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Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic

3.5/5 (10 ratings)
388 pages
6 hours
Oct 9, 2018

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New York Times Bestseller!

Bestselling author, former White House speechwriter, and Atlantic columnist and media commentator David Frum explains why President Trump has undermined our most important institutions in ways even the most critical media has missed, in this thoughtful and hard-hitting book that is a warning for democracy and America’s future.

"From Russia to South Africa, from Turkey to the Philippines, from Venezuela to Hungary, authoritarian leaders have smashed restraints on their power. Media freedom and judicial independence have eroded. The right to vote remains, but the right to have one’s vote counted fairly may not. Until the US presidential election of 2016, the global decline of democracy seemed a concern for other peoples in other lands. . . . That complacent optimism has been upended by the political rise of Donald Trump. The crisis is upon Americans, here and now."

Quietly, steadily, Trump and his administration are damaging the tenets and accepted practices of American democracy, perhaps irrevocably. As he and his family enrich themselves, the presidency itself falls into the hands of the generals and financiers who surround him.

While much of the country has been focused on Russia, David Frum has been collecting the lies, obfuscations, and flagrant disregard for the traditional limits placed on the office of the presidency. In Trumpocracy, he documents how Trump and his administration are steadily damaging the tenets and accepted practices of American democracy. During his own White House tenure as George W. Bush’s speechwriter, Frum witnessed the ways the presidency is limited not by law but by tradition, propriety, and public outcry, all now weakened. Whether the Trump presidency lasts two, four, or eight more years, he has changed the nature of the office for the worse, and likely for decades.

In this powerful and eye-opening book, Frum makes clear that the hard work of recovery starts at home. Trumpocracy outlines how Trump could push America toward illiberalism, what the consequences could be for our nation and our everyday lives, and what we can do to prevent it.

Oct 9, 2018

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About the author

David Frum is a senior editor at the Atlantic and the author of nine books, including the New York Times bestseller Trumpocracy. From 2001 to 2002, he served as a speechwriter and special assistant to President George W. Bush. He and his wife, Danielle Crittenden Frum, live in Washington, DC, and Wellington, Ontario. They have three children.

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Trumpocracy - David Frum









Title Page




Chapter 1: Pre-Existing Conditions

Chapter 2: Enablers

Chapter 3: Appeasers

Chapter 4: Plunder

Chapter 5: Betrayals

Chapter 6: Enemies of the People

Chapter 7: Rigged System

Chapter 8: America Alone

Chapter 9: Autoimmune Disorder

Chapter 10: Resentments

Chapter 11: Believers

Chapter 12: Hope




About the Author

Also by David Frum


About the Publisher


The book in your hands was first published at a time of comparative hopefulness about the then-new Trump administration. Power seemed to have been centralized in the hands of an axis of adults, instead of the Star Wars bar cast of characters of the administration’s first six months. John Kelly, Gary Cohn, and H. R. McMaster had imposed a semblance of order on the West Wing. The president’s access to articles from and the Gateway Pundit had been restricted; his tweeting temporarily curtailed; fewer weird people wandered at will in and out of the Oval Office.

In that mood, some critics contended that my then-new book had overstated the emergency presented by the Trump presidency. Paraphrasing what they argued:

The system is balking Trump and grinding him down. Normal Republicans are winning the arguments on trade and Russia. We’re even sending arms to Ukraine! Trump is a weak president, not a dangerous one, more farce than menace. None of this is good, but nothing irreversibly terrible has happened either.

That all seems like a long time ago. The axis of adults has now itself mostly departed. Chaos is whirling wilder and wilder inside the White House. Chaos is spreading outward to the nation and the world. Honorable professionals are purged from government service; mediocrities and fraudsters replace them. The evidence of corruption and collusion accumulates—yet Congress supinely fails even to oversee, let alone take corrective action.

The system is not balking President Trump. It is yielding to him. As president, he is simultaneously farcical and menacing: Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, but without the operational excellence, a senior official of an allied government described him to me.

