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Consumed With Hate: Crippled America

🇺🇸 All of Which Are American Dreams...

The Crime: Crippled America
The Guilty Party: Donald Trump
Overview: He certainly did

Why I Hate It...

This book was originally published as promo material in advance of the 2016 election. It was almost immediately re-issued under a different title, Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America. I listened to the audiobook when it was new and the review I wrote at the time is reproduced below. I think the review stands, so I haven't altered it except for minor grammatical tweaks. My feelings have changed slightly, given the context of history, but I'll save those thoughts for afterwards. So without further ado...

90% of this books is exactly what you'd expect: a laundry list of conservative talking points. They're a bit more polished than his stump speeches, but no less simplistic or condescending. The running themes are familiar. Everyone is an idiot except Donald J. Trump. People think you need experience and a nuanced view of politics, but they're wrong. Et cetera. It even reads the way he speaks publicly. Short, declarative sentences, lots of references to himself in the 3rd person. His favorites words seem to be "really", "very", "very-very", and "Trump". One can't shake the feeling that he didn't so much write the book as narrate into a recorder for six hours and then hire someone to pare it down and organize it. It gets a little jarring, actually. He reads the intro in his own trademarked, angry, energetic tone, but most of the book is read by Jeremy Lowell who manages to inject some pathos into the rhetoric, and the juxtaposition gets a bit weird.

As I said, many of his talking points are more polished and fleshed out here. He references some statistics and action items. He gives an explanation of how he would make Mexico pay for that wall he's so fond of. The explanation is vague on the specifics, but it does sound... let's go with "less implausible" than before. On the whole, his reasoning is thin and ultimately boils down to things being true because he says they are true. My tax plan will be revenue neutral. Why? Believe me, that's why. Even the title, Crippled America is simply taken as given. He never offers any justification, other than that he hates Obama and wasn't all that thrilled with W either (there are chiding asides to politicians "you could have a beer with" and a clear distaste for the war in Iraq). But when you take it all in, you get an appreciation for what he imagines the presidency to be. He resents experts and diplomats because he doesn't see the president as the leader of a coalition. He thinks of the U.S. as Cosa Nostra, and he imagines the president as Godfather.

Knowing this, some of his head-scratchier moments begin to make more sense. A recurring theme is that America needs to project strength and then use that strength to get more out of our allies and enemies. Build up the military and then shake down the planet. He talks about how Iraq should be paying us for all that we've done there (never mind who invaded whom...). It's nuts if you're a diplomat, but it makes sense if your understanding of the world is based purely on the projection of physical power. Early on, he fondly quotes former heavyweight champion and convicted rapist Mike Tyson. "Iron Mike" is a symbol of power, and power is to be revered. He was also a popular figure during the halcyon 80's, and while it's subtle, a romantic idealization of that era pervades the book, even extending beyond the typical Reagan-worship we are accustomed to from a modern GOP candidate. It borderlines on sweetness, actually, and it's one of the more humanizing facets of the book. That, along with his sheer chutzpah, makes him rather compelling. He is, without question, one hell of a salesman.

But oh, what he's selling. Scientists are lying about climate change, except the ones who think wind turbines cause more carbon pollution than gas power (!?). The Republicans should have sued Obama for lying about Obamacare (!??). How dare the city of Miami enforce zoning restrictions on my 80-foot flagpole and 300-sq-foot flag when it's the only way to show how much I love my country (!?!?). Or my personal favorite, "When I say I'm a winner, I'm not bragging." Never mind the small matter of the definition of the word "bragging". One might be tempted to question his mental faculties if it weren't all so transparently disingenuous.

But there's something to said for the parts that aren't disingenuous--or, the 10% of the book that isn't just pandering to conservatives. There's no question, for instance, that he loves his children or that he values hard work and shrewd negotiating. He argues against accusations of misogyny, and I almost believe him. Almost. He makes a very compelling case that he only treats women like shit because he treats everyone like shit, but is perfectly willing to give a woman a fair chance if she's tough enough. Similarly, when his policy proposals cut against the usual GOP playbook (always couched as "so obvious even the Democrats believe it"), such as improving infrastructure, you can't help thinking that this is an issue he really cares about. Alas, he never goes into where the money for these projects will come from any deeper than "Believe me!" or his plan to extort it from the countries we invade.

So ultimately, Donald J. Trump is an even bigger mystery to me now than he was before. And that makes the book interesting. Now don't get me wrong, it's also terrifying and brain-hurty and pandering to the worst base impulses of humanity. But it is also interesting.

So that was my original review, written when Trump was considered an amusing oddity who could not possibly win. I suppose the difference between a blasé puff piece and a terrifying manifesto is the success of the author. Nowadays, having lived through the four years of his presidency and also the enduring stamp he's left on the US political climate, I'd say I was a bit too charitable. So here are some thoughts that reflect 8 years of history.

First, I should have called out the use of the word "crippled" in the title. It's a hurtful term, and it was almost certainly chosen specifically to troll leftists, and for that, sir, I say that you are an asshole. Second, we have to acknowledge that this book was ghost-written by David Fisher, cobbled together from interviews, phone calls, and stump speeches. It was not well-known at the time, but Trump famously does not read--at least, not anything that doesn't have his name in the byline--so the idea that he wrote this is laughable. Ergo, while the book certainly reflects Trump's political ideas in the broad strokes, the presence of actual depth of thought and research is not attributable to the candidate himself.

And with that in mind, I think the more charitable moments of my review (read: the second-to-last paragraph) can be dismissed. I no longer believe that Trump values hard work--there's nothing in his history to indicate that he's ever been anything but a grifter. I no longer believe that he believes he's not a misogynist, given how much he has inflamed misogynist (and racist, and homophobic, and sectarian, and did I mention racist?) rhetoric. And as for the idea that he loves his children... honestly, this feels the most "cringe" out of the entire review. According to sources, he has utter disdain for his sons, and he speaks of Ivanka in such explicitly sexual terms that... like... he's definitely molested at least one of his daughters... right? I mean... he's got ties to Jeffery Epstein, and there's reports of him barging into the dressing rooms of 15-year-olds at beauty pageants, so... he's totally done that to his kids. Y'all see it too, right?

Anyway, the book is trash and the world will be a better place when its "author" is no longer "living." We should gather every copy up and... look, I'm not one for book-burning, but maybe we compact them into diamonds and give them out as awards at drag competitions, or encase them in cement blocks used to build Planned Parenthood centers and clinics that offer gender-affirming care to trans youth. Just a thought.

Next week, we dip our toes into the James Bond franchise with Live and Let Die...

In CONSUMED WITH HATE, Kurt is revisiting media that he absolutely did not like one bit. See more posts.