From Peril to Betrayal: the year in books about Trump and other political animals – The Guardian
If in recent years American politics books have been noted mainly for ephemera, in 2021 the winds of history began to blow open the doors – occasionally to devastating effect. The advent of a new administration loosened tongues and made documents more readily available as some sought redemption, justification or simply fame.
Such books illustrate the truth that one cannot keep a thing hidden and generally share certain characteristics that convey the ring of truth. They report bitterly angry outbursts by Donald Trump, staff reeling from dysfunction, chaos and the pressures of a campaign in a pandemic. They frequently recount interviews with Trump himself. They contain sufficient profanity to make sailors blush.
And, happily, this paper celebrated its bicentennial in part by scooping many of them, with real consequences in the case of Mark Meadows, who published The Chief’s Chief this month. Some – the former White House chief of staff in particular – may wish they had not written books. But some books are essential to understand the danger in which the country finds itself.
The former FBI director James Comey opened the year with Saving Justice, a second book defending the rule of law. Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes followed with Lucky, a quick but full postmortem of the 2020 campaign, noting: “Luck, it has been said, is the residue of design. It was for Joe Biden, and for the republic.”
The heart of the year was a series of blockbusters from prominent reporters, each containing significant new information on aspects of the chaos that was 2020. Michael Bender led off with Frankly, We Did Win This Election, in which Trump’s words, on the record, are unsurprising but nonetheless shocking.
In Landslide, Michael Wolff completed his Trump trilogy with a focus on the campaign – including Chris Christie, in debate preparation (as a result of which he tested positive for Covid), earning Trump’s ire for asking hard but predictable questions on Covid response and family scandals – and on a post-election dominated by Trump’s anger as the levers of power, including the supreme court of which he chose three members, failed to overturn his defeat.
Wolff is keenly analytic: as he writes, Trump “knew nothing of government, [his supporters] knew nothing about government, so the context of government itself became beside the point”. Instead, Trump was “the star – never forget that – and the base …….