said he will review the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), a deal he has called “the worst in history”, and had his visit with Mexico’s president cancelled over his plans to make them pay for a border wall.

Free traders may have become complacent after hearing tough talk on trade from so many presidential candidates on the campaign trail only to watch them furiously back pedal when they get into ofhce, said Dartmouth professor and trade expert Douglas Irwin. “Unfortunately that pattern may have been broken,” he says. “It looks like we have to take Trump literally and seriously about his threats on trade.”

Not since Herbert Hoover has a US president been so down on free trade. And Hoover was the man who signed off on Smoot and Hawley’s bill.

Hawley, an Oregon congressman and a professor a history and economics, became a stock figure in the textbooks of his successors thanks to his partnership with the lean, patrician figure of Senator Reed Smoot, a Mormon apostle known as the “sugar senator” for his protectionist stance towards Utah’s sugar beet industry.

Before he was shackled to Hawley for eternity Smoot was more famous for his Mormonism and his abhorrence of bawdy books, a disgust that inspired the immortal headline “Smoot Smites Smut” after he attacked the importation of Lady’s Chatterley’s Lover, Robert Burns’ more risque poems and similar texts as “worse than opium I would rather have a child of mine use opium than read these books.”

But it was imports of another kind that secured Smoot and Hawley’s place in infamy.

The US economy was doing well in the 1920s as the consumer society was being born to the sound of jazz. The Tariff Act began life largely as a politically motivated response to appease the agricultural lobby that had fallen behind as American workers, and money, consolidated in the cities.

Foreign demand for US produce had soared during the first world war, and farm prices doubled between 1915 and 1918. A wave of land speculation followed and farmers took on debt as they looked to expand production. By the early 1920s farmers had found themselves heavily in debt and squeezed by tightening monetary policy and an unexpected collapse in commodity prices.

Nearly a quarter of the American labor force was then employed on the land, and Congress could not ignore heartland America. Cheap foreign imports and their toll on the domestic market became a hot issue in the 1928 election. Even bananas weren’t safe. Irwin quotes one critic in his book Peddling Protectionism: Smoot Hawley and the Great Depression: “The enormous imports of cheap bananas into the United States tend to curtail the domestic consumption of fresh fruits produced in the United States.”

Hoover won in a landslide against Albert E Smith, an out of touch New Yorker who didn’t appeal to middle America, and soon after promised to pass “limited” tariff reforms.

Hawley started the bill but with Smoot behind him it metastasized as lobby groups shoehorned their products into the bill, eventually proposing higher tariffs on more than 20,000 imported goods.

Siren voices warned of dire consequences. Henry Ford reportedly told Hoover the bill was “an economic stupidity”.

Critics of the tariffs were being aided and abetted by “internationalists” willing to “betray American interests”, said Smoot. Reports claiming the bill would harm the US economy were decried as fake news. Republican Frank Crowther, dismissed press criticism as “demagoguery and untruth, scandalous untruth”.

In October 1929 as the Senate debated the tariff bill the stock market crashed. When the bill finally made it to Hoover’s desk in June 1930 it had morphed from his original “limited” plan to the “highest rates ever known”, according to a New York Times editorial.

The extent to which Smoot and Hawley were to blame for the coming Great Depression is still a matter of debate. “Ask a thousand economists and you will get a thousand and five answers,” said Charles Geisst, professor of economics at Manhattan College and author of Wall Street: A History.

What is apparent is that the bill sparked international outrage and a backlash. Canada and Europe reacted with a wave of protectionist tariffs that deepened a global depression that presaged the rise of Hitler and the second world war. A myriad other factors contributed to the Depression, and to the second world war, but inarguably one consequence of Smoot Hawley in the US was that never again would a sitting US president be so avowedly anti trade. Until today.

Franklin D Roosevelt swept into power in 1933 and for the first time the president was granted the authority to undertake trade negotiations to reduce foreign barriers on US exports in exchange for lower US tariffs.

The backlash against Smoot and Hawley continued to the present day. The average tariff on dutiable imports was 45% in 1930; by 2010 it was 5%.

