Sunday, November 29, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt seven)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

“You put him in a kennel?”

“I put him in a kennel,” she says, bristling at my tone, “because I didn’t know what else to do. You can’t explain death to a dog. He didn’t understand that Daddy was never coming home again. He waited by the door day and night. For a while he wouldn’t even eat, I was afraid he’d starve to death. But the worst part was, every once in a while, he’d make this noise, this howling, or wailing, or whatever it was. Not loud, but strange, like a ghost of some other weird thing. It went on and on. I’d try to distract him with a treat, but he’d turn his head away. Once, he even growled at me. He did it sometimes at night. It would wake me up, and then I couldn’t get back to sleep. I’d lie there listening to him until I thought I’d go mad. Every time I managed to pull myself together, I’d see him there waiting by the door, or he’d start keening like that, and I’d fall apart again. I had to get him out of the house. And now that he’s been gone, it would be cruel to bring him back. I can’t imagine him ever being happy in that house again.”

Saturday, November 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt six)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

When she remarried you swore you never would. There followed a decade of affairs, most of them short-lived, but a few all but indistinguishable from marriage. Not one do I recall that did not end in betrayal.

I don’t like men who leave behind them a trail of weeping women, said W. H. Auden. Who would’ve hated you.

Friday, November 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt five)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

One of the many legends about Edith Piaf also concerns a miraculous restoration of sight. The keratitis that blinded her for several years as a child was said to have been cured after some prostitutes who worked in her grandmother’s brothel, which happened also to be little Edith’s home at the time, took her on a pilgrimage to honor St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This might be just another fairy tale, but it is a fact that Jean Cocteau once described Piaf as having, when she sang, “the eyes of a blind person struck by a miracle, the eyes of a clairvoyant.”

Thursday, November 26, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt four)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

Last night, in the Union Square station, a man was playing “La Vie en Rose” on a flute, molto giocoso. Lately I’ve become vulnerable to earworms, and sure enough the song, in the flutist’s peppy rendition, has been pestering me all day. They say the way to get rid of an earworm is to listen a couple of times to the whole song trhough. I listened to the most famous version, by Edith Piaf, of course, who wrote the lyrics and first performed the song in 1945. Now it’s the Little Sparrow’s strange, bleating, soul-of-France voice that won’t stop.

Also in the Union Square station, a man with a sign: Homeless Toothless Diabethee. That’s a good one, a commuter said as he tossed change into the man’s paper cup.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt three)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

Walking with Samuel Beckett one fine spring morning, a friend of his asked, Doesn’t a day like this make you glad to be alive? I wouldn’t go as far as that, Beckett said.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt two)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

I was not the only one who made the mistake of thinking that, because it was something you talked about a lot, it was something you wouldn’t do. And after all, you were not the unhappiest person we knew. You were not the most depressed (think of G, or D, or T-R). You were not even—strange as it now sounds to say—the most suicidal.

Because of the timing, so near the start of the year, it was possible to think that it had been a resolution.

Monday, November 23, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez, excerpt one)

from The Friend: A Novel by Sigrid Nunez:

During the 1980s, in California, a large number of Cambodian women went to their doctors with the same complaint: they could not see. The women were all war refugees. Before fleeing their homeland, they had witnessed atrocities for which the Khmer Rouge, which had been in power from 1975 to 1979, was well known. Many of the women had been raped or tortured or otherwise brutalized. Most had seen family members murdered in front of them. One woman, who never again saw her husband and three children after soldiers came and took them away, said that she had lost her sight after having cried every day for four years. She was not the only one who appeared to have cried herself blind. Others suffered from blurred or partial vision, their eyes troubled by shadows and pains.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt seven)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

Names of countries keep rolling through his mind and people are trying to talk to him and to each other and he thinks of his daughter with two kids and a husband in Boston and the other daughter traveling somewhere and for one strange and compressed and claustrophobic moment he forgets their names.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt six)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

She had hoped to hear something libidinal, arousing. She understands that he has something more to say and she looks and waits.

He says, “Greenland is disappearing.”

She gets to her feet and faces him.

Friday, November 20, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt five)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

In the second silence all heads turn toward Martin.

