A Very Stable Genius
Rucker and Leonnig have deep and unmatched sources throughout Washington, D.C., and for the past three years have chronicled in depth the ways President Donald Trump has reinvented the presidency in his own image, shaken foreign alliances and tested American institutions. It would be all too easy to mistake Trump's first term for pure chaos. But Leonnig and Rucker show that in fact there is a pattern and meaning to the daily disorder. Relying on scores of exclusive new interviews with first-hand witnesses and rigorous original reporting, the authors reveal the 45th President up close as he stares down impeachment. They take readers inside Robert Mueller's Russia investigation and the Trump legal team's scramble for survival, behind the curtains as the West Wing scurries to clean up the President's mistakes and into the room to witness Trump's interactions with foreign leaders and members of his Cabinet, and assess the consequences.

A Very Stable Genius Details

TitleA Very Stable Genius
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 21st, 2020
PublisherPenguin Press
Rating
GenrePolitics, Nonfiction, History, Biography, Audiobook

A Very Stable Genius Review

  • Elizabeth George
    January 1, 1970
    This book chronicles Donald Trump's pathway to the Presidency, from the moment he rode down the escalator to announce his candidacy to the revelation of the phone call he made to the president of the Ukraine. It is co-written by two NY Times reporters who are winners of multiple Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. It includes 15 pages of notes at the end as well as hundreds of quoted assessments of the Trump Presidency. It's a chilling depiction of what happens when a man--deeply damaged psychologic This book chronicles Donald Trump's pathway to the Presidency, from the moment he rode down the escalator to announce his candidacy to the revelation of the phone call he made to the president of the Ukraine. It is co-written by two NY Times reporters who are winners of multiple Pulitzer Prizes for journalism. It includes 15 pages of notes at the end as well as hundreds of quoted assessments of the Trump Presidency. It's a chilling depiction of what happens when a man--deeply damaged psychologically, unable to admit to any inadequacy, deluded about his qualifications, afraid to be seen as a fraud, and unprepared for the pressures that face him--rises to a position of power in which he comes to believe that he can do anything without facing consequences. As such, it's a cautionary tale but it's also an indictment of how our political system can go--and did go--badly wrong. As said by William A. Galston of the Brookings Insitution to Robert Costa of The Washington Post: "We haven't seen anything like this in my lifetime. He appears to be daring the rest of the political system to stop him--and if it doesn't, he'll go further." I highly recommend this book. I also recommend that you register to vote.
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  • Gregg
    January 1, 1970
    For me, the past three years or so, during Donald Trump’s so-called leadership, have been hellish, but also hellishly blurry. I recall reading somewhere White House strategist Steve Bannon remarking that his war against the media (his term) was to “flood the gates with bullshit” so that the real agenda could squeak through. Noam Chomsky has made a similar point, arguing that, whether consciously or not, the Trump administration uses the cover of their commander in chief’s tweets to slip by truly For me, the past three years or so, during Donald Trump’s so-called leadership, have been hellish, but also hellishly blurry. I recall reading somewhere White House strategist Steve Bannon remarking that his war against the media (his term) was to “flood the gates with bullshit” so that the real agenda could squeak through. Noam Chomsky has made a similar point, arguing that, whether consciously or not, the Trump administration uses the cover of their commander in chief’s tweets to slip by truly outrageous policies. This past week, they rolled back EPA guidelines on dumping sewage into rivers, and the week before that they took a whack at Michelle Obama’s healthy foods initiative. Brah. Vo. Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America comes at a pivotal moment. The Senate is about to hear Trump’s defense against charges of impeachment; as I write this, reports are just getting in of former NSC chief John Bolton’s book manuscript providing further evidence of Trump trying to strong arm Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. More revelations are sure to follow, just like they did during the Mueller fiasco. Just like they did in various tell-all pieces, published in books or anonymously in the New York Times, Just like they did during the campaign. None of it mattered. This won’t matter either. Reading A Very Stable Genius is like looking through the Scrapbook of the Damned. Their prose is direct, their narrative is tight and sourced. I wanted to put it down. I so wanted to tell myself, “Yeah, okay, just another tell-all, nothing new here.” But I couldn’t. There are so many “oh shit I forgot about that” moments it’s almost overwhelming. But there are plenty of nuggets in it that either I missed at the time, or are scoops in themselves. The writers unearth a revelation of Trump’s obstruction of justice that the Mueller report missed, for example. And then there’s Trump’s apparent ignorance of what happened at Pearl Harbor. So many Kodak moments. At times, I could do without the near reverential tone the writers take towards the overall apparatus in Washington and the Pentagon. The much-circulated excerpt in the Washington Post, published before the book’s release, treats the military as nearly beyond reproach. And when Trump shows Rex Tillerson the door, the authors make it clear that Trump is trampling on a noble, yea, heroic figure, referring to him as “the man who rose from civil engineer to chief executive at one of the world’s largest companies and who considered himself a student of history” and who is now, shockingly, being called “unintelligent” by Donald Trump. What a man! Be nice to Exxon Mobil and its climate change ignorers, everyone, and that includes the Tweeter-in-Chief. Getting a back seat into the way these figures think is its own level of excruciating. When James Baker coaches Chris Christie on whether or not to take Secretary of State and warns him “You’re about to be offered the worst fucking job in America,” later commenting, “If you take this, we have to come up with a new phrase that goes beyond patriot,” I wanted to gag. It is impossible to read their account and not see Trump more clearly through the deluge of bullshit Bannon was talking about. The problem is, you see his enablers more clearly too, and you realize rather quickly they’ve got their reasons for enabling him. Ideology is certainly part of it, but career mobility and the hunger for power is also a bit part. The writers seem to recognize this, too. They end their account with a stark observation that squashed me in the testicles but good: “Republicans now faced the same choice (Maryland Republican Lawrence J. Hogan, the first to break ranks with his party during the Nixon impeachment case) did forty-five years before. They had held their tongues in fear after so many Trump transgressions. They, too, had called the investigations into the president witch hunts. They had made quiet calculations about when, if ever, they might take a stand. Yet the time was nearing to consider not merely the judgment of their party or the punishment from their president, but the fate of history.”And what will they do? I’ll put my money down right now on “fuck all.” Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I’m wrong. But I’m not wrong.