As this paperback edition heads to publication in mid-summer 2018, President Trump has launched devastating trade wars not only against China, but also against close US allies. Trade wars, Trump tweeted, are good and easy to win. That’s proving unsurprisingly wrong. Prices for US corn, soybeans, and milk products are tumbling as US farmers lose markets in China and Mexico. Automakers are relocating operations outside the United States to escape tariffs on steel and aluminum. Even the price of Chinese-manufactured red Make America Great Again baseball caps are spiking.

Over dinner at the G7 summit in June, he excused the Russian invasion of Crimea to horrified heads of government. At the NATO summit in July, he described the alliance as a burden to the United States and threatened to quit. He insulted friendly leaders in Canada and Germany and abused the European Union as a foe. He inserted himself into Britain’s Brexit debate on the side of the most extreme anti-EU politicians. His ambassador for religious liberty lobbied the British government on behalf of a white nationalist race-baiter sentenced for disrupting a trial to incite anger against people not yet convicted of a racially charged crime.

Trump struck a sucker’s deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, suspending US military exercises in the peninsula as provocative and misrepresenting a temporary cession of missile testing as a halt to North Korean nuclear development. Asked by Fox News’s Bret Baier about the dictator’s killings and tortures, Trump replied, He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, a tough country with tough people, and you take it over from your father I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have. If you could do that at twenty-seven years old, I mean, that’s one in ten thousand that could do that.

On the eve of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, Trump blamed the United States for the deterioration in the relationship with Russia. He declined to challenge Putin either on the 2014 Russian downing of a civilian airliner over Ukrainian territory that killed all 298 aboard or on the Russian interference in the 2016 election that helped elect him. Days after an indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed the direct responsibility of Russian intelligence for hacking Democratic Party communications and stealing Democratic Party voter data, a Trump tweet explicitly absolved the Russians for the crime and instead fixed blame on the Democratic National Committee for falling victim to the hacks. Trump also repeated his use of the phrase enemies of the people to describe independent journalists on his way to meeting with the world’s leading murderer of independent journalists. Most amazing of all, Trump denounced the probe into the 2016 Russian attack on US democracy—while literally standing on the same stage in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian autocrat who ordered that attack.

Trump’s brutal version of immigration enforcement separated hundreds of very young children from their unauthorized border-crossing parents, with no plan for reuniting families even after deportation. Very young children have been held in cells and dosed with psychiatric drugs. Yet the flow of illegal immigration has been unabated in 2018, after dipping in 2017, because the Trump administration still declines to seek or apply sanctions against employers of illegal labor. But not every business gets treated with such solicitude: Trump pressed for months to rewrite postal rates to punish Amazon’s Jeff Bezos for unwelcome coverage in the Bezos-owned Washington Post—an unprecedented form of government retaliation against a business owner for exercise of First Amendment rights.

Instead of the Republican party restraining Trump, Trump is remaking the Republican party. We are the party of Donald J. Trump, declared Katie Arrington on the night she bested former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford for a Republican nomination to the House of Representatives. Who will tell her that she is wrong? Some Republican senators snark and grumble. Sometimes they sarcastically subtweet him or use sharp words in television interviews or speeches on the Senate floor. Yet even though any three of them could together, with 48 Democrats, hold him to account in that body, it never happens. A neo-Confederate has won the Republican US Senate nomination in the state of Virginia. Oddball and extremist candidates are proliferating in the US House and state legislative races.

The pace of the president’s lying is accelerating: an average of 4.1 false statements a day in 2018, up from 2.9 per day in 2017, according to Daniel Dale, the Toronto Star reporter who keeps the most reliable tally. Trump’s media apologists at Fox News and elsewhere have become even more shameless. They sank to a new low of self-abasing deceptiveness by presenting Trump’s utter capitulation to Kim Jong-un as a triumph equivalent to the breach of the Berlin Wall—but of course they will sink lower still in the months ahead.

