A veteran Washington, D.C., reporter assesses Donald Trump’s first year as president.
“The difficulty in writing a book about what actually happened during Trump’s first year is you write in a frenzied state of dread,” says CBS News chief White House correspondent Garrett (The Enduring Revolution: How the Contract with America Continues to Shape the Nation, 2005, etc.). “What the @#%*& is next? Is what I’m writing what really matters?” The author examines the Trump phenomenon and takes an early stab at identifying 10 presidential actions likely to have a “lasting impact.” He seeks to be “credible, balanced, and nuanced,” noting both the “unadulterated love” of supporters who believe Trump “says things that need to be said” and the abhorrence of critics who find his “belligerence,” “indifference” to facts, and TV-animated consciousness make him “exhausting to the soul and corrosive to the spirit.” As Garrett writes, “Trump is recklessly authentic—a living, breathing, orangish and hair-sprayed Rorschach test of what early 21st-century America wants and expects from politics and the presidency.” The author devotes a detailed chapter to each important Trump action, including his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the travel ban, his “malicious” criticism of federal law enforcement, and his firing of FBI director James Comey. Other chapters focus on the potential of Trump’s Saudi Arabia visit to “realign” the Middle East, his failure to repeal Obamacare, the “haunting racial overtones” of separations of border-crossing families and remarks on “shithole” countries, his confronting North Korea, the elimination of 879 federal regulations, and tax reform. Billed as a disruptor, Trump is “a reliable, pliable conservative ideologue on about every issue but trade.” Garrett refuses to speculate on collusion: “I still don’t know the bottom line of the Russian story.” Some readers may be taken aback by his belief that media-hungry Trump merely “pretends to hate reporters” and his answer to the query, “is Trump a racist? No one can know but Trump.”
This generally thoughtful analysis is especially good on Trump’s “coarsening influence on political dialogue.”