Monday, April 30, 2018

the last book I ever read (The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, excerpt five)

from The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois:

JON MATTHEWS (Louis in Taper Too Millennium workshop, 1990): I think Oskar is a remarkable person. The most positive force in theater over the last decade at the Public. Oskar took me out to dinner in L.A. We had a wonderful fifty-five minutes of shooting the shit and talking about the production. And then he looked at his watch and said, “Oh shit, I have a meeting in Westwood in twenty minutes! Look, for various reasons, including that there’s no money to put you up, we cannot ask you to come to San Francisco to do the Eureka production,” and then it turned out he didn’t have any cash on him, so I had to pay for the meal in which I was fired! (Laughs.)



Sunday, April 29, 2018

the last book I ever read (The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, excerpt four)

from The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois:

RON LEIBMAN (Roy in Los Angeles and New York, 1992-94): Growing up in New York, you’d see Cohn in restaurants, and you’d see him at 54. You felt like you knew him but you didn’t. But Donald Trump did! Birds of a feather flocked together! Sons of bitches.



Saturday, April 28, 2018

the last book I ever read (The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, excerpt three)

from The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois:

DAVID WEISSMAN (director, We Were Here): As things got worse and worse, you could not be in the Castro without being confronted by AIDS all the time. You would see someone walking up the street in those sagging sweatpants, which was kind of the most common look, those skeletal bodies with sagging sweatpants covering just the most bony frame, carrying a cane. You’d think this person was, like, seventy-five years old and then you’d realize they were thirty and they were someone you had slept with.



Friday, April 27, 2018

the last book I ever read (The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, excerpt two)

from The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois:

OSKAR EUSTIS (dramaturg, Eureka Theatre, 1981-88): I flew Tony out to meet the company and talk about Bright Room. I was innocent enough to think what a gay writer wanted to do as soon as I picked him up was go to Candlestick Park and watch a Giants game. He was very polite about it.



Thursday, April 26, 2018

the last book I ever read (The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America, excerpt one)

from The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois:

RICK PERLSTEIN (historian; author of The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan: Jerry Falwell by 1980 was a very close Reagan ally, and Falwell was absolutely savage as an opponent of gay rights. He gave a televised sermon in which he said, “Like a spiritual cancer, homosexuality spreads, and like the city of Sodom was destroyed, can we believe that God will spare the United States if homosexuality continues to spread?”



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt ten)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

In the weeks following the Republican convention, Harrison moved to repair fissures within the party. To replace Blaine as secretary of state, he turned to Chauncey Depew, who had long been a conciliator among Republican factions in New York. Depew declined, however, arguing that he could be more useful on the stump. More important, Depew told the president that because of his position as head of the New York Central Railroad, his entering the cabinet would likely alienate farmers whom Harrison was trying to woo. Harrison then tapped John W. Foster, who had backed Harrison’s Indiana rival, Walter Gresham, in 1888, and who had in recent years performed considerable service in various State Department negotiations. (Foster’s grandson John Foster Dulles was secretary of state in the 1950s.) As for nonessential appointments, Harrison took Reid’s advice to defer them until after the election to avoid making new enemies.

Harrison also sought a reorganization of the party’s national committee. Clarkson’s action against the president in the convention compelled his stepping down as chairman, although he retained a seat on the executive committee and worked in the campaign. Several men whom Harrison approached declined the chairmanship, which finally went to Thomas H. Carter of Montana, a former congressman who held a position in the administrationas commissioner of the General Land Office. Harrison hoped that Carter’s backing of free coinage of silver would help attract support in the West. But even though Harrison thought that the thirty-seven-year-old Carter was “a very bright, judicious, level-headed fellow . . . and thoroughly loyal,” he was an amateur compared to Clarkson or the 1888 chairman, Matthew Quay.