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  • Jill Meyer
    January 1, 1970
    The latest Donald Trump expose published today is “A Very Stable Genius”, by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. They’re part of a political reporting team at the Post that has won a Pulitzer Prize and Leonnig has won two Pulitzer prizes on her own. Both appear frequently on MSNBC and are acknowledged as excellent reporters. I’m putting in the authors’ bona fides to establish their credentials in writing a tell-all book on Trump and his administration.The title “A Very Sta The latest Donald Trump expose published today is “A Very Stable Genius”, by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. They’re part of a political reporting team at the Post that has won a Pulitzer Prize and Leonnig has won two Pulitzer prizes on her own. Both appear frequently on MSNBC and are acknowledged as excellent reporters. I’m putting in the authors’ bona fides to establish their credentials in writing a tell-all book on Trump and his administration.The title “A Very Stable Genius” comes from a Trump tweet in January, 2018, issued when another author was disparaging about Trump’s mental stability and acumen. He’s used it often in tweets and speeches since and doesn’t seem to recognize the illogical claim a person shouldn’t make about himself. The authors have looked at Donald Trump’s almost constant daily lies and braggadocio about himself. They present his deeds and his words but are somewhat sparing about drawing the conclusions of Trump’s actions, figuring that their readers can do so for themselves. I think the part I was - and still am - shocked about was that President Donald Trump did not know exactly what happened at Pearl Harbor and the importance of the “USS Arizona”.Again, Rucker and Leonnig’s book is but the latest tell-all but I think it’s one of the best written.
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  • Howard
    January 1, 1970
    UPDATE:“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it’s got to be. … It’s total." -- Donald Trump, Monday, April 13, 2020"I don't take responsibility at all." -- Donald Trump, March 14, 2020 ----------------------------------------“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart… I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star… to President of the United States (on my first UPDATE:“When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it’s got to be. … It’s total." -- Donald Trump, Monday, April 13, 2020"I don't take responsibility at all." -- Donald Trump, March 14, 2020 ----------------------------------------“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart… I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star… to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius… and a very stable genius at that." – Donald Trump, Twitter----------------------------------------“Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.”– Richard Nixon.----------------------------------------Richard Nixon may have believed that his office placed him above the law, but since that contradicted one of the cornerstones of American democracy, that no person is above the law, it did not protect him and he resigned the presidency in order to escape impeachment and certain conviction and removal from office.In the past three years some cracks have appeared in that cornerstone as another president has demonstrated that he also believes that a president is above the law. And it appears that he is in the process of proving it.Each time he escapes accountability, as with the Mueller investigation or the acquittal of the impeachment charges, he becomes ever more emboldened to go beyond the parameters that have heretofore restrained presidents. He knows he is protected by a federal court decision that says that a sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime and that he is protected from removal from office by the compliant Republicans in the Senate and that political commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Tucker Carlson have his back.The public, at least that portion of it that pays attention, is aware of the controversies, conflicts, and chaos that characterize an administration unlike any other in American history. Besides the wall-to-wall media coverage there have been a number of books written that describe the inner workings of the Trump administration. Some of them were tell-all books that contained salacious gossip or were written by people who had an axe to grind.Finally, we get the book that we deserve. It is A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America by Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig. Trump’s response to the book was that “almost every story in the book is a lie” and was written by” third rate reporters” who are “stone-cold losers.” For the record, between them Rucker and Leonnig have won three Pulitzer Prizes for their work. Some readers have expressed disappointment in the book saying that there isn’t anything in it that we did not already know. That isn’t entirely true, but it is a fair statement. However, they miss an important point. In an interview, Philip Rucker explained:A lot of the power in A Very Stable Genius is not so much that we’re telling you about new events that you didn’t know happened, but that we’re offering new information concerning events that you already know about, which helps you to better conceptualize and understand them.And he is right. We have a bunch of pieces to a huge jigsaw puzzle, but we don’t always know how they fit together. Rucker and Leonnig provide us with an historical record that includes details, some never published before, that have the effect of giving us the context that allows us to complete the puzzle.In the process, they re-emphasize the fact that Trump is ignorant of history and geography and that he fails to demonstrate any inclination to learn anything about either subject. This ignorance combined with arrogance and certitude is a sure recipe for disaster.Rucker and Leonnig write:There are…officials we interviewed who feel like America’s been lucky that there hasn’t been a terrorist attack or some sort of major crisis to grapple with, and that they worry every day about the president at the helm.Is he capable of grappling with a major crisis? Unfortunately, we are about to learn the answer to that question.