President Trump is defying legality ever more openly. In June 2018, the Trump legal defense team released a letter they sent Special Counsel Robert Mueller a year earlier. The letter asserted that it was definitionally impossible for the president to obstruct justice in any case arising from his Article II authority. If a president had the right to fire the FBI director for abusing an expense account (as President Clinton did in 1993), then a president had an equal right to fire the FBI director for investigating crimes by the president’s political allies.

The president’s lawyer-defenders join that claim to an even bolder one: under his constitutional duty and power to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, the president (they said) had power to direct the FBI to start or halt any criminal investigation—a terrifying power that none of Trump’s predecessors ever used or even imagined that a future president might. Richard Nixon fabricated an imaginary CIA mission to dupe the FBI into dropping its investigation of the burglary at the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee. It never occurred to him that he might just order the FBI to stand down. But this power beyond Richard Nixon’s fantasies is now ascribed to Donald Trump by his lawyers and talk show proxies.

The Trump Team argues that the president cannot be indicted for any offense—at least not for any federal offense—during his time in office. I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani told S. V. Date of the Huffington Post. If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day. Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him.

Many lawyers might agree with Giuliani on that one specific point: impeachment and removal must precede indictment. But Team Trump is arguing for a more total immunity. On June 4, 2018, President Trump himself tweeted, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself. In which case, to continue the Giuliani hypothetical, the president could shoot dead James Comey and then (provided only that he took care to fire the weapon on federal property) immediately pardon himself. Together, the president’s legal arguments present a claim for executive impunity unlike anything seen in the English-speaking world since the overthrow of the Stuart dynasty in 1688. In the year following, the 1689 English Bill of Rights—the document that would inspire the American Founders a century later—confirmed that even monarchs must comply with the law of the land. George III himself would never have dared the claim that Donald Trump and his apologists now nightly advance on cable news talk shows.

Another Congress could have passed a motion disputing the right of self-pardon. Although the ultimate determination would belong to the courts, such a caution might have warned the president against testing the constitutional limits. This supine Congress has lain down instead—and Trump interprets their silence as his tacit permission.

President Trump has already put this permission to ample use. In the months since publication of the hardcover edition of this book, the Trump presidency has extended its lead as the most corrupt in US history, with any runner-up dropping farther and farther out of sight. The fiction that Trump has separated himself from his businesses grows ever more laughable. As of the 540th day of the Trump presidency, Trump had spent 169 at a Trump-branded property: a presidency as marketing exercise.

Trump continues to receive payments from foreign business partners, and those payments certainly appear to influence US foreign policy. A Chinese state-owned company invested $500 million in an Indonesian project that included a Trump-themed hotel just at the time Trump decided on a light punishment for China’s law-breaking, sanctions-busting telecom giant, ZTE. China recorded more Ivanka Trump trademarks that same week.

Trump’s own party has internalized Trump’s demand for payments. As of the end of the first quarter of 2018, Republican Party entities have spent a cumulative total of more than sixteen million dollars at Trump-branded properties, according to People who seek the president’s favor will Instagram their expensive meals at the Trump Hotel in Washington—and then tag the social media accounts of the president and his children.

Trump has effectively won the fight not to release his tax returns. That default, once so contentious, has now dropped from view, and with it, the answer to this mystery:

Trump was once so cash-desperate that this supposed billionaire marketed steaks, vodka, and a fraudulent university. He accepted fifty thousand dollars an episode to host a TV series, demanding one million dollars to renew his contract—and settled for sixty thousand dollars. Then, suddenly in 2006, Trump had access to so much liquidity that he could pay all cash for golf courses and other properties. Where did this money come from? Perhaps Robert Mueller will answer that question. Until then, the American people will be kept in the dark about the most salient of all Trump questions, What does the president owe and to whom does he owe it?