The lessons of Smoot Hawley used to be taught in high schools. Presidents from Lyndon Johnson to Ronald Reagan have enlisted the unhappy duo when facing off with free trade critics. “I have been around long enough to remember that when we did that once before in this century, something called Smoot Hawley, we lived through a nightmare,” Reagan, who came of age during the Great Depression, said in 1984.

They even got a mention in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when actor Ben Stein’s teacher bores his class with it. “I don’t think the current generation are taught it. It’s in the past and we are more interested in the future.”

But that might be about to change. “The main lesson is that you have to worry about what other countries do. Countries will retaliate,” said Irwin. “When Congress was considering Smoot Hawley in the 1930s they didn’t consider what other countries might do in reaction. They thought other countries would remain passive. But other countries don’t remain passive.”

The consequences of a trade war today are far worse than in the 1930s. Exports of goods and services account for about 13% of US gross domestic product (GDP) the broadest measure of an economy. It was roughly 5% back in 1920.

“The US is much more engaged in trade, it’s much more a part of the fabric of the country, than it was in the 1920s and 1930s. That means the ripple effects are widespread. Many more industries will be hit by it and the scope for foreign retaliation, which in the case of Smoot Hawley was quite limited, is going to be much more widespread if a trade war was to start.”

“When you start talking about withdrawing from trade agreements or imposing tariffs of 35%, if you are doing that as a protectionist measure, that would be blowing up the system.”

That the promise of “blowing up the system” got Trump elected may be why the ghosts of Smoot and Hawley are once again walking the halls of Congress.

The Guardian

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 

How to Spot a Psychopath: Three Traits You Should Look For – Melissa Burkley Ph.D.

When we think of the word “psychopath,” what usually comes to mind first are commonplace media portrayals of crazed killers. The kind you see in Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. But these depictions are a far cry from what actual psychopaths are like. In fact, most psychopaths are not murderers. That’s the good news.


The bad news is that this fact makes psychopaths harder to spot in a crowd than you might think (Hint: He’s usually not the crazy-eyed guy in the black trench coat walking down the abandoned street). Research suggests that 1 percent of the population meets the criteria for psychopathy. That may not sound like a lot, but it means that 1 in every 100 people you know is a psychopath. They could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, or maybe even your favorite blogger. Perhaps there’s one sitting next to you right now as you read this! And to make things worse, the percentage doubles or even quadruples if we are talking about people in high-power positions, like business leaders, lawyers, and surgeons.

With all these psychopaths running around, how do you spot one? After all, the quicker you can identify a psychopath in your midst, the less likely you are to become one of their victims. Fortunately, psychologists have been conducting research on psychopathic traits for years.

Although theories of psychopathy may vary, most researchers tend to agree that real-world psychopaths demonstrate a cluster of three personality characteristics. This cluster is referred to as the “Dark Triad,” because people who possess these three traits often exhibit malevolent behaviors (e.g., crime, ethical violations, etc.).

1. Machiavellianism

People high in Machiavellianism are duplicitous, cunning, and manipulative. They place a higher priority than most on power, money, and winning. They easily disregard moral and social rules, and as a result, lie to others and manipulate them with little to no guilt. Think Gordon Gekko from Wall Street or Frank and Claire Underwood from House of Cards.
For people high in this trait, manipulating others is an impulse, much like an alcoholic has an impulse to drink. Sometimes this manipulation is done to achieve personal gain (e.g., to get a promotion), but other times it is just done for fun, or because they can’t stop themselves (e.g., internet trolling). Depending on type, these people’s tools of the trade are deception, guilt, bullying, feigned weakness, or flattery. But whichever they choose, they regularly wield these tools in an attempt to twist the emotions and behaviors of those around them.

Because such people are master manipulators, they are often charming and well-liked, at least on a superficial level. They may feign interest and compassion for a short time, but that façade wears off quickly, and it becomes clear that they only really care about themselves.
A perfect literary example of this trait is Amy Dunne from Gone Girl. Amy Dunne goes to extreme lengths to victimize the men in her life, often because their only sin was not giving her the attention she thought she deserved. Her particular tools of manipulation are sex, lies, guilt, fame, and of course her well-crafted diary. Even we as the readers get duped by Amy’s lies, and it isn’t until midway through the book that we see her for what she really is: a master manipulator.

