Non-fiction: Fear - Trump in the White House
Trump is capricious and dangerous - but is he really in charge?
Becci Heagney, Socialist Party North West
'Fear: Trump in the White House' by Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward is based on 'inside source' material - secret interviews with some of Trump's closest advisers and staff.
What it reveals is a character who makes major decisions on a whim, and rules by tweet. Throughout the book, you feel that Trump is a child playing at being president, or a stroppy teenager who will pull out of an international trade agreement because someone annoyed him.
When looking for a national security adviser, he apparently rejects one guy because he didn't like "his big bushy moustache," and chose General McMaster instead because he "looked the part" in his uniform. Policies are decided on what sound good, tax rates decided on "big round numbers" that Trump likes.
But, far from being a regime of "fear" as the title suggests - a quote from Trump referring to what he thinks "real power" is - it is a regime of chaos.
Trump's staff are not fearful of him. They describe him as a "fucking moron." You get the impression that actually Trump is not in control at all, but is being controlled by the people around him - and is completely unaware.
His protectionist economic policies, approach to Syria and Afghanistan, and attacks on immigration are representative of only a small section of the ruling class in the US. Those individuals are using Trump to promote their ideas, while others try to undermine him.
It's true he has utter contempt for the people working for him. Staff get fired or promoted on Twitter. Decisions are made by the Trump family that go completely against what has been agreed in committee meetings.
Talking to Rudy Giuliani, the right-wing former New York mayor and only person who would go on TV to defend Trump after his comments about grabbing women "by the pussy" emerged, Trump says: "You're a baby! ... I've never seen a worse defence of me in my life!"
But on the other hand, Trump is treated like a toddler. When he is playing up, he is distracted with a shiny toy.
Executive orders are stolen from his desk before he can sign them, because "if the paper was not sitting in front of him, he'd likely forget it... Without something or someone activating him, it might be hours or days or even weeks before he would think, 'Wait, we're going to withdraw from [Nafta], why didn't we do this?'"
A staff memo went out in the White House saying - in bold - "on-the-fly decisions are strictly provisional." In an attempt to stop his tweeting, Trump's weekend TV watching was limited to after 9pm!
Overall, this insight into Trump in the White House only confirms what many people know. On the one hand, we are right to be worried about this unhinged, bigoted billionaire being in power. But on the other, the book reveals more who is really in control.
Trump may be a liability to the US ruling class. But removing him from power, while important, will not on its own end the "fear" that working-class and oppressed people internationally experience at the hands of US capitalism.
Only a mass workers' movement, with its own independent political party and socialist policies, can begin to do that.
- Fear: Trump in the White House by Bob Woodward, £20, published by Simon & Schuster
In The Socialist 28 November 2018:
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