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  • Dan
    January 1, 1970
    A good dystopian novel requires building a future world with just enough recognizable elements to lend credibility to an otherwise unknown future. A good dystopian novel also requires setting a context so that readers can understand just how this future world occurs.Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America fails at these tasks. The fictional dystopia portrayed by Rucker and Leonnig strains and eventually breaks credibility. Only the most uninfo A good dystopian novel requires building a future world with just enough recognizable elements to lend credibility to an otherwise unknown future. A good dystopian novel also requires setting a context so that readers can understand just how this future world occurs.Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America fails at these tasks. The fictional dystopia portrayed by Rucker and Leonnig strains and eventually breaks credibility. Only the most uninformed and credulous readers — readers totally unfamiliar with 250 years of American democracy — could believe Rucker and Leonnig's dystopia. After all, who could possibly believe that the scion of fabulous inherited wealth, from the most cosmopolitan city in the United States, could portray himself as a man of the people, a champion of the forgotten? Who could believe that the inheritor of millions of dollars, who started and then bankrupted numerous companies, large and small, could portray himself as a financially successful businessman who would bring his business savvy to save the American economy? Who could believe that a man who had publicly bragged about his numerous infidelities and sexual assault, who had sought newspaper and radio show attention for his sexual escapades, could portray himself as a fundamentalist Christian? Who could believe that a businessman who had famously employed and then shorted the wages of thousands of undocumented workers on major construction projects, who had himself married two immigrants, could portray himself as anti-immigrant? Who could believe that the star of an absurdist reality television show could capture the presidential nomination of one of the two major American political parties and then win the presidency? Who could believe that seventy-five years after the vanquishing of Nazi Germany, an American president would repurpose the infamous America First slogan of late 1930s and early 1940s American isolationist Nazi supporters?Rucker and Leonnig try to inject humor into their fictional dystopia. But the humor is so heavy handed as to be slapstick. After all, who could believe that an American president would try to sweettalk the leader of an autocratic, rogue nation by touting the money-making potential of developing seaside resorts in exchange for nuclear disarmament? ”’They have great beaches,’ [the President] . . . told reporters. ‘You see that whenever they’re exploding cannons into the ocean, right? I said: Boy, look at that place. Wouldn’t that make a great condo? And I explained it. I said, Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world right there. Think of it from a real estate perspective.’” (p. 263) Who could believe that an American President would work the phone with foreign leaders shilling for his own nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize? ”Unbeknownst to his throngs of supporters or the journalists covering the day’s events, [the President] . . . had used this day to try to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He worked the phones, seeking a recommendation for the prize.” (p. 287) Funny, perhaps. Believable, no!Rucker and Leonnig’s A Very Stable Genius is well written and well structured. But the fictional American dystopia that they portray is too unreal to convince the reader. Rucker and Leonnig, with their vivid imaginations, have great potential, but they’ve permitted those vivid imaginations to run amok. A reality television star president indeed: it’s just too silly to convince even the most manipulable reader. PS: I just noticed that the spine of the dust cover contains a Dewey Decimal System number, in a clever attempt by the publisher to convince the reader that this novel isn’t a fictional dystopia. Good try, clever marketing, but again, still fails the face validity smell test of believability.PPS: Hey, if this really isn't a novel, then it's a solid 4.5 stars.
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  • Bill Kerwin
    January 1, 1970
    This best-seller—which documents how the Trump presidency gradually lost its guard rails—somehow failed to sell itself with me. Sure, I’d recommend it to anybody who’s been in a coma for the last three years, but not to any one like me, who keeps up with the news and has taken note of each fresh horror perpetrated by Generalissimo Trumpo. I discovered few new facts here, fewer insights, and—since it is written in a depersonalized journalistic style that strives above all for objectivity—I derive This best-seller—which documents how the Trump presidency gradually lost its guard rails—somehow failed to sell itself with me. Sure, I’d recommend it to anybody who’s been in a coma for the last three years, but not to any one like me, who keeps up with the news and has taken note of each fresh horror perpetrated by Generalissimo Trumpo. I discovered few new facts here, fewer insights, and—since it is written in a depersonalized journalistic style that strives above all for objectivity—I derive little pleasure from reading it either.Still, there are a handful of memorable passages: Rucker and Leonnig’s account of Trump’s foreign policy briefing with the Joint Chiefs in “the Tank” at the Pentagon (after which Tillerson characterized Trump as a “fucking moron”) conveys so starkly the profound gap in knowledge and perspective between Trump and his advisors. It may be found in the first part of Chapter Nine, and you should read it when you get the chance. I also liked the portions of Chapter Twenty Four that describe the Mueller team’s interaction with Barr and his people, and their very different views of what the role of the Special Counsel and the Attorney general should be. Each of these two chapters merits a careful reading.Other than that, A Very Stable Genius is mostly old news.Still, there are a few small details here—new to me--that stick. Here are two I particularly liked.First, how and why acting Attorney General Sally Yates felt blind-sided by Comey: On January 24, as Yates debated with her staff who best to contact at the White House about Flynn, she got a call from Comey, who delivered an annoying surprise: FBI agents were at the White House FBI agents were at the White House to interview Flynn. Yates was furious. Comey, who had repeatedly insisted he needed to keep the probe under wraps, had neglected to notify the Justice Department. Yates said something to the effect of “How could you make this decision unilaterally?” … At the Justice Depart one senior official recalled, “The reaction we all had was they’re going to get a false statement … and we’re going to look terrible …. like we’ve known about this for a week, haven’t told anybody, and now it looks like a setup of the national security advisor, like we backed him into a corner.” Second, Anthony Scaramucci, communications director, seeking an audience with Chief of Staff Kelly, beseeches General Mattis for help: Scaramucci approached the defense secretary in the West Wing lobby. “Hey, General Mattis,” he said. “I know you’re close to Kelly. Can you get me a meeting with him? He won’t see me.”Startled, Mattis replied, “Maybe you ought to talk to his scheduler.”“Oh, no,” Scaramucci said. “They’re blowing me off. General, you don’t understand.”Mattis tap-danced away from the request. Later that day, Kelly fired Scaramucci. He lasted just eleven days on the job.