Individual Trump appointees abuse the public in their own individual ways. Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has set a land-speed record of corruption and abuse. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after spending more than one million dollars on improper government jet travel. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin nearly equaled Price, but survived. Veterans’ Affairs Secretary David Shulkin left office for taking his new wife on a personal trip to Europe at taxpayer expense. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke mingled official and personal business while traveling on government aircraft and helicopters. The son of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson does business with people who do business with his father’s cabinet department. That pattern repeats itself at the subcabinet and staff level too.

Maybe the most important single case of corruption involves Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen. Cohen handled payoff payments to women with a grievance against Donald Trump, work that continued after Trump assumed the presidency. At the same time, Cohen shook down more than four million dollars in no-work consulting contracts in the opening months of the administration. Cohen’s other business activities look even worse.

The bad smell emanating from the Trump-Russia connection reeks ever stronger. We have learned more and more about the scale of Russian intervention to help elect Trump—and about the eagerness of the Trump campaign to receive that help. We have learned that Donald Trump personally dictated the message signed by his son Donald Trump Jr. to deceive the public about the first meeting between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence operatives. We have learned more about Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort’s alleged money laundering and tax evasion over recent years, although the exact connection between Manafort’s personal business and his work for the Donald Trump presidential campaign remains murky as I write.

Through the murk, the core truth of Trump-Russia remains what it was when I wrote the main text of Trumpocracy: this is a story still with many secrets, but with no mysteries. The Russian leader has some hold upon the president of the United States. We can only begin to discern the nature of the hold, but we can all witness its power.

Donald Trump was dealt the easiest hand of any president since Calvin Coolidge in 1923. Barack Obama inherited the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression; Ronald Reagan, the second worst. Bill Clinton stepped into the job of rebuilding a new world after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Jimmy Carter faced an energy crisis; Gerald Ford, Watergate and Vietnam . . . I could go on. Even the presidents who inherited prosperous economies—Herbert Hoover, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush—were all smacked by global crises within months of entering office: the Crash of 1929, German unification, the 9/11 attacks.

Only Trump inherited an already growing economy, a low pace of combat operations, and a world that stayed mostly quiet through his first year in office. There were grave challenges facing the new president. There always are. But in 2017, the problems in the president’s inbox were almost all chronic, not acute. Trump could (as he did) more or less ignore them without immediate policy consequences.

At the time I finished the hardcover edition, Trump had not yet enacted much of a domestic agenda. As of summer 2018, more has been accomplished—typically to the harm of the very people he purports to champion. About four million Americans have lost health insurance coverage since Donald Trump won the election, according to surveys by the Commonwealth Fund. Among self-identified Republicans, the percent uninsured has climbed from 7.9 percent in mid-2016 to 13.9 percent in the spring of 2018.

Trump has plunged into nearly trillion-dollar deficits with unconcern, feeding an inflation that by mid-2018 had wiped away all income gains for most US workers. Between May 2017 and May 2018, the average hourly wage, adjusted for inflation, increased 0.0 percent. The gains of the Trump economy, like the benefits of the Trump tax cut, flowed to the top.

Much has been said about the obdurate loyalty of the Trump base, the one-quarter of the country that strongly approves his presidency. But maybe the more important fact for the future is the equally obdurate rejection of this presidency by the anti-Trump base, the 40-plus percent who strongly disapprove of him. That plurality of the country has irreversibly determined that Trump is a liar, bigot, and crook. They have taken his measure and will not untake it.

But we have to reckon with the consequences for the nation of the president’s untrustworthiness. Donald Trump has decapitated the government of the United States, leaving a distrusted and disrespected void where the head of state should be. He never can and never will speak for the whole nation, as George W. Bush did after 9/11, as Barack Obama could do during the worst throes of the economic crisis of 2009. In any genuine emergency the nation may face in the next few years, it will be effectively leaderless. Donald Trump is at most the president of the largest faction within white America, and oftentimes not even that.

