Rage by Bob Woodard

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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:18 pm

Fauci, who was fast becoming the most recognizable face of U.S. government’s coronavirus response, appeared on the Today show on February 29.

NBC reporter Peter Alexander asked the question on many people’s minds: “So, Dr. Fauci, it’s Saturday morning in America. People are waking up right now with real concerns about this. They want to go to malls and movies, maybe the gym as well. Should we be changing our habits and, if so, how?”

“No,” Fauci said. “Right now, at this moment, there’s no need to change anything that you’re doing on a day-by-day basis. Right now the risk is still low, but this could change.”

He was later glad he had added “but this could change.” Yet as a practical matter, America’s Doctor had given the green light to proceed with the weekend routine.
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:18 pm

That same day, health officials announced the first U.S. death from Covid-19 had occurred overnight in Washington State. At the Coronavirus Task Force briefing at the White House that afternoon, Redfield said of the deceased, “The investigation at this time shows no evidence of link to travel or a known contact.”

Asked by a reporter whether Americans should change their routines or daily lives, Trump said, “Well, I hope they don’t change their routine. But maybe, Anthony,” he said to Fauci, “I’ll let you—I’ll let you answer that. Or Bob?” he asked Redfield. “Do you want to answer that? Please.”

“The American public needs to go on with their normal lives,” Redfield said. “The risk is low. We need to go on with our normal lives.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:21 pm

When I first heard about Jared Kushner, he seemed to worship his father-in-law, acting as an ever-loyal cheerleader and true believer. He once told associates, “When I disagree with the president, I always say, okay, what am I missing? Because he’s proven time and time again to have good instincts.”

He expressed awe at Trump’s dominance of the media. “If the president didn’t tweet it, it didn’t happen. You send out a press release and it goes into the ether and nobody cares. He puts out a tweet and it’s on CNN one and a half minutes later.”

Initially I thought all of this meant Kushner would not be able to come close to sharing an honest character assessment of Trump.

Then on February 8, 2020, Kushner advised others on the four texts that he said someone in a quest to understand Trump needed to absorb.

First, Kushner advised, go back and read a 2018 opinion column by The Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer Prize–winning columnist Peggy Noonan. Her column on Trump said: “He’s crazy… and it’s kind of working.”

Kushner made it clear that his endorsement of the column was not an aside or stray comment, but was central to understanding Trump.

The son-in-law had to know that Noonan’s column, dated March 8, 2018, and titled “Over Trump, We’re As Divided As Ever,” was not positive. Rather it was quite devastating. In it she called Trump a “circus act” and “a living insult.”

“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.

“Expecting more from the president of the United States springs from respect for the country, its institutions and the White House itself. It springs from standards, the falling of which concerns natural conservatives. It isn’t snobbery. The people trying to wrap their heads around this presidency are patriots too. That’s one of the hellish things about this era.”

Kushner’s second recommendation for understanding Trump was, surprisingly, the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. He paraphrased the cat: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will get you there.” The Cheshire Cat’s strategy was one of endurance and persistence, not direction.

Kushner was explicitly saying Alice in Wonderland was a guiding text for the Trump presidency. Did Kushner understand how negative this was? Was it possible the best roadmap for the administration was a novel about a young girl who falls through a rabbit hole, and Kushner was willing to acknowledge that Trump’s presidency was on shaky, directionless ground?

The third text Kushner recommended for understanding the Trump presidency was Chris Whipple’s book The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency. In the book, Whipple concluded that, after the president, the chiefs of staff held the fate of the country in their hands.

In a chapter on the Trump presidency added in March 2018, Whipple wrote that Trump “clearly had no idea how to govern” in his first year in office, yet was reluctant to follow the advice of his first two chiefs of staff, Reince Priebus and John Kelly. “What seems clear, as of this writing and almost a year into his presidency, is that Trump will be Trump, no matter his chief of staff,” Whipple concluded.

A fourth text Kushner advised was necessary to understand Trump was Scott Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter. Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, explains in Win Bigly that Trump’s misstatements of fact are not regrettable errors or ethical lapses, but part of a technique called “intentional wrongness persuasion.” Adams argues Trump “can invent any reality” for most voters on most issues, and “all you will remember is that he provided his reasons, he didn’t apologize, and his opponents called him a liar like they always do.”

Kushner said that Scott Adams’s approach could be applied to Trump’s recent February 4 State of the Union speech when he had claimed, “Our economy is the best it has ever been.” The economy was indeed in excellent shape then, but not the best in history, Kushner acknowledged.

“Controversy elevates message,” Kushner said. This was his core understanding of communication strategy in the age of the internet and Trump. A controversy over the economy, Kushner argued—and how good it is—only helps Trump because it reminds voters that the economy is good. A hair-splitting, fact-checking debate in the media about whether the numbers were technically better decades ago or in the 1950s is irrelevant, he said.

