THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE: CHANGING THE RULES OF THE GAME
By Ronald Kessler
Crown Forum, $27, 290 pages
It sometimes seems the only books being produced in Washington today are those competing to trash the current president. There was Michael Wolff’s New York gossipy-nasty take on the Trump White House, published to the promotional cheers of the major media.
The promotion of James Comey’s book was similarly enthusiastic — enthusiastic until people read it. No new charges or insights, nothing newsworthy, primarily an emotional attack on President Trump, delivered at a high and strangely epicene pitch — not what we’d expect from a former chief G-Man.
Perhaps he picked the wrong ghostwriter. But whatever the reasons, the fervor of erstwhile Comey enthusiasts has suddenly cooled. As Frank Bruni, the home-grown columnist for The New York Times put it, “Wasn’t he supposed to be better than this?”
Yes, he was. But as the hissing match between Mr. Comey and Andrew McCabe, his former comrade in attempted political manipulation, degenerates into slapstick, threatening to end in criminal investigations rather than applause, he seems to have been much worse.
But no matter the outcome of the current hullabaloo, given the major media’s loathing of the president, writes Ronald Kessler, author of best-selling books about the FBI, Secret Service and CIA, “many of Trump’s achievements are either underplayed or not reported at all.”
At the end of the president’s first full year, Mr. Kessler points out, “Consumer confidence, manufacturing activity, and employment were at historic highs. New U.S. home sales saw their largest increase in more than twenty-five years, illegal border crossings from Mexico had plunged, and Trump had placed an outstanding conservative appeals court judge on the Supreme Court.”
“The number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in forty-four years. Unemployment among African Americans and Hispanics plummeted to the lowest level in the forty-five years records have been kept. Small business optimism soared to the highest level in thirty four years.”
In fact, businesses at all levels were suffused with optimism by the historic tax cuts of the first year and the determination to do away with unnecessary regulations. American business has had little in recent years to be optimistic about, and a burst of optimism can do wonders for the bottom line and planning for the future.
In foreign affairs, the Trump administration earns high marks for defeating ISIS and driving it out of Iraq and most of Syria. And by threatening Syria with retaliation if it used chemical weapons and then following through (twice now), President Trump did as he told the author in 2006 he would do if he ever became president. “No country would ever dare push the United States around because they would suffer the wrath.”
Mr. Kessler has been a friend of the Trump family for many years. Contrary to much uninformed speculation, he writes, first lady Melania Trump plays a significant role in evaluating policy and strategies, frequently sitting in on planning meetings. He views the president himself is a man of high native intelligence and large ideas who needs people around him to help shape and implement them — people he can trust, most of whom talked openly to Mr. Kessler.
In January 2016, Mr. Kessler predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency. He doesn’t flaunt his prescience, although he does mention insiders like The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank who wrote in his column, ” ‘I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally: The day Trump clinches the nomination, I will eat the page on which this column is printed in Sunday’s Post.’ “
Mr. Kessler doesn’t ask how it tasted.
The key to Mr. Trump’s success? At home, he speaks to the concerns and values of flyover Americans who do the nation’s work but have been marginalized by a new generation of radicalized urbanists. Abroad, “Trump is a cheerleader for the United States, telling government and business leaders at Davos that ‘America is open for business again.’ Trump did not build an empire worth billions of dollars by being an idiot, a nut or a bigot.”
Mr. Kessler, a former Wall Street Journal and Washington Post investigative reporter and winner of numerous journalism awards, believes that despite blanket 24/7 major media coverage that amplifies every misstep or misstatement while minimizing the achievements, Mr. Trump will eventually win over much of the country.
“Trump’s actions,” Mr. Kessler concludes, “as opposed to some of his words, are indeed making America great again and changing the rules of the game.”
• John R. Coyne Jr., a former White House speechwriter, is co-author of “Strictly Right: William F. Buckley Jr. and the American Conservative Movement” (Wiley).”