This truth enrages the Trump White House. Trump’s circle, Trump’s aides, Trump himself: they feel the contempt of a large majority of Americans, and they chafe and rage. They angrily complain that this president and this First Family do not receive the same respect that other presidents and their families have received—and they are of course correct in that.

What they fail to perceive is any connection between their own actions and the disrespect they incur. As I write, the New York attorney general has just referred to the Internal Revenue Service and other law enforcement bodies a complaint of fraud and self-dealing in the Trump family foundations. The attorney general has recommended that not only President Trump but also his three older children be barred for a period of time from serving on the boards of charities. Edmund Burke remarks that vice can lose half its evil if it loses all its grossness. But what about vice that redoubles grossness? The hardcover edition of this book was written before Stormy Daniels had entered her stage name into the annals of politics—but it has been inscribed there now.

Americans should always respect the office of the presidency of course. But Americans are entitled to expect that the office will also be respected by the officeholder, and that is sadly not the case in the Trump years. He defiles the Oval Office, and then he and his people act outraged when anybody notices the smell.

Yet noticing the smell has bad consequences for the public welfare as well as Donald Trump personally. It figures among what I’ve called the autoimmune disorders of the Trump presidency. The US president wields many powers. Yet his ultimate power is not contained in any law or article of the Constitution: his ultimate power is his authority, the prestige he commands, the weight and credibility of his words. If he squanders that authority, the whole constitutional system, the whole Western alliance suffers the blow. Of all the institutions Trump has harmed or disabled, the most damaged is the one for which he is most responsible: the office of the president. The best people in the Trump administration try to manage the US government as if the president were some antique and unnecessary feature—as if the words and acts that mattered most were those of the Secretary of Defense or the Assistant Secretary of State, not the words and acts of the temporary occupant of the White House. Oh, pay no attention to that, you know how he is. Now, let’s get back to serious business . . .

But the US government cannot function like that. The crisis is hurtling upon us, nearer and nearer every day. Perhaps it will have arrived by the time you open this paperback edition.

Not an optimist by temperament myself, I have become ever more confident that the country will prove itself equal to that crisis. I keenly remember the mood of fear that gripped the national majority in the first weeks and months of the Trump presidency. As I have traveled since the release of the hardcover edition of this book in January 2018, I have noticed a change: the fear has dispelled. In its place, I see a gathering will to act. It’s not noisy, not rhetorical. It does not often gather in the streets, it does not have slogans or songs. Perhaps the bombast of the Trump White House—the president manically exhorting the country to rise and sing patriotic songs whose words he cannot remember—has disillusioned Americans with such theatricality.

In Soviet days, the hysterical vituperation of the official Communist media—Hyenas! Jackals!—impelled dissidents to a cool and understated style. They titled their leading publication The Chronicle of Current Events. They published confirmed facts in the plainest words. So many Americans seem to have decided that the way to be a decent person is to monitor the sayings and doings of Donald J. Trump—and then do exactly the opposite.

The question I have been asked most often since the release of this book is, What can we do? The first thing of course is to be registered to vote in November 2018, and then to use that vote to support those candidates who can gain the broadest possible support to check this presidency. I am not a Democrat or a liberal. Those who belong to those categories may not wish to take advice from me. But whether you want it or not, here it is: nothing would do more to preserve Donald Trump in power than for Democrats to emulate the savagely destructive purity politics of the Tea Party. If you are trying to restrain a dangerous president, the politicians to support are those who can win the most support from the widest range of people.

To say, Yes, I want to save the country from Donald Trump, but Michael Pence is just as bad, and oh, by the way, the country isn’t worth saving unless we have Medicare for all, and a universal basic income, and a government job guarantee, and abolish the ICE agency, too, while we’re at it—is to say that saving the country from Donald Trump ranks nowhere near the top of your priorities. If I could, as I did, vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to save the country from Donald Trump, you can vote for the candidates with the most realistic shot at doing the same in 2018 and 2020, whether or not you approve every detail of their platforms.