When combined, Kushner’s four texts painted President Trump as crazy, aimless, stubborn and manipulative. I could hardly believe anyone would recommend these as ways to understand their father-in-law, much less the president they believed in and served
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:23 pm

Kushner had no official title during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign but had made many operational decisions—especially on costs, which he knew Trump constantly monitored. Now Kushner played a major role in the 2020 reelection campaign, one he called “a perfect, well-oiled machine” in contrast to the “experimental” 2016 run.

For 2020, Kushner said in February to others, “I set up three polling operations.” They are independent of each other, he added. “The polling just shows time and time again, the president’s doing great. We have the ability for a big blowout in 2020.”

The House impeachment vote by Democrats, which Kushner called “so unfair,” had been a bonanza for Trump’s job approval ratings.

“We picked up eight points. We pounded the shit out of them,” Kushner said of the Democrats. Eight points could be debated, but it did seem clear that the impeachment had given Trump a boost. A Gallup poll released on February 4 showed Trump’s job approval rating had reached 49 percent, the highest of his presidency.

The real story of Trump’s presidency, in Kushner’s stated view, was the perception of Trump versus the reality. “You should see him in meetings. He interrogates people, keeps them off balance, but he will bend.

“The media is hysterical about Trump—so hysterical they can’t be a check on him,” Kushner argued. “Reporters are afraid to break the line on Trump’s dysfunction. And if they do, they will be ostracized.”

Earlier in February, the president had told me “there’s dynamite behind every door.” Trump, of course, had his worries, but Kushner dismissed to others the idea that trouble loomed. He would not even acknowledge this possibility. He had boundless confidence and was upbeat.

Trouble always loomed in the presidency. Wasn’t surprise everywhere? The unexpected lurked around any corner, any day, every day. Wasn’t it right and wise for any president to think defensively that there was dynamite behind every door?

For example, President George W. Bush’s Top Secret President’s Daily Brief on August 6, 2001, had included the memorable headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” Not much or enough had been done. Thirty-six days later, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group had struck in New York City and Washington, killing 3,000 people and changing the course of history.

But Kushner was an optimist. Trump, he said, “has walked through many doors with dynamite” and survived. “He has mastered the presidency like never before.”

He summarized, “The president has pushed the boundaries, yes. He’s not done the normal thing. But it was the right thing for people. Everything is on track for the big blowout.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:24 pm

Kushner was by turns frustrated and bemused by other people’s confusion about Trump. “He’s unpredictable, which is a great strength. Nobody knows where that line is” that Trump won’t cross. According to Kushner, Trump himself does not know. “This is the difference between a businessperson and politician, in the sense that every day the facts change. And so the line changes too.”

This was often underscored by a cynical cost-benefit analysis. For instance, in December 2016, prior to taking office, Trump had questioned whether his administration would continue the “One China” policy that the U.S. has held since the Carter administration. Under the policy, the United States does not recognize the island of Taiwan as an independent nation and instead acknowledges only “One China” that includes Taiwan. Trump’s decision to cast doubt on the policy angered China, and in a February 9, 2017, phone call with Chinese president Xi Jinping, Trump said he would honor it. Two months later, he welcomed Xi to Mar-a-Lago for a summit.

Kushner cast the “One China” decision as one of cynical pragmatism. “President Trump would say that he was going to respect the One China policy,” Kushner said. “That wasn’t that big of a give, because you could always say you wouldn’t respect it a day later.”

Kushner had additional explanations for Trump’s fluctuations. “The hardest thing that people have in understanding him is they see him as fixed, where he’s actually, he’s not a solid, he’s fluid in the sense that—and that’s a strength.” Trump’s background in business had taught him “there’s no deal until you sign on the line. Right? You can make a deal and then you go through it. But until the paper is signed, it’s not a deal. And that’s how he is. And so he’ll always be flexible.”

Of course flexibility can be a strength, in business and politics. But Trump’s staff and cabinet rarely got a clear definition of direction or policy from the president until he decided or tweeted. Believing that “every day the facts change” is simply another version of Kellyanne Conway’s 2017 statement that there are “alternative facts.”

“He’s not afraid to step into a controversial situation,” Kushner said. “I think he’s shown over time he’s built up his courage to do it. Because he’s stepped into a lot of situations where people said if you do this the world’s going to end, and then the next morning the sun rises, the next evening the sun sets.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:24 pm

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.

Kushner suggested that Trump had developed a new appreciation for some of the people who had been with him since the beginning of his administration. As the economic tasks of 2020 grew and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin played a larger and larger role, Kushner told the president, “This is when you’ll really appreciate having the neurotic New York Jews around.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:25 pm

Kushner said one of Trump’s greatest strengths was “he somehow manages to have his enemies self-destruct and make stupid mistakes. He’s just able to play the media like a fiddle, and the Democrats too. They run like dogs after a fire truck, chasing whatever he throws out there. And then he solves the problem and does the next—then they go on to the next thing.”