Tuesday, April 24, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt nine)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

The Detroit meeting and Blaine’s New York trip, both splashed in the newspapers, convinced Harrison that it was time to remove the gloves. To take charge of his campaign, he called in Louis Michener, telling his old manager, “No Harrison has ever retreated in the presence of a foe without giving battle.” With barely two weeks before the Republicans were to convene in Minneapolis, Michener zealously set to work. “The President,” Halford wrote, “seems to be pleased with the fact that his friends are cutting loose.” Michener arranged pro-Harrison statements by leading party figures and convinced many to go to Minneapolis to lobby delegates directly. To raise a fund for convention expenses for his team of workers, he dunned cabinet members for five hundred dollars each, although one, not surprisingly, did not contribute. Michener and his allies arrived in Minneapolis and opened the Harrison headquarters on June 1, a full week before the convention started. As each state delegation arrived in town, one of Michener’s aides became its constant companion and watchdog.

While the contest heated up in Minneapolis, Blaine sent his resignation to Harrison on June 4, and the president accepted it immediately. The previous July, members of the national committee had told a Blaine representative that if the secretary desired the presidential nomination, he would have to resign or brand himself as a dishonorable man. Now, after vacillating for nearly a year, he took the fateful step. Many believed that the ailing secretary had finally given in to the importunities of men such as Platt and Quay as well as those of his wife, whose hatred for the president had become well known. “Well, the crisis has come,” Harrison told Halford. Mame Dimmick, who was at the White House, recorded in her diary that Blaine had “proved himself a traitor to the President.” At Harrison’s behest, Halford wired Michener and others in Minneapolis urging “care and caution.”



Monday, April 23, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt eight)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

Because the Democrats would control the next House, the prospect for election reform during the remainder of Harrison’s term died with the adjournment of the Fifty-first Congress on March 3, 1891. As the months wore on, the “southern question” rapidly faded from American political discourse. On a tour through the South six weeks later, Harrison told an Atlanta audience that each American should “bravely and generously give every other man his equal rights before the law,” but he saw little utility in reopening debate over the Lodge bill. Indeed, a few months later in a speech in Vermont, he acknowledged that “the prejudices of generations are not like marks upon the blackboard, that can be rubbed out with a sponge. These are more like the deep glacial lines that the years have left in the rock; but the water, when that surface is exposed to its quiet, gentle, and perpetual influence, wears even these out, until the surface is smooth and uniform.”

When the new Congress convened in December 1891, Harrison gamely sought to revive the issue. Rather than calling for a reconsideration of the Lodge bill itself, however, he proposed that Congress create a bipartisan commission, to be appointed by the Supreme Court, to investigate ways of “securing to every elector a free and unmolested exercise of the suffrage.” But even this modest proposal had no chance in the Democratic House. In this era, not only blacks’ suffrage rights but their physical safety grew more precarious, and Harrison became the first president to attack lynchings. These perversions of justice, he said, “shame our Christian civilization.” He called upon Congress to enact “the strongest repressive legislation” wherever the practice came under federal jurisdiction but again held not hope for action by the Democrats. And beyond Congress, Harrison’s attempts at moral suasion on the issue had virtually no effect on the course of vigilante violence in the South. Still, even though Harrison failed to change white opinion, he won for himself a place of esteem among the nation’s blacks. “To my mind,” said Frederick Douglass, “we never had a greater President.” Harrison’s efforts for the elections bill “should endear him to the colored people as long as he lives.”



Sunday, April 22, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt seven)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

But if Harrison and Blaine were ideologically well suited for partnership, temperamentally the “magnetic” secretary and the austere but assertive president were worlds apart. Harrison had long been a Blaine supporter but never a fawning one, nor had he been within Blaine’s inner circle. The president now hoped for an association in which the two would show generous mutual respect but still understand the lines of authority. Blaine, however, had trouble adjusting to the new relationship, and superficial cordiality soon masked mutual suspicion. Upon taking office, Blaine had his heart set on making his son Walker first assistant secretary of state, but Harrison felt that he could not give the two top slots in the department to the same family. Although he gave Walker another job at State, which allowed him to assist his father, Blaine and his wife were deeply disappointed. The refusal of the assistantship, said Halford, “resulted in a rankling that never healed.”