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  • Bryson Carrier
    January 1, 1970
    A good review of some of the most significant and provocative aspects of the last 3 years of the Trump administration. The authors do a good job in providing a more complete picture of what's happening behind the scenes of this chaotic administration. It seems to me that most people who will be reading this book are voracious consumers of political news, so the vast majority of the material will be a review, though with more detail than was reported at the time. While some stories or viewpoints A good review of some of the most significant and provocative aspects of the last 3 years of the Trump administration. The authors do a good job in providing a more complete picture of what's happening behind the scenes of this chaotic administration. It seems to me that most people who will be reading this book are voracious consumers of political news, so the vast majority of the material will be a review, though with more detail than was reported at the time. While some stories or viewpoints were new, this book seems like it will be an important reference to document the testing of political norms, ethics and morals by this administration, for historians and for the generations to come.
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  • David
    January 1, 1970
    I hadn't intended to read this book. I'd already read 'Fire and Fury' and 'Fear' and had rather come to the conclusion that reading any book focused on the one I prefer referring to as 'The Thing' would be an exercise in reading about A Black Hole. ~ and how much can you learn when reading about a black hole? Apparently next to nothing. In this particular case, you can of course 'learn' about the perfection of its darkness, the depth of its blackness as it consumes everything that brushes its pa I hadn't intended to read this book. I'd already read 'Fire and Fury' and 'Fear' and had rather come to the conclusion that reading any book focused on the one I prefer referring to as 'The Thing' would be an exercise in reading about A Black Hole. ~ and how much can you learn when reading about a black hole? Apparently next to nothing. In this particular case, you can of course 'learn' about the perfection of its darkness, the depth of its blackness as it consumes everything that brushes its path (this particular path being the entire United States and many large and small pockets of the entire world). But, as the saying goes, you're still listening to a (very) broken record. The needle has hit a mousetrap groove and the repetition you hear becomes maddening. So why did I read it? Knowing how obsessed I am with the Chinese water torture that is our current administration, a dear friend sent it to me - no doubt kindly believing I'm adamant (which I am) about keeping up. So I appreciate his thoughtfulness. But I still dreaded reading the book. In my personal research on how we Americans got to where we all are today, I have certainly gained more useful knowledge by reading things like 'Dark Money', 'Democracy in Chains', 'How Democracies Die', 'Dying of Whiteness', 'Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire', 'Kochland', etc. That said, I'm glad I read it. Pulitzer Prize winners Rucker and Leonnig have constructed a whale of an overview - with the kind of cool reserve that makes it immensely readable and compelling. In terms of the big picture, those who have kept abreast of the relentless, puerile bullshit we're all enduring will find little that they don't already know; the voluminous bullet points cover all of the major 'greatest hits' of the massacre on democracy. However... what largely makes this document stand out is its attention to detail. Even if you know the main facts of what's presented, the authors have incisively uncovered a wealth of lesser-known, humanizing particulars. There's more than a fair amount of what-went-on-behind-the-scenes ~ as a result... in an oddly satisfying way, the book reads less like a takedown (though it's still simultaneously that) and more like a novel. It's a page-turner that you find yourself almost screaming were fiction.
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  • Johnett
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 ratingConsidering the material they had to work with, I applaud the authors for creating a book that wasn’t purely one-sided (though I couldn’t blame them if they had). I found this superior to Bob Woodward’s “Fear”, though to be fair, they have different premises. It’s a book that left me shaking my head in disbelief (really, how could I still be shocked?) at the chaotic and craven behavior of this man known as “the leader of the free world”. It’s worth your time to read the book. Again, I’ 4.5 ratingConsidering the material they had to work with, I applaud the authors for creating a book that wasn’t purely one-sided (though I couldn’t blame them if they had). I found this superior to Bob Woodward’s “Fear”, though to be fair, they have different premises. It’s a book that left me shaking my head in disbelief (really, how could I still be shocked?) at the chaotic and craven behavior of this man known as “the leader of the free world”. It’s worth your time to read the book. Again, I’m glad that it was so well-researched and presented a pretty balanced view. Even with all that, I still want to close my eyes until “it’s” over, hopefully sooner rather than later.
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  • Tom Mathews
    January 1, 1970
    Anyone who has regularly followed the Washington Post will not find too much new material in this book but authors Rucker and Leonnig have researched, verified and presented the material in a way that it reads like a prosecutor's closing argument. Even recalling these events when they were first reported, hearing them recounted again one right after the other boggles the mind that one individual could treat the highest office in the world so cavalierly.