The question was, he said, “What is the media obsessed with at a different moment? Because they’ve been melting down about something every day for as long as I’ve been in this politics business, for a couple of years. And then what’s really happening? It’s like a buffet where they’ll always eat the worst thing you give them.”

In meetings, Kushner said, Trump was “an expert at cross-examination. He’s an expert at reading people’s tells. He won’t say, let me go with a nuanced position. He’ll, in a meeting, say, well, what if we do 100? They’ll say, oh, you can’t do that. And then, he’ll say, well, what if we do zero? It’s like, holy shit. It’s whiplash. So that’s his way of reading people, is to see how certain are they of their position: Do they hold their ground? Do they buckle? So that’s just his style.

“And by the way,” Kushner added, “that’s why the most dangerous people around the president are overconfident idiots.” It was apparently a reference to Mattis, Tillerson and former White House economic adviser Gary Cohn. All had left. “If you look at the evolution over time, we’ve gotten rid of a lot of the overconfident idiots. And now he’s got a lot more thoughtful people who kind of know their place and know what to do.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:26 pm

According to Kushner, one of Trump’s greatest impacts was on the Republican Party. “Neither party is really a party. They’re collections of tribes,” he observed at one White House meeting. “The Republican Party was a collection of a bunch of tribes. Look at the Republican Party platform. It’s a document meant to piss people off, basically, because it’s done by activists.” Kushner’s theory was there was a “disproportionality between what issues people are vocal on and what the people, the voters, really care about.”

Trump had united the Republican Party behind himself. “I don’t think it’s even about the issues,” Kushner said. “I think it’s about the attitude.” He said Trump “did a full hostile takeover of the Republican Party.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:28 pm

Kushner considered one of Trump’s greatest skills “figuring out how to trigger the other side by picking fights with them where he makes them take stupid positions.”

He recalled Trump’s July 27, 2019, tweets about the district represented by the late Black Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings, which included Baltimore. “Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess,” Trump had tweeted. “No human being would want to live there.”

Kushner saw this as baiting the Democrats. “When he did the tweet on Elijah Cummings, the president was saying, this is great, let them defend Baltimore,” Kushner told an associate. “The Democrats are getting so crazy, they’re basically defending Baltimore. When you get to the next election, he’s tied them to all these stupid positions because they’d rather attack him than actually be rational.”

Cummings’s former district is in the top half of congressional districts in median household income, home prices and education levels. It has the second-highest income of any majority-Black congressional district in the country.

Chris Wallace had Mick Mulvaney, then the acting White House chief of staff, on his Sunday show the next day. “This seems, Mick,” Wallace said, “to be the worst kind of racial stereotype—”

Mulvaney tried to interrupt.

“Let me finish,” Wallace said, “Racial stereotyping. Black congressman, majority-Black district—I mean, ‘No human being would want to live there’? Is he saying people that live in Baltimore are not human beings?”

“I think you’re spending way too much time reading between the lines,” Mulvaney said.

“I’m not reading between the lines,” Wallace replied. “I’m reading the lines.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:32 pm

On the morning of Friday, February 28, eight months before election day 2020, Trump’s longtime campaign manager Brad Parscale was feeling confident. At times, he was exuberant. With a bushy, honey-red beard, a full 6-foot-8, he sat comfortably in his 14th-floor office at Trump campaign headquarters in Virginia. The backdrop was a sweeping, panoramic view of the Potomac River.

“I’m a master brander,” Parscale told several staff members and visitors that day. He said Trump set the themes of campaigning and governing, and Parscale’s operation converted those themes, along with Trump’s tweets, into a massive, unmatched media blitz of messaging and fundraising.

Put another way, Parscale said, “The president is the radio and the music. We’re the amplifier.” Once in a while, Parscale said, his job for Trump would make him what he called “the songwriter.” He would say, “Hey, here are a few things you should look at.”

The campaign was rolling on at a feverish pace. Using artificial intelligence, Pascale’s operation would test up to 100,000 message variables in a single day. For example, they tested whether a red or green press-to-donate button raised more money in fundraising. In ten seconds, the AI models could tell them how a particular ad performed compared to the last four million that had been run before it.

They had almost twenty $1 million fundraising days in a row lately. Trump’s State of the Union address, held on February 4, had been the biggest day of the year so far, with $5.3 million raised.

Parscale, now 44, was one of the 2016 campaign’s first hires and had stayed, working on media, as Trump hired and fired campaign managers.

“A blessing in disguise was his daughter’s marriage to Jared,” Parscale said. “I think Jared Kushner was the operator that he needed—the yin to his yang. A detail guy. Jared’s meticulous.”