But the Blaines harbored a contempt for the Harrisons that transcended their disappointment over this clearly unreasonable request. Neither James nor Harriet Blaine could throw off the notion that the Harrisons occupied places that rightfully belonged to them. Blaine’s conviction that he had made Harrison president found ample affirmation among his followers and in much of the press. Moreover, the Blaines considered the “Hoosiers” living in the White House their social inferiors. Throughout his life, Blaine had cultivated an air of sophistication and flashy charm, and he privately disdained the president’s sobersided demeanor. In family correspondence, Harriet Blaine mocked Caroline Harrison as “her American majesty” and complained that “Harrison is of such a nature that you do not feel at all at liberty to enjoy yourself.”



Saturday, April 21, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt six)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

Nor did his brusque manner. As Attorney General Miller, one of his most confidential associates, conceded, Harrison was not “a cordial man” with “any except his intimates,” and patronage supplicants brought out the worst in his personality. Even his good friend Eugene Hay found that when he visited the White House to recommend an appointment, Harrison did not offer him a chair but “came forward to meet me in the middle of the room [and] addressed me with the formal ‘Mister’ rather than by my first name as had been his habit. I easily discerned the absence of his usual cordiality and heartily wished I could avoid the interview.” But Hay also maintained that what “gave Harrison the reputation for coldness was merely caution. . . . [H}e was never cold or austere except when he felt the necessity of being so.” In his relations with his family and close friends, he was loving and deeply caring. When Halford fell ill, the president took him and his wife into the White House for his convalescence. When navy secretary Benjamin Tracy’s house was consumed by fire, President Harrison rushed to the scene and personally administered artificial respiration. He also performed the sad duty of telling Tracy of the death of his wife and daughter, and he gave the secretary a temporary home in the White House to recover from his injuries. “Few men had quicker, warmer, or more delicate sympathies,” Halford recalled. But applicants for favors rarely saw that side of him. “I suppose he treated me about as well in the way of patronage as he did any other Senator,” Illinois Republican Shelby Cullom recalled, “but whenever he did anything for me it was done so ungraciously that the concession tended to anger rather than to please.”



Friday, April 20, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt five)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

It is impossible to know precisely when Benjamin Harrison began seriously to consider the notion that he could follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to the White House. After he had won the prize, he had told a friend that “the thought had been with him many times when suggested by others, but he had never been possessed by it or had his life shaped by it.” Over the years, friendly newspapers and political associates had occasionally raised the idea, which he graciously acknowledged but gently poohed-poohed. To friends, he explained that his 1884 quasi candidacy had been designed primarily to thwart that of his Hoosier rival, Walter Q. Gresham. With no apparent sense of irony, he thereby confessed to a motive hardly more admirable than overweening ambition. During the 1886 campaign, Harrison had confided to close friends that he would “shed no tears” if he lost his Senate seat and that he “would greatly enjoy the opportunity to attend to my own business and let politics alone.” Yet he knew that national party leaders had watched his campaign closely, and afterward he wrote a friend, “I have come out of it with more friends & reputation than ever before.”



Thursday, April 19, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt four)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

A few months after the strike, Oliver P. Morton died, and the way at last opened for Harrison to seize the reins of the Hoosier Republican Party. In 1878 he headed a spirited campaign in the state elections, aiming, if the Republicans won the legislature, to seek election to the U.S. Senate. On the eve of the party’s state convention, where he was scheduled to give the keynote address, Harrison received the news that the body of his recently deceased father had been discovered at a Cincinnati medical school where grave robbers had deposited it. He dashed to Ohio to investigate the grisly affair and then returned to Indianapolis to offer the convention a rousing speech, interrupted repeatedly by applause and laughter. Two months later, he opened the fall campaign in Morton’s hometown, symbolically assuming the fallen senator’s mantle.



