If there’s such a genre as anti-hagiography, Johnston (The Making of Donald Trump, 2016, etc.) adds materially to it with this new polemic against the sitting president.
If the Trump administration can boast of an accomplishment to date, writes the author, it is that “thanks to Trump the mentally ill now have virtually the same gun rights as the sane.” One might think this a questionable contribution to the commonwealth, but, Johnston argues with a fine and steely sense of indignation, that is precisely the point. Where other presidents have had agendas in the national interest and reformist tendencies toward the same end, “the Trump presidency is about Trump. Period. Full stop.” That includes various kleptocratic schemes, such as the evasion of the anti-emoluments clause mostly by simply ignoring it and being abetted by a Republican Congress all too willing to overlook constitutional niceties. Thus it is, Johnston chronicles, that the president continues to cash in on the Trump Hotel just down the street from the White House, with staffers hanging out in the lobby to record who comes and goes, to be rewarded accordingly. It also includes turning a blind eye to the dismantling of the administrative state by “termites” who operate behind closed doors, carefully shielded from public view as they destroy agencies and records. Johnston is very good at connecting odd dots: why, for instance, would Trump want to annihilate an agency devoted to increasing American trade exports abroad? Because part of the deal is to push renewable energy, and Trump “has attacked renewable energy again and again.” Never mind collusion with Russia, election-fixing, vote suppression, and all the rest. The author writes without an ounce of self-congratulation that he’s been warning about the dangers of Trump for years, and it’s all coming true—including, he adds, his prediction that “as president, Trump’s behavior would become increasingly erratic. And it has.”
Thoroughly depressing—but urgent, necessary reading, at least for those who aren’t true believers in the Trumpite cause.