Book Review: ‘The Landslide’ by Michael Wolff

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Books like this usually pop out the door with a few reporting anecdotes, and Wolff provides some of them. Trump believed that the Democratic Party elders would pull Biden at the last minute and would surely lose and get Andrew Cuomo and Michelle Obama’s ticket in his place. He toyed with the idea of ​​using the pandemic as an excuse to delay the election indefinitely. The most notorious line in his January 6 speech to the fledgling mob – “We will march to the Capitol” – was an ad-lib, not the text his staff had prepared. But the strength of “Landslide” comes less from these stories and more from Wolff’s coherent argument with his sources about how we should understand the period between November 3rd and January 20th. events don’t do that.

In these pages, Trump is self-obsessed, delusional, and administratively incompetent. It has nothing to do with or understanding the functioning of the government. Does not read or listen to briefings. He spends a lot of time watching conservative television networks and chatting with friends on the phone. The pandemic puts him at a particular disadvantage; Many people around him are either sick or afraid to come to work because this will require complying with a Covid non-compliance regime that Trump has demanded. If someone tells them something they don’t want to hear, they marginalize or fire that person and find someone else to listen to, who may or may not be in an official position. If Fox News isn’t completely loyal, it will switch to Newsmax or One America News Network. He lives in a self-curated information environment that has only a glance relationship to reality.

Before the belief that the election was stolen took full control of Trump’s mind, the idea was already there—because he chose to view any extended voting reach as stealing, which tends to support the Democrats. Just as he has rejected pleas to uphold masking and social distancing at the height of the pandemic, he has turned down requests from his employees to set up a Republican early voting operation. It was completely uneven, with endless layoffs and relocations of key players. And during the second impeachment trial, Trump was represented by a hilariously inept team of feuding attorneys he had hardly met.

In the early hours of election night, running well ahead of the pre-election polls, Trump decided he had won. After it became clear to everyone but himself, he commissioned a team of alternate reality consultants headed by Rudy Giuliani and including people whom even Giuliani thought were unacceptablely outside. Sydney Powellfreelance lawyer and Mike Lindell, the CEO of MyPillow and embraced every existing conspiracy theory and strategic fantasy about how he could change the outcome. The elections, according to Trump, are roughly similar to maturity dates on loans in the real estate business—a place to start negotiating, according to Wolff. Because he divided people into two categories, strong and weak, and possessed the deep cynicism of an unprincipled person, he chose to believe that he was not the presidential candidate who denied the first result, but only the first candidate who was masculine enough to challenge a challenge. typically corrupt result.

No one in the White House or in the Republican Party who held official power – especially Mike Pence and Mitch McConnell – took Trump’s bullshit seriously, so the horrific events of January 6 probably came as a surprise even to Trump himself. The various rallies held that day were organized not by the White House but by independent right-wing political entrepreneurs operating in business, and it remains unclear to most Republicans in Washington how fully Trump’s followers accepted his insistence that the election was over. it wasn’t. stolen. Almost no one in the White House was actively trying to persuade members of Congress to vote for the electoral challenges ahead on January 6.

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