“Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House”
It’s challenging to review a major book penned by someone who is plainly a clever and sometimes grasping opportunist. Omarosa Manigault Newman confesses to a deep admiration of Barack Obama. She served for two years on the Ready For Hillary PAC, hoping to elect Mrs. Clinton – “a woman I deeply admired” – as America’s first female president. Then, when Hillary officially declared her candidacy, Newman and her team were passed over for permanent positions with the campaign. In a fit of pique, she did an about-face, cashed in her Trump connection from her days on The Apprentice, and worked 18-hour days to elect Donald Trump instead. So if you don’t read any further, I totally get it.
Was this pure cynicism, or a raw craving for power and position? It’s true that both parties need to court the minority vote; it wasn’t a bad thing for Ms. Newman to want to help Mr. Trump relate to the African-American community. Democratic big-shot Donna Brazile, stunned by her defection, managed to say: “Okay, it’s important that we have people in both camps.”
So readers have to take everything this lady writes with a wheelbarrow-full of salt. Will she write or say literally anything to sell a lot of books? I don’t know. However, from a purely literary and reporting POV, this is a decently crafted exposé of an exploding, bitterly dysfunctional administration. And no one can deny that Omarosa “was there”; she went right into the Oval several times a week and was a Trump confidant for many years.
One must also put on the table that this woman is now an ordained Baptist minister and has served as a missionary. After her relationship with Michael Clarke Duncan (“The Green Mile”) was tragically ended by his death, she fell in love with and married a devout Christian minister and serves side-by-side with him in a megachurch in Florida. So there’s that.
The world of bestsellers is awash in books like this one, so I’ll simply pass along three points that she makes with conviction. First, she attests to a scary deterioration in Donald Trump’s abilities and mental acuity. “The Donald Trump of 2003 was as smart and shrewd as he claimed to be,” she writes. But thirteen years later in the White House? “His mental decline could not be denied.” He rapidly gained weight, eating mounds of junk food. This may partially explain the president’s purple rages. “When his temper flares, he does not – cannot – hold back, and it’s terrifying to watch,” she says. “Trump screamed at [Chief of Staff] John Kelly with such violence; he’d never been spoken to by anyone that way before.”
Many political junkies were surprised and offended when President Trump literally shoved Montenegro PM Dusko Markovic out of the way during a photo op. “You came off a little aggressive,” Omarosa protested to him. “Why did you do that?” The president waved her off with this: “Oh, he’s just a whiny punk bitch.”
Many Christians quietly acknowledge that Mr. Trump isn’t their ideal candidate, but hope and trust that the Lord will “use him anyway.” One anecdote upends that cherished longing. On September 3, 2016, in the fiercest part of the campaign, Newman and others arranged for their candidate to speak at a large black church: Great Faith Ministries Church. Candidate Trump’s repeated complaints to his aide went along these lines: “You can’t leave me with these people.” “This is the longest I’ve been in church in my life. When is this going to end?” And finally: “God, how much longer do I have to sit here?” When elected, and planning for his inauguration, he openly mused about his desire to get sworn in using “The Art of the Deal” instead of the Bible. “Trump has no knowledge of the Bible at all.” Once in the White House, she regretfully noted: “Being offensive, inappropriate, and off-color is normal for him.”
Her most wrenching confession is how she was so blinded for years to two stark realities that were never going to change. “Donald Trump’s single greatest character flaw as a leader and human being is his complete and total lack of empathy,” she now testifies. Second: “The change in my mind and heart was due to a combination of factors, but mainly, my growing realization that Donald Trump was indeed a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist.” It’s no secret that he hated Obama to the point of paranoia. “The only item on his to-do list would be to erase the legacy of Barack Obama by undoing his policies.”
Again, this woman, faults and all, was right there standing next to her boss as the hate spewed forth in an unadulterated stream. “I had to go through the pain of witnessing his racism with my own eyes, and hearing it with my own ears, many times, until I couldn’t deny it any longer.”
I’ll let the writer share one glimmer of optimism in her conclusion, and then let me tack one last thing. “Playing upon people’s fears for the sake of legislative expediency is not a sustainable model for a healthy democracy, and, ultimately, we will reject it. We will come to the conclusion that the apparent gains of division pale in comparison to the benefits of unity and the pursuit of the common good.”
I can only hope and pray she’s right.
In C. S. Lewis’ wonderful Christian sci-fi thriller, “That Hideous Strength,” there’s a minor character named Mark Studdock who is enthralled by his chance of getting into that inner circle where the big men like Professor Frost make dark and thrilling plans. It’s pure evil, of course, but he’s too naïve, too trusting, too fawning, too gullible and in awe of the power neckties and the boasts over cocktails in a posh men’s club.
And finally the scales are stripped away and this fragile man begins to find his soul. Lewis writes about that moment of conversion. “But what Mark could not understand was how he had ever managed to overlook something about the man [Frost] so obvious that any child would have shrunk away from him and any dog would have backed into the corner with raised hackles and bared teeth. Death itself did not seem more frightening than the fact that only six hours ago he would in some measure have trusted this man, welcomed his confidence, and even made believe that his society was not disagreeable.”