He speaks of satellites in orbit that are able to see everything. The street where we live, the building we work in, the socks we are wearing. A rain of asteroids. The sky thick with them. Could happen anytime. Asteroids that become meteorites as they approach a planet. Entire exoplanets bloom away.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt four)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

The young man was standing at the window and Diane wondered if he planned to head home to the Bronx. She imagined that he might have to walk all the way, up through East Harlem to one of the bridges. Were pedestrians allowed to cross or were the bridges for cars and buses only? Was anything operating normally out there?

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt three)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

Max was in the kitchen putting food on plates. She wanted to go for a walk, alone. Or she wanted Max to go for a walk and Martin to go home. Where are the others, Tessa and Jim and all the others, travelers, wanderers, pilgrims, people in houses and apartments and village hutments. Where are the cars and trucks, the traffic noises? Super Sunday. Is everyone at home or in darkened bars and social clubs, trying to watch the game? Think of the many millions of blank screens. Try to imagine the disabled phones.

What happens to people who live inside their phones?

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt two)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

“Are we afraid?” she said.

He let this question hover, thinking tea and sweets, tea and sweets.

Monday, November 16, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo, excerpt one)

from The Silence by Don DeLillo:

She was right, let’s not check our bags, we can squeeze them into the overhead. He watched the screen and thought about the game, briefly, forgetting who the Titans were playing.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt fourteen)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

I went up the ladder. “Cosimo,” I began, “you’re over sixty-five—how can you continue to stay up there? What you wanted to say you’ve said, we’ve understood, you had great strength of mind, you did it, now you can come down. Even those who’ve spent their whole life at sea, at a certain age they disembark.”

Of course not. He said no with his hand. He hardly spoke anymore. He got up every so often, wrapped in a blanket up to his head, and sat on a branch to enjoy a little sun. He went no farther. There was an old woman of the people, a saintly woman (maybe an old lover of his), who went to clean and bring him hot food. We kept the ladder leaning against the trunk because there was always a need to go up to help him, and also because we hoped that he would at any moment decide to come down. (Others hoped; I knew what he was like.) There was always a circle of people around in the square who kept him company, discussing among themselves and sometimes addressing a remark to him, although they knew he had no desire to speak.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt thirteen)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

If youth vanishes quickly on the earth, just imagine in the trees, whence everything is fated to fall: leaves, fruits. Cosimo was becoming old. So many years, with all the nights spent in the cold, in the wind, in the rain, in frail shelters or none, in the open air, with never a house, a fire, warm food… Cosimo was now a shrunken old man, legs bowed, arms long, like a monkey, hunchbacked, bundled up in a fur cloak with a hood, like a furry friar. His face was burned by the sun, wrinkled as a chestnut, with light round eyes amid the wrinkles.

Friday, November 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt twelve)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

The trial of the revolutionaries was held promptly, but the accused succeeded in proving that they had nothing to do with it and the real leaders were precisely those who had escaped. So they were all freed, since with the troops stationed in Ombrosa, there was no fear of other uprisings. A garrison of Austro-Sardinians also stayed, to guard against possible infiltrations by the enemy, and in command of it was our brother-in-law D’Estomac, Battista’s husband, who had emigrated from France in the escort of the Count di Provenza.

So I found my sister Battista in the way again, with what pleasure I will let you imagine. She settled in my house, with her officer husband, horses, orderlies. She spent the evenings telling us about the recent executions in Paris; in fact, she had a model of a guillotine, with a real blade, and in order to explain the end of all her friends and acquired relatives she decapitated lizards, blindworms, worms, and even mice. So we passed the evenings. I envied Cosimo, who lived his days and nights on the run, hidden in some wood or other.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt eleven)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

In other words, there were also among us all the causes that led to the French Revolution. Only we weren’t in France, and there was no revolution. We live in a country where causes always come true and not effects.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt nine)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

Viola’s loving obstinacy met Cosimo’s, and sometimes they clashed. Cosimo shunned hesitations, softness, refined perverseness: he liked nothing that was not natural love. Republican virtues were in the air: times were brewing, severe and licentiousness at once. Cosimo, an insatiable lover, was a stoic, an ascetic, a puritan. Always in search of amorous happiness, he was nevertheless hostile to sensuality. He went so far as to distrust the kiss, the caress, verbal flattery, everything that obscured or claimed to replace the health of nature. It was Viola who revealed to him the fullness of it, and with her he never felt the sadness after love preached by the theologians. Indeed, he wrote a philosophical letter on that subject to Rousseau, who, perhaps distressed, didn’t answer.