Wednesday, April 18, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt three)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

Harrison made a few stump speeches during his partner’s clerkship campaign in 1855, but his real political initiation came the next year. As John Scott supported the American Party presidential nominee Millard Fillmore, Ben backed the Republican Party’s first national candidate, John C. Fremont. When news of Fremont’s nomination reached Indianapolis, local Republican enthusiasts gathered for a celebration and speech making. According to later stories, a deputation descended upon Harrison, who was working in his law office, and insisted that he address the crowd. He pleaded that he was unprepared, but the group insisted, carrying him out to the platform where, to add cachet to the novice’s remarks, the chairman introduced him as the grandson of William Henry Harrison. “I want it understood,” the twenty-two-year-old orator began, “that I am the grandson of nobody. I believe every man should stand on his own merits.” The story may be apocryphal, but it nonetheless symbolized how Harrison wrestled with the weight of his name. Although he was proud of his family heritage and benefited from the doors it opened, he rarely invoked it overtly and remained deeply conscious of a need to prove himself. “Fame is truly honorable and fortune only desirable when they have been earned,” he had earlier a written a friend. “Charity-given bread may nourish the body but it does not invigorate the soul like the hard earned loaf.”



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt two)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

In an essay comparing the life of savage and civilized men, Benjamin argued that a “good criterion” for judging the “true state of society” was how it treated women, for women “are appreciated in proportion as society is advanced.” In America, he wrote, a woman “is considered as a superior being, and in the eyes of many as an angel. This, however, is the case only when we behold them through the telescope of love.”

These truths occurred to him not merely as a result of abstract rumination; at Farmers’ College the teenaged Benjamin Harrison had fallen in love. The object of his affection was Caroline Lavinia Scott, the daughter of John W. Scott, another Presbyterian minister, who taught chemistry and physics at the college and who also ran a school for girls in Cincinnati. During the spring of 1848, the diminutive freshman—slight of build with pale skin and thin blond hair—began to call at the Scott house. He soon took notice of the petite, slightly plump Carrie with her kindly eyes and profusion of exquisite brown hair. Before long, the serious-minded, ambitious boy found that he much enjoyed the company of this warmhearted and sympathetic girl, ten months his senior, whose vivacity and playful sense of humor drew him out of his solemn introspection. Their friendship quickly ripened into romance.



Monday, April 16, 2018

the last book I ever read (Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun, excerpt one)

from Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents Series by Charles W. Calhoun:

Few American presidents have descended from lines more distinguished for public service than the one that produced Benjamin Harrison. Beginning in the seventeenth century, a succession of five Benjamin Harrisons figured prominently in the development of colonial Virginia. The last one held extensive tracts of land, the jewel of which was Berkeley plantation, on the James River. Benjamin Harrison V represented Virginia in the Continental Congress, headed the committee that reported the Declaration of Independence, and rounded out his political career as governor of the new state of Virginia.

Benjamin V’s son, William Henry Harrison, added even greater luster to the family escutcheon. Born at Berkeley three years before his father signed the Declaration, William Henry entered the army at age eighteen. Posted to duty in the Indian struggles in the old Northwest, he soon distinguished himself both as a soldier and a politician. In 1811, while serving as governor of Indiana Territory, he destroyed the Shawnee chief Tecumseh’s project for a defensive Indian confederation at the Battle of Tippecanoe Creek. As a general in the War of 1812, William Henry Harrison won an even more significant victory over the British at the Battle of Thames River in October 1813. It was, however, Tippecanoe that more prominently entered into political lore and lent its victor his indelible sobriquet.



Saturday, April 14, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt thirteen)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Unbeknownst to senior staff, or to the comms office—other than by way of a pro forma schedule note—the president had given a major interview to the New York Times. Jared and Ivanka, along with Hope Hicks, had set it up. The Times’s Maggie Haberman, Trump’s bĂȘte noire (“very mean, and not smart”) and yet his go-to journalist for some higher sort of approval, had been called in to see the president with her colleagues Peter Baker and Michael Schmidt. The result was one of the most peculiar and ill-advised interview in presidential history, from a president who had already, several times before, achieved that milestone.

