Thursday Reads: Trump In Blunderland

Good Afternoon!!

I’m sure we’ve all thought at times that living in Trumpworld was like being down the rabbit hole or through the looking glass. Well, it turns out Jared Kushner thinks that’s a good thing. According to a Washington Post article on Bob Woodward’s soon-to-be released book, Rage:

Kushner advised people that one of the most important guiding texts to understand the Trump presidency was “Alice in Wonderland,” a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole. He singled out the Cheshire cat, whose strategy was endurance and persistence, not direction.

From CNN: Why Jared Kushner suggests reading ‘Alice in Wonderland’ if you want to understand  Trump.

Woodward quotes Kushner paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat as a way of making sense of Trump’s chaotic style of management, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.”

Woodward describes Kushner as an “ever-loyal cheerleader and true believer” of the President, but also someone who has intimate knowledge of how and why Trump makes decisions. While former top Cabinet officials describe Trump’s style as chaotic and dangerous, Kushner views his constant reversals as “an asset.”

Woodward writes, “Where others saw fickleness or even lies, Kushner saw Trump’s constant, shifting inconsistency as a challenge to be met with an ever-adapting form of managing up.”

“With the president, there’s a hundred different shades of gray,” Kushner is quoted as saying. “And if people try to get a quick answer out of him, it’s easy. You can get him to decide in your favor by limiting his information. But you better be sure as hell that people with competing views aren’t going to find their way to him. And when that happens, he’s going to undo his decision.”

Again, Kushner thinks this is a positive description of Trump’s blundering (mis)management style. Woodward writes that Kushner recommended.

…four texts people should “absorb” if they want to truly understand the President. Woodward writes the texts do not paint a flattering picture of someone who is both Kushner’s boss and father-in-law.

The first text Kushner recommends is a 2018 opinion piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan’s assessment of Trump: “He’s crazy… and it’s kind of working.” Noonan also calls Trump a “circus act,” and “a living insult.” [….]

The second text Kushner points to is “Alice in Wonderland.” [….]

Woodward writes, “Did Kushner understand how negative this was? Was it possible the best roadmap for the administration was a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole, and Kushner was willing to acknowledge that Trump’s presidency was on shaky, directionless ground?”
The third text Kushner suggests is from author Chris Whipple’s book “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.”

Whipple writes, “What seems clear, as of this writing, and almost a year into his presidency, is that Trump will be Trump, no matter his chief of staff.”

The final text Kushner offers is “Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter,” by Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. According to Adams, Trump employs a technique called “intentional wrongness persuasion,” and “can invent any reality” because “all you will remember is that he provided his reasons, he didn’t apologize, and his opponents called him a liar like they always do.”

It was clear to Woodward that none of this was meant to criticize Trump, just as a way to help understand him. That said, Woodward was surprised and writes, “when combined, Kushner’s four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative.

Is it possible that Kushner was simply trying to explain why he has been so successful in manipulating Trump? I can see Jared trying to show Woodward how clever and savvy he is.

Of course the big “news” from Woodward’s book was that Trump knew all along that the coronavirus was deadly despite his insistence for months that it was no worse than the flu and that it would magically “go away” without the federal government doing anything. We sort of knew that though. We knew that Trump was told about the dangers of a pandemic in March. Yesterday we learned that Trump actually knew plenty in January and February. From The Washington Post:

“This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,” national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. “This is going to be the roughest thing you face.”

Matthew Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser, agreed. He told the president that after reaching contacts in China, it was evident that the world faced a health emergency on par with the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.

Ten days later, Trump called Woodward and revealed that he thought the situation was far more dire than what he had been saying publicly.

“You just breathe the air and that’s how it’s passed,” Trump said in a Feb. 7 call. “And so that’s a very tricky one. That’s a very delicate one. It’s also more deadly than even your strenuous flus.”

“This is deadly stuff,” the president repeated for emphasis.

Trump also told Woodward early on that he knew children were just as vulnerable to the virus as adults, as he insisted that schools should be fully opened. Is anyone really surprised by this? It’s shocking to hear the Woodward’s recordings, but we already knew Trump didn’t give a shit how many Americans died as long as he could keep bluffing long enough to get himself four more years in the White House. What’s actually kind of surprising is that Trump would be stupid enough to talk to Woodward about all this on tape.

John Harris at Politico: Woodward Interviews Shallow Throat.

For years, President Donald Trump and his allies have warned about his adversaries in the “Deep State.” The phrase evokes images of anonymous officials with hidden motives buried deep in the government.

Recent days have made it clearer than ever that the real hazard to Trump is actually the Shallow State.

The people saying mean things about Trump aren’t lurking in the shadows. They are well-known names whom Trump recruited to work by his side. Their motives aren’t mysterious. They are obvious: A transactional president encourages transactional behavior in his midst. These sources have shocking stories to tell, but no longer any genuinely surprising ones….

