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“The Divider” – Latest Book on Trump – Adds Detail and Perspective

NEW YORK – The latest of numerous books – with many more to come – about the Donald Trump era or phenomenon, which a review in the New York times called a “detail-rich history of the Trump administration,” will be published in coming days by Doubleday. Titled ‘The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021’ it was written by veteran Washington political writers Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

David Greenberg, a professor of history and of journalism and media studies at Rutgers University, and Jacob S. Hacker, a professor of political science at Yale University, reviewed the book for the New York Times and the Washington Post, respectively.

“The book is the most comprehensive and detailed account of the Trump presidency yet published,” Hacker wrote, and Greenberg call the book a “detail-rich history of the Trump administration.”
The Divider is filled with statements that seem provocative, like “the people who were most fearful of his reign were those in the room with him,” but the authorial team attempt to make the case that the negative judgements against Trump are justified.

Hacker addresses what is already known, and then writes that, “to this rich factual context, Baker and Glasser add fresh and frequently alarming stories, based in part on more than 300 interviews they conducted.”

Hacker wrote that “the thesis of Baker and Glasser’s book is unoriginal, if accurate: Trump posed a unique threat to American democracy. The threat was lessened by his ineptitude, the incompetence of many he relied on and the resistance of many others – some principled, some partisan, some self-preserving.”

Perhaps the most shocking information in the book was spotlighted by a separate Washington Post article by Azi Paybarah, who wrote “President Trump once offered what he considered ‘a great deal’ to Jordan’s King Abdullah II: control of the West Bank.” The book quotes the King saying, “I thought I was having a heart attack… I couldn’t breathe. I was bent doubled-over.”

The contributions of newspaper reporters are known as ‘the first draft of history”. The next draft can be said to be books like The Divider, whose authors Baker and Glasser, who are married, carefully and fastidiously review all the known material and add to it through interviews.

Indeed, people both pro- and anti-Trump believe they have all the information they need to make their judgements, but Greenberg notes that, “those with strong stomachs will find a lot they didn’t know, and a lot more that they once learned but maybe, amid the daily barrage of breaking-news banner headlines, managed to forget.”

Greenberg informs that Baker is The New York Times’s chief White House correspondent and that Glasser is staff writer at The New Yorker,” and he opines the they are “the perfect pair to write this book, with a combined 60 years of Washington reporting experience and two other jointly authored books.”

It is interesting to note that Baker’s full name is Peter Eleftherios Baker, and that his father, E.P Baker, was born Peter Eleftherios Baker, reportedly of Greek descent and named after the modern Greek statesman Eleftherios Venizelos. It can be surmised that politics was passionately discussed at the dinner tables of the Bakers for at least two generations.

The reviews highlighted reports of dysfunctionality in the White House, and how key people addressed it. The Divider notes of one top official – but the view applies to several – that “his job wasn’t to get things done but to stop certain things from happening, to prevent disaster.”

Greenberg refers to the “former president, whose propensity for petulant rage kept Washington in a fit of indignation and the White House in a mode of perpetual damage control for the better part of four years” and adds that “the authors are persuasive in arguing that in this White House, ‘impulse and instinct ruled.’”

“Time and again,” Greenberg notes, staffers debate whether to stay put in hopes of mitigating Trump’s basest impulses or to run screaming from the room.”

Disturbing and frightening accounts of specific events abound, as expected. The Washington Post article notes that there is a chapter titled ‘My Generals,’ where “Baker and Glasser describe how Trump was so frustrated with his military commanders for refusing his various strong-arm orders that he asked Chief of Staff (and retired general) John Kelly why his generals couldn’t be more like Adolf Hitler’s during World War II.”

More important than shedding additional light on the mind of Trump, the book breaks additional ground on his actions. Hacker writes that “Baker and Glasser uncover many other episodes that make clear – well before Jan. 6, 2021 – how shockingly far he was willing to go to stay in office. The authors reveal a set of exchanges between Trump and Attorney General William Barr that suggest the president was truly serious about his tweet threats to lock up election rival Joe Biden.”

On another famous front, Greenberg notes that “some of the weightiest chapters take up Trump’s relationship with Russia… Baker and Glasser eschew the wilder conspiracy theories that were bandied about in left-wing circles during Robert Mueller’s probe of the 2016 campaign’s Russia connections.” Instead, Greenberg writes “The Divider soberly and carefully reconstructs events to reveal anew Trump’s shocking deference to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.”

According to Greenberg, “The Divider concludes with a riveting few chapters on Trump’s mad scheming to hold onto power after his November 2020 defeat – resulting in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

While Trump supporters can object by saying that neither the authors nor the reviewers are sympathetic to Trump, others are looking forward to the responses of defenders of the ex-president that will attempt to put the material in The Divider into a different perspective. The challenge however, is noted by Greenberg when he writes, “even more stunning is the number of onetime loyalists who, after their tours of duty, emerged as among the president’s most strident critics.”

(Material from the Washington Post and the New York Times was used for this article.)


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