Confidence Man ~ by Maggie Haberman

There’s a natural and surprisingly strong story arc here and Halberman works with it perfectly. The narrative thrust starts with Trump’s indecision, but he does grab the ball to run, wins, plays gossip and musical chairs in the White House, creates a circus in the media, and then along comes Covid-19, the killing of George Floyd with threats of police/military presence from Trump followed by the campaign leading up to Election Day, 2020, a painful loss, and finally a planned bloody insurrection where the police/military should have been more present.

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Confidence Man:
The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America
By: Maggie Haberman
Narrated by: Maggie Haberman
Length: 17 h 22 m
(Both read and listened) 

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All that (and more) is hard to see when you’re living in it. Reading this book was an unflinching look back at what the last 5 or 6 years were all about. Halberman unearthed way more than I was able to glean in the flashes I got from the media during the years – and I watched a lot of CNN.  After one news event was reported it was quickly silenced by the next outrageous stunt or disclosure or whatever. 

I thought I’d be able to listen only, but as several other listeners noted Haberman’s voice isn’t easy to listen to. She reads in a flat and sometimes monotone voice, maybe both plus about midway I got confused by all the names and activities coming one after the other, so I downloaded the Kindle version. and after that I got very accustomed to the narration – go figure.

I think perhaps the low-key reading is deliberate because there’s no hype or horrible bashing or even sensationalist reporting here. For the most part, the facts speak for themselves without embellishment or outrage. That said, Halberman can’t quite help but subtly imply some judgement.  

The first chapters were mostly new material for me. I’m not a New Yorker and I only started following, if that’s what you’d call it, “The Donald” when he bought the Atlantic City casinos. And there was his book, The Art of the Deal, which got him some name recognition beyond the East Coast.  But it was for Marla Maples, a big money divorce or two, rumors of Merv Griffin and other big deals, his best selling book, The Art of the Deal, and the Miss Universe parents plus his racist opinions and so on – and on.. The man didn’t seem exactly what you’d call presidential material and that was before the bad press – lol.  It’s reviewed here complete with a lot of details I’d either forgotten or never knew.  

But that’s just the first half of the book or so, Trump building Trump. The reader getting to know the man behind the promotions. The pace and tension are good. The structure is primarily chronological with a bit of backstory or forward looking material as is necessary. It’s well organized, the chapter titles are amusing and almost without barb, the writing is clear and concise with a nice flow. 

Everything happened so fast back in the heady days of the run-ups to the Republican Convention and from then on it was a new scandal almost every day.  Or maybe three in one day. There were leaks and investigations and firings and gossip and intrigue –  

There are hundreds of books about Trump and his presidency on the market in the last five or so years, as well as books about threats to truth and democracy and so on and I’ve read about 20 or so, (ranging from Madeline Albright’s Fascism: A Warning (2018) to  Russian Roulette: by Michael Isikoff and David Corn not to forget the Mary Trumps memoir.  I tried to get the best ones-  Comey, Clapper, Woodward, Michael Lewis plus a lot of others but I got tired of it after awhile back in 2019. This book intrigued me so I gave it a try.  I was curious and well rewarded. 

All told it’s a brilliant biography of (ta-da) Donald J. Trump – our demented and disgraced former resident of the White House. And it’s a darned good bio which focuses on Trump’s business and political life up to and following January 6, 2021.  Maggie Haberman is a Pulitzer-winning and very popular journalist for the New York Times where she is listed as a “White House Correspondent” and at as CNN where she is a “political analyst.”   

 Haberman is not a fan of Mr Trump, but she doesn’t do anything particular to bash him (why bother – he bashes himself enough).  I noted a few places where she gave him credit where it was due.  She presents a  very readable review of the highlights (and lowlights – divorces, bankruptcies, etc) of his life. I knew quite a lot of it after he bought the casinos in Atlantic City but I had virtually no fleshing out which is exactly what Haberman does beautifully.  

Things happened so fast in those days that the stories came one after the other while Trump was campaigning at packed rallies where he would say anything and then in the White House where his administration seemed to have no organization at all and got completely derailed by Covid-19.  But Trump had a way of doing and saying things which seized the media’s attention and then he’d do something else the next day – I think very few could really keep up with it all. Confidence Man: untangles a lot of that, adding background and outcomes as appropriate.  

There’s. even a natural story arc to the whole thing from slow build-up in New York real estate deals through the scandals and financial juggling all the way to the election chase-scenes and life in the White House as a kind of 3-ring climax. It just works out that way maybe.

Even considering those prior books Halberman’s contribution is not at all redundant. Rather it reminds me or what all went on in those years and fills in some blanks while amazing me with a few really fresh details.  It’s kind of like I lived through the roller-coaster 2016-2020 and am only now getting a bigger, maybe deeper picture of what all happened.  


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1 Response to Confidence Man ~ by Maggie Haberman

  1. Keith says:

    Becky, when I see this title, I vividly recall the words said by his attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen under oath to Congress (there is that oath thing again): “Donald Trump is a racist, he is a con-artist and he is a cheat.” Why did he choose those three terms? He also recounted how he had sent over 500 cease and desist letters to people who had less than flattering information on the former president, mostly preceding his time in office. Keith

    Like

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