Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that somehow Trump’s gang of fools had been able to overturn the election results on January 6th and he was sworn in again and was now midway through his second term.
I’m conducting this fanciful exercise because last night we ate dinner at the home of friends – both of whom have advanced degrees, both of whom follow the news closely, both of whom have professional careers and both of whom are still absolutely convinced that Trump represents a real threat to democracy and will continue to push an anti-democratic agenda through 2024.
You can get some insights into how things would now be going along in D.C. if Trump had managed to overturn the 2020 election by reading a new book, The Divider, Trump in the White House, 2017 – 2021, by two journalists, Peter Baker, and Susan Glasser, who are about as plugged into the ins and outs of politics as two Fake News reporters can be. He’s the chief White House correspondent for The Failing New York Times, she’s a staff writer for The New Yorker Magazine, okay?
The book is over 600 pages and is based on a combination of second-hand sources, three hundred interviews (fully annotated, I gave up counting the footnotes) and two lengthy interviews with Trump, one interview three months after January 6th, the second interview in November 2021.
In both interviews, Trump demonstrated that he didn’t know or didn’t care about any difference between lying and telling the truth. He was at times “jarringly incoherent,” at other times “impossibly contradictory.” He often affirmed and then denied the same idea in the same sentence, and many thoughts were uttered without using a noun or a verb.
Now here’s the point: You might think that this describes the behavior of a 76-year old man who has suddenly gone from being the center of the Universe to a guy sitting in the lobby of a public dining room all by himself. But in what is almost a day-to-day description of what went on in the Oval Office for 1,462 days between 2017 and 2021, this is exactly how Trump behaved when he was the 45th President of the United States.
If one basic theme emerges from the text of this work, backed up by more than 1,500 references and end notes, it is the degree to which Trump conducted business as the nation’s chief executive in the same way that he conducted his postpartum interviews at Mar-a-Lago, when he made decision after decision based on whatever crazy idea was at that moment swirling around in his head.
Although the book does not attempt to cover the degree to which Trump may have been involved in planning the riot which occurred on January 6th, it doesn’t seem possible (at least to me) that someone who was so adverse to thinking or behaving in any kind of organized, rational, or energetic way, could have been anything more than an occasional observer to the planning which created the disorder and violence of that fateful day.
What really emerges from the text of this book is the degree to which beyond endless talking and yelling back and forth between whomever was sitting in a half-oval around the Resolute desk, basically nothing ever got done in the Oval Office with Trump. If any decision was made about anything, it was probably going to be reversed, withdrawn, or revised over the next hour, if not at some point over the next day or several days.
As I sat at the dinner table last night listening to my two friends describe their fears about Trump serving another four years, my thoughts kept going back to the day that Rudy Giuliani stood across the street from a porno shop in Philadelphia and announced that he would be leading the investigation to uncover the ‘national conspiracy’ to deny Trump a second term.
This can’t be happening I said to myself, as I watched Giuliani posture himself and go on and on about a cabal that didn’t, that couldn’t exist.
But what the Divided book clearly shows is that if the idea was in Trump’s head for even one second, then something had to be done whether it would make any difference at all.
And guess what? The one person in the Oval Office who never did anything was – you guessed it – Donald Trump himself.