In the interview, Trump had done his daughter and son-in-law’s increasingly frantic bidding. He had, even if to no clear end and without certain strategy, continued on his course of threatening the attorney general for recusing himself and opening the door to a special prosecutor. He openly pushed Sessions to resign—mocking and insulting him and daring him to try to stay. However much this seemed to advance no one’s cause, except perhaps that of the special prosecutor, Bannon’s incredulity—“Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is not going to go anywhere”—was most keenly focused on another remarkable passage in the interview: the president had admonished the special counsel not to cross the line into his family’s finances.

Ehhh … ehhh … ehhh!” screeched Bannon, making the sound of an emergency alarm. “Don’t look here! Let’s tell a prosecutor what not to look at!”



Friday, April 13, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt twelve)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

While he wanted a job with the Trump administration, the Mooch specifically wanted one of the jobs that would give him a tax break on the sale of his business. A federal program provides for deferred payment of capital gains in the event of a sale of property to meet ethical requirements. Scaramucci needed a job that would get him a “certificate of divestiture,” which is what an envious Scaramucci knew Gary Cohn had received for the sale of his Goldman stock.

A week before the inaugural he was finally offered such a job: director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. He would be the president’s representative and cheerleader before Trump-partial interest groups.

But the White House ethics office balked—the sale of his business would take months to complete and he would be directly negotiating with an entity that was at least in part controlled by the Chinese government. And because Scaramucci had little support from anybody else, he was effectively blocked. It was, a resentful Scaramucci noted, one of the few instances in the Trump government when someone’s business conflicts interfered with a White House appointment.



Thursday, April 12, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt eleven)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

An aggrieved, unyielding, and threatening president dominated the discussion, pushing into line his daughter and her husband, Hicks, and Raffel. Kasowitz—the lawyer whose specific job was to keep Trump at arm’s length from Russian-related matters—was kept on hold on the phone for an hour and then not put through. The president insisted that the meeting in Trump Tower was purely and simply about Russian adoption policy. That’s what was discussed, period. Period. Even though it was likely, if not certain, that the Times had the incriminating email chain—in fact, it was quite possible that Jared and Ivanka and the lawyers knew the Times had this email chain—the president ordered that no one should let on to the more problematic discussion about Hilary Clinton.

It was a real-time example of denial and cover-up. The president believed, belligerently, what he believed. Reality was what he was convinced it was—or should be. Hence the official story: there was a brief courtesy meeting in Trump Tower about adoption policy, to no result, attended by senior aides and unaffiliated Russian nationals. The crafting of this manufactured tale was a rogue operation by rookies—always the two most combustible elements of a cover-up.



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt ten)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

On May 12, Roger Ailes was scheduled to return to New York from Palm Beach to meet with Peter Thiel, an early and lonely Trump supporter in Silicon Valley who had become increasingly astonished by Trump’s unpredictability. Ailes and Thiel, both worried that Trump could bring Trumpism down, were set to discuss the funding and launch of a new cable news network. Thiel would pay for it and Ailes would bring O’Reilly, Hannity, himself, and maybe Bannon to it.

But two days before the meeting, Ailes fell in his bathroom and hit his head. Before slipping into a coma, he told his wife not to reschedule the meeting with Thiel. A week later, Ailes, that singular figure in the march from Nixon’s silent majority to Reagan’s Democrats to Trump’s passionate base, was dead.



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt nine)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Within the West Wing there was much replaying of alternative scenarios. If you wanted to get rid of Comey, there were surely politic ways of doing it—which had in fact been suggested to Trump. (A curious one—an idea that later would seem ironic—was to get rid of General Kelly at Homeland Security and move Comey into that job.) But the point really was that Trump had wanted to confront and humiliate the FBI director. Cruelty was a Trump attribute.

The firing had been carried out publicly and in front of his family—catching Comey entirely off guard as he gave a speech in California. Then the president had further personalized the blow with an ad hominem attack on the director, suggesting that the FBI itself was on Trump’s side and that it, too, had only contempt for Comey.