2. Lack of Conscience or Empathy

You know that little voice in your head that tells you to return a found wallet or treat others as you want to be treated? Well, people high in psychopathy don’t have that voice, or if they do, its volume is turned down very low. As a result, they lack many of the social emotions that normal people take for granted, including guilt, remorse, sympathy, and pity.
It is this lack of a conscience that enables psychopaths to engage in behaviors that normal people may secretly fantasize about, but never actually do. When someone hurts us or makes us mad, we may think, “I just want to punch him!” or “I could kill him!” but we would never actually do it. Psychopaths don’t have that brake pedal. Generally speaking, if they want to do it, they’ll do it.
This also hints at another quality associated with psychopathy — low impulse control. People high in psychopathy are quick to violence and aggression, they have many casual sex partners, and they engage in risky or dangerous behaviors. Their mantra is “Act first, think later.”
Once again, Gillian Flynn crafted an excellent representation of this trait with Amy Dunne. Amy is cold and calculating and almost reptilian-like in her lack of compassion. She seems to lack any sense of right and wrong or empathy for what she puts others through. Instead, she has a calculating, pragmatic nature, regardless of whether she is lying to the police or getting rid of a human obstacle. Through her actions and lack of emotions, the reader finally sees Amy Dunne as a glacial beauty who lacks even a hint of warmth or humanity underneath.

3. Narcissism

People high in narcissism are self-centered, vain, and have an inflated sense of their qualities and achievements. They see themselves as perfect. Any flaws they may have they refuse to see in themselves and instead project onto those around them. For example, a narcissist who secretly worries she isn’t smart enough will accuse those around her of being dumb as a way to boost her own ego.

Narcissists love compliments — they can’t get enough and lavishly praise anyone who admires or affirms them. The flip side of this coin means they are extremely sensitive to insults and often respond to criticism with seething rage and retribution. They have what psychologists refer to as “unstable self-esteem.” This means they put themselves on a very high pedestal, but it doesn’t take much to topple them to the ground. What a normal person would perceive as constructive criticism, narcissists see as a declaration of war.

Because of their self-focus, they don’t get along well with others. They have problems sustaining healthy, satisfying relationships, and so they tend to seek positions of authority where they can work over, rather than beside, their colleagues. Such authority also helps, because narcissists never blame themselves for their problems. It is ALWAYS someone else’s fault.

There are lots of examples of narcissists in popular literature (and many more in historical literature), but in my opinion, one that holds true to this description in a non-obvious and non-stereotypical way is Annie Wilkes from Misery. Annie doesn’t immediately come off as arrogant or boastful (although her claim to be Paul Sheldon’s “number-one fan” is our first hint of her inflated sense of self). But as the book unfolds, we are subjected to her constant complaining about the world and those in it. These rants demonstrate that she does see herself as superior. Everyone else is a “lying ol’ dirty birdy,” and anyone who falls into this dreaded category is not worthy of sympathy or even basic human dignity. The character of Annie Wilkes is an excellent example of how to incorporate narcissism (or any of these three traits) in a way that is subtle and unique, but still clearly present.

Now, let’s put it all together. Keep in mind that just being high in one of these traits doesn’t automatically mean a person is a psychopath. People can be risk-seekers or arrogant and not necessarily engage in malevolent behavior. In fact, some research suggests that real-world heroes share some, but not all, of these traits. What matters is the combination of these three traits. Real-world psychopaths are the perfect storm of egotism, manipulation, and a lack of conscience.

Psychology Today 

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 

*

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.

*

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

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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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DB: Do you see any encouraging activity on the Democrats’ side? Or is it time to begin thinking about a third party?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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DB: What are the strategic issues where Korea is concerned? Can anything be done to defuse the growing conflict?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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DB: What do you make of the conflict between the Trump administration and the US intelligence communities? Do you believe in the “deep state”?
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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.
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DB: To conclude, as we look forward to your 89th birthday, I wonder: Do you have a theory of longevity?
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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.
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***
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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.
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David Barsamian is the director of Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado
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The Nation

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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

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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

Trump is the real nuclear threat, and we can’t just fantasise him away – Jonathan Freedland. 

