Another tell-all book on the American President, this one revealing his family feuds, fails to make any dents
This is the second book I am reviewing on Donald Trump. There are several more that haven’t come my way. Excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book Rage have already started doing the rounds, claiming that Trump underplayed the coronavirus threat and lied to the American public about the severity of the situation. One would expect so much talk would sink a presidency, if anything, it has made Trump’s case stronger. While Hillary Clinton’s campaign could be sabotaged with email leaks, Trump seems Teflon-coated. Each time he comes under attack, his supporters spring up in support. Consider the Axion interview, even though Donald Trump tanked, his supporters blamed it on a biased media. Not that Trump did any better on Fox, but deflecting questions on topics unrelated to the pandemic did solve certain things. But then probably there is a master strategy, making him look like an average Joe, and he can pass any muster. The fault of the books has been that none have been as damning of Trump as one would expect them to be. But then again, people have been robbed of the power of disbelief. Besides, to be fair, none of the books are about Trump. If one was a self-aggrandising affair, the other is a family feud narrated by a relative.
Mary L Trump makes it clear that her book is not about revenge, but saving America or salvaging whatever is left of it. As honest as that appeal sounds, it ultimately does become a tale of how she and her brother, children of Donald’s elder brother, were cheated out of their fair share. The book is divided into four parts and 14 chapters. It starts with Trump’s father and his sociopathy. His inability to love anyone other than himself. The story revolves around the two brothers pitted against each other to take reins of the empire. One would assume this is the theme of HBO hit Succession; sadly, it isn’t. Mary starts well, explaining her visit to the White House and setting a base for characters, but then loses the plot. There are numerous repetitions. Mary does psycho-analyse Donald sometimes, but such instances are rare. There is no psychological profile as promised, but a detailed history of the Trump family feuds. For someone who spent most of their time away from the family, there are hardly any insights. Instead, it becomes a repetitive note on how Donald Trump’s psychology was affected by his father, and that he is still a bully and a child. I guess that one point has been underlined enough by everyone. Mary just gives it a backgrounder. In no way is she trying to absolve Trump of the horrors that he has wrought on the presidency and the American people. She does explain how Donald built the Trump brand, but again that has been the subject of many documentaries.
Ultimately the phrases, words and insults get repeated far too often like a bad soap opera. The author starts with a quote from Les Miserables. Victor Hugo’s famous lines “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.”
After Donald Trump won the democratic nomination, my colleague and I could only concur on one point that he would win the presidency as well. We both had different reasons on why we thought this would happen—anti-establishment, global trends, Hillary Clinton—and we both were fully aware of what this would mean for the world. Yet, when the results were announced, we were shocked. Some part, I guess, still believed that this would not be possible. Four years hence, situations haven’t changed much. One would assume whatever predilections the American electorate had for Trump should have been shed by now; instead, he has always been able to rally supporters. Although Trump is trailing in polls by 12%, two months is a long time. Besides, he does not have to win the popular vote; he just has to secure his presidency.
I remember watching a documentary in my college days called Nero’s Guests. The documentary is about farmer suicides in Maharashtra, nothing to do with Trump or the American election. It starts by explaining the rule of Nero and how he would invite the poor or the prisoners to his parties only to burn them so that the gardens are lit. Nero, they say, started the fire which raged for three days, turning most of the city into ashes. Nero, meanwhile, partied with his advisers. Some claim that Nero played the fiddle as Rome burned. Nero was no doubt responsible, but what about others who just stood watching?
I believe what needs to be introspected is why America voted the way it did, and why in the upcoming elections it will again vote the way it will. Blaming Trump would be like blaming social media for igniting hate and bringing out the worst in people. Facebook or Twitter did not make people bullies or racist; they just used the platform to their advantage.
Darkness can also lead to introspection.