Monthly Archives: October 2018

Woodward & Rhodes – Two Worlds

I have just finished reading two books: Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House and Ben Rhodes’ The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House. I read them more or less together, two chapters of Woodward, then one or two chapters of Rhodes. I did this because reading the inside story of Trump and his enablers inside the nation’s presidential home was so disturbing that I literally needed an ongoing antidote to avoid being ill. Woodward’s authorial bio needs no recital here. Rhodes was officially the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting.

It did not help that the fools comprising the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary Committee were, as I neared the end of my reading, pretending to take seriously the testimony of a woman claiming that Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court had sexually assaulted her in high school. That charade ended in what purported to be a serious investigation by the FBI into the allegations, and similar ones from other women, but it’s now abundantly clear that the FBI’s investigation was compromised by the instructions issued by the White House to assure that it led nowhere. And the so-called president of the United States has quickly, and predictably, moved from stating that he was impressed by Dr. Ford’s testimony to openly mocking her at yet another of his mob gatherings in Mississippi. And, also quite predictably, Press Secretary Sanders once again spoke the ludicrous words that Trump was not mocking Dr. Ford but repeating “facts.” Of course, Trump’s mockery itself denied there were any facts, so Sanders once again is tangled up in her own deceits.

Returning to the matter at hand, I have thought a lot about the essential narratives of the two books. The table below represents what I believe are the fair and true portraits of the two presidents. One , who was elected twice, successfully led the country out of a recession/depression that threatened to bring down the world economy and also tracked down and directed the killing of Osama bin Laden. The other, elected with the help of a hostile foreign power whose authoritarian leadership he now embraces, is dedicated mainly to enriching himself, his family and the already extremely well-off top one percent of Americans while reversing as fast as possible the environmental and financial protections emplaced by the Obama administration for the welfare of all Americans.

OBAMA TRUMP
Collaborative Solitary
Reflective & Deliberative Impulsive
Honest Remorseless liar
Intelligent & Studious Uninformed & uninterested in learning
Empathetic Completely lacking empathy
Student of history Driven by money
Outwardly focused Self-centered
Hard working Lazy, physically & intellectually
Able to understand complex ideas Simplistic; gets ideas from Fox News
Calm under pressure Chaotic & unstable
Reads Watches TV
Listens to advice Claims to already know everything
Humane Cruel & shallow
Appeals to traditional American values Appeals to economic fear & racial anxiety

Anyone watching closely has to be aware that there are many Trump supporters who literally hate Barack Obama. The source of those feelings remains something of a mystery, though many of us believe it’s racism, pure and simple. But one thing seems certain – no matter what one may think of Obama’s policies, no one of even modest intelligence could argue that Barack Obama was dumb. On the other hand, several of Trump’s enablers in the White House have characterized him asa “moron” who is “unable to learn anything.”

One of the most prominent ideas in Rhodes’ memoir is the sheer difficulty of accomplishing anything meaningful, especially in foreign affairs, even without considering the relentless Republican obstruction of virtually everything that Obama sought to do. Obama had a clear-eyed understanding of what he wanted to achieve, not just because he had campaign promises to keep, but because he was trying to establish policies that would lift up the entire country for the benefit of all its citizens.

Trump, on the other hand, has surrounded himself mainly with right-wing ideologues who are often blatantly incompetent to manage a complex government while dishonestly stealing from the government, and thus from the people. They don’t understand how the government works, and they don’t expect it to work. Their goal is to undermine it. Theirs is a victory of ignorance, assisted by a foreign power hostile to the interests of the United States. The Party of Lincoln is now the Party of Putin. Trump led his party there and it went along enthusiastically. Republicans in Congress and at his “rallies” cheer wildly for his sneering denunciation of American values.

Rhodes’ personal life was drastically affected by his tenure in the Obama White House, as you would expect. His memoir is worth reading for its insights into the person of President Obama and as an insider reveal of life in and around the White House during a tumultuous period in our history. We can only hope that Trump’s administration will somehow avoid any major crises during what I hope will be a one-term, or less, presidential term. We must hope for this because there is a serious question whether the leadership can manage a crisis with Donald Trump at the helm of the ship of state. According to many reports, Trump will clean house after the mid-term elections. If that happens, we will have yet another collection of inexperienced incompetents surrounding the president and another otherworldly leadership failure.