Among the many terrifying facts that have emerged in the last several days, perhaps the scariest relate to the nuclear button over which now hovers the finger of Donald Trump. It turns out that, of all the powers held by this or any other US president, the least checked or balanced is his authority over the world’s mightiest arsenal. He exercises this awesome, civilisation-ending power alone.

As Trump has learned in recent months, the man in the Oval Office cannot simply issue a decree changing, say, the US healthcare system. He has to build majorities in the House and Senate, which is harder than it looks. If he wants to change immigration policy, a mere order is not enough. He can be stopped by the courts, as Trump saw with his travel ban. But if he wants to rain fire and fury on a distant enemy, bringing more fire and fury down on his own citizens and many hundreds of millions of others, there is no one standing in his way. Not for nothing does the geopolitical literature refer to the US president as the “nuclear monarch.”

The more you hear of the simplicity of the system, the more frightening it becomes. If Trump decides he has had enough of Kim Jong-un’s verbal threats, he merely has to turn to the low-level military aide at his side and ask them to open up the black briefcase that officer keeps permanently in their grasp. The bag is known as the nuclear “football”. (It gets its name from the code word for the very first set of nuclear war plans: dropkick.) Inside the bag is a menu of options, explained in detail in a “black book,” but also set out in a single, cartoon-like page for speedy comprehension. Trump has only to make his choice, pick up the phone to the Pentagon war room, utter the code words that identify him as the president and give the order. That’s it.

There is no need for consultation with anyone else. Not the secretary of state or the secretary of defence, nor the head of the military. The officer who receives the call at the Pentagon has no authority to question or challenge the order. His or her duty is only to implement it. Thirty minutes after the president gave the instruction, the nuclear missiles would be hitting their targets. There is no way of turning them back. Such power in the hands of a single individual would be a horrifying prospect even if it were Solomon himself whose finger was on the trigger. But as Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer, and seasoned military analyst wrote during the 2016 campaign, Trump’s “quick temper, defensiveness bordering on paranoia and disdain for anyone who criticises him do not inspire deep confidence in his prudence.”

What’s more, Trump is the man who said in 2015, “For me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me,” and who bellowed from the campaign podium, “I love war”. In last year’s election campaign, the former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough reported on a briefing a foreign policy expert had given Trump. “Three times, he asked, at one point, ‘If we have them, we can’t we use them?’ … Three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’”

It turns out Hillary Clinton was right to warn Americans 14 months ago that, “It’s not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin.” And here we are, Trump tweet-goading the North Koreans by declaring military solutions “locked an loaded”. We need imagine no longer.

Those who find themselves trembling at all this have spent the last few days grasping for a comfort blanket. A favourite has been the notion that those around Trump, especially the generals current and former, will not let him unleash nuclear Armageddon. This view holds that, yes, Trump may well be dangerously unhinged but fear not, the wiser heads of Washington will stay his hand. Indeed, this strain of thinking has been visible since Trump took the oath of office. Call it the deep state fantasy. It looks to the national security apparatus, the intelligence agencies and the permanent bureaucracy, the shadow government, to step in and do the right thing.

It hangs its hopes on a range of prospective saviours. It might be the trio of former generals made up of Jim Mattis, who heads the Pentagon, John Kelly, recently drafted in as chief of staff, and HR McMaster who serves as national security adviser. Alternatively, it looks to the loose alliance hailed this week by the influential Axios website as “The Committee to Save America”, consisting not only of the generals but also the cluster of New Yorkers that includes some of Trump’s less hot-headed economic advisers, with added reinforcements from the Republican ranks in Congress. The committee’s unofficial mission: to protect “the nation from disaster”. The ultimate deep state fantasy longs for the men in the shadows not merely to restrain Trump, but remove him from office. The designated hero of this story is Robert Mueller, the former FBI director now heading what is reported to be a swift and penetrating probe into allegations of collusion with Russia as well as Trump’s wider business dealings.

Mueller’s role may indeed prove to be critical. But the deep state fantasy itself, while comforting, is surely a dead end for Trump’s opponents. For one thing, events have reached an odd pass when liberals are dreaming of unelected generals thwarting an elected head of government: that used to be the fantasy of the militaristic right.