The entire notion of the Deep State rests on soil tilled by Hollywood, in decades of movies and television shows in the genre of the paranoid thriller. In these conspiracy dramas, the plot tension flows from a slowly building, creepy realization that Things Are Not What They Seem.

Woodward, based on Wednesday’s barrage of publicity for next week’s official release of “Rage,” has once again delivered the goods with plenty of news-driving revelations. But these scoops are like so many in the Trump years: They reveal that things are pretty much Exactly What They Seem.

It seemed last winter and spring that Trump was prattling on with a lot of happy talk that he couldn’t possibly believe about how the coronavirus wouldn’t be that serious—even as his own government officials were warning that it would be—because he was desperately trying to create reality by proclamation. Months later, Woodward has confirmed that to be true.

What’s more, his source was not a latter-day Deep Throat skulking around garages on behalf of the Deep State. The most damaging source for Woodward is on the record and on tape: Trump himself.

It had previously seemed that Trump, despite his constant attacks on the “Fake News” media, had a compulsive fascination with establishment media figures and the coverage they give him. Now the president has confirmed that to be true, giving 18 (!) interviews to Woodward. Think of him as Shallow Throat.

Read the rest at Politico.

Trump also told Woodward about a top secret weapons system that, thanks to Trump, is no longer secret. Forbes: Trump Claims To Have Built A New, Secret Nuclear Weapons System.

President Donald Trump claimed to journalist Bob Woodward that he had overseen the creation of a new U.S. nuclear weapons system, saying, “We have stuff that you haven’t ever seen or heard about,”as the two discussed tensions between the United States and North Korea.

It’s not clear what Trump was referring to, but Woodward writes in his new book Rage that he later confirmed with sources that the U.S. military indeed had a secret new weapon system, and the sources said they were surprised Trump had disclosed the information, according to The Washington Post.

It’s possible that Trump was referring to the W76-2 warhead, according to the defense publication Task & Purpose.

That weapon was announced in Feb. 2018 as a relatively “low-cost” addition to the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and has a smaller explosive yield than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

CNN reports that those around Trump are freaking out: ‘Calls without us knowing:’ Aides point fingers in wake of Woodward’s latest book.

Furious he didn’t speak with Bob Woodward for the first book he wrote on his presidency, President Donald Trump determined full participation with the follow-up would provide the best chance of securing a positive take on his rollicking tenure….

Yet instead of outmaneuvering the journalist famous for exposing Nixon’s Watergate scandal, Trump appears to have become a victim of his own confidence. And instead of a glowing portrait of a successful presidency, Trump is facing another damaging account two months before the election.

The fallout has caused internal strife at the White House as aides assign blame for allowing the taped interviews to proceed. Fingers have been thrust at ex-press secretaries, longtime confidants and old friends.

But people familiar with the situation say it is Trump himself who ultimately determined at the outset he could talk Woodward into writing a positive portrayal of his administration, reckoning the powers of salesmanship that have sustained him his entire adult life would yield another unlikely success.

So confident was Trump he could generate a favorable depiction that he provided Woodward with his personal cellphone number, eager to speak with a man whose long record of interviewing his predecessors has not exactly produced flattering results.

In phone calls late at night from the White House residence, Trump spun his tenure as one of historic successes and unparalleled victory.

The Daily Beast: Trump Was ‘Ecstatic’ About Talking to Woodward—Until He Wasn’t.

President Trump was “ecstatic” about the prospect of sitting for interviews with Woodward, according to a White House official, and relished some of his conversations with the famous Washington Post journalist.

Ultimately, Trump spoke with Woodward 18 times for the book. And at some point along the way, he had a change of heart, becoming convinced that Woodward was using him. Trump then began rage-tweeting the very reporter with whom he was so psyched to go on the record.

“The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been,” the president tweeted, seemingly out of the blue, last month. Later that month, Trump logged back on to blast the veteran reporter as a “social pretender” who “never has anything good to say.”

It is unclear when, exactly, Trump decided that the Woodward book could prove harmful. According to a person with direct knowledge, Trump privately said before sitting for interviews with Woodward, that one reason he was looking forward to doing so was because of how “fair” the journalist was to him on the issue of “Russian collusion.” However, late last month this source recalled the president complaining unprompted that the then-upcoming Woodward book would be filled with “fake stories,” and that the author was a “big phony.” The source did not recall Trump bringing up any of the stories or quotes he directly gave Woodward.

Apparently, Lindsey Graham pushed Trump to talk to Woodward. I wonder how soon they will be golfing together again. Read all about that and more at the Daily Beast.

What will today bring? Who knows? I’m just going to stay hunkered down and trying to stay healthy and sane. Take care of yourselves today, Sky Dancers!