But Viola was also a sophisticated, capricious, spoiled woman, all-embracing in blood and spirit. Cosimo’s love filled her senses but left her imagination unsatisfied. From that arose disagreements and shadowy resentments. But they didn’t last long, so various was their life and the world around.

Monday, November 9, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt eight)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

Of all the gestures and conversations of the exiles hovered an aura of sadness and mourning, which corresponded in part to their nature, in part to a willful determination, as sometimes happens in those who fight for a cause whose convication are poorly defined and try to make up for it by the grandeur of their bearing.

In the young women—who at first glance all seemed to Cosimo a little too hairy and with skin too opaque—a hint of liveliness meandered, always curbed in time. Two of them were playing badminton between plane trees. Tic and tac, tic and tac, then a little cry: the shuttlecock had fallen into the street. An Olivabassa kid picked it up and, to throw it back, demanded two pesetas.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt seven)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

He stayed in bed and lost every attachment to life. Nothing of what he wanted to do had succeeded: no one talked anymore about the dukedom, his firstborn was still in the trees even now that he was a man, his half-brother had been murdered, his daughter was married and far away with people even more unpleasant that she was, I was still too much a boy to be close to him and his wife too brusque and authoritarian. He began to rave, to say that now the Jesuits had occupied his house and he couldn’t leave his room, and as full of bitterness and obsessions as he had always lived, he died.

Cosimo, too, followed the funeral procession, going from tree to tree, but he couldn’t enter the cemetery, because the cypresses were so thick with foliage that there was no way to climb in them. He was present at the burial but on the other side of the wall, and when we all threw a handful of dirt on the coffin he threw a branch with its leaves. I thought that all of us had always been as distant from my father as Cosimo in the trees.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt six)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

It was a sad scene on that cloudy afternoon; I remember it as I watched, bewildered, from the window of my room, and I stopped studying the conjugation of the aorist, because there would not be a lesson. Old Father Fauchelafleur went down the avenue surrounded by those armed guards, and look up at the trees, and at a certain point he darted, as if he wished to run to an elm and climb it, but his legs failed him. Cosimo was hunting in the woods that day and knew nothing about it, so they didn’t say goodbye.

We could do nothing to help him. Our father shut himself in his room and wouldn’t taste food because he was afraid of being poisoned by the Jesuits. The abbé spent the rest of his days between prison and monastery in continual acts of abjuration, until he died, without having understood after an entire life dedicated to faith, what he believed in, but trying to believe firmly to the end.

Friday, November 6, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt five)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

I was too young and Cosimo had friends only in the uneducated classes, so he satisfied his need to comment on the discoveries he was making in books by burying our old teacher in questions and explanation. The abbé, of course, had that submissive and accommodating disposition that came to him from a superior knowledge of the vanity of all things, and Cosimo took advantage of it. So the relationship of discipleship between the two was reversed: Cosimo was the teacher and Fauchelafleur the pupil. And my brother had gained such authority that he succeeded in dragging the old man, trembling, on his pilgrimages in the trees. He had him spend a whole afternoon with his thin legs dangling from the limb of a horse chestnut in the garden of the D’Ondarivas, contemplating the rare trees and the sunset reflected in the lily pond and arguing about monarchies and republics, about the just and the true in the various religions, and Chinese rites, the earthquake in Lisbon, the Leyden jar, empiricism.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt four)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

The baron became impatient, the abbé lost the thread, I was already bored. As for our mother, however, maternal anxiety, a fluid sentiment that dominated everything, had been consolidated, as every feeling of hers tended to do after a while, into practical decisions and a search for the right tools, just as the concerns of a general ought to be resolved. She had dug out a long field telescope, on a tripod; she applied her eye to it, and so she spent the hours on the terrace of the villa, constantly adjusting the lens to focus on the boy in the midst of the foliage, even when we would have sworn he was out of range.