The next day, as though to further emphasize and delight in both the insult and his personal impunity, the president met with Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office, including Russia’s Ambassador Kislyak, the very focus of much of the Trump-Russia investigation. To the Russians he said: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Then, to boot, he revealed information supplied to the United State by Israel from its agent in place in Syria about ISIS using laptops to smuggle bombs onto airlines—revealing enough information to compromise the Israeli agent. (This incident did not help Trump’s reputation in intelligence circles, since, in spycraft, human sources are to be protected above all other secrets.)

“It’s Trump,” said Bannon. “He thinks he can fire the FBI.”



Monday, April 9, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt eight)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

During the first week of May, the president had a ranting meeting with Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein. It was a humiliating meeting for both men, with Trump insisting they couldn’t control their own people and pushing them to find a reason to fire Comey—in effect, he blamed them for not having come up with that reason months ago. (It was their fault, he implied, that Comey hadn’t been fired right off the bat.)



Saturday, April 7, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt six)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Giuliani wanted to be the secretary of state, and Trump had in so many words offered him the job. The resistance to Giuliani from the Trump circle derived from the same reason Trump was inclined to give him the job—Giuliani had Trump’s ear and wouldn’t let go. The staff whispered about his health and stability. Even his full-on pussygate defense now atarted to seem like a liability. He was offered attorney general, Department of Homeland Security, and director of national intelligence, but he turned them all down, continuing to hold out for State. Or, in what staffers took to be the ultimate presumption, or grand triangulation, the Supreme Court. Since Trump could not put someone openly pro-choice on the court without both sundering his base and risking defeat of his nominee, then, of course, he’d have to give Giuliani State.

When this strategy failed—Rex Tillerson got the secretary of state job—that should have been the end of it, but Trump kept returning to the idea of putting Giuliani on the court. On February 8, during the confirmation process, Gorsuch took public exception to Trump’s disparagement of the courts. Trump, in a moment of pique, decided to pull his nomination and, during conversations with his after-dinner callers, went back to discussing how he should have given the nod to Rudy. He was the only loyal guy. It was Bannon and Priebus who kept having to remind him, and to endlessly repeat, that in one of the campaign’s few masterful pieces of issue-defusing politics, and perfect courtship of the conversative base, it had let the Federalist Society produce a list of candidates. The campaign had promised that the nominee would come from that list—and needless to say, Giuliani wasn’t on it.

Gorsuch was it. And Trump would shortly not remember when he had ever wanted anyone but Gorsuch.



Friday, April 6, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt five)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Ultimately Trump may not be that different in his fundamental solipsism from anyone of great wealth who has lived most of his life in a highly controlled environment. But one clear difference was that he had acquired almost no formal sort of social discipline—he could not even attempt to imitate decorum. He could not really converse, for instance, not in the sense of sharing information, or of a balanced back-and-forth conversation. He neither particularly listened to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response (one reason he was so repetitive). Nor did he treat anyone with any sort of basic or reliable courtesy. If he wanted something, his focus might be sharp and attention lavish, but if someone wanted something from him, he tended to become irritable and quickly lost interest. He demanded you pay him attention, then decided you were weak for groveling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his attention and performance—and to do this without making him angry or petulant.



Thursday, April 5, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt four)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

One instance of his revisionism, and of the new stature he now seemed to assume as president, involved the lowest point of the campaign—the Billy Bush tape.

His explanation, in an off-the-record conversation with a friendly cable anchor, was that it “really wasn’t me.”

The anchor acknowledged how unfair it was to be characterized by a single event.

“No,” said Trump, “it wasn’t me. I’ve been told by people who understand this stuff about how easy it is to alter these things and put in voices and completely different people.”



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt three)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

The anti-Bannon forces—which included almost every non-Tea Party Republican—were quick to react. Murdoch, a growing Bannon nemesis, told Trump that Bannon would be a dangerous choice. Joe Scarborough, the former congressman and cohost of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, a favorite Trump show, privately told Trump “Washington will go up in flames” if Bannon became chief of staff, and, beginning a running theme, publicly denigrated Bannon on the show.

