Peak Trump: The Undrainable Swamp and the Fantasy of Maga by David A. Stockman (2019, Contra Corner Press)
To be clear: I did not finish this book, although it was not for lack of trying. It wasn’t the size which daunted me (although 639 pages is a considerable tome for a book which focuses in part on economics) or the lack of available time (during quarantine, time can often be found.) It was the position of the author.
I’ve found I can read books by Trump sycophants and enjoy comparing their old conservative positions to their new nationalist ones. I can enjoy picking apart bad arguments from the current faithful. But a book by a person who matches some of my standpoints for the wrong reasons remains as distasteful to me as reading through racist propaganda that denounced the need for forced busing.
Peak Trump is such a work. Perhaps I shouldn’t call out a particular user on the site, but there is an occasional poster under the handle of “Fibonacci”. His posts bear many of the earmarks of a paid Russian troll. This book demonstrates that, no, he may simply be an intelligent patriot who has views which greatly contrast mine.
In Stockman’s case, his book indicates he may be posting here under the mathematical handle. His book is full of contempt for Trump and his demonstrated incompetence. If you want a strong economic analysis of what Trump has done wrong up through 2018, it’s a solid book. But Stockman approaches his subject from the position of a firm Deep State believer, a conspiracy theorist, and a historical revisionist who has developed such distrust for both parties that he has seized on the notion that Putin is the type of leader we should aspire toward. He is repulsed by Trump because Trump has moved from his “Great Disruptor” position to an involuntary tool of the “War Party”.
In Stockman’s eyes, Trump might have been the next great hero, but he has failed not because of any systemic corruption from the Trumps – far from it, Trump has been unfairly pilloried and undermined by both the Democrats and the Republicans – but because the President is merely too trusting and naive, and has allowed himself to be lured into traps like accepting credit for a weak, overleveraged economy doomed to fail.
If you find this book in a library, it’s worth flipping through the economic parts. Stockman understands numbers and, though he goes fairly deep, depth is called for on this matter. But don’t ask the library for the book, because if you do they might order it. And I would certainly not recommend buying the book yourself. It’s not a good idea to fund propaganda.
Murder in E Minor by Robert Goldsborough (1986, Bantam)
I went back to this book this week as a palate cleanser from Peak Trump. It was Goldsborough’s attempt to revive the Nero Wolfe series developed by Rex Stout, years after Stout’s death.
The book is lacking a bit of the charm of Stout’s books. Archie’s glibness seems a touch forced and Nero’s logophila less natural, but the mystery is excellent, the resolution on a par with many of Stout’s efforts and even with the slightly “off” feeling the dialogue sometimes presents it’s an eminently satisfying return to a couple of mystery’s great characters.
It was, for me, the reading equivalent of comfort food.
If you’ve never before encountered Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe, I strongly recommend you find an episode of the A&E series starring Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin. The series provides both the tone and flavor of the books, and the screenplays follow the plots of the written mysteries. Should you enjoy it, there are a few dozen books available for your reading pleasure, comprised both of novels and some novella collections. Thanks for Goldsborough, the series continuation in the 1980s and 1990s added about a half-dozen novels to the story arc, and they were, and are, welcome additions.