- Series: Random House Large Print
- Paperback: 768 pages
- Publisher: Random House Large Print; Large Print edition (March 24, 2020)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0593294963
- ISBN-13: 978-0593294963
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews:
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America (Random House Large Print) Paperback – Large Print, March 24, 2020
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About the Author
Carol Leonnig is a national investigative reporter at The Washington Post, where she has worked since 2000 and covers Donald Trump's presidency and other subjects. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on security failures and misconduct inside the Secret Service. She also was part of the Post teams awarded Pulitzers in 2017, for reporting on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, and in 2014, for revealing the U.S. government's secret, broad surveillance of Americans. Leonnig is also an on-air contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.
Philip Rucker is the White House Bureau Chief at The Washington Post, leading its coverage of President Trump and his administration. He and a team of Post reporters won the Pulitzer Prize and George Polk Award for their reporting on Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. Rucker joined the Post in 2005 and previously has covered Congress, the Obama White House and the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns. He serves as an on-air political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and graduated from Yale University with a degree in history.
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Rucker and Leonnis clearly managed a gargantuan mountain of data to fill these pages. Collecting interviews, articles, tweets, news broadcasts, etc. for over 3 years to support this effort is mind boggling and they’re blessed to have had a great team. The effort is most evident in the spectacular index. It’s set up by person, place or event and every nuance you can imagine related to each. The Kindle version is interactive and will take you directly to the text.
The writing is clear, not very concise, in fact it’s verbose. The language is colorful, mostly on the part of POTUS, in his direct quotations, and there are a fair amount of them. There is an attempt at fairness altho’ the decided tenor of this tome is negative towards him. More credit is given to his faithful staff and for their willingness to serve, nobly. Much effort is given to creat first person accounts that permit the reader to decide rather than being dictated to.
Exhaustive and at times exhausting, but a good compendium of the facts thus far📚
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.
There's no getting around it President Trump is shown as erratic, impulsive, ignorant of the things a president should know, vindictive, profane and mean. He runs a chaotic administration and likes it that way. Pitting people against each other, creating insecure lackeys, is his preferred management style. He did it at the Trump Organization, and the opportunities for testing loyalties--and making himself the center of all the attention--are even greater now.
How many books describing a completely unfit president will be published before his core support drops significantly? Books come. Books go, and yet Trump's support among Republicans in Congress and voters (95% or so approve of him) remains basically unchanged. (And, spoiler. The title is ironic, at least for the authors. Trump, who's used it at least four times, seems completely convinced of his superiority. In his mind, it is always others who have to be wrong--while he has to get all of the credit. The writing was on the wall for Steve Bannon after he made the cover of TIME. Trump treats both political appointees and experienced government experts the same--with disdain and disrespect. He doesn't listen, won't learn, and thinks he knows "more than the generals"...also, more than the communications director, the financial experts, intelligence officials, lawyers....and on and on. As some previous biographers have noted, it would not surprise him to be told he knows more than anyone. He would agree.) When things go wrong—and they often do—his first thought is to find someone to blame. (And blame them he will, even if the problems were caused because they did exactly as he told them to.)
Trump’s leadership style is also defined here by his temper, by uncontrolled (and apparently uncontrollable) rages. This is not a psychologically well man. He is shown frequently ranting, raving, reducing people to tears (Nielsen and Sessions and Spicer are just three of them). We've all seen how he insults and demeans his political opponents or anyone who mildly criticizes him. But Trump doesn't even treat "his" people with respect. There is no manager in America who would not be reported for this kind of abusive behavior to HR--too many examples to list--and fired if it continued. What Trump creates in the workplace is the definition of a "hostile work environment".
His verbal abuse of others--including publicly humiliating women who don't even work for the government anymore like Lisa Page--would not be tolerated (by law) at any workplace in America. Why are the behaviors these authors describe tolerated from the nation's top CEO? There is no one who can rein him in and it's unnerving to read about his unrestrained tirades, including calling the nation's top generals--with their aides present, squirming-- "babies" and “dopes”. How is this permitted from the nation's president?
Rex Tillerson wasn't a good SOS, but at least he shows up in book after book as having the spine to stand up to Trump. He was genuinely upset about how Trump--who took five draft deferments during Vietnam--disrespected the nation's military leaders. Tillerson did not deny calling Trump an "f-ing moron" after the above “dopes” meeting. Preibus corralled Pence afterward to come and show Rex how to treat Trump with proper deference and how not look to look so contemptuous when he spoke--repetitiously, ignorantly, ramblingly, irrelevantly--in group meetings. Working for Trump, means knowing and accepting that that loyalty is EVERYTHING. And you show you're loyalty by endless flattery and compliance with whatever Donald Trump wants.
Leonnig and Rucker show a profile of the nation from the Oval Office. If I had to make a criticism--observation, really--its that it benefits from all their sources but also suffers from them. With so much emphasis on information from those who had the willingness to work with Trump in the first place, the book fills a certain political niche, but lacks the sweep of popular history. There's not enough about how Trump policies are impacting real peoples' lives, and little about what others are doing in opposition to his policies--and why. The travel ban is one impactful decision extensively described, but the descriptions are largely confined to reactions in the executive branch (and, in one brief passage, what Trump staff sees happening at airports via television.).
There’s ample detail but sometimes it lacks context. The Russia investigation, for example, is gone into at great length, but some of Trump's statements are treated as if we all should assume they're true. After how the authors' own paper has documented over 16,000 presidential lies in 3 years, they should be in the forefront of encouraging readers to be skeptical of whatever he says. Certainly, no one can say with certainty what President Trump "feels" or "believes" about anything. All we really know is what he says and does. This includes reaction to the Mueller investigation which has a number of missing pieces in the retelling, and is marred by the idea that "Trump believed Putin when he said he wasn't involved".
"A Very Stable Genius" is an up close look at Trump and how he governs. It rarely pulls the lens back for a wider view, for a look at his impact around America and how he's changing the country with his laws, his deregulations, his nationalism and his apparent goal of returning to the America of the 1950s. They leave it largely to the reader to make those conclusions for themselves. Some will appreciate that approach; others will wish for more of a sustained argument that a president like this is dangerously unfit for office.
They quote one official who summarizes Trump's impact at the top. In the beginning of his administration, "There was more of an ethos in the place of trying to help the institution and to help enlighten him rather than simply to execute his marching orders." Now, this official said, "I'm not sure there are many, if any, left who view as their responsibility trying to help educate, moderate, enlighten and persuade--or even advise in many cases. There's a new ethos: This is a presidency of one. It's Trump unleashed, unchained, unhinged." In the end, we are left to imagine with some alarm what a second term would be like.
The Woodward book was only about the year before and then the first year and half of the Trump administration. "American Carnage" did an excellent job at showing how the GOP changed over the 20 years leading up to the 2016 election and how Trump capitalized (he did not create them) on the anti-immigrant, anti-media waves that had been fermenting.
This book cover the first 2 1/2 years of the Trump administration, up through the summer of 2019. The Mueller report is discussed in full (Ukraine is not in here, so we'll have to wait for that book later this year). As in those other books, the quotes by both Trump and his current and former staff members are telling, biting, funny, and dreadful.
Trump fans will almost certainly hate this.
Top international reviews
Excellent read because it is clearly very much fly on the wall and constantly makes me shake my head in amazement at the Donald's behaviour. Good one and recommended.