The next thing you can do is to be a responsible news consumer. As we have experienced since 2017, anti-Trump constituencies are not less vulnerable to fake news (in the true meaning of fake news) than pro-Trump constituencies. Remember, you are one share away from being not only a news consumer, but a news distributor. Use that power responsibly. Don’t share before you have clicked the link and confirmed for yourself that the exciting breaking story in your feed originates from a reputable source. Adopt the motto, Let the fake news stop with me. Do not share what has not been authenticated.

Join something, especially something local, especially something that might at first seem even boring: a parent-teacher association, a neighborhood advisory committee, a fund-raising effort for a cause that will make a difference in your community or your town. Trump arose in the disconnected interstices between Americans. Help to reconnect them. Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti has urged Americans to have a drink with someone they might disagree with—and then posted on social media a photo of himself grinning alongside Anthony Scaramucci. That kind of mutual celebrity-mongering is not constructive. We do not overcome differences by discussing our differences. We overcome them by working alongside people who are different to achieve a purpose we hold in common: to repair a roof of a library, to buy a new machine for the hospital, to furnish a shelter for victims of domestic abuse.

For those readers outside the United States, I implore you: remember the United States you respected and trusted—and believe the best spirit of the United States remains unprofaned underneath the wreckage strewn by Donald Trump. I was born in Canada and viewed the United States from the outside for most of the first half of my life. What the United States was then, it can be again. It must be. It will be.

Above all, readers abroad and at home, please stay engaged. You sometimes hear the expression, news fatigue or Trump fatigue. It can be fatiguing to