But it also relies more on hope than evidence. All these supposedly wise heads around Trump: what restraint have they achieved so far? Kelly was meant to impose order and discipline, and yet we still have Trump tweeting threats that could easily be misinterpreted as the cue for war. On North Korea, the US administration continues to send conflicting signals by the hour, with Trump outriders like Sebastian Gorka slapping down secretary of state Rex Tillerson on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, creating confusion when a nuclear standoff requires calm clarity.

And we cannot escape the basic fact. All these advisers can try to hold him back, but when it comes to it, nuclear authority is Trump’s and Trump’s alone. He is the nuclear monarch.

The glum truth is that the only people who can effectively check a democratically elected menace like Trump are other democratically elected leaders. Ultimately it will be up to the men and women of Congress to do their constitutional duty by impeaching Trump and removing him from office. If Republicans won’t do it, then voters need to replace them with Democrats who will, by voting for a new House in the midterm elections of November 2018. The trouble is, it’s not clear that the US – or the world – have that much time.

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 

Recognise this poor fellow? 

No is not enough, defeating the new ‘shock politics’. Part 1: Trump Shock Therapy  – Naomi Klein. 

Shock Doctrine 

The term “shock doctrine” describes the quite brutal tactic of systematically using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock: wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes, or natural disasters, to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called “shock therapy.”

Trump and his top advisers are trying to pull off a domestic shock doctrine. The goal is all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest, whether in the form of antipollution regulations or programs for the hungry. In their place will be unfettered power and freedom for corporations. It’s a program so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide-and-conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a nonstop spectacle of media distractions. And of course it is being backed up with a massive increase in war spending, a dramatic escalation of military conflicts on multiple fronts, from Syria to North Korea, alongside presidential musings about how “torture works.”

The goal? The “deconstruction of the administrative state” (the government regulations and agencies tasked with protecting people and their rights).

And “if you look at Trump’s Cabinet nominees, they were selected for a reason, and that is deconstruction.”

What’s happening in Washington is not the usual passing of the baton between parties. It’s a naked corporate takeover, one many decades in the making. It seems that the economic interests that have long since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they’re tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of elected officials, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement. So now they’re cutting out the middlemen— those needy politicians who are supposed to protect the public interest— and doing what all top dogs do when they want something done right: they are doing it themselves.

Up to now in US politics there’s been a mask on the corporate state’s White House proxies: the smiling actor’s face of Ronald Reagan or the faux cowboy persona of George W. Bush (with Dick Cheney/ Halliburton scowling in the background). Now the mask is gone. And no one is even bothering to pretend otherwise.

The Trump family’s business model is part of a broader shift in corporate structure that has taken place within many brand-based multinationals, one with transformative impacts on culture and the job market, trends that I wrote about in my first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies. What this model tells us is that the very idea that there could be— or should be— any distinction between the Trump brand and the Trump presidency is a concept the current occupant of the White House cannot begin to comprehend. The presidency is in fact the crowning extension of the Trump brand.

The fact that such defiant levels of profiteering from public office can unfold in full view is disturbing enough. As are so many of Trump’s actions in his first months in office. But history shows us that, however destabilized things are now, the shock doctrine means they could get a lot worse. The main pillars of Trump’s political and economic project are: the deconstruction of the regulatory state; a full-bore attack on the welfare state and social services (rationalized in part through bellicose racial fearmongering and attacks on women for exercising their rights); the unleashing of a domestic fossil fuel frenzy (which requires the sweeping aside of climate science and the gagging of large parts of the government bureaucracy); and a civilizational war against immigrants and “radical Islamic terrorism”(with ever-expanding domestic and foreign theaters).

A large-scale crisis— whether a terrorist attack or a financial crash— would likely provide the pretext to declare some sort of state of exception or emergency, where the usual rules no longer apply. This, in turn, would provide the cover to push through aspects of the Trump agenda that require a further suspension of core democratic norms— such as his pledge to deny entry to all Muslims (not only those from selected countries), his Twitter threat to bring in “the feds” to quell street violence in Chicago, or his obvious desire to place restrictions on the press. A large-enough economic crisis would offer an excuse to dismantle programs like Social Security. 