“Do you still see him?” our father asked from the garden, as he paced back and forth under the trees; he could never distinguish Cosimo, except when he was right over his head. The generalessa nodded, and at the same time signaled us to be quiet, not to disturb her, as if she were following the movements of troops on a rise. It was clear that at times she didn’t see him at all, but she had got the idea, who knows why, that he would reemerge in that particular place and not somewhere else, and she kept the telescope trained on it. Every so often she had to admit to herself that she was wrong, and then she removed her eye from the lens and began to examine a survey map that she kept open on her knees, one hand firmly on her mouth in a thoughtful attitude and the other following the hieorglyphics of the map, until she determined the point that her son must have reached and, having calculated the angle, aimed the telescope at some treetop in that sea of leaves, slowly focused the lens, and from the anxious smile that appeared on her lips we understood that she had seen him, that he really was there!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt three)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

The moon rose late and shone over the branches. In their nests the titmice slept, curled up like him. In the night, outside, the silence of the park was traversed by countless rustlings and distant sounds, and the wind passed through. At times a far-off roar arrived: the sea. From the window I strained my ears to that irregular breath and tried to imagine how it would sound, without the familiar womb of the house, to someone who was just a few yards away but completely entrusted to it, with only the night around him, the only friendly object to which he could cling the trunk of a tree without its rough bark traveled by tiny endless tunnels in which the larvae slept.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt two)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

Cosimo was in the magnolia. Although its branches were close together, this tree was easily accessible to a boy like my brother, expert in all species of trees; and the branches stood up to his weight, although they weren’t very large and were of soft wood that the tips of Cosimo’s shoes scraped, opening white wounds in the black bark; it wrapped the boy in a fresh scent of leaves as the wind stirred them, turning them to a green that was now opaque, now bright.

But it was the whole garden that gave off a perfume, and although it was so irregularly dense that Cosimo still couldn’t see it all, he was exploring it with his sense of smell, and he tried to distinguish its various scents, which had been known to him ever since, carried by the wind, they reached our garden and seemed to us one with the secret of that villa. Then he looked at the foliage and saw new leaves, some as big and shiny as if a film of water were running over them, some tiny and composite, and trunks that were all smooth or all scaly.

Monday, November 2, 2020

the last book I ever read (The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino, excerpt one)

from The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino:

We had already been warned against sliding down the marble banister, to tell the truth, not out of fear that we would break a leg or an arm, because our parents never worried about that, and that’s why—I think—we never broke anything, but because as we got bigger and heavier, we might knock down the statues of our ancestors that our father had had placed on the bottom pilasters of the banisters on every flight of stairs. In fact, Cosimo had already caused a great-great-grandfather bishop to tumble, miter and all; he was punished, and from then on he learned to brake a moment before reaching the bottom of the stairs and jump down, a hairsbreadth from crashing into the statue. I, too, learned, because I followed him in everything, except that I, always more modest and prudent, jumped off halfway down the staircase, or slid down bit by bit, braking constantly. One day he went down the banister like an arrow, and who was coming up the stairs! The Abbé Fauchelafleur, strolling with his breviary open before him but with his gaze fixed on nothing, like a hen. If only he had been half asleep as usual! No, it was one of those moments that came even to him, of extreme attention, of alarm at all things. He sees Cosimo, he thinks, “Banister, statue, now he’ll bang into it, now they’ll scold me, too” (because for every one of our pranks he, too, was scolded, as not knowing how to monitor us), and he flings himself on the banister to stop my brother. Cosimo collides with the abbé, sweeps him down the banister (he was a tiny old man, all skin and bones), can’t brake, crashes into the statue of our ancestor Cacciaguerra Piovasco, a Crusader in the Holy Land, and they all collapse at the foot of the stairs, the Crusader in fragments (he was of plaster), the abbé, and him. There were endless reprimands, whippings, extra exercises, confinement with bread with cold soup. And Cosimo, who felt innocent because the fault was not his but the abbé’s, came out with that fierce invective: “I don’t care a bit about your ancestors, Father, sir!” The announcement of his vocation as a rebel.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twenty-four)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Two days earlier, The Wall Street Journal had published an excerpt of former national security adviser John Bolton’s book, The Room Where It Happened. In it, Bolton wrote of a meeting between Trump and Xi: “Trump then, stunningly, turned the conversation to the coming U.S. presidential election, alluding to China’s economic capability and pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

Trump went on. “Bob, watch what happens, okay. Remember, I told you, the stock market is close to an all-time high and we’re not finished with the pandemic yet. I have—I have a rally tomorrow night in Oklahoma. Over 1.2 million people have signed up. We can only take about 50, 60 thousand. Because, you know, it’s a big arena, right? But we can take another 22,000 in one arena, 40,000 in another. We’re going to have two arenas loaded. But think of that. Nobody ever had rallies like that.”

