The first attempt at a full account of Donald Trump’s four years in office occasionally reads less like history and more like a warning.
Peter Baker and Susan Glasser’s recently published book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017–2021, is based on their reporting on Trump for the New York Times and the New Yorker, respectively, as well as more than 300 interviews exclusives made expressly for the book Although this volume covers a lot of ground, is fascinating, and has a lot of recently released exclusive information, possibility and the imminent future is what this door stop is ultimately and perhaps even primarily about.
Baker and Glasser conclude that Donald Trump “was, by many metrics, the most politically ineffective White House tenant in generations.” He twice lost the popular vote. He was charged twice. He lost the House, the Senate and the White House in four years. He is the first president in Gallup polling history who has never received a majority of support from Americans, not even for a single day during his single term. He is still “the clear favorite” to be the Republican nominee in 2024, they add. What if he won the presidency once again? “Many of the limitations that held back Trump in the first term would disappear in a second,” they say.
Glasser informed me that “the historical record on this live-action threat to American democracy must be completed.” “We must understand it as fully as we can.”
Although we want this to be for the record, Baker noted that it still has many current applications. “The past is prologue. The best example of that is this. You can see how the next word might go.
The third book from this superstar husband and couple team is out now. (Full disclosure: When Glasser was working as an editor at POLITICO, she recruited me.) James A. Baker III, The Man Who Ran Washington, was the subject of his most recent, which was published in 2020. However, his first, which was published more than 15 years ago, discussed Vladimir Putin and “his effective assault to the nascent Russian democracy. Baker and Glasser close their introduction to this new book about conceited, insecure, stupid, impulsive, systems-testing, destroyer Trump with a recollection of the beginning of his tenure as foreign correspondents in Russia.
They report that a reformist legislator was questioned about the country’s democratic instability at an event in Moscow. He responded by telling a Soviet-era story about an ambulance driver picking up a patient.
The patient asks, “Where are we going?”
The driver replies: “The morgue”.
“Why? The patient protests: ‘I’m not dead yet.
The driver replies: “We are not there yet.
According to Baker and Glasser, “It was a scathing joke about where Russia was headed two decades ago. After four years under the Trump presidency, “it can also serve as a commentary on the health of American democracy: We’re not there yet, but it doesn’t look good.”
This conversation has been condensed and made more concise.
Michael Kruse: In my opinion, this book is the first complete attempt to condense those four years between two covers.
Susan Glasser: Absolutely. This was something we really wanted to undertake as the first attempt at a reliable four-year history of Trump. There have been countless books, many of which are excellent. Although there is still much to discover, we thought it was crucial to look back over the last four years and chart its progress because no one had done it before.
What benefit does it currently have to do this type of work? Kruse asked.
Baker, Peter This will not be the final chapter in the history of this presidency. It’s worth doing now though, preserving people’s memories while they’re still vivid and documenting them while they’re still alive to help make sense of it all. If you study histories 20 years after a president, people have, in effect, rewritten history in their minds as memories have faded, disagreements have calmed down, and concerns and disputes have mellowed. Everything is still sharp and extremely real today. The fact that it is not finished, in your opinion, is another crucial point. This is the past. It is also a very real situation at the same time. Because it might not be the last time we see it, the book’s title includes the words “2017 to 2021.” Therefore, it is crucial to understand what the previous phrase was like in order to understand what another term could be like.
Glasser: There’s a reason, I think, why we refer to it as “an active crime scene” in the opening. This is crucial because it explains why we spent 18 months doing original reporting for this after Trump left office. It is necessary to complete the historical record in this real challenge to American democracy. We need to understand it as fully as we can. And from a historical perspective, it goes without saying that the idea that Donald Trump was already known is absurd. And more importantly, I think we discovered while doing the research for this book how many of the things that seemed to be part of the Trump circus and the crazy daily news cycle actually posed far greater threats to institutions than we had realized. previously noticed, especially when it came to national security.
The battle against American institutions, in my opinion, is the main focus of the book and the underlying narrative of the Trump presidency. We feel tension between, for example, Trump and the Pentagon when it comes to matters of national security. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for example, came to believe that Donald Trump posed a threat to national security, that he was “ruining the international order” and that he disagreed with many of the ideals the United States fought for during the World War. Second war. You know, that’s the language in the resignation letter that Mark Kelly submitted.
Kruse: Are you writing for the benefit of current American citizens or are you writing for the historical record?
Baker: I guess both, actually. Although we want this to go down in history, it still has a lot of use in the present. History serves as a guide. The best example of that is this. You can see how the next word might go. An example of a national security professional comparing Trump to the velociraptor from “Jurassic Park,” or the apprenticeship, is mentioned early on. This person used to meet with Trump every day. He didn’t know much when he took over, but after four years, he mastered the art of opening a kitchen door. As a result, if he were to serve a second term, he would approach the job more competently because he now understands what he wants and how to get it.
Kruse: Who is the target audience and who do you think is the most likely candidate? Does anyone read this?
Glasser: As a journalist writing this kind of story, all you can do, in my opinion, is work as hard as you can to record as much important information as possible and try to integrate this overwhelmingly overwhelming national experience that we’ve all just come through. outside. Because we believe that he tells a crucial story, we want everyone to read it. The first line actually contains the mission statement, which states that there has been an extraordinary and understandable emphasis on the disastrous conclusion to the Trump presidency and his historic defiance and attempt to invalidate the results of the 2020 and September 6 elections. January. But in our opinion, to really understand January 6, you have to go back to the first day of the administration and connect the dots.
I think you now have a much clearer perspective. I mentioned the attack on institutions, so that’s one thing, right? the assault on NATO, for example. With the release of a fuller historical narrative, it is abundantly clear that from the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump was very serious about dismantling the NATO alliance. He invites congressional leaders to the White House on the first day of the job, and as he begins to rant about rigged elections and the millions of illegal votes cast in California, Nancy Pelosi asks, “What are you talking about?” This is just an amazing detail that of course we forget.