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  • Greg
    January 1, 1970
    Yet another behind the scenes (if there's such thing as a scene) peek into the Trumpian Whitehouse, written to be the historical account the first two-ish years of DJT's clown car of cast members. While it might lack the specificity Woodward's Fear or Michael Wolf's uncanny ability to articulate, contextualize and wax philosophical on Trump, the WaPo's "A Very Stable genius" is written to be the account of accounts, referencing other Trumplandia titles like "Fear," James Comey's "A Higher Loyalt Yet another behind the scenes (if there's such thing as a scene) peek into the Trumpian Whitehouse, written to be the historical account the first two-ish years of DJT's clown car of cast members. While it might lack the specificity Woodward's Fear or Michael Wolf's uncanny ability to articulate, contextualize and wax philosophical on Trump, the WaPo's "A Very Stable genius" is written to be the account of accounts, referencing other Trumplandia titles like "Fear," James Comey's "A Higher Loyalty," Kay Tur's "Unbelievable," and Andrew G McCabe's "The Threat". It's written to be the definitive retelling of the barrage of instability, the scholastic paramount to date for anyone wanting to get a handle on DJT's presidency. (I say this having read all of aforementioned books)Trump's persistent misapprehension like commenting to India's Prime Minister "at least you don't share a border with China?" Or "what's this all about?" when visiting Pearl Harbor make him a likely loser to "Are you smarter than a 4th Grader?" By this point, there's hardly a shocking reveal about Trump's general ignorance and lack of apprehension towards expressing on said subjects. For example, after the infamous closed-door two-hour meeting with Putin, Trump suddenly was the expert on Russia, and dismissed Rex Tillerson. For anyone questioning his bonafides, Rex earned significant Russian ties to Rosneft (state owned Oil company) during his decades as the CEO of ExxonMobile, including more actual face-to-face time than Trump could ever dream of. While it does slip into a bit of character analysis (which makes it more interesting than Fear), it still mostly goes for a "let the facts speak for themselves." Almost without question the people who should hear the facts are probably the least likely to read such things, especially the commander in chief. It seems the safest place to hide explosive reveals is in print as Trump, by most accounts, doesn't read beyond headlines.A starry-eyed Trump asking, "When do I get to meet Putin?" Aptly summarizes Trump's agenda. The real question is how such a cheap, unsophisticated, low-acuity, easily spotted, confidence-man managed to dupe masses to vote for him. This book doesn't touch on it, but we get to see the total chaos and aftermath of what happens when we have one as president.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 stars. Yet another tell-all book about the Trump administration. This time from 2 well respected Washington Post reporters. It starts with Trump accepting the Republican nomination for President in 2016 with the words “I alone can fix it”, and ends after that disastrous July 25, 2019 phone call to the newly elected President of Ukraine, and all its repercussions. In between, the book chronicles the shit storm commonly known as the Trump Administration. From the beginning, it is incompetence 4.5 stars. Yet another tell-all book about the Trump administration. This time from 2 well respected Washington Post reporters. It starts with Trump accepting the Republican nomination for President in 2016 with the words “I alone can fix it”, and ends after that disastrous July 25, 2019 phone call to the newly elected President of Ukraine, and all its repercussions. In between, the book chronicles the shit storm commonly known as the Trump Administration. From the beginning, it is incompetence on top of arrogance with a side of stupidity. No one is spared, although some participants are treated a bit more sympathetically than others, especially Gen. Mattis, Gen. McMaster; AG Sessions and Secty Tillerson.Especially singled out for distain are “the kids”: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, who, although totally inexperienced in politics and policy, are given free rein to influence Trump in all matters. But no one is treated with more distain by the authors than Trump himself, and deservedly so. He is ignorant, egotistical, impulsive, hot tempered, vulgar, vindictive, racist, misogynistic, bullying, dishonest, dishonorable and disrespectful of the dignity of the office of the Presidency. And those are just a few descriptions of him. As others have pointed out, it is appalling that he had no idea what the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor was for. Although the book is an interesting read (if you like horror stories), well researched and well written, there is a sense of detachment in the narration. This could just be how journalists write. I found “A Warning” by Anonymous to be a bit more compelling, as it was an insider’s view of the administration. The two books combined should make your blood run cold. An interesting quote at the end of the book:“When Alexander Hamilton wrote the two essays in The Federalist devoted to the idea of impeachment, Trump was the kind of president he had in mind - a populist demagogue who would foment frenzy, pander to prejudice, feed off chaos, and secretly betray the American people in the accumulation of power- according to Hamilton’s biographer Ron Chernow.”Even if you don’t feel like reading this book, or any other expose’ on the current administration, please stay informed on what is happening in this country, and vote the bastard out in the next election. Asking for a friend. And the world.
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  • Sandra Ostermeier
    January 1, 1970
    Riveting and HorrifyingThe writing is good. It is backed up by an extensive bibliography. The Kindle edition allows for easy use of the index that follows the narrative. And, it’s very easy to read — I was unable to put this book down, despite a roiling stomach and not a few panic attacks! Over the course of two days, in spurts and starts, I read about a President who has pushed the norms further and further from once accepted and honored American values and character. His followers and enablers Riveting and HorrifyingThe writing is good. It is backed up by an extensive bibliography. The Kindle edition allows for easy use of the index that follows the narrative. And, it’s very easy to read — I was unable to put this book down, despite a roiling stomach and not a few panic attacks! Over the course of two days, in spurts and starts, I read about a President who has pushed the norms further and further from once accepted and honored American values and character. His followers and enablers are like frogs in a pot of water that has been gradually raised to a boiling point — when will they figure out they’re in hot water? Let’s hope and pray that these heads of state — the ones who can halt his power grab— will wake up and respond more appropriately. God help us all.
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  • Kassandra ter Beek
    January 1, 1970
    Disclaimer: I have never supported Trump and cannot stand him for many reasons.Of the books that I have read about the Trump administration, this one has been the best. It does not make Trump out to be a villain in the presidency, but rather highlights the dangers of having somebody in that office who simply does not understand the office. It does a great job of describing the difficult job the administration has in gently guiding Trump through the many decisions he does not seem to understand h Disclaimer: I have never supported Trump and cannot stand him for many reasons.Of the books that I have read about the Trump administration, this one has been the best. It does not make Trump out to be a villain in the presidency, but rather highlights the dangers of having somebody in that office who simply does not understand the office. It does a great job of describing the difficult job the administration has in gently guiding Trump through the many decisions he does not seem to understand how to make. What I very much enjoyed about the book (in a bittersweet way) was that it definitely explains why Trump will not be removed from office, for better or for worse. If you want to understand this presidency beyond soundbites and headlines, I highly recommend this read.