Friday, October 30, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twenty-three)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Often when Fauci challenged Trump on something he had said, Trump would jump in and change the subject. Fauci marveled at Trump, who would hopscotch from one topic to another. “His attention span is like a minus number,” Fauci said privately.

Trump seemed interested in one outcome. “His sole purpose is to get reelected,” Fauci told an associate. Fauci was particularly disappointed in Kushner, who talked like a cheerleader as if everything was great.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twenty-two)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Trump said my last book, Fear, “was horrendous, but that was my fault. I would’ve loved o have seen you. But they didn’t ell me you were calling. Now it’s a much different ballgame. When you called me last time, I was under siege” with the Mueller investigation, he said. I had been unable to reach Trump for an interview for Fear, though I tried to make contact through six of his closest advisers. “Okay. I hope you treat me better than Bush, because you made him look like a stupid moron, which he was.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twenty-one)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Monday afternoon, the president fought back against the criticism in a freewheeling, two-hour press briefing that began with a campaign-ad-style video touting his “decisive action” on the virus. Answering questions from reporters, Trump declined to acknowledge any mistakes and said his administration was “way ahead of schedule” in its response. When asked what he had done to prepare hospitals and ramp up testing with the extra time Trump said he bought by being ahead of schedule, the president called the reporter “disgraceful.” He alternated between blaming Democratic governors for failures and claiming he had total authority over the national response. “When somebody is the president of the United States, the authority is total,” Trump said. “And that’s the way it’s got to be. It’s total.”

The next day, Trump said decisions about when to reopen would be largely in the hands of the governors. The federal government would “be there to help,” he said, but “the governors are going to be opening up their states.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twenty)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

In the four-week period ending April 9, more than 17 million Americans had filed for unemployment, Labor Department figures showed.

On April 10, Trump predicted the U.S. death count would be lower than the minimum predicted by the task force’s models. “The minimum number was 100,000 lives, and I think we’ll be substantially under that number,” he said.

Monday, October 26, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt nineteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

“I brought up Trump’s comments at a press briefing the previous week, when he had said “I don’t take responsibility at all” for the crisis.

“I don’t take responsibility for this,” Trump told me. “I have nothing to do with this. I take responsibility for solving the problem. But I don’t take responsibility for this, no. We did a good job. The Obama administration—they were obsolete tests. And in all fairness to them, nobody ever thought in terms of millions of people.”

I could find no support for Trump’s claim, repeated several times in public remarks, tha the Obama administration left behind “obsolete” or “broken” tests. Obama’s National Security Council had left behind a 69-page document titled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Diseases Threats and Biological Incidents” that included instructions for dealing with novel influenza viruses which “would produce an estimate of between 700,000 and 1.4 billion fatalities from a pandemic of a virulent influenza virus strain.” The document recommended officials in the early stages of such a pandemic check the nation’s diagnostic testing capacity and the amount of personal protective equipment available for health care workers.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt eighteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

“Look, we had the greatest economy on earth. The greatest economy we’ve ever had,” Trump added, overstating the strength of the U.S. economy compared to other periods in the nation’s history. It reminded me of Kushner’s notion that “controversy elevates message.”

“And in one day, this thing came in and we had a choice to make,” Trump continued. “Close everything up and save potentially millions of lives—you know, hundreds of thousands of lives—or don’t do anything and look at body bags every day being taken out of apartment buildings.”

“Who told you that?” I asked.

“It was me,” Trump said. “I told me that.”

Saturday, October 24, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt seventeen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

I began to ask Trump if he ever sat down alone with Fauci to get a tutorial one the science behind the virus when the president cut in.