We don’t go into a state of shock when something big and bad happens; it has to be something big and bad that we do not yet understand. A state of shock is what results when a gap opens up between events and our initial ability to explain them. When we find ourselves in that position, without a story, without our moorings, a great many people become vulnerable to authority figures telling us to fear one another and relinquish our rights for the greater good.

There’s one thing I’ve learned from reporting from dozens of locations in the midst of crisis, whether it was Athens rocked by Greece’s debt debacle, or New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, or Baghdad during the US occupation: these tactics can be resisted. To do so, two crucial things have to happen. First, we need a firm grasp on how shock politics work and whose interests they serve. That understanding is how we get out of shock quickly and start fighting back. Second, and equally important, we have to tell a different story from the one the shock doctors are peddling, a vision of the world compelling enough to compete head-to-head with theirs. This values-based vision must offer a different path, away from serial shocks—one based on coming together across racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divides, rather than being wrenched further apart, and one based on healing the planet rather than unleashing further destabilizing wars and pollution. Most of all, that vision needs to offer those who are hurting—for lack of jobs, lack of health care, lack of peace, lack of hope—a tangibly better life.

Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion, a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half century. Trump is the product of powerful systems of thought that rank human life based on race, religion, gender, sexuality, physical appearance, and physical ability, and that have systematically used race as a weapon to advance brutal economic policies since the earliest days of North American colonization and the transatlantic slave trade. He is also the personification of the merger of humans and corporations, a one-man megabrand, whose wife and children are spin-off brands, with all the pathologies and conflicts of interest inherent in that. He is the embodiment of the belief that money and power provide license to impose one’s will on others, whether that entitlement is expressed by grabbing women or grabbing the finite resources from a planet on the cusp of catastrophic warming. He is the product of a business culture that fetishists “disruptors” who make their fortunes by flagrantly ignoring both laws and regulatory standards.

Most of all, he is the incarnation of a still-powerful free-market ideological project, one embraced by centrist parties as well as conservative ones, that wages war on everything public and commonly held, and imagines corporate CEOs as superheroes who will save humanity.

In 2002, George W. Bush threw a ninetieth-birthday party at the White House for the man who was the intellectual architect of that war on the public sphere, the radical free-market economist Milton Friedman. At the celebration, then US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld declared, “Milton is the embodiment of the truth that ideas have consequences.” He was right— and Donald Trump is a direct consequence of those ideas.

With US vice president Mike Pence or House speaker Paul Ryan waiting in the wings, and a Democratic Party establishment also enmeshed with the billionaire class, the world we need won’t be won just by replacing the current occupant of the Oval Office.

Naomi Klein

from her new book: No is not enough, defeating the new shock politics. 

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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Trump’s Rogue America – Joseph E. Stiglitz. 

Donald Trump has thrown a hand grenade into the global economic architecture that was so painstakingly constructed in the years after World War II’s end. The attempted destruction of this rules-based system of global governance – now manifested in Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the 2015 Paris climate agreement – is just the latest aspect of the US president’s assault on our basic system of values and institutions.

The world is only slowly coming fully to terms with the malevolence of the Trump administration’s agenda. He and his cronies have attacked the US press – a vital institution for preserving Americans’ freedoms, rights, and democracy – as an “enemy of the people.” They have attempted to undermine the foundations of our knowledge and beliefs – our epistemology – by labeling as “fake” anything that challenges their aims and arguments, even rejecting science itself. Trump’s sham justifications for spurning the Paris climate agreement is only the most recent evidence of this.

For millennia before the middle of the eighteenth century, standards of living stagnated. It was the Enlightenment, with its embrace of reasoned discourse and scientific inquiry, that underpinned the enormous increases in standards of living in the subsequent two and a half centuries.

With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to discover and address our prejudices. As the idea of human equality – and its corollary, basic individual rights for all – quickly spread, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender, and, eventually, other aspects of human identity, including disability and sexual orientation.

Trump seeks to reverse all of that. His rejection of science, in particular climate science, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry