Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

A New York Times Bestseller!Bestselling author, former White House speechwriter, and Atlantic columnist and media commentator David Frum explains why President Trump has undermined our most important institutions in ways even the most critical media has missed, in this thoughtful and hard-hitting book that is a warning for democracy and America’s future."From Russia to Sou...

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Title:Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic
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Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic Reviews

  • Ted Lehmann

    Trumpocracy by David Frum – Book Review

    David Frum has written an erudite, scholarly, entertaining, coruscating, and, ultimately, both deeply scary and hopeful book called Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (HarperCollins, 2018, 320 pages, $

    ). Using elegant, nuanced writing and thoughtful analysis based on deep, and wide research, fully thirty percent of the text is taken up by footnotes, Frum carefully builds his argument using well-recognized sources from across the

    Trumpocracy by David Frum – Book Review

    David Frum has written an erudite, scholarly, entertaining, coruscating, and, ultimately, both deeply scary and hopeful book called Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (HarperCollins, 2018, 320 pages, $

    ). Using elegant, nuanced writing and thoughtful analysis based on deep, and wide research, fully thirty percent of the text is taken up by footnotes, Frum carefully builds his argument using well-recognized sources from across the political, historical, and media spectrum. He presents a clear-eyed vision of Trump world from a Republican intellectual who wants him to do well and achieve the conservative goals his party has long felt powerless to achieve. Frum carefully uses what Trump says about his goals both as a candidate and as President, as well as a wide array of his allies, the media from Fox & Friends to Meet the Press, from Hugh Hewitt to Mark Levin. He’s careful, judicious, and, ultimately... damning.

    David Frum, born in Canada, has degrees from the University of Toronto, Yale University, and Harvard Law School. As he said in Newsweek, “I'm a conservative Republican, have been all my adult life. I volunteered for the Reagan campaign in 1980. I've attended every Republican convention since 1988. I was president of the Federalist Society chapter at my law school, worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and wrote speeches for President Bush—not the "Read My Lips" Bush, the "Axis of Evil" Bush. I served on the Giuliani campaign in 2008 and voted for John McCain in November. I supported the Iraq War and (although I feel kind of silly about it in retrospect) the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I could go on, but you get the idea.” He has been an American citizen since 2007, while having been active in American politics for most of his adult life.

    Frum, who appears to be no admirer of Trump, nevertheless paints what seems to me to be an accurate and un-frenzied picture of how Trump uses real and imagined power along with blunt bullying and lying to force people not his natural allies to line up with him and do his bidding, while many of them have taken positions in the government which will allow them to create no end of un-doing a generations long pattern of increasing governmental oversight of their enterprises. Meanwhile, useful regulations and protections are thrown out with the bureaucratic overburden and there’s so much self-dealing the public becomes inured to it. He demonstrates how the use of language in the Trump administration masks the goals of those he’s appointed to make America a more dangerous, dirty, and divided country.

    The structure of Trumpocracy lays out the ways in which Donald Trump behaves to bring maximum attention to himself while having limited interest in the history, laws, traditions, and structure of our country. He consistently acts in such a way as to increase his own power while not seeking advice or counsel from those who truly understand how the government works, especially with reference to our hallowed separation of powers and reliance upon them to come to reasonable governance for all. Frum writes that under Trump, “The government of the United States seems to have made common cause with the planet’s thugs, crooks, and dictators against its own ideals—and in fact to have imported the spirit of thuggery, crookedness, and dictatorship into the very core of the American state, into the most solemn symbolic oval center of its law and liberty.” He continues, “Trump’s hope was that an unconstrained America could grab more power for itself (and thereby for him). He never understood that America’s power arose not only from its own wealth and its own military force, but from its centrality to a network of friends and allies.” For Trump there is no win-win, he can only win if someone else loses, and he will never share his wins with anyone.

    The author treats extensively the web of associations, betrayals, and the apparent idea that America itself must not only be first, but alone at the top. “Trump throws everyone under the bus in his eager embrace of...Himself! He seems totally unaware of the intensely interwoven mutual dependency that exists between the President and members of Congress in seeking to enact his agenda. As a man with no knowledge of how government works or the place of the Presidency in it, he continues to show no interest in policy, the rule of law, or political realities. Frum emphasizes his treatment of Carmen Yulin Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, and Senator Jeff Flake, from Arizona, as examples of people whose support he needed who he gleefully destroyed in his own interest. His cruel decision not to allow Sean Spicer to meet the Pope stands as a testimony to his willful nastiness. Trump’s insistence on flattery and abject adherence to his neediness is stomach turning. Frum details a televised cabinet meeting during which a round-table of cabinet secretaries vomited out flattering lies about the fine job Trump was doing. He contrasts that to George W. Bush’s deep skepticism to anything that smacked of flattery.

    A major advantage of a book from a person like David Frum is that it steps back a little way from the day-to-day cascade of cable news, or even from the weekend talk shows to take a wider and more comprehensive portrait of Trump and the Trump administration. As such, it can be both nuanced and comprehensive. By battling against everything the press says that could be mildly seen as critical, Trump actively works to reduce the influence of the press at home and abroad. His and his surrogates, particularly at Fox News, encourage discrediting even the most reliable and honest reporters. Furthermore, he actively supported authoritarian leaders in other countries when abroad in their efforts to muzzle their own press.

    Frum argues that Trump’s negligence and laziness actually strengthens him through eliminating all normal checks and balances. He shows how Trump relience on outmoded and failed Republican ideology has replaced conservative thinking. However, Frum despairs at the ability of the incumbent to see or understand what that might be. Nevertheless, he concludes his very fine book on a note of hope generated from reactions to the negative affects of the Trump administration. David Frum’s Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (HarperCollins, 2018, 320 pages, $

    ) stands as a sober, yet often frightening, at least to me, assessment of the Trump campaign and most of his first year. The book has earned the highest of recommendations I can give it. I received a free copy of Trumpocracy from the publisher as an electronic pre-publication through Edelweiss and read it on my Kindle App.

  • Steve

    First, this is a really good book published at a uniquely, critically important moment in time. It's a worthwhile investment of time and, as a bonus, it's an easy read. (OK, I struggled to put it down, and decided that, once I started it, I'd rather finish it then get a good night's sleep or do some of the work that, temporarily, was put on hold.)

    While I'm hesitant to (broadly) recommend this book to others, I'm pleased that I bought it (it makes me feel good to have provided a pittance of royal

    First, this is a really good book published at a uniquely, critically important moment in time. It's a worthwhile investment of time and, as a bonus, it's an easy read. (OK, I struggled to put it down, and decided that, once I started it, I'd rather finish it then get a good night's sleep or do some of the work that, temporarily, was put on hold.)

    While I'm hesitant to (broadly) recommend this book to others, I'm pleased that I bought it (it makes me feel good to have provided a pittance of royalties to the author) and read it. The author's work represents a valuable public service, and, frankly, it would be good (nay, great) thing if it became a best-seller (and millions of Americans read it) - but I'm not holding my breath.

    And (duh) Frum can write. I've already collected a wonderful selection of quotes - both pithy and fulsome - that I can't wait to use/deploy in different contexts/forums (or fora). The book is chock full of nicely packaged anecdotes, potential teaching points, and language ... that ... sings. I expect to get a fair amount of additional mileage out of the book over time!

    A caveat. If you're obsessively following current events (particularly politics and policy and governance), familiar with the author, or, more broadly, if you're a regular

    reader, my sense is that you're not going to "learn" much new from reading this. Much of it represents a collection, concatenation, or repackaging of Frum's prior published work,

    Even for an obsessive consumer of news (I begin each day by sampling the

    with breakfast, followed by the online versions of both the

    and

    , and that's before I turn to steady stream of alternative sources that populate my email box, Twitter feed and professional community), Frum's book was a nicely organized, thematically coherent, easy-to-read and comfortably digestible summary or overview or saga of

    and

    The book covers an extraordinary amount of material ... and consistently provides it with sufficient context such that it actually makes sense. It's an impressive, bravura achievement. And (at least to me), in that regard, the book is helpful and valuable because so many of us simply cannot keep up, can't keep track, and struggle to categorize the innumerable phenomena, issues, scandals, policies, practices, stories, players, reactions, and evolving anxieties that dominate the news cycle and distract us on a daily basis.

    And before you reject the book as mere (or more) partisan pablum, remember that Frum is long-time conservative struggling to make sense of a world where Republicans control the Presidency, the Senate, and the House, but, nonetheless, is despondent with the current state of affairs and the nation's trajectory. Of course, he's not alone, and you could just as easily read - on a daily basis - Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, or even Bill Kristol... But the background and bona fides matter, and ... and this is important ... Frum (and these others) hasn't changed his stripes; he just doesn't recognize our government, nor can he reconcile the current state of affairs with what he understood to be "conservative" leadership, policy, aspiration, or behavior.

    I can't say that I've read any significant slice of the tsunami of new literature rapidly coming to press attempting to describe and unpack our current state of affairs. Having said that, I think this would be a fine companion to Timothy D. Snyder's pithy but compelling

    , which I recommend without hesitation. But the bottom line is

    - particularly more credible reporting and analysis. Knowledge is power, and, in a representative democracy, our union is beholden to a (minimally) informed and cognizant electorate.

  • Mal Warwick

    "Trumpocracy has left Americans less safe against foreign dangers, has diverted their money from its proper purposes to improper pockets, has worked to bias law enforcement in favor of the powerful, and has sought to intimidate media lest they report things the public most needs to know." Thus David Frum sets the stage to explain how Donald Trump undermines democracy in his new book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

    If there is any surprise in this line of argument, it lies i

    "Trumpocracy has left Americans less safe against foreign dangers, has diverted their money from its proper purposes to improper pockets, has worked to bias law enforcement in favor of the powerful, and has sought to intimidate media lest they report things the public most needs to know." Thus David Frum sets the stage to explain how Donald Trump undermines democracy in his new book, Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic.

    If there is any surprise in this line of argument, it lies in the identity of its author. David Frum is a card-carrying conservative, or neoconservative, if you prefer the current jargon. He wrote speeches for George W. Bush and served as a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (He is now a senior editor at The Atlantic and a CNN commentator.) What sets Frum apart from today's kneejerk "conservatives" is that he has been in the Never Trump camp since the New York developer turned reality TV star declared his campaign for the White House.

    In Trumpocracy, Frum methodically surveys the damage Donald Trump and his minions have been inflicting on the American people ever since November 6, 2016. For example, in a chapter entitled "Plunder," he details the blatant corruption that is enriching Trump and his family. (Frum notes that "the United States ranked a not exactly reassuring eighteenth on Transparency International's corruption index, behind Hong Kong and Belgium.") But the author doesn't place all the blame on Donald Trump personally. "The man inside the oval center did not act alone. He held his power with the connivance of others. They executed his orders and empowered his whims for crass and cowardly reasons of their own: partisanship, ambition, greed for gain, eagerness for attention, ideological zeal, careerist conformity, or—in the worst cases—malicious glee in the wreck of things they could never have built themselves."

    Frum is clearly convinced (as am I) that Donald Trump is in the White House "in some considerable part by clandestine help from Russia." Like Guardian reporter Luke Harding in another recent book, Collusion, Frum believes the evidence clearly shows that the Trump campaign collaborated with Russian officials operating on behalf of President Vladimir Putin. And he deplores the shameless efforts by Right-Wing media as well as the White House to discredit those who are attempting to uncover the truth about the collusion. For instance, he quotes a pro-Trump author speaking on CNN: "'There's no violation of law if, in fact, the campaign colluded with Russia, whatever that means.'" Come again? How is collusion in this context not treasonous?

    Curiously (for a conservative), Frum appears to be troubled by the near-total dominance of the Republican Party in today's political scene—and the underhanded tactics used to achieve it. "Republicans entered the 2016 cycle controlling all elected branches of government in half the states in the country, their best showing since the 1920s. Democrats controlled only seven states, their worst showing since Reconstruction." Frum notes with concern that voter suppression has played a major role in this trend. However, he doesn't mention gerrymandering, which has doubtless been an equally important factor.

    Frum also examines the damage to US foreign policy and our country's reputation around the world. He writes, "[Trump] never understood that America's power arose not only from its own wealth and its own military force, but from its centrality to a network of friends and allies." The author is also deeply concerned about the multiple attacks from Trump and his staff on the national security agencies. He fears the possibility that the FBI, the CIA, and the other intelligence agencies—as well as the Pentagon—may drift into the habit of keeping future Presidents isolated and acting essentially on their own.

    As other commentators have done, Frum explores the rise in support for violent white-nationalist groups as a result of Donald Trump's campaign and his time in the White House. But of even greater concern is the much broader trend toward the politics of resentment. "The phrase 'white privilege' transitioned from the academy into common speech in the Obama years—at exactly the moment that millions of white Americans were experiencing the worst social trauma since the Great Depression." Not only did Trump capitalize on that development; as well all know, he is driving the wedge even deeper between whites and people of color.

    There is little in Trumpocracy that is truly new. We've learned most of these lessons from others over the past two years. Frum's contribution is to compile the facts and the analysis into one thin volume—and carefully document every assertion. By contrast with other recent books about the Trump Era, one-quarter of Frum's book consists of notes. The result is a case against Donald Trump that is difficult to refute.

  • Kirk

    Considering David Frum’s one-time employer, his unabashed (though not brash) embrace of the conservative label, and the unfortunate occasion of its publication (on the heels of

    ), it’s possible his latest book may not garner the wide audience it so sorely deserves.

    is a thorough, candid, and humorous treatment of the political apotheosis of America’s legendary bully. Though it’s impossible for me to say how

    ranks among published criticisms of the current admi

    Considering David Frum’s one-time employer, his unabashed (though not brash) embrace of the conservative label, and the unfortunate occasion of its publication (on the heels of

    ), it’s possible his latest book may not garner the wide audience it so sorely deserves.

    is a thorough, candid, and humorous treatment of the political apotheosis of America’s legendary bully. Though it’s impossible for me to say how

    ranks among published criticisms of the current administration considering I’ve read few, I can say it was worth the drive across town in rush-hour traffic to buy in hardcover and read without delay.

    In

    , Frum argues that Trump, though “cruel vengeful, egoistic, ignorant, lazy, avaricious, and treacherous” (235), is a historic figurehead in a powerful movement purposed to corrode democracy and invite a cycle of political retribution in which the majority gains nothing and an elite minority prosper. He examines the cultural context which allowed for Trump’s election, the political context within the Republican party which allowed for Trump to take advantage of their antiquated and opportunistic platform, and the global context which resulted in many authoritarian leaders gaining popularity in their respective countries over the past several years.

    Frum accomplishes all of the above in twelve concise and well-researched chapters:

    1. Pre-Existing Conditions - Fights over the debt ceiling becoming a political weapon, the increase in executive power, the popularity of conspiracy theories (notably the Birther hoax), boycotting Presidential appointments as a political weapon, the underhanded Republican repeal of the ACA, and fatigue with political dynasties.

    2. Enablers - Reasons why the public supported Trump (includes the science of ‘negative partisanship (26)).

    3. Appeasers - How & why Trump was able to win the Republican base.

    4. Plunder - Trump’s exploitation of governmental systems to build individual/family fortune via conflict-of-interest arrangements and nepotism.

    5. Betrayals - Trump’s subverting of political loyalties and paralyzing a rare Republican federal government.

    6. Enemies of the People - Trump’s vendetta against media integrity and his calling into question of a central tenet of democracy: freedom of speech.

    7. Rigged System - Flaws in voting laws, flaws in voting methodology, and the Russian espionage contributing to Trump’s victory.

    8. America Alone - Trump’s dismantling of established foreign policy norms in Asia and the Middle East in pursuit of an ignorant isolationism.

    9. Autoimmune Disorder - A word of caution about national security agencies acting independently of Presidential directives, even when justified and reasonable.

    10. Resentments - The cultural attitudes and bleak statistics, particularly concerning young white males, which motivated Trump supporters and contributed to his symbolism.

    11. Believers - Believing in Trump as an answer to not knowing how to live in an increasingly multiethnic society.

    12. Hope - Examples of public distaste of Trump’s actions and a call to action for increased civic duty, education, and public engagement.

    For those unfamiliar with Frum’s work, he is a fantastic writer and infrequently, if ever, indulges in partisan critiques of those who would disagree with his conservative frame of mind. In fact,

    is as good a primer for what’s wrong with the Republican party as it is for what’s wrong with Trump. At various points, Frum claims the Republican party is at a dead-end: unresponsive to the wishes of its base, antiquated, opportunistic, and dishonest. The meanest thing he has to say about Leftist opinions is a caution against fighting fire-with-fire and electing a candidate as distastefully corrupt as Trump.

    is a quick read and has no new information to share about POTUS that has not already been presented in headlines over the course of the past eighteen months. That said, it doesn’t have that stale, shameful, Trump-news taste. It is a wonderful analysis of the cultural conditions which allowed Trump to take power, cited thoroughly, and written to persuade.

  • Lewis Weinstein

    UPDATE 2/4/17 ...

    Since I have followed the disgusting news about Trump and his presidency, much that Frum writes is familiar to me. Frum despises Trump, as do I, and over 235 pages he makes the case that such a view is well justified. How America is going to exit from this travesty of governance is another matter, one that should concern all thinking Americans, especially those who have besmirched themselves by lying down with Trump.

    ***

    I just started reading ... I'll take my notes here, and edit

    UPDATE 2/4/17 ...

    Since I have followed the disgusting news about Trump and his presidency, much that Frum writes is familiar to me. Frum despises Trump, as do I, and over 235 pages he makes the case that such a view is well justified. How America is going to exit from this travesty of governance is another matter, one that should concern all thinking Americans, especially those who have besmirched themselves by lying down with Trump.

    ***

    I just started reading ... I'll take my notes here, and edit later ...

    FRUM WRITES ...

    ... Trump's government has failed not only because of indifference and incompetence, although he abounds in both, but because from the start it has been redirected from the service of the public to the aggrandizement of one domineering man and his shamelessly grasping extended family ... p. xiii

    ... the Trump family came to loot ... p. 49 ... no president in history has burned more public money to sustain his personal lifestyle ... jaunts to Mar-a-Lago $3 million each ... Kushner family ski vacation $330,000 ... millions to the Trump hotel in DC

    ...the message went forth ... everywhere dirty money is laundered ... you can find him in Trump Tower ... p. 61

    ... a rollback of the ethics rule ... tax disclosure refused ... conflict-of-interest rules ignored ... running a business while president ... (and on and on)

    LEW: this is so sickening it's hard to read ... more later (maybe)

    ...

  • Will Byrnes

    David Frum pisses me off. He is not someone I would normally

    David Frum pisses me off. He is not someone I would normally read. He is a die-hard Republican political commentator, who served as a speechwriter in the Dubyah administration, wrote for the right-wing-toxic editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, was an editor on the neo-conservative magazine

    , as well as being a regular opinion contributor on NPR and MSNBC, the latter being where I have gotten a bit more exposure to his views. His Reaganaut take on government is not particularly in synch with mine, but he is among the many, of both red and blue inclination, who find the current president existentially alarming. More importantly, beyond the distaste any thinking person has for Swamp Thing, Frum is concerned about the road the nation has traveled in allowing such a travesty to take place, and the ability of so many to stand silent, or even to abet, as norms of small-d democratic norms are routinely treated like an attractive woman The Orange One just cornered in an elevator.

    - image from Front Page Magazine

    In terms of factual material, there is not a lot that is new here, for those who have been keeping up with the news. Of course, the daily news churn is so fast and voluminous that it is impossible to keep up with it all. As a result, there is certain to be material in

    that

    news to you.

    The danger Frum sees is not the rise of an autocratic, constitution-burning strongman, but a crumbling of the institutional norms that have made the USA, flawed, though it may be, a democracy worth preserving.

    This is less a book about Trump, the person, and more about the underlying currents that have pushed him to the surface of the swamp. Where

    was a gossipy look at the personal goings on in the White House, Frum’s book is an intellectual analysis of social and political changes, their impacts, and their implications.

    He begins with a look at the history of increasing partisanship, citing back and forth pulls from left and right. Frum sees the end of the Cold War as the condition that allowed the parties to commence a further divergence, the shock of the Great Recession as generating a smaller pie, with more competition for the slices, continuing rage over Bush v. Gore, and accelerating ethnic and cultural diversity. Unfortunately, there are instances where the obfuscatory urge clearly overwhelmed and Frum manages to omit some relevant points while making this or that case, devolving to GOP talking points.

    Bush v. Gore was a judicial travesty, and not one that anyone

    forget, ever. It reinforced the notion that corruption rules, the voters be damned. The Great Recession may have taken a slice out of the American pie but some slices are bigger than others. Wall Street, largely responsible for the disaster, got bailed out, except for a few early crash-and-burns, while homeowners got thrown out. Jobs continued to be lost by the hundreds of thousands while profitability, after a dip in 20009,

    . And as for diminishing the pie, that may have been true in the short term, but in the years since, the pie has grown large and flavorful, but only the well-to-do have been given forks. Of course corporate profits as a percentage of GDP have gone up while corporate taxes over the same period have fallen as a percent of GDP. As he acknowledges this later, it seems odd that he would cite competition over

    resources as a rationale for political divergence.

    Citing an absence of Obama willingness to compromise with Republicans eager to kill Obamacare, he manages to omit the fact that it was Republican legislators who had essentially refused to negotiate, despite pleas from the president. It was purely a one-sided crime. I call BS!

    He decries all-or-nothing politics as if both sides were equally at fault. While making an interesting point about the legality of DACA and the president’s diverse views on that, Frum then offers another misleading item about the Democratic party being unable to pass immigration legislation despite being in the majority at the time, which, of course, ignores the fact that a majority was meaningless when the opposition was committed to filibustering anything Democrats proposed.

    He cites Democratic refusal to approve ten of Dubyah’s appellate court judgeship nominations. Fails to mention that Dubyah had diverged from tradition in dumping the usual procedure of submitting nominee names to the ABA for their review prior to official submission. Also, the GOP ditched another tradition. It had been the case that Appeals Court nominations were submitted to both Senators of the state in which the seat was located. And if either Senator objected the nomination was quashed. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch decided that henceforth it would require rejection of a nominee by

    senators to kill an appointment. Hatch would then go ahead and ignore his own rule when it conflicted with his political goals, holding hearings on nominees even after both Senators from some appellate seat states withheld their ok, if he wanted that nominee installed. Rules are, apparently, only for the minority party. Frum also neglects to mention that Republicans had killed the nominations of several Clinton era candidates, so a bit of payback was to be expected. And then there were the nominees who were clearly well outside the mainstream of legal thought at the time. Also, Frum does not mention that Dubyah had sixty-one Appeals Court judges approved. So, painting with a wide brush is less revelatory than it is obfuscatory. And he then uses this as an excuse for Mitch McConnell refusing to bring to a vote Obama’s choice to fill the SCOTUS seat opened by the death of Antonin Scalia. I call BS! (I have added a link in EXTRA STUFF to an interesting article that offers some detail on the Appeals Court nominees issue.)

    Despite his issues on broad-brushing issues like those above, Frum is clear-eyed about more things than one might have expected. His take on the continuing attempt to overturn Obama Care is spot on. He also rightly points out that the benefits of our expanding economy have devolved mainly to those already middle class or higher, with little or no benefit accruing to the poor and working class. He is, after all, a guy who was kicked out of his gig at the American Enterprise Institute for daring to tell Republicans that they were wasting their time opposing Obamacare and should look to making it better.

    Frum decries what he sees as a rising tolerance for violence. Somehow equating Occupy Wall Street with the white guy who showed up at an Obama rally with a loaded rifle in 2009. He mentions that dozens of rifles were carried at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas, but makes no mention of how many unarmed blacks were killed by armed police. I take his overall point that there has been a general increase in violence in the political sphere, (although crime statistics report a decrease in violent crime overall) but the Occupy leaders, to the extent that there were any, rejected the actions of extremists who parasited onto that movement and others, to vent their kinetic spleens. That it occurred at all should not necessarily be taken as evidence that it was actually “tolerated.” And how about Charlottesville, where the white supremacists were planning violence on counter protesters. It seems somewhat tilted to view the people who went to Charlottesville to protect peaceful demonstrators from right wing thugs as the equivalent of those very thugs. Violence on the left has been episodic, with the intrusion of dark elements into otherwise peaceful undertakings, whereas violence and increasing armament on the right has been encouraged by the NRA, and a need to resort to violence to defend against imagined threats has been encouraged by a wide swath of right-wing psycho media. So, while I agree with Frum that there seems a rising tolerance for political violence, it is primarily on the right. Leaders of progressive actions typically reject violent methods. So, for another false equivalence, I call BS!

    Frum quite correctly points to enablers who allow Trump to be Trump to the detriment of us all, particularly our bear-like enemy abroad, and GOP members more than happy to promote known lies to further political ends. He offers a sharp, if depressing look at the Trump plunder machine

    It is certainly clear that the Republican

    in Congress will do nothing to stop Swamp Thing from siphoning as much of the national treasure into the accounts of his family and friends as possible, which differentiates the USA from any banana republic how? But Frum notes an international trend toward kleptocracy, as a non-ideological form of awfulness. Makes one wonder if we are better off with a morally challenged, insecurity and greed driven narcissist bent on stealing everything he can grab, or his potential replacement, a religious ideologue, who thinks God speaks to him directly.

    Frum points out the obvious betrayals Swamp Thing has engaged in, the back-stabbing of erstwhile supporters, the campaign promises laid waste. But then he wanders off into a discussion of deficits that returns us to the missing information methodology that seems to permeate his writing. He gripes about deficits soaring after the Bush administration, yet makes no mention of why it soared. Wonder why that could be. Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, it had something to do with the fact that Dubyah and the Republican-supported (with some Democratic help from Bill Clinton) policy of financial industry de-regulation had allowed Wall Street to run roughshod over sanity and cause the biggest economic meltdown since the Great Depression. Maybe Frum neglected to note that the amount Obama wound up having to spend to forestall a repeat of the Great Depression was remarkably similar to the amounts that Dubyah himself had proposed before running as fast as he could away from the mess that he’d made. One can only presume that there is dishonesty at play here. Because David Frum is not, unlike Trump, an idiot.

