The madness of the Trump White House

Maggie Haberman, New York Times White House correspondent. (credit: Doug Mills, used with permission)

Book Review of Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. (By Maggie Haberman New York, Penguin Random House, 2022)

I am in the USA now for a while, where the media is still focusing on the man with the orange hair from Palm Beach (Stephen Colbert calls him “he who shall not be named”) who is still driving the political system crazy! For me, it is a bit of a diversion from the madness of Bibi Netanyahu and his extremist political partners in Israel, whose similarities to Trump in style, stupidity and surrealism are remarkable. Even today, I read in one of the Israeli news sites online that there is fear beginning to arise within Israel that Bibi may not accept the results of the elections in Israel slated for November 1st in total Trumpian style!

I recently read the new bestseller by the New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman, entitled Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America about Donald Trump’s rise to fame as a New York businessman and television celebrity, and then about his four tumultuous years as a fake president in the White House from 2017-2021. While I knew in broad strokes how crazy and unhinged the former president was, I did not know the deep level of depravity and dictatorial nature of this very dangerous man. Having read this book, I now know it in great detail and I am shocked and disturbed to the core!

I have watched and listened to Haberman on several television interviews in which she has explained that her book is a character study of the man who almost accidentally became president of the USA. What a character he is! It would almost be funny if he wasn’t so sad and so harmful to America and the world.

While I knew in general about this man’s hideous and harmful personality, by reading this book I learned about it in great alarming and stupefying detail, from hundreds of examples given by Haberman throughout the book:

    • The man is a chronic and pathological liar! He began by lying in his business career in New York over many years and continued during his four chaotic years as president. Lying was and is part of “the art of the deal”! It was integral of his business method, which led him to be involved in many shady deals, especially casinos, and bankruptcies in business and then became a way of life for him as a new untried and inexperienced politician.
  • For him, politics and the presidency were not only a continuation of his business practices but also of his entertainment career. He starred in “The Apprentice”—a reality show on television—for 14 long years. And then he became an apprentice in the White House, a job for which he was totally unprepared, a job with tremendous responsibility for an amateur. No wonder that he did such a terrible job! He was improvising all the time. Making things up, without relying on the knowledge and experience of key experts. Indeed, he rejected their professional advice time and time again.
  • This man had terrible interpersonal relations with many people on his staff and many key people in government, including secretaries of key departments, high ranking advisers and leaders of the military. He yelled and abused many of them, often using foul language. He fired many of them, including three chiefs of staff and several national security advisors. He pitted one advisor against another and mostly rejected their professional advice. It is no wonder that so many of them—who were maligned and mismanaged and “thrown under the bus”—have testified against him during the last year’s hearings of the select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection, which he planned and fully cooperated with, according to overwhelming amounts of testimony by now.
  • According to many accounts in this book, the former president had a very poor understanding of most of the complex domestic and international issues during his term. He had a short attention span for listening to briefings on complicated subjects and he often got mad at his advisers for talking too much. It is no surprise therefore that he handled so many issues impetuously and irresponsibly.
  • Undoubtedly the worst example of this was his total mishandling of the corona virus pandemic, especially during the first year, when hundreds of thousands of people died. He obfuscated, lied and played games, like he did with almost every issue that he had no idea how to manage, but this time it had deadly repercussions, with millions of Americans getting sick in the richest country in the world which was let down by its “leadership” at the time. Ultimately his astounding negligent handling of the pandemic is what led to his defeat in the 2020 elections, thank God, a defeat which we now know that he planned to contest months before it actually happened, as we learn in depth from this book (and every day in more and more media reports).
  • The former president has no respect for the law and little understanding of how it actually works, even though he is surrounded by lawyers who are constantly filing lawsuits against people and institutions, most of which they lose. They are mostly delaying tactics and often simply frivolous.

In short, according to Haberman’s thoroughly researched book, which is based on multitudinous inside sources, the former president is a very flawed individual, bordering on deranged, with a chaotic style of management and terrible interpersonal relations skills, who was—and still is—completely unqualified to be president of the USA. After reading this book I wonder: how on earth could any intelligent, rational, educated person vote for such an unhinged, irresponsible, foul-mouthed impulsive individual?

He has no real skills for the job. He crazily incited some of his most fanatic fans to storm the capital on January 6th, and he illegally took with him so many classified documents from the White House to his mansion in Palm Beach, according to much new evidence that has come to light in recent weeks.

No one who reads this book could possibly vote for a person like the man about whom it was written for an elected office, let alone president of the USA. This is why I hope many people will read it, especially moderate Republicans, if there are any left. I don’t believe that any of the neo-fascist fanatic MAGA groupies will read it but perhaps some suburban women and Wall St. Republicans who once voted for this madman will read it and learn about the considerable damage he has done to their country and reconsider their views about this fake leader of the so-called Republican Party ( which has evolved into the cult of Trumpism, an extreme version of the Tea Party wing of the GOP, a far cry from the mainstream Republican Party of the Bushes or even of Ronald Reagan).

As someone who lives in Israel most of the time, I would add that Trump did much disservice to the state of Israel by many irrational acts. Pulling out of the agreement with Iran only accelerated Iran’s rush to develop nuclear weapons, a fact that is acknowledged by many experts in Israel. But worse than all of his sins, he emboldened former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to become more and more of a Trump clone in his inciteful rhetoric and in his aligning himself with the most right-wing Jewish extremists in Israeli society. And now Bibi, like the former American president is trying to make a comeback, which would be a disaster for Israel, as a Trump comeback would be one for America.

Maggie Haberman’s book –which is a tour de force by a highly experienced journalist who has covered the former president for many years, including in his days as a ruthless business man and entertainer in New York, before he became president—is a must read for Americans so that they can understand beyond any reasonable doubt why this man is unfit to be president of the United States of America ever again.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,
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