“Yes, I guess, but honestly there’s not a lot of time for that, Bob. This is a busy White House. We’ve got a lot of things happening. And then this came up.”

No matter how busy or what other things were happening, I frankly wondered what could be more important. Trump had carved out hours to talk with me.

Friday, October 23, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt sixteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

By Kushner’s calculations, they had built 121.4 miles of wall. But Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said 99 miles of that was “new border wall system constructed in place of dilapidated and/or outdated designs”—in other words, replacement or repair. Ten miles were “secondary border wall.” One mile was of new wall “in locations where no wall previously existed.” Kushner’s goal was to build, replace or repair seven to eight miles a week and reach 400 miles by the end of the year. It wouldn’t be complete yet, so they would be building the wall into 2021—presuming Trump was reelected. The hardest part was buying land.

“It’s more complicated than I thought,” Kushner told others.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt fifteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

By early 2020, Kushner thought Trump had assembled a better and more dedicated White House team than they’d had before.

“In the beginning,” Kushner told others, referring to the first years of the administration, “20 percent of the people we had thought Trump was saving the world, and 80 percent thought they were saving the world from Trump.

“Now, I think we have the inverse. I think 80 of the people working for him think that he’s saving the world, and 20 percent—maybe less now—think they’re saving the world from Trump.”

Let that analysis sink in: Twenty percent of the president’s staff think they are “saving the world” from the president.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt fourteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

“What you feel is disquiet,” she wrote, “and you know what it’s about: the worrying nature of Mr. Trump himself… epic instability, mismanagement and confusion.”

A conservative speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, Noonan wrote that with Trump, “We are not talking about being colorfully, craftily unpredictable, as political masters like FDR and Reagan sometimes were, but something more unfortunate, an unhinged or not-fully-hinged quality that feels like screwball tragedy.”

Warming to her theme, Noonan wrote, “Crazy doesn’t last. Crazy doesn’t go the distance. Crazy is an unstable element that, when let loose in an unstable environment, explodes. And so your disquiet. Sooner or later something bad will happen…. It all feels so dangerous.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt thirteen)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

The upbeat messages from the administration continued. “We have it very much under control,” Trump told reporters on February 23. “Very interestingly, we’ve had no deaths.” The next day he tweeted, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA,” and added, “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”

But on February 25, as Trump boarded Air Force One to return from a state visit to India, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, issued a stark public warning. Schools might have to close, conferences might be curtailed, and businesses may have to have employees work from hom. “The disruption to everyday life may be severe,” she told reporters. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”

Some conservatives, including Rush Limbaugh, immediately jumped on Messonnier as part of a deep state conspiracy to use the virus to undermine Trump. They pointed out that Messonnier was the sister of Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, who had overseen the Mueller investigation and resigned in spring 2019.

Monday, October 19, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt twelve)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Six days earlier, Attorney General Bill Barr had blasted Trump in a remarkable television interview, saying that Trump’s tweets were making it “impossible for me to do my job.”

Barr made the comments after Trump posted a tweet around 2:00 a.m. on February 11 protesting the Justice Department’s sentencing recommendation of up to nine years for his political associate Roger Stone. The afternoon of February 11, the Justice Department filed a revised sentencing recommendation suggesting a sentence for Stone of three to four years. All four prosecutors withdrew from the case, one resigning from the Justice Department entirely.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt eleven)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

“Administration Elevates Response to Coronavirus, Quarantines, Travel Restrictions” ran the headline of the lead story in The Washington Post the next day, pushing impeachment aside. In The New York Times the news appeared below the fold, headlined, “Declaring Health Emergency, U.S. Restricts Travel from China.”

Despite the conclusive evidence that at least five people wanted the restrictions—Fauci, Azar, Redfield, O’Brien and Pottinger—in an interview March 19, President Trump told me he deserved exclusive credit for the travel restrictions from China. “I had 21 people in my office, in the Oval Office, and of the 21 there was one person that said we have to close it down. That was me. Nobody wanted to because it was too early.”

On May 6, he told me, “And let me tell you, I had a room of 20 to 21 people and everyone in that room except me did not want to have that ban.”