    And then he offers a cogent analysis of why the Trump White House is such a bedlam. He also understands that Paul Ryan’s economic program is distilled madness, leavened with a Trumpian capacity for cruelty. Frum gets that the Republican bubble has become incapable of considering facts beyond the bubble’s border. Even more alarmingly, he notes that instead of de-regulating industries by reducing state involvement as prior presidents had done, Trump is seeking to break the state in order to plunder it. His analysis of how Trump treats the press and even truth itself is incisive and frightening.

    Frum’s policy solutions, aside from the whole raging authoritarian thing, are a sure cure for low blood pressure. He says, for example, that

    And there is probably some truth there. But since Republicans seem hell bent on reducing any form of overt subsidy to actual humans, this would mean that only the well-to-do would have access to higher education. Unless the GOP is eager for a return to heads being lopped in town squares by enraged peasants, it might be wiser to come up with ways to make college affordable for working people, whether that means (heaven forfend!) price controls on higher education, direct subsidies to those unable to afford such a critical means of educational, economic and social advancement, or tax incentives, which really only work for people who already have enough income to take advantage of such things.

    He offers looks at how the GOP has been undermining democracy itself.

    But then he argues for the two-party system.

    It seems clear that Frum has not been paying much attention to some obvious trends in US politics. The Republican party has been engaged in a policy of disenfranchising non-Republican voters for a long time. In the form of extreme gerrymandering, manufactured claims of voter fraud as a smokescreen for chipping away at voting rights of minorities and the elderly, for lifting up rural and suburban districts and underrepresenting urban areas. They have long since rejected democracy, and need no further encouragement.

    In the same vein,

    Give me a break yet again. Trump’s “immolation of ethical standards” is nothing less than the realization of the know-nothings’ dream ever since the

    was torched under Reagan. The cancer-like growth of right wing propaganda machines has transformed public discourse from the bad to the straight-jacket ready. Trump is not an outlier among liars, he is the epitome of the lie-based Republican party. Remember when Reagan ran on balancing the budget? How every Republican runs on cutting the deficit, a promise that is nicely extinguished on inauguration day, gleefully sacrificed on the altar where they all worship, tax cuts for their donor-class corporate sponsors. Remember

    ? How about Ben Gazi? The Whitewater non-scandal? It is all lies all the time, 24/7/365 and in alternate dimensions if they can manage. So puh-leez spare me pontifications about Trump being the one setting the immolation fires. He is merely enjoying the warmth of the bonfire of humanity into which the GOP has been tossing logs for decades.

    The GOP may get it together to oppose foreign interference in

    elections, (although I have yet to see any evidence of that happening) while joining a goodly number of their Democratic colleagues in being perfectly fine with us interfering in

    elections. As for upholding US democracy, they have been seeking to undermine it at almost every turn, preferring a system that relies on the principle one-Republican-one-vote.

    I could go on. As is no doubt obvious, Frum very successfully pisses me off. And yet…there is much in this book to admire. Frum seems, at heart, a mainstream sort of person, even with his rightward tilt, and eagerness to omit information that does not support his positions. He has stood up for sanity on plenty of occasions, even when it was not fashionable, even when it came at personal cost. I rage at his historical omissions, but I do believe he cares about the big tent America that a large majority favors. He is not among the heartless hard-core. He is someone you can have a discussion with about policy matters without it devolving into the sort of screaming match you might indulge in with that uncle who insists that Obama was born in Kenya. He is someone you can learn from. He may see ways forward on policy issues that are at odds with what a progressive would see, but at least his positions are based on reason, not on tribal anxieties, or worse. He is clearly a very bright guy and offers interesting analysis of historical and sociopolitical trends. You will definitely learn a lot in reading

    , both from the book itself and from the googling it will prompt you to indulge in. On top of that he is simply a marvelous writer, able to make his points in an often compelling, if sometimes rage-inducing, manner. He has successfully pulled together threads of Trump-relevant content from many places and woven them into a compelling fabric.

    offers a flashing red light for the dangers that not only lie ahead, but which are pounding at our door today. I strongly urge you to check it out.

    Published - 1/16/18

    Review posted – 2/23/18

    -----

    -----

    -----Madeline Albright’s book,

    , is definitely worth a look

    Due to space considerations, I have relocated the EXTRA STUFF section to comment #1 below

  • Karla

    Sorry, Dave, but the erosion of the Republican base was well underway during Your Guy's administration. Your start date of 2008-ish for when Things Started Going Downhill in the Party is kinduva steaming load of bullshit. I don't disremember those 8 years. It was shit, and your party was starting to show signs of rot & disorder & subversion of norms to the point that Jim Jeffords left you guys.

