Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission by Mark Leibovich
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Another book nominally on Trump, but with a totally different angle. I was drawn in by the author, Mark Leibovich, who is, for me, a great writer that manages to find some of the absurd with a writing style that is entertaining, informative, and humorous. I have read his book, “This Town” which was a terrific book about Washington D.C. which shredded the political class. He provides the same type of shredding to the folks in prominent positions in the GOP who have fallen into line behind Donald Trump despite their rather obvious distaste for him and his politics.
After reading this book I am at a loss as to how he got Lindsey Graham, and many others, on the record with him. Leibovich shows us the contortions that so many of them have engaged in to deflect, deny, and justify, sometimes all in the same conversation, the fealty to Donald Trump. He does so in a way that brought me a bunch of snickers, but whether it was sarcasm or simply making light of the absurd Leibovich manages to get his point across. He has some real fun with the ill-fated first Press Secretary to President Trump, Sean Spicer:
“Whenever Spicer was asked about his willingness to defend Trump, he was ready with some variation on this pat answer. Problematic clients are an occupational hazard in his business. “There are doctors who help people who have done bad things,” he told The Washington Post’s Ben Terris. “There are lawyers who defend bad people,” he added. “I don’t think it’s unique to my profession.” Spicer had a knack for these explanations, which he would deliver with racing self-assurance. Then, when you caught up to his words, you realized Spicer was comparing his patron to a “bad person” who did “bad things.” His rationale, essentially, was that even Jeffrey Dahmer was entitled to representation.”
Leibovich, Mark. Thank You for Your Servitude (pp. 69-70). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Leibovich managed to speak with Spicer after the fiasco of a briefing on the crowd size of the Trump inaugural. Some great stuff:
“Spicer used to “get the joke,” in a relatively benign way. Now he appeared convinced that many of his old Washington friends and colleagues had written him off as a joke himself, given how he’d beclowned himself on Donald Trump’s behalf. Spicer’s default bearing was now cringe-inducing defensiveness. He gave the impression of someone whose fight-or-flight response had been permanently activated. I asked Spicer about his “largest audience to ever witness an inauguration—period” debut. In retrospect, this maybe was not the best icebreaker. “I’m not here to relitigate every fucking number,” he said, and then launched into a lengthy relitigation.
Spicer’s assistant stepped into his office to remind him that he had a TV interview with Fox in a few minutes. Spicer walked over to a small desk in the corner and started rubbing foundation onto his face. I made a verbal note of this into my tape recorder—that Spicer was putting on makeup.
“Don’t you dare!” Spicer said. “Just so we’re clear.” “Clear about what?” I asked. Spicer demanded to know whether I planned to report that he was applying makeup to himself. “Well, you are putting on makeup, aren’t you?” I said. I assured Spicer that this would not exactly be a Watergate-level revelation on my part. (ALL THE PRESIDENT’S YES-MEN—AND THEIR MASCARA!) Spicer seemed concerned that if I disclosed that he was wearing makeup, it could further emasculate him in the eyes of the president. I mentioned—by way of more reassurance—that Trump himself probably wore more makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker. But Spicer had lost interest in the argument. He patted his cheeks a few more times with a makeup puff and was out the door.”
Leibovich, Mark. Thank You for Your Servitude (p. 75-76). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Of course Leibovich tackles the silent walks of GOP Senators and Reps through the building walkways as they are being accosted by a press gaggle yelling for comment about the latest outrage.
“For more sober-styled Republicans, the most foolproof approach to Trump-proofing was to simply walk through the Capitol as if protected by a selectively permeable bubble, filtering out certain unwelcome words (for example, “Trump”).”
Leibovich, Mark. Thank You for Your Servitude (p. 106). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Leibovich had great access to Senator John McCain and his sidekick Lindsey Graham, and he has some pretty cutting pieces on McCain’s disgust with Graham’s slide into sycophancy.
“What McCain objected to most in his final months was the theatrical degree to which Graham was willing to submit to Trump. “Do you really have to keep saying how great of a fucking golfer he is?” McCain would ask Graham. Graham was becoming an object of ridicule, McCain told him.”
Leibovich, Mark. Thank You for Your Servitude (p. 127). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The book has many examples such as this, and pays some close attention to Graham. Although the author gets us to smile there is nothing to celebrate here. He has focused on the folks that he believes know better, but have allowed themselves to become enablers under the guise of maintaining “relevancy” as well as a desire to maintain their elected positions. As I mentioned about “This Town” Leibovich’s writing brings to mind some of the better political writing of Hunter S. Thompson. I know the market is a bit saturated with books looking at the Trump effect, but this one is worth a look.