At least seven times, including a press briefing, a televised town hall, interviews on Fox News and ABC and in meetings with industry executives and Republican lawmakers, he has repeated versions of this story.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt ten)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Trump said he told Kim when it came to denuclearization, “I know every one of your sites better than any of my people.” He reminded me again of his late uncle, Dr. John Trump, a physicist who taught electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1983. “He was at MIT for 42 years or something. He was a great—so I understand that stuff. You know, genetically.”

Friday, October 16, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt nine)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

The military always tells you the alliances with NATO and South Korea are the best bargain the United States makes, I noted, a great investment in joint defense.

“The military people are wrong,” Trump said. “I wouldn’t say they were stupid, because I would never say that about our military people. But if they said that, they—whoever said that was stupid. It’s a horrible bargain. We’re protecting South Korea from North Korea, and they’re making a fortune with televisions and ships and everything else. Right? They make so much money. Costs us $10 billion. We’re suckers.”

Thursday, October 15, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt eight)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Speaking out didn’t seem to work, Coats said. Admiral Bill McRaven, who had led Operation Neptune Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, had continuously mounted an aggressive, personal and public criticism of Trump. In an open letter to Trump published in The Washington Post in August 2018 after Trump revoked John Brennan’s security clearance, McRaven had written that the president had “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us a nation.” He challenged Trump to revoke his security clearance: “I would consider it an honor.”

McRaven, a Navy SEAL, was one of the most celebrated military figures, a warrior scholar, bestselling author and now chancellor of the University of Texas system.

Trump had blasted back, calling McRaven “a Hillary Clinton fan” and suggested he should have captured bin Laden earlier. As best Coats could tell, McRaven’s gutsy stand seemed to have had no impact.

Mattis said they still had to consider stepping forward.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt seven)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

In a March 2020 opinion issued in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking the lifting of redactions in the Mueller report, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton, an appointee of George W. Bush, wrote that Barr “distorted the findings in the Mueller Report.”

Walton wrote that Barr failed to note in his letter that Mueller’s probe “identified multiple contacts… between Trump campaign officials and individuals with ties to the Russian government.” On the obstruction issue, Walton wrote, Barr “failed to disclose to the American public” that the reason Mueller determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment was because of the Justice Department’s policy against charging a sitting president with a federal crime.

“The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements,” Walton wrote in his opinion, “made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt six)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

But Coats continued to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened, although unsupported by intelligence proof, that Putin had something on Trump. How else to explain the president’s behavior? Coats could see no other explanation. He was sure that Trump had chosen to play on the dark side—the moneyed interested in the New York real estate culture, and international finance with is corrupt, anything-to-make-a-buck deal making. Anything to get ahead, anything to make a deal.

Coats realized that Trump had been able to make a deal with him, a raw political deal—hold that resignation for now, we’ll do it later, soon, but without a tweetstorm against you. He had played into Trump’s protection racket.

Coats saw how extraordinary it was for the president’s top intelligence official to harbor such deep suspicions about the president’s relationship with Putin. But he could not shake them.

Monday, October 12, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt five)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Jared Kushner’s unorthodox ties to foreign leaders and regular conversations with them outside secure channels raised suspicions among the intelligence agencies.

His interim Top Secret security clearance was downgraded and ultimately denied. The rejection meant Kushner could not have access to sensitive intelligence, impeding his ability to work.

White House chief of staff John Kelly wanted Kushner’s security clearance handled by the book, but the president personally ordered that Kushner be granted the highest security clearance. This gave him access to Top Secret intelligence classified as Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and fed a constant tension between Kushner and Kelly.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt four)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Byers explained the president had mentioned that generals weren’t tough enough on steel and aluminum tariffs and were more worried about alliances.

“Tell me exactly what he said.”

The president said, Byers recounted, “my fucking generals are a bunch of pussies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.”

Saturday, October 10, 2020

the last book I ever read (Rage by Bob Woodward, excerpt three)

from Rage by Bob Woodward:

Trump was arriving. The orders were printed out and each put in a leather folder.

Byers finally looked at the second one, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” It was a travel ban preventing people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.

Six months earlier, as a civilian, Mattis had publicly criticized candidate Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigrants. In the Middle East, Mattis had said, “they think we’ve completely lost it. This kind of thing is causing us great damage right now, and it’s sending shock waves.”