    Don't gaslight me, Dave.

    It'd be nice to see a parade of flagellant ex-Bushies in the streets, b

    Sorry, Dave, but the erosion of the Republican base was well underway during Your Guy's administration. Your start date of 2008-ish for when Things Started Going Downhill in the Party is kinduva steaming load of bullshit. I don't disremember those 8 years. It was shit, and your party was starting to show signs of rot & disorder & subversion of norms to the point that Jim Jeffords left you guys.

    Don't gaslight me, Dave.

    It'd be nice to see a parade of flagellant ex-Bushies in the streets, but I won't hold my breath.

    My sense is that a lot, if not most, of this ilk would be a-ok with Trump if he'd be more subtle in his methods. He really gave the game away, and they would go right back to their old ways if a slicker & deceptively benign figure came along. *side-eyes Pence*

    That said, the book - though rather disorganized and without a coherent organization - was readable and had some info nuggets that had slipped past me due to the spastic tennis ball machine of BS that was 2016 & 2017.

    The audiobook version had a stilted, robotic reader, though. That format is such a mixed bag at times.

  • Mehrsa

    Ugh. It's only slightly more nuanced than Fire and Fury and all of the rest of them. (Why do I keep reading this books about Trump? Because I feel like if I read them all, I will come to understand why he is our president). There are some really good passages--especially when he talks about the entire Republican party and what its problems are, but the stuff about trump is just everything we already know from the headlines. This isn't a big idea book even though it's sort of thinks it is. We mig

    Ugh. It's only slightly more nuanced than Fire and Fury and all of the rest of them. (Why do I keep reading this books about Trump? Because I feel like if I read them all, I will come to understand why he is our president). There are some really good passages--especially when he talks about the entire Republican party and what its problems are, but the stuff about trump is just everything we already know from the headlines. This isn't a big idea book even though it's sort of thinks it is. We might need to hold off a bit on analyzing the Trumpocracy until after he's left office and everything has simmered down a bit. Also, if I hear one more author compare what's going on with Trump with college students protesting campus speakers, I am going to lose it and start joining the protestors.

  • Bill  Kerwin

    One of the pleasures of too much MSNBC is the lamentations of the never-Trumpers, those conservatives who watch as the wild boar that is Trump gores their Republican party. All of them (with the exception of William Kristol) have something worthwhile to say, and what they say—from the righteous barkings of the sepulchral Richard Painter, and the sharp reproofs of old campaigner Steve Schmidt, to the surreal smears of jester Rick Wilson—is delivered by each one of them in a distinctive, memorable

    One of the pleasures of too much MSNBC is the lamentations of the never-Trumpers, those conservatives who watch as the wild boar that is Trump gores their Republican party. All of them (with the exception of William Kristol) have something worthwhile to say, and what they say—from the righteous barkings of the sepulchral Richard Painter, and the sharp reproofs of old campaigner Steve Schmidt, to the surreal smears of jester Rick Wilson—is delivered by each one of them in a distinctive, memorable style.

    My favorite of these venerable political warriors is speechwriter David Frum, the man who coined the phrase “axis of evil.” Unlike many of the never-Trumpers, he never appears comfortable on television. Hunched over, blinking in the light like a scholar monk half-blind from poring over manuscripts, he whispers his observations in an apologetic, off-hand manner. Yet those observations are invariably original, and always carefully phrased.

    Even better than Frum’s television appearances, though, are the essays he has been writing regularly for

    during the presidency of Trump. With titles like “Conservatives Must Save the Republican Party from Itself” and “If American Democracy Fails, Can Other Ones Survive?,” these topical essays are short, succinct, composed in elegant, carefully balanced sentences and filled with Tacitean irony. I ordered his book

    thinking it was a collection of these Atlantic pieces, and I looked forward to seeing them gathered together in one place.

    What I got instead was something else. It’s not bad really … just another anti-Trump book filled with the familiar litany of moral crimes, autocratic gestures, and violated norms. It also does a good job demonstrating how American politics—on both sides—brought us to this terrible place, and it is organized intelligently and (of course) written well. Still, it lacks the polish and punch of the Atlantic essays. The viewpoint is less Olympian, the ironies less classically Roman. Perhaps this was inevitable in a longer form, but the uniqueness I find in his essays—and his television appearances—I did not find here.

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