David Frum is a senior editor at the Atlantic and the author of “Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic,” due out in January.
The winners and losers of the 2016 election occupy different realities. For the losers, the most painful fact — besides losing — was the clandestine attack by a hostile foreign power upon the integrity of the U.S. election process. The winners are keen to purge that same fact from their memory and the nation's. Their wish is on full display in Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie's book, "Let Trump Be Trump."
Just run your eye down the final page of the index. In the second column, you read:
Westerhout, Madeleine, 247.
What Happened (Clinton), 175.
White, F. Clifton, 160.
Wiles, Caroline, 9.
Wiles, Susie . . .
Notice anything missing?
There is no direct reference to WikiLeaks, the organization that released Democratic National Committee emails hacked by that hostile foreign power, Russia. Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, and Bossie, a former deputy manager, mention the hacking only in an oblique way — to flatter Trump for his skill at obfuscating about it. They note that Trump “had some memorable one-liners. For instance, this one set the cyber world ablaze as it related to hacking: ‘It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs four hundred pounds, okay?’ ”
The WikiLeaks omission is all the more glaring because the authors devote more than 20 pages to beating back the controversy over the "Access Hollywood" recording that captured Trump boasting of assaulting women. Lewandowski and Bossie dispense praise and blame to those they believe performed well or badly during the uproar. Yet they don't mention the event that rescued Trump: WikiLeaks' dump of a massive trove of hacked emails less than one hour after The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold broke the "Access Hollywood" story. The Trump campaign made aggressive use of the materials in that dump to turn the tables on Hillary Clinton, and the ensuing furor overwhelmed the "Access Hollywood" story.
WikiLeaks empowered Trump to change the subject to Clinton’s supposed two-facedness, as revealed in the emails. Polls showed Clinton’s trustworthiness tumbling in the weeks after Oct. 7.
Among the most damaging of the emails dumped were three from Donna Brazile. Addressed to aides in the Clinton campaign, they disclosed questions that the candidate could expect at CNN Democratic primary debates. At the time the emails were sent, March 2016, Brazile was vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and a contracted contributor to CNN. She vigorously denied having received the questions in advance; CNN fired her anyway.
In her book "Hacks," Brazile mostly delivers a campaign tale of a familiar sort: a score-settling and self-vindicating narrative. But through the story runs an utterly unfamiliar thread, of bizarre incidents out of a spy novel rather than an American political campaign. We see Brazile grappling with a flurry of emails from August through October 2016, doctored so that they appeared to originate from Democratic Party accounts, including her own. The experience was so disorienting that Brazile finds herself questioning to this day whether the emails to the Clinton campaign sharing CNN questions were really hers. She claims not only to have no memory of them but to be unable to find the original emails in any of her devices. She concludes her memoir in a mood of hurt and bafflement. "The chaos sown by the hacking still reverberates in our politics and in our media, preventing us from feeling hope and taking action," she writes.
Brazile opens and closes her book with the same image: the author-narrator waiting by the telephone for a call that takes months to come. The first awaited call is from Clinton, to express thanks for Brazile’s work for the Democratic National Committee in the summer and fall of 2016. It doesn’t arrive until February 2017. The second call is from a small, historically black college that will invite Brazile to deliver a commencement address after a period when she had little on her speaking calendar. In both cases, the unspoken point of the anecdotes is the one pervading this mournful memoir: Brazile’s hope for absolution and resolution.
But don’t look to Lewandowski and Bossie to clarify matters. Every political memoir is haunted by questions about the reliability of the memoirists, but seldom have those questions been forced more brutally to the fore than in “Let Trump Be Trump.” The book is by turns gullible, dishonest and weirdly careless.
Some of its inaccuracies are just lazy. Lewandowski and Bossie recount Trump’s fury over a New York Times story about a secret meeting in Trump Tower. As the authors tell it, the story reported that “Ivanka, Jared, Chris Christie, Jason Miller, and Paul Manafort were in the room.” Trump, angry that the meeting became public, gets Lewandowski on the phone: “Who do you think leaked it?” he asks.
“Well, there were only five people at the meeting, and one of them was you,” Lewandowski tells him. “If you fire any one of the other four, you have a 25 percent chance to be right.”
The mathematically inclined will have already noticed that the number of people present adds up to six, not five.
It’s unlikely that the authors worry very much about such errors. Consider another tale in which Trump is doing an over-the-phone TV interview defending his claim that Mexican illegal immigrants have a propensity to rape. In his hand, Trump held data “which might or might not have cited Mexican illegals as the cause” of an increase in rapes, the authors write. No matter. Lewandowski and Bossie take pride in Trump’s disregard for such evidence. “It didn’t matter to the people who listened to Trump whether the boss had gotten the details correct,” they explain. “His words captured the way they felt, and that’s all that mattered to them. His was a language the Left couldn’t and wouldn’t ever understand.”
Like Brazile, Lewandowski and Bossie have suffered hurts, too. Despite their efforts on Trump’s behalf, neither works in the White House. The book lauds Lewandowski’s performances as a commentator for CNN after he left the campaign. The former aide praises himself as “high energy and articulate” — a TV voice who “knew his subject better than just about anyone in the world.” But his tenure as a commentator was stormy and short-lived.
Lewandowski and Bossie visited the president in the White House shortly after his first international trip. They reveal Trump’s assessment of his administration: “I’m doing a great job, but my staff sucks.” Such happy moments suffice to keep hope alive for the two co-authors. They flick through the many White House staffers no longer working for the president: Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, et al. And they pine: “Sometimes we think the boss is just waiting for the right time to bring us back.”
Perhaps he is, fellas, perhaps he is. You’re just his type.
By Corey R. Lewandowski and David N. Bossie
Center Street. 278 pp. $27
By Donna Brazile
Hachette. 268 pp. $28