Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward



Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward is the third book about Donald Trump that I have read this year.  Fire and Fury was an account of the infighting inside the Trump White House during Trump's first 100 days.   House of Putin, House of Trump was a roadmap of Trump's business ties with the Russian Mafia going back 40 years.  Fear is a record of events and conversations that confirm that Americans have reason to fear while Donald Trump is still in the White House.

Woodward figured he would be writing a book about President Hillary Clinton.  But two weeks before the election, he gave a speech in Fort Worth, Texas to 400 mostly white executives of a software company who were from all over the country.  Woodward asked for a show of hands for whom they would vote for in the Presidential election: ten pairs of hands went up for Hillary; over 200 pairs of hands went up for Donald Trump.  Woodward didn't know why, but he figured the polls had to be skewed.  Two weeks later, Donald Trump was elected the President of the United States of America.

"Real Power is––I don't even want to use the word––fear."  Donald Trump made that statement to Bob Woodward and Bob Costa in an interview on March 31, 2016.  Woodward uses Trump's statement as the epigraph of this book.  And he uses it again as a Trump quote on the back cover, with an image of Trump doing a fist pump.  Moreover, Woodward uses Trump's words, "Real power is fear," on three different occasions in the book.

On page 175, Trump was giving advice to a friend who had admitted bad behavior towards women.  Real power is fear.  Trump told him that it was all about strength.  Never show weakness.  Never admit.  "You've got to deny, deny, deny and push back hard on these women."

On pages 274 and 275, Woodward provided an insight into Trump's philosophy regarding tariffs and trade deals.  Trump wanted to impose a 25 percent steel tariff and Gary Cohn was trying to talk him out of it.  Trump said,"we'll try it.  If it doesn't work, we'll undo it."  Cohn said "You do something when you're 100 percent certain it will work, and then you pray like hell that you're right.  You don't do 50/50s with the U.S. economy."

Still on pages 274 and 275,  Woodward said that Trump wanted to blow up the NAFTA deal and renegotiate it.  Trump's philosophy was "to get yes, you first had to say no."  Cohn warned that it was too risky: "That either works or you go bankrupt."  To Trump, Cohn thought, bankruptcy was just another business strategy.  And Trump had gone bankrupt six times. Real power is fear.


On page 300  Woodward wrote about Trump's foreign policy, which Trump believed he was winning.  Iran was under intense pressure, Pakistan was afraid that it might lose our aid, and South Korea was going to bow to Trump's demands for new trade talks.  Then there was North Korea.  Woodward writes that Trump's tweets about who had the biggest Button "may have come close to starting a war with North Korea in 2018."  Woodward continues, "The public never learned the full story of the risks that Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took as they engaged in a public battle of words."  Real power is fear.  

On the next page, Woodward repeats a tweet from Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant secretary of defense under President Obama:
Folks aren't freaking out about a literal button.  They are freaking out about the mental instability of a man who can kill millions without permission from anybody.
Throughout the book, Woodward matter of factly reports certain actions the White House staff took to prevent Trump from causing  harm to our country.   And Woodward repeats their opinions of what they think of Trump, from calling him an idiot, to having the understanding of a fifth or sixth grader.

Woodward ends the book with Trump's lawyer John Dowd still believing that Trump did not collude with the Russians or obstruct justice, but resigning because Trump would not follow his legal advice about talking to Mueller.  The last paragraph of Woodward's book is worth repeating:
But in the man and his presidency Dowd had seen the tragic flaw.  In the political back-and-forth, the evasions, the denials, the tweeting, the obscuring, crying "Fake News," the indignation, Trump had one overriding problem that Dowd knew  but could not bring himself to say to the president:  "You're a fucking liar."
                                  ________________________

Yes, real power is fear.  And I am afraid.
                        Jerry Morris


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia



House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia by Craig Unger is the second of three books about Donald Trump that I have acquired this year.  It is a hard read in that the author is methodical in investigating and tracing forty years of Donald Trump's business relationships with the Russians, many of whom are members of the Russian Mafia.

Unger's book begins with a congratulatory announcement that Deputy Vyacheslev Nikonov, Molotov's grandson, made to the Russian State Duma, the equivalent of our House of Representatives, on election day, November 9, 2016:
"Dear friends, respected colleagues!" Nikonov said.  "Three minutes ago Hillary Clinton admitted her defeat in US presidential elections and a second ago Trump started his speech as an elected president of the United States of America and I congratulate you on this."
If that isn't an acknowledgement of Russian interference in our elections, I don't know what is.

Ten days before his inauguration, Donald Trump tweeted, "Russia has never tried to use leverage over me.  I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA - NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!"

In the first few pages of his book, Unger declared that Trump had everything to do with Russia.  Unger promised that his book would show:

     That Trump allowed his Trump-branded real estate to be used  by the Russians for money laundering.

     That Trump was $4 billion in debt when Russian money bailed him out, revived his business career, and helped launch his venture into politics.

     That Trump provided a home in Trump Tower for members of the Russian Mafia and that they worked out of Trump Tower.

     That Trump was the subject of one or more Soviet intelligence operations that likely produced kompromat (compromising material) regarding his sexual activities.

     That in James Clapper's words, Trump is a "Russian asset" serving Vladimir Putin.

Trump has repeatedly said that he has had nothing to do with Russia.  But at the end of his book, Unger identifies fifty-nine Trump connections to Russia. And Unger details the actions of these Russian connections throughout the book.

After reading this book, and reviewing the sources and documentation cited, I  have to wonder why Trump was never charged with anything in his forty years of doing business with the Russians––money laundering for sure; a likely reason why he refuses to release his tax returns.  I am astounded by Trump's brazenness: that he believes anything he does or has done is above the law.  I am confident, however, that all will be revealed when Mueller completes his investigation, and Donald Trump will finally pay the piper.

