- - Sunday, July 10, 2016


By Gary J. Byrne

Center Street, $27, 304 pages


By Mark Singer

Tim Dugan Books, $16, 112 pages

Despite its being ignored by the mainstream media, “Crisis of Character” is already a best-seller, driven by interviews and coverage in conservative outlets with the author relating his distressing experiences while serving in the Clinton White House as a U.S. Secret Service officer.

The manner in which this book has been promoted creates the impression that it is a must-read for anyone seeking to discover just how awful a person Hillary Clinton really is, as exposed by a dedicated law enforcement officer who from observing her up-close finds her lacking the character and temperament that should be required of a U.S. president.

But if you’re expecting a book with new revelations or an exhaustive case against Hillary Clinton, you’ll find yourself wondering: Where’s the beef? It contains surprisingly little about her, and surprisingly little that is first-hand reporting.

This book is a personal memoir of a good, highly honorable man who coped with significant attention deficit disorder and dyslexia to perform well in a 29-year career in law enforcement, from the Air Force Security Police to Secret Service to Federal Air Marshalls Service. Viewed as the sort of book it actually is, it’s a good work.

Gary Byrne reluctantly played a pivotal role in the truth coming out regarding the Monica Lewinski scandal and this part of the book is gripping. He had tried to protect President Clinton from the damaging consequences of his own reckless conduct, but a federal subpoena and a ruling by Chief Justice William Rehnquist led him to resist the temptation to take the easy path so many others were taking of conveniently failing to remember facts. His having the strength of character to tell the truth in the face of incredible pressure is a key reason Americans discovered that the president of the United States was a sleaze and a liar. Mr. Byrne’s dealings with Hillary Clinton made him view her the same way.

The book is worth reading to better understand the ways people who possess great power but lack character can abuse good public servants. Mr. Byrne’s reporting on the flaws of the Federal Air Marshalls Service is also eye-opening — and scary.

Because only small portion of the book deals with what its promotion has suggested, this is not the go-to book to discoverthe reasons to be appalled at the thought of Hillary Clinton becoming president. Two far better choices currently available are “Unlikeable” by Edward Klein and “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer.

“Trump and Me,” the fifth book by a longtime staff writer for The New Yorker magazine is billed as “the best, most insightful and funniest portrait of Trump.” It is insightful and it is funny — but a book? It’s more a very long magazine article with a hard cover.

“I wouldn’t believe Donald Trump if his tongue were notarized,” a former deputy mayor of New York is quoted as saying, and it is one line any Trump foe will surely love reading. At least the first time it appears. And a story the author tells about how he goaded Mr. Trump into a ridiculously childish response should strike anyone with a good sense of humor as truly funny. At least the first time he tells it. Such repetition within a book containing so few pages should have been easy to spot and eliminate.

Besides comprehensively researching Mr. Trump, the author once spent several months in frequent contact with him while writing a major profile about him for The New Yorker, observing Mr. Trump in his office, in his homes, at a number of his businesses, dining together and traveling together in Mr. Trump’s car and private jet. He views him as a narcissist, a megalomaniac, a phony and a fraud — “a brilliant salesman, specializing in simulated intimacy rather than the real thing” and “both slippery and naive, artfully calculating and recklessly heedless of consequences.”

Mr. Trump, he finds, is a man with “no core beliefs, no describable political philosophy, and has not an iota of curiosity about the practicalities of policy and governance.”

He rips Mr. Trump’s braggadocio about his businesses by citing the multiple business bankruptcies the candidate calls “a blip”; how he “stiffed his creditors for eight hundred million dollars, give or take” and then “reflexively insisted it never happened.”

He reveals that much of what we think of as Mr. Trump’s holdings is illusory, mere “image ownership,” with, among many other examples, this startling fact about Trump Towers: “The Trump name on the skyscraper belies the fact that his ownership is limited to his penthouse apartment and a stake in the hotel’s restaurant and garage.”

“It is deeply unfair to say that Trump lies all the time,” he writes. “I would never suggest that he lies when he’s asleep.”

Ouch. This book may be small but it packs a powerful wallop.

Fred J. Eckert, a former Republican congressman from New York served as U.S ambassador to Fiji and to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture based in Rome, Italy.

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