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  • Donald Hardy
    January 1, 1970
    A reminder, for the most part although there are new revelations, of every hideous detail you wish weren't true of Trump's self-dealing, lying, bullying, delusional destruction of human norms of behavior in a democracy. There will be another nationalist, racist, divisive liar-president, no doubt, before long, even if Trump's idiocy catches up with him and he is voted out in 2020. He has given the world a crash course, detailed in A Very Stable Genius, in how to achieve near autocracy in the Amer A reminder, for the most part although there are new revelations, of every hideous detail you wish weren't true of Trump's self-dealing, lying, bullying, delusional destruction of human norms of behavior in a democracy. There will be another nationalist, racist, divisive liar-president, no doubt, before long, even if Trump's idiocy catches up with him and he is voted out in 2020. He has given the world a crash course, detailed in A Very Stable Genius, in how to achieve near autocracy in the American presidency. The next president with Trump's pathology will probably be smarter and therefore, more dangerous still.
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  • Mike Cuthbert
    January 1, 1970
    The most recent book about the Trump years, this is a monumental work by two Pulitzer Prize authors. It is necessary to point this out as this team has been reporting news and on newsmakers at a high level for some time. They are not bloggers or amateurs. Their work is a devastating portrait of a man totally out of his depth in his current job and even worse, abusive to others because of his ignorance. Note I used the word “ignorance.” That means “not knowing” while the other word, “stupid” mean The most recent book about the Trump years, this is a monumental work by two Pulitzer Prize authors. It is necessary to point this out as this team has been reporting news and on newsmakers at a high level for some time. They are not bloggers or amateurs. Their work is a devastating portrait of a man totally out of his depth in his current job and even worse, abusive to others because of his ignorance. Note I used the word “ignorance.” That means “not knowing” while the other word, “stupid” means capable of understanding only a limited amount of information. Some might apply that to Trump as well since he has an almost legendary inability to absorb information. He is particularly averse to the written word, which may explain why his often incomprehensible and awkward use of verbal language as well. The book portrays, through incident after incident, Trump the Bully. He chews out staffers and cabinet secretaries as if they are children, frequently totally blows his stack at circumstance—usually circumstance of his own making—and dismisses staff and secretaries often without a final hearing. My favorite firing is that of the Homeland Security head, Kirstjen Nielsen. On a trip to Europe for a G-7 level meeting on security matters, she landed in London. It was the middle of the night and Trump found himself confounded by the influx of Latin Americans at the southern border—a congregation he had predicted as coming for weeks. A staffer reminded him that the secretary was undoubtedly asleep in London, but Trump didn’t pay any attention. He demanded that she be woken so she could get back to handle his southern border problem. As a result, she had to leave the European negotiations to an underling while she flew back to Washington and then to the border to solve the problem. No sooner had she got things under control than she read the signs and packed her bags. She was fired almost immediately. Other high-level officers of government were fired in similar fashion—with little notice and with time to say good-bye to their departments or not, depending on Trump’s taste. His much-abused Attorney General Jeff Sessions was supposed to get a nice send- off (Trump was angry at him partly because he was played by a woman on Saturday Night Live) and didn’t and Secretary of Defense Mattis got even less respect—his farewell that was planned by his staff was canceled by Trump. Trump later insulted the man called “Mad Dog” by his troops and staffs, as being “weak.” It was Trump’s practice to insult such people after they had left government. Part of his no-class performance in office.The man is often wrong about policy, geography, time, location, history and law. His chiefs of staff regularly had to tell him that an idea he was proposing was illegal or unconstitutional and often he ignored them and proceeded anyway.There is very little of Melania in the book and only a few mentions of his children, Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner. Tiffany and Eric go unmentioned and Don Jr. not much except for his lunch meeting with the Russians at the Trump Tower. (The one that did not prove to be “collusion” for some reason!) Ivanka and Jared more than make up for their absence and the picture of both of them that emerges is highly uncomplimentary. They operate as if both of them are entitled to special treatment and both demand it. Their part in the Trump years is most disappointing and yet revealing about how Trump operates.This is a man whose ego overwhelms all sense. He knows nothing of what he doesn’t know and seems totally incurious about the real world. His world is increasingly that of Fox News and other cable shows; he reads little except for official papers and not often all of them. Even one-page summaries of important topics are often rejected as being too detailed and uninteresting. There is no evidence in the book that he reads any of the major papers regularly; he has them excerpted if they mention his name, but certainly he does not, by these accounts, read enough to know how much of even if they are “fake news” and “lying” about stories he knows little about. As for books, not one mention of one he has read or is reading. He is a bully and a coward; he frequently passed off firings or other unpleasant duties to underlings to seemingly avoid getting his hands dirty with unpleasant details.This book is as harsh a criticism as one can find and it come extensively footnoted. It is, in fact, shocking that so many former and even some present Trumpers are quoted in the book. One gets the impression that, with luck, the country may see a collapse of the dynasty before it even has a chance to fully form. So far, however, Trump has survived by hiring hacks and sycophantic incompetents to head departments, work on his staff and even man the federal court system. Loyalty to Trump unites them; loyalty to country seems to have a distant place in their souls. The current impeachment process had just begun when the authors went to print, but their conclusions would be fascinating, indeed. This is a presidency like no other in our history. One might see it as the beginning of the end for our form of government and for our country as a world leader. It has shocked millions, how this con-man huckster from New York could con so many Americans into believing he was something other than what he is: a phony, failed builder and mediocre reality show host and fondler of women. And he has done nothing while in office to prove himself capable of anything but organizing Hitlerian rallies for himself since the beginning of his term. The book frequently makes a lover of democracy and our government sick. I suppose that is a virtue, but in this case, it is also a curse.
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  • Jeff J.
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing much new here, an account of the first few years of the Trump presidency. As is to be expected from a pair of Washington Post "journalists", the book is based on unnamed sources and highlights every fault that can be found with Donald Trump. Even the meager list of sources at the end is heavy on Washington Post diatribes. Someday someone will write a book that acknowledges the remarkable accomplishments of the Trump presidency and give him the credit that he is due.