                                     --------------------------------

Here's my review of the first of the three books about Trump that I acquired this year,  Fire and Fury:  Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.

I am currently reading Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward.  It was no accident that Fear was published on the anniversary of 9/11.  Americans do need to be afraid.






Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Day the Dane Banished Shakespeare From the Dining Room



Here's a picture of marital harmony:  my Shakespeare Collection on my side of the dining room, and my wife's Danish Plate Collection on her side of the dining room.  I snapped this picture six and one-half years ago.  And I included it in my April 2012  My Sentimental Library blog post,  Around the Dining Room Table:  A View of My Shakespeare Collection.





As I mentioned in the post, I brought some of these Shakespeare books back with me from England when I retired from the United States Air Force in 1989.  These books, and their brothers and sisters that I have since added, have travelled all over the Morris house since 1989.  They have moved from the living room, to the master bedroom, to the spare bedroom (converted into a library), to the hallway outside of the library, and then to the dining room, where Hamlet and Romeo and all the other Shakespeare characters rested peacefully for six and one-half years.

But not anymore.

In the last six and one-half years, I have added hundreds of books to my library, many of which I acquired when we went toodling on Fridays to antique stores, and thrift stores, and libraries, and bookstores.  And in the last six and one-half years, my wife has added at least a hundred Bing and Grondahl plates and figurines.  And she even started collecting Royal Copenhagen plates and figurines as well.

Soon, the cabinet on her side of the dining room was overcrowded with Danish dinnerware and vases and figurines.  She really really needed another cabinet for her expanded collection.

And then one day last month she found the perfect cabinet!  But unfortunately for Shakespeare, the perfect place to put this cabinet was on my side of the dining room!


Yes.  On that very day, the Dane banished Shakespeare from the dining room!

I had to empty the bookcase that was on my side of the dining room––or what used to be my side of the dining room––and I spread all the Shakespeare books in piles and piles on the dining room table.  I swear Shakespeare gave me one them stern what-the-hell-are-you-doing looks.




And my bookcase, which looked so happy when it was full...



Now looked sad and forlorn––naked, it was! Completely naked!


Yes, a sad day it was:  the day the Dane banished Shakespeare from the dining room!



But I have to admit that her Danish Collection looks pretty cool in the Dining Room.



And she even has cups and plates on the walls in the kitchen:







Now I am not a poor player––nor am I a fool!  Tomorrow is another day.  So I moved––or I should say, my daughter Anita and my grandson Dylan moved–– my bookcase around the corner into the living room.


The bookcase that used to be on this wall we moved to the other side of the living room next to the front door.





My wife's Obama Collection and her oversized books are located on the other wall:


And in the middle of the living room, on the coffee table, are recent books we have acquired:


No.  I can't complain!  And I don't think Shakespeare  and his characters can complain either!







Saturday, August 4, 2018

Hope Never Dies




 If you are a Democrat, and you never got enough of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, you will want to read this book.

Joe Biden is the narrator.  And he is investigating the untimely death of his favorite Amtrak conductor.  And Amtrak Joe's helpful sidekick is none other than Barack Obama!  As for the author, judging by the gibes in the book about Republicans and the current administration, he almost certainly has to be a Democrat.

A fun read! Moi recommends!

.







Saturday, February 24, 2018

How Paul Fussell and Samuel Johnson Helped Me Write a Review of Michael Wolff's Book, Fire and Fury





When I review a book, the words sometimes seem to flow onto the page directly from my mind.  That was not the case with Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury:  Inside the Trump White House.  The words for my review of this book literally came to me from the writings of Paul Fussell and Samuel Johnson.

The original idea of Michael Wolff's book was to provide an account of the first one hundred days of the Trump Presidency, as seen through the eyes of the people closest to Trump.  And Wolff had open access to the White House––in his words, "something quite close to a fly on the wall."  The events Wolff describes are based on conversations he reportedly had with members of Trump's family and his White House staff.  Wolff himself readily admits that some of the accounts of what happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with each other.  But Wolff reasoned that he would let the readers judge for themselves.

When I finished reading Wolff's book, I sat in front of my computer, and contemplated what to say in my review about the book.  Believe me, I believed every word that was written!  But, at the moment, I was at a temporary loss of words to emphasize that the dastardly things "he said-she said" really could have happened in the White House of the United States of America.  So I put Fire and Fury aside for the time being.

A few days later, I was researching the web on some unrelated matter and came across Paul Fussell's January 1982 Harper's Magazine article, My War:  How I got irony in the infantry –– I will wait here if you want to read his article now; or you can read it later...

After reading his article, I wanted to read more by Paul Fussell.  So I went to Abebooks.  And that's when I discovered that Paul Fussell wrote a book about Samuel Johnson:  Samuel Johnson and the Life of Writing.  Being a Samuel Johnson collector, I immediately ordered a copy of Fussell's book.

And when I received it, and got to page 12 of the book, the idea of the review of Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury, was staring at me smack in the face.  Fussell was talking about Johnson's writing and was referring to Samuel Johnson's Preface to Father Jerome Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, first published in 1735Johnson translated this book from the French.  But both Fussell and Johnson could have been talking about Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury:  Inside the Trump White House.



That first marked sentence is all the more relevant and powerful when it is written in its entirety––as it was first written by Samuel Johnson in 1735:

The Portuguese traveler, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his readers with no romantic absurdities or incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability has a right to demand that they believe him who cannot contradict him.

Judging by the leaks that came out almost daily from the White House,  Micheal Wolff's account of what went on in the White House is all the more believable....