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  • (4/5)
    This conservative author sets forth the damage that Trump and his enablers have done to our country and the office of the Presidency. The level of lying, ignorance, corruption, criminality and cruelty is astounding - and unfortunately it has become such a common, everyday thing with Trump that we run the risk of becoming numb to the outrage. This we cannot do. We must resist, and we must rescue our country from this downward spiral. The book is intelligently written and provides hope for the future in the last chapter. I would recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    Excellent, last chapter is the starting point. Rest a bit repetitous and dated by new events. Next edition should be good.
  • (5/5)
    I am writing this as news has hit that the Attorney General has fired Andy McCabe of the FBI just two days before his official retirement. It is hard to see this as anything other than political, a further attempt by the Trump administration to end the Mueller investigation. Reading the last sections of this book while watching this news unfold filled me with fear as it is becoming more and more apparent that the Trump White House favors the end of our democratic government as we know it for his own financial gain. The author pleads with us to become educated as citizens and to become more active in our government to make sure we do not lose our basic rights and government, that despite its flaws, is the best in the world. This is a very important book for the times.
  • (4/5)
    As one can read by the book's subtitle, this is not a positive examination of the Trump presidency. If you love the United States of America, you should read this book and do your part to make sure this president is turfed out at the next election. Frum, a former speech writer and special assistant to President George W. Bush, has years of conservative and Republican credentials to prove he is not a Democrat or a liberal angry at losing political power and an election.He describes Trump as a cruel, vengeful, egoistic, ignorant, lazy, avaricious,and treacherous individual who is enabled by other careless, cynical, shortsighted, morally obtuse and rancorous individuals. To prove his point, he documents a multitude of actions by President Trump and his supporters many of which have put the American nation and government in great danger not to mention in some cases other countries as well.While painting a grim picture of the US Government in the hands of the Trump administration, his last chapter brings the book to a relatively positive point by using recent surveys of the American people which illustrate Trump's actions are awaking a renewed interest in democracy in the US populace. According to Frum, the American people apparently do not like bullies and President Trump is a bully.
  • (5/5)
    Written by a self-declared conservative and member of the GOP, this book gives a very good analysis of everything that is wrong about Donald Trump and the corrupt system that got him elected.Well-written and very informative.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    David Frum is a conservative writer for The Atlantic Monthly. Neverthless, he is staunchly anti-Trump, and in his introduction to this book states that it "is the story of those who enable, empower, support, and collaborate with Donald Trump." This, to me, is an important issue--we have in Trump one dangerous and crazy person, but why are so many supporting him? Frum calls out the conventional republicans who, wanting someone to sign the bills enacting their pet conservative laws, go along, stating that Trump really can't be an autocrat, and he can't really destroy democracy, because he is too incompetent and chaotic. Frum points out that what we as a country have to fear is not the overthrow of our constitution, and not the state power to intimidate its citizens, but the paralysis of government and erosions of its norms, and the incitement of private violence by radicalized supporters. Frum states that he voted for Hillary,"not to advance my wishlist on taxes, entitlements, regulations, and judicial appointments," but to defend a "commitment to norms and rules." Although he disagreed with Hillary on many issues, he expected that Hillary would comply with these norms and rules, unlike Trump "who would subvert those standards."The book only focuses briefly on campaign irregularities (Chapter 2 "Enablers"). The majority of the book deals with Trump's methods of governing since his election, and Frum again states that it is not Trump's "own cunning that enabled him to defy long-established standards of decent behavior. It was the complicity of his allies among the conservative and Republican political, media and financial elite."So what are Trump's methods of governing, what constitutes a "Trumpocracy"?First, as in his businesses, Trump grabs the benefits for himself and a few associates while offloading the costs onto those foolish enough to trust him. Examples of his kleptocracy abound, and no president in history has used as much public money to sustain his and his family's personal lifestyle. He continues to use his position to make money for his businesses, which unlike previous presidents he did not divest himself of. One by one he is disabling the federal government's inhibitions against personal corruption.His corruption extends to his appointment of his cabinet and aides. He tends to appoint servile people. For example Dan Scavino, in charge of on-line communications, is his former golf caddy. He has insisted on reviewing the resumes of every candidate for every sub-cabinet secretary and sub-sub-cabinet job. Many of these jobs are as yet unfilled, partly due to his short attention span, poor work ethic, and ferocious demand for abject personal loyalty. Frum believes this to be part of a conscious effort to paralyze the state either by failing to staff it or by staffing it with incompetents. One could point to a number of cabinet secretaries who appear to be unqualified, incompetent, corrupt, or who espouse an "elimination of government" philosophy.Frum sees Trump's "greatest" accomplishment thus far in his undermining of the public's trust in the press. He has managed to convince many of his supporters that the honest media is actually giving them "fake news," and has taken the giant leap into labeling the press an "enemy of the people."Another aspect of a Trumpocracy, is his isolating the U.S. from its former close friends and allies, as well as his regular empowering of and deference to dictators. There are examples of these two aspects of Trump's foreign policy in the news nearly every week.Its all pretty dismal, but Frum offers several items to be hopeful about. First, Trump has awakened a new era of citizen awareness and activity. He has revived in us (if not in his core supporters), a new appreciation of the preciousness of the truth. Thirdly, he has also revived in many a renewed disgust for those who join power to cruelty. (We see this not only in his support of dictators and torture, but in his downright meanness--just today the news is full of what appears to have been his retaliative firing of Andrew McCable hours before he was eligible for his pension, as well as his proposal to apply the death penalty to drug dealers. One person who knows Trump fairly well stated, "He is the meanest man I ever met.") Trump has also recalled to us an appreciation of the vital role of our national security agencies. Finally his election has brought to the forefront the issue of the integrity of our voting system.There are generally few substantive issues on which I agree with Frum. For example, he states early in the book regarding Obama's establishing of the Dreamers, "In the long history of presidential overreach, there had never been a case like it." Really??--what about torture, extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo, illegal spying on U.S. citizens, etc.? Nevertheless, he is, in my view, spot on in calling out the politicians who have failed to defy Trump's actions, and his description of Trump's governing ethos is terrifying.Highly recommended.4 stars

    1 person found this helpful