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  • Raymond
    January 1, 1970
    I've read a few books on this era over the past three years, this may be the best one. It does not try to cover every single controversy, if so then it would be over a 1,000 pages. I like that it does cover some of the incidents that did not receive alot of news coverage at the time. Lastly, this book does a great job of actually letting the reader experience the Mueller investigation from the Mueller team's point of view, which has mostly been kept under wraps.
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  • Faran
    January 1, 1970
    They were very fair to the official story and didn't get into any conspiracies and even then concluded that his impact is devastating. Great read. Cover to cover in a few days. Real page turner even though we're living it.
  • Mary Ann
    January 1, 1970
    Review to follow.02/02/2020So many of the contemporaneous accounts of current political events and societal trends are not worth spending time and money on. Many are self-serving collections of gossip, personal views, and conjecture, and few will stand the test of time. This one may be an exception, as was Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men. Rucker and Loennig are rock-solid reporters in the same mold as Woodard and Bernstein and adhere to rigorous journalistic ethics with regard t Review to follow.02/02/2020So many of the contemporaneous accounts of current political events and societal trends are not worth spending time and money on. Many are self-serving collections of gossip, personal views, and conjecture, and few will stand the test of time. This one may be an exception, as was Woodward and Bernstein's All the President's Men. Rucker and Loennig are rock-solid reporters in the same mold as Woodard and Bernstein and adhere to rigorous journalistic ethics with regard to requiring multiple sources and maintenance of documentation. Close examination of the endnotes is wortwhile and revealing.) Those who have closely followed the past three years in the media will have little trouble identifying probable sources of much of the material, and may judge their credibility accordingly. It is useful that it is a straightforward, chronological account and therefore not subject to the "breaking news" cycle by which we must necessarily digest our news in real time. There are few major bombshells; one, though hardly surprising in hindsight, was the president's direction to Rex Tillerson in early 2017 to press for the repeal of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don't regret reading the book. It is very well-written, as I would have expected, informative, and the tone is not that of out and out Trump-bashers like Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. I finished with a deep sense of frustration at the reluctance of former advisors, such as Tillerson, Mattis, McMasters, Kelly, and Nielson, to name only a few, to speak or write publicly of the behaviors and abuses they are willing to discuss with colleagues and reporters; in the absence of public or on-the-record disclosures, I suppose I am glad that a book like this was written.
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  • Theresa
    January 1, 1970
    I'm not interested in most of the Trump books but I decided to read this one because of the authors' credentials. They get their title from Trump himself who on several occasions, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, claims that moniker for himself. Much of the information is not new if you follow the news regularly, but what is valuable is seeing it all in one place and linked together. Several points become absolutely clear: 1. Trump is a danger to the whole world; 2. He cares only for I'm not interested in most of the Trump books but I decided to read this one because of the authors' credentials. They get their title from Trump himself who on several occasions, despite compelling evidence to the contrary, claims that moniker for himself. Much of the information is not new if you follow the news regularly, but what is valuable is seeing it all in one place and linked together. Several points become absolutely clear: 1. Trump is a danger to the whole world; 2. He cares only for himself and believes he has the right to do or take anything he wants; 3. He tolerates no dissension in his ranks, even when he is completely wrong; 4. He wants to be a dictator and with his Republican cronies, he stands a chance at being one and 5. If we don't get him out of office as soon as possible, our democracy may never recover.
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  • Jarrod Dillon
    January 1, 1970
    Non-partisan I know that this book has been portrayed as being against the president. After finishing it, I think that the authors did a fair job of just trying to re-create the many events that have happened in the last three years. They don’t take cheap shots. They just give you the facts. Definitely worth reading.
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  • Sarah Miers
    January 1, 1970
    Essential reading If you want to know how we got here -- you need to read this book. It is truly epic.
  • Andrew Shaffer
    January 1, 1970
    Nothing new here, but I’m surprised how much of the past four years I’ve just blanked from my mind.
  • Jim Dooley
    January 1, 1970
    A VERY STABLE GENIUS: DONALD J. TRUMP’S TESTING OF AMERICA is a very difficult book to review with any objectivity. Emotions predominate and defensive walls go up automatically. During his Inaugural Address, President Trump stated, “The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” Yet, although it seems impossible to believe, the United States is more divided today than it was when those words were spoken. The book gives an insider’s look at the Trump presidency from t A VERY STABLE GENIUS: DONALD J. TRUMP’S TESTING OF AMERICA is a very difficult book to review with any objectivity. Emotions predominate and defensive walls go up automatically. During his Inaugural Address, President Trump stated, “The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” Yet, although it seems impossible to believe, the United States is more divided today than it was when those words were spoken. The book gives an insider’s look at the Trump presidency from the election returns to the Ukraine telephone call that spearheaded impeachment proceedings. The focus is on events and their timelines. For the most part, the writers’ opinions about President Trump are omitted until the Epilogue. Instead, opinions are “spoken” by sources involved in the events, and there is a generous listing of end notes citing references. The result is what I like to term “a fly on the wall” book. It relates its perspective as if the Reader was present and watching what was happening. This makes A VERY STABLE GENIUS a real page-turner, delving deeper into reports that were made public (including in other books). As much as I was a fan of Bob Woodward’s, FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE, I must say that I found this one to be the better book. The style of writing was clear with fewer “Now, who is that again?” moments. Every reading session was longer than I’d intended because I wanted to read “just one more chapter” before stopping. As most people understand who work in the corporate world, the CEO is never expected to be the expert on everything that happens in the company. The CEO doesn’t know the daily “ins and outs” of each job. Even if the job had been held by the CEO at some career point, it has certainly changed significantly through the years in how it is performed. Technically, the same should be said for the office of President of the United States. The President is not expected to have intimate knowledge of the daily functions of each department. Instead, expert advisors are put in place to provide information that will bring the President “up to speed” and ready to make reasoned decisions. In A VERY STABLE GENIUS, the writers’ provide an in-depth overview of events and come to an alarming conclusion. The experts who have the knowledge and experience to guide presidential decisions are gone ... either forcibly dismissed or voluntarily leaving. The result is that instead of offering a perspective that should be considered based on the Law or world events, they are replaced by Enablers who give no voice to possible difficulties. Consequently, following the findings of the Mueller Report which analyzed Russian interference in America’s election process and obstruction of the investigation that followed, the “Ukraine telephone call” followed without any considerations of possible repercussions. Meanwhile, replacements were consider “acting” replacements instead of officially receiving the title, which eliminates the vetting process. One of my favorite movies is THE RULING CLASS from the play of the same name. The premise is that an Earl who is to be seated in Parliament receives psychological treatment because he thinks he is “J.C., the God of Love.” When he’s “cured,” he thinks he’s Jack the Ripper ... and delivers a scathing speech in Parliament. “The strong must manipulate the weak. That is the first Law of the universe.” At the end of his speech, he is welcomed by the members of Parliament as being one of them. A VERY STABLE GENIUS shows a Commander in Chief who is certain he knows what needs to be done in every instance, and who is drawn to demonstrations of power. He’s not the central character of THE RULING CLASS, but there are definitely shared beliefs. Opinions aside, the public should be able to judge by the actions they see. A VERY STABLE GENIUS catalogues those actions for review. If it was a work of fiction, people would be so intrigued that everybody would be reading it. I highly recommend the book.
