The predictable pile-on has begun.
With the recent release of their separate books on Donald Trump, reporters Maggie Haberman (New York Times) and the spouse team of Peter Baker and Susan Glasser (New York Times, New Yorker) are being wreaked havoc on social media, particularly the anti-Trump Twitterverse for allegedly sitting on information against the ex-husband which they should have reported sooner and if possible while he was still (not) in office and running for re-election.
Instead of going about their daily business, critics say, reporters are holding back on news to boost book sales.
It is the charge that is similarly leveled against other daily journalists who have written books documenting the Trump era. Haberman in particular is now a target. “Maggie Haberman is more corrupt than Donald Trump,” confesses one Twitter critic, as if Haberman hadn’t spread more negative news about Trump than anyone during his presidency. In fact, the only criticism I have of what I’ve read of her book so far is that much of it seems familiar.
Jackie Calmes takes a critical look at the national political scene. She has decades of experience reporting on the White House and Congress.
Full Disclosure While Defending My Colleagues: Haberman and Baker are former colleagues, others are friends, and I too wrote a political book during the Trump years while editing Washington coverage for that newspaper. For much of my career, including The New York Times, editors discouraged us reporters from getting book deals, and rightly worried that their employees would hit bombshells the employer’s subscribers deserved, right away.
The hassle is over. Today, news organizations see value in reporters building their own “brands,” and they want to be the first to publish their reporters’ vivid book excerpts. For reporters, withholding information for a book remains a journalistic trap that they and their editors must contend with, and one that can be difficult to pull off.
However, details that make it into books rather than immediate coverage may only be available for this format. Some sources open up to book authors in ways they wouldn’t to a daily news reporter. Many agree to just talk because a book comes out later – after an election, say. Sources also bet a book allows for more complete, contextual reporting than a daily news story.
So there are tradeoffs. Thankfully, the historical record of Trump and his presidency, the worst of all time, is enriched by these books. They are not fake news, as Trump would like them to be; They are the antidote to fake news. And they literally have a longer shelf life than a daily story.
Now let’s turn to the more obnoxious Trump books: the ones written by former administration officials who waited until he or she was out of office to tell us exactly how bad the former president was, and only then for a price. You witnessed Trump’s behavior; Journalists have to look for such information afterwards.
It was more than a year after Trump reluctantly left the White House, sacked Secretary of Defense Mark Esper confirmed in his book that his ex-boss had considered a coup in the event of a loss and suggested troops fire on racial justice Protesters proposed bombing Mexico to hit drug cartels and wanted to court-martial US generals who criticized him.
Public service is not, despite the praise Esper and other such authors can garner for their belated disclosures on the book-shilling circle. There’s no good reason why these officers couldn’t have given us the chilling details in real-time as a true public service. They certainly should have spoken before Trump sought re-election or, in some cases, before his Senate acquittals in his unprecedented two impeachment trials.
Former national security adviser John Bolton, for example, might have put enough pressure on Senate Republicans to support Trump’s conviction in the first impeachment trial if he had shared everything he knew about Trump’s blackmail attempt against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Instead, months later, Bolton revealed his eyewitness evidence in his book: he didn’t let us into “The Room Where It Happened” until it was too late.
Likewise, Senate Republicans may have been shamed to convict Trump after his second impeachment of incitement to the January 6, 2021 insurgency, had the former Atty. General William Barr went public with how he and others repeatedly told Trump his allegations of voter fraud were “bull-” even as the president plotted to overthrow Biden’s electoral votes based on that lie. Yes, it was “One Damn Thing After Another,” as Barr titled his book. Too bad he saved the Trump damnation for his book tour this year.
More recently, it’s Barr and Trump who are belatedly skewered in a new book by Geoffrey Berman, one of the nation’s top federal prosecutors, until he was fired after investigating Trump allies.
The backstory of Berman’s messy firing was somewhat mysterious back in the midst of the 2020 campaign. There was much speculation, but we had to wait more than two years to read Berman’s account of how he “held the line” with Trump and his appointees, including Barr, as they politicized the Justice Department and steered it toward law enforcement Enemies of the President and spares his friends.
Such tomes by government officials as those by reporters are essential to the historical record of Trump, but the seriousness of the abuses the officials saw and the off-kilter rhetoric they heard required exposure at the time, something that only they could have offered.
It is possible that Donald Trump’s appointments have already set a record for condemning revelations about an administration. And yet nothing has been heard from many of the former President’s officials. For those with first-hand information about Trump’s ploys to remain in power, here’s an alternative to a bookstore: Speak under oath to the House Committee or Justice Department prosecutors investigating the events surrounding September 6 Investigate January 2021.
We’re waiting for you, Mike Pence. Quiet.
https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2022-09-30/donald-trump-maggie-haberman-geoffrey-berman-book Calmes: Tell-all Trumpists — you should have come clean long ago