In fact, Bannon presented even bigger problems than his politics: he was profoundly disorganized, seemingly on the spectrum given what captured his single-minded focus to the disregard of everything else. Might he be the worst manager who ever lived? He might. He seemed incapable of returning a phone call. He answered emails in one word—partly a paranoia about email, but even more a controlling crypticness. He kept assistants and minders at constant bay. You couldn’t really make an appointment with Bannon, you just had to show up. And somehow, his own key lieutenant, Alexandra Preate, a conservative fundraiser and PR woman, was as disorganized as he was. After three marriages, Bannon lived his bachelor’s life on Capitol Hill in a row house known as the Breitbart Embassy that doubled as the Breitbart office—the life of a messy party. No sane person would hire Steven Bannon for a job that included making the trains run on time.



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt two)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Almost all the professionals who were now set to join him were coming face to face with the fact that it appeared he knew nothing. There was simply no subject, other than perhaps building construction, that he had substantially mastered. Everything with him was off the cuff. Whatever he knew he seemed to have learned an hour before—and that was mostly half-baked. But each member of the new Trump team was convincing him—or herself otherwise—because what did they know, the man had been elected president. He offered something, obviously. Indeed, while everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance—Trump, the businessman, could not even read a balance sheet, and Trump, who had campaigned on his deal-making skills, was, with his inattention to details, a terrible negotiator—they yet found him somehow instinctive. That was the word. He was a force of personality. He could make you believe.



Monday, April 2, 2018

the last book I ever read (Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff, excerpt one)

from Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff:

Many candidates for president have made a virtue of being Washington outsiders; in practice, this strategy merely favors governors over senators. Every serious candidate, no matter how much he or she disses Washington, relies on Beltway insiders for counsel and support. But with Trump, hardly a person in his innermost circle had ever worked in politics at the national level—his closest advisers had not worked in politics at all. Throughout his life, Trump had few close friends of any kind, but when he began his campaign for president he had almost no friends in politics. The only two actual politicians with whom Trump was close were Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie, and both men were in their own way peculiar and isolated. And to say that he knew nothing—nothing at all—about the basic intellectual foundations of the job was a comic understatement. Early in the campaign, in a Producers-worthy scene, Sam Nunberg was sent to explain the Constitution to the candidate: “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head.”

Almost everybody on the Trump team came with the kind of messy conflicts bound to bite a president or his staff. Mike Flynn, Trump’s future national security advisor, who became Trump’s opening act at campaign rallies and whom Trump loved to hear complain about the CIA and the haplessness of American spies, had been told by his friends that it had not been a good idea to take $45,000 from the Russians for a speech. “Well, it would only be a problem if we won,” he assured them, knowing that it would therefore not be a problem.



Sunday, April 1, 2018

the last book I ever read (Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison, excerpt fourteen)

from Off to the Side: A Memoir by Jim Harrison:

Quite suddenly John Calley retired from Warner Brothers and I immediately felt like a waif or orphan. In quick succession after his departure Warners rejected David Lean for Legends of the Fall because it would be too expensive, and refused to hire John Huston for Revenge because he was too difficult to work with. I was already somewhat deranged at the time but the news was a real stunner. It had occurred to me that Hollywood was a microcosm of the boxing world and I was Leon Spinks who had misplaced his teeth and was arrested with cocaine in his glove box, in short a very good fighter in the short haul but with no real prospects. Hollywood seemed to be in transition and I was unaware of the details. Only the year before when I had had lunch with Calley and Ted Ashley, the chairman of Warner Brothers, Ashley had said he thought it improper that a writer of my quality should be forced to work with an actor like Sean Connery. Now Hollywood was going through a period, however brief, when everyone was dispensable except bankable stars. In meetings there was no real point in bringing up quality filmmaking with people who had openly rejected the great John Huston.