Trump needed two important personality types, in Parscale’s estimation. “Somebody to be meticulous with the details to make sure the organization’s right.” That was Kushner. “Number two, someone to understand his brand and marketing and sell his vision. That’s me.” There was a clear division of labor.

“I run everything political outside the White House. Ronna McDaniel, the RNC chairwoman, runs everything for the party and then Jared runs everything inside the White House.”

Parscale knew the connection between Trump’s tweets and the ads. “Think of Trump’s head more like a starting point of every root narrative we have. In 2016 I made 5.9 million ads on Facebook. It was only about 35 root narratives. That’s what the media’s never gotten wrapped around their head.”

Parscale was so proud of the campaign he was managing that he said, “They’ll make movies about us someday.”

He said Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives and Senate acquittal led to a million new donors. The reward was “money and data.” The average donation to the Trump campaign in the fourth quarter of 2019 was $40.87. Kushner calls this a “data-palooza,” a term Parscale embraces.

Three years earlier Parscale had urged Trump to get organized. “Sir, get out there and get out there early. Being president is an advantage, but it’s how soon you do it that’s the advantage.” Trump filed FEC documents on inauguration day and quickly followed up with a February 2017 rally in Florida.

“I do a lot of things that people in politics think are counterintuitive but they’ve worked really well. Become campaign manager 1,400 days before it starts. I’m the longest campaign manager in history.”

The ability to contact voters, even low-propensity voters, had increased over the years. Previously the campaigns had to send someone to knock on a door or send mail, which was expensive. Parscale said now he could contact someone on their phone a hundred times for about 11 cents.

Which Democrats caused Trump the most trouble? “The more mainstream. The more they appeal to moderates. Look, this election is about moderates. That’s who determines elections.”

At this point he said he thought there would be three main issues in the campaign—the economy, immigration and health care.

Parscale conducted focus groups in 12 different cities in eight states all over the country with over 1,000 people about the presidential race.

One question was: Would you vote for someone you like but don’t agree with his policies, or would you vote for someone you don’t like but you like his policies?

“One hundred percent said, I’ll vote for the guy I don’t like, but like his policies. One thousand to zero.”

Whether true or not, it seemed to be his strong view. Here was the paradox, according to Parscale. Trump believed “presence is so important. He’d say it’s probably more important how I look when I give a speech than the speech I give.”

Parscale added a corollary: “You get a picture with the president of China. It’s more important than whatever you did there” in the meeting. The average voter would think, “Oh, the president’s in China. I feel safe. We’re not going to war with them.”

As Parscale described it, Trump had a power to persuade that is almost mystical.

“Now I’ve finally known him so long, I come back and I say, you did that. I know what you did to me.” Trump had made him see what he wanted him to see—such as toughness, but no war with China, Russia or North Korea. “He’s like, I was right though. And I was like, yeah, you were right.”

On election night, Trump told him, “Don’t stand next to me.” Trump was supposedly 6-foot-3, and Parscale was five inches taller. Appearance mattered. Appearance defined. There were few photos of the two together.

After the 2020 election, Parscale said, “My guess is there will be a huge rush of people wanting to befriend me. A lot of people think he’s going to win. And in theory I have the key to the biggest data trove that’s ever existed.”

He added, “They’d have to offer me a lot of money though. I’m not doing this for free.”

A visitor asked Parscale where the hole in reelection might be. “The coronavirus,” he said emphatically. The main headline in The New York Times that day was “Coronavirus Fears Drive Stocks Down for 6th Day.”

Sixty-four cases had been confirmed in the United States. The day before, Trump had said during remarks in the Cabinet Room, “It’s going to disappear. One day—it’s like a miracle—it will disappear.”

To Parscale, the worry was jobs, not the influence the virus had on the stock market. “We never gained any votes from the stock market,” he said. “If the stock market affects jobs, then we lose. Votes are for jobs and personal incomes.”

Parscale stuck to his main worry. “The coronavirus. The thing you never see. The president kind of said this before: It’s a long hallway and every day I open new doors. And one day I’m going to open a door and there’s going to be a piece of dynamite behind it.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:33 pm

Two days after giving a green light to a weekend movie and a workout at the gym, Fauci appeared on MSNBC on March 2 sounding subdued and wearing a white coat.

“We’re dealing with an evolving situation,” he said. The disease had “now reached outbreak proportions and likely pandemic proportions, if you look at multiple definitions of what a pandemic is. The fact is, this is multiple sustained transmissions of a highly infectious agent in multiple regions of the globe.”
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Re: Rage by Bob Woodard

Post by vnatale » Tue Sep 15, 2020 9:34 pm

On March 9, with the stock market reeling, Trump tweeted, “Last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
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