On Books & Reading: ‘A Very Stable Genius’ Confirms How Toxic, Unstable Trump Was as President

(C) 2020, 2021 Penguin Random House

Hi there, Dear Reader. It’s late morning here in New Hometown, Florida on Sunday, August 22, 2021. It’s a typically hot late summer day. Currently the temperature is 85°F (30°C) under mostly sunny skies. With humidity at 82% and the wind blowing at 1 MPH (0 KMH) from the northwest, the feels-like temperature is 95°F (36°C). Today’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies, high levels of humidity, and a high of 93°F (34°C). Tonight, skies will be mostly cloudy, and the low will be 78°F (25°C).

I am still alternating between reading A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America and I Alone Can Fix It: Donald J. Trump’s Catastrophic Final Year, a duology by Washington Post staffers Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. Published – respectively – in 2020 and 2021 by Penguin Random House, they give readers a brisk but vivid account of Trump’s disastrous term as President of the United States.

I am not, nor have I ever been, a Trump fan. I became aware of the self-styled real estate billionaire when I was in college back in the mid- to late Eighties, soon after his self-aggrandizing book Trump: The Art of the Deal was published.I didn’t dislike him or like him then; he was just another wealthy guy who liked to preen before the cameras and show off his wife Ivana and his garish idea of the jet set lifestyle.

My first inkling that there was something bad about Trump was when I read in the Miami Herald and other publications calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York, which was his home state at the time. In the aftermath of the “Central Park jogger” rape case of 1989, Trump paid for a full-page ad in four local newspapers that foreshadowed the divisive messages he would later use on Twitter and at his Make America Great Again rallies[1]:

Mayor [Ed] Koch has stated that hate and rancor should be removed from our hearts. I do not think so. I want to hate these muggers and murderers. They should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, should be executed for their crimes. They must serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence. Yes, Mayor Koch, I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyze them or understand them, I am looking to punish them. If the punishment is strong, the attacks on innocent people will stop. I recently watched a newscast trying to explain “the anger in these young men.” I no longer want to understand their anger. I want them to understand our anger. I want them to be afraid.

How can our great society tolerate the continued brutalization of its citizens by crazed misfits? Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS![2]

Still, as distasteful and odious Trump was even then, the only times I saw or heard of him was when his business ventures went south – anyone here remember Trump Airlines, the United States Football League, Trump Steaks, or Trump Vodka? – or when he ditched his first two wives after having not so secretive affairs and marrying his mistresses without any sense of shame. I never imagined he would go any farther up the food chain beyond real estate, beauty pageants, and his NBC reality show The Apprentice.

(C) 2020, 2021 Penguin Random House

As we all know, Trump – with more than a little help from Russia’s GRU (military intelligence) and its army of hackers – beat the odds and pulled off a close Electoral College victory against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election, After that stunning win and aided by unscrupulous and evil aides like Steven Miller, Stephen Bannon, Michael Flynn, and others, Trump went on a 48-month marathon of dismantling the post-World War II international order, unsettling our overseas allies, emboldening Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Kim Jong Un’s North Korea, and dividing his own nation along partisan, social, ethnic, and racial lines.

Since I try to follow the news as best I can in a house where the owner nixes newspapers (she says the ink from newsprint gets everywhere) by watching the news whenever I can and via my subscription to Time magazine, I was familiar with the broad strokes of the malignant Trump presidency, I knew even without reading A Very Stable Genius that Trump’s White House was toxic, dysfunctional, and had historically high turnover. Before the end of 2017, Trump had fired his first National Security Adviser, his first Chief of Staff, and accepted the resignations of his first press secretary, deputy White House counsel, and Director of Communications, Office of Public Liaison.

What I didn’t know – but was not surprised by – was how cruel and insensitive the former President was when he fired senior Administration officials. He seemed to enjoy humiliating those he thought were trying to stop his Make America Great Again plans, which were really strategic moves by Bannon, Miller, Sebastian Gorka, and other nationalist, anti-globalist, and far right political theories to destroy the workings of our government and undermine our fragile democratic institutions.

I mean, what kind of leader goes around firing his first Chief of Staff (Reince Priebus) and Secretary of State (Rex Tillerson) by announcing it first on Twitter?

I don’t like either Priebus or Tillerson; the former used to run the Republican Party and didn’t have the guts or political savvy to short-circuit the Trump candidacy in the primaries, while Tillerson seemed to be too cozy with Russian and Arab oil executives as the former head of Exxon-Mobil. Priebus got the axe because he tried to get Trump to behave more like a President, and Tillerson ran afoul of the Toddler in Chief by pointing out that Russia is not interested in being America’s friend or a stabilizing force in the globe. Both found out they had been fired in an impersonal and humiliating style. “You’re fired…on Twitter!”

I am not close to being ready to review A Very Stable Genius; I am only one-third of the way through the 2021 paperback edition (Updated with New Reporting), and I’m tired from my too-early rising anyway. Suffice it to say, though, that Rucker and Leonnig do a good job at revealing the truly chaotic period between Trump’s Inauguration on January 20, 2017 and the emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak in China in late 2019. It confirms the fears that many political experts and voters had about the man who boasted he was “a very stable genius” on various occasions – mainly that he ran for President to feed his ego and make money, and that once he won, Trump made no effort – none whatsoever – to govern wisely or well. He was, and still is, unfit to hold any elected office, and the fact that most of his fans believe he was “the best President of all time” boggles the mind.

Well, Dear Reader, as I said, I’m tired and running out of steam, so I’ll close for now. Until next time, stay safe, stay healthy, and I’ll catch you on the sunny side of things.

[1] I call the MAGA gatherings “I Love Me Rallies.”

[2] Donald Trump’s Racially Charged Advocacy of the Death Penalty, by Matt Ford, in the December 18, 2015 issue of The Atlantic

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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