Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s Peril Criticism – The Politics of the Bloated Body | Policy books

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EWith the exception of Donald Trump, who believes only in himself, American politicians are inveterate traffickers of God, sure they have been elected by their creator, not just by their constituents. Going back through the handover of power between Trump and Joe Biden, Bob Woodward and his Washington post His colleague Robert Costa often stops by as the wheelers and merchants they follow pray, send scriptural quotation texts, or cast a judgmental gaze to the sky. Biden touches his rosary before debating Trump, and when Mike Pence fulfills his constitutional duty by ratifying the presidential election result, an aide congratulates him for fighting the good fight and keeping the faith. Nancy Pelosi later sums up her plan to increase the minimum wage as “the gospel of Matthew”.

Yet despite such tributes to the soul, what really matters in the confrontations and confrontations that Danger documents is the stocky body and its thug weight. Among Trump’s henchmen, only anti-immigrant ideologue Stephen Miller, whose slim figure and fitted suits are noted by Woodward and Costa, has a lean and hungry look. Otherwise, power is presented by a swollen belly. Bill Barr becomes Attorney General because Melania thinks his “extraordinarily big belly” is a guarantee of gravity. Mike Pompeo is “heavy and gregarious”, which implies that he has “little tolerance for liberals”. Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager, qualifies for his job because “at six feet eight and bearded, he looked like a professional wrestler.” Considering this group of heavyweights, it amused me to learn that Biden’s entourage includes “gut control” – no, not a dietitian but a buddy who offers a second opinion when the new president wants to act on instinct.

Quirks and physical flaws like these are important because they demonstrate that in the populist era, politics is about instantly satisfying the appetite, not about making thoughtful and wise decisions. Woodward and Costa give a revealing account of a luncheon where Trump receives the tribute from Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader. Trump orders his usual cheeseburger, fries, and ice