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  • Adrienne
    January 1, 1970
    Ok. Nothing I didn’t know already.
  • Stephen Morrissey
    January 1, 1970
    Lust; Gluttony; Greed; Wrath; Heresy; Violence; Fraud; and Treachery: yes, these are the fiery circles of Dante's Hell, but they also speak to the parade of tortures endured by the living, specifically those living through, and serving under the 45th President.Rucker and Leonig offer an immersive look into the Trump presidency, from the bumbling days of the transition through the public release of the Mueller Report, and, ironically, beginning of another interference in US presidential elections Lust; Gluttony; Greed; Wrath; Heresy; Violence; Fraud; and Treachery: yes, these are the fiery circles of Dante's Hell, but they also speak to the parade of tortures endured by the living, specifically those living through, and serving under the 45th President.Rucker and Leonig offer an immersive look into the Trump presidency, from the bumbling days of the transition through the public release of the Mueller Report, and, ironically, beginning of another interference in US presidential elections, though this time spearheaded by Trump and directed at Ukraine. The salacious tidbits have largely been reported so far: Trump unable to recite lines from the Constitution; calling generals and soldiers "dopes" and "babies" within one of the more hallowed spaces of the Pentagon; a staff attempted to correct the ship of state, nevertheless failing to avert the troubled back-and-forth of the madman-cum-captain.What comes across thematically in the book, though, are two larger themes: Trump's obsession with media narratives, and Trump's obsession with himself. The President constantly hounded his aides to appear on television, and often promoted those who had the right "look" - tough generals; sparkling spokeswomen. It all, in the end, comes back to Trump: that is the inherent logic of the administration. Trump was never wired to report his campaign's contacts with Russia during the 2016 campaign, because Russian efforts at interference helped him; and with Ukraine, despite the promise of imperiling an ally, inciting Congressional investigation, and throwing the country into the malestrom of impeachment, the story holds: Trump does what is best for Trump.More interesting are the scant views the authors afford into the Mueller team. Tightly bound to the ultimate G-Man in Mueller, we see a different side: a team wracked by division over how to present the findings; a version of Mueller shaky and wholly unsuited to the 24/7 news cycle and Age of Post-Truth; and a strategy that was less than stellar in terms of bringing clarity to Russia's efforts to interfere in the election and subjecting the President to any sort of check for obstruction of the probe.The story is familiar, indeed almost so routine that the shock value lies in its un-shockingness. It is disheartening to read, not only that government has fallen into a fire-and-brimstone hell, but that we have grown so accustomed to the heat of the flames that it feels downright temperate in the America of 2020.
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  • Ann-Marie
    January 1, 1970
    A delightful little tale of a more innocent time when we still had some hope.Seriously, I was impressed with the timeline, if nothing else. I respect Philip Tucker a great deal. He and co-author Leonnig used fact based reporting skills, and kept partisan/biased language to a minimum.
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  • Michael Lynch
    January 1, 1970
    Some of this is well-known information, some is not, but the complicating story is told in an engaging style. This book is destined to become a standard reference work for later more detailed histories of this period of American history. The authors' point out the book's one flaw in the beginning: the cascading events never seems to end, which gives the book a "one damned thing after another" feel. The reality, of course, is that it reads just as daily life unfolds in this era -- there is hardly Some of this is well-known information, some is not, but the complicating story is told in an engaging style. This book is destined to become a standard reference work for later more detailed histories of this period of American history. The authors' point out the book's one flaw in the beginning: the cascading events never seems to end, which gives the book a "one damned thing after another" feel. The reality, of course, is that it reads just as daily life unfolds in this era -- there is hardly time to understand one crisis before the next occurs. The authors have done yeoman's work in researching this story and have provided material for journalists, authors, and historians for decades to come. Journalists have been much maligned in recent years, but I applaud their dogged efforts to publish this story. I look forward to reading the continuing saga -- but not to living through it.
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  • Denise
    January 1, 1970
    Factual, detailed and based on a wealth of insider interviews, this book, chronicling the Trump administration until summer 2019, is a worthy successor to Woodward's Fear, exhibiting a similar approach of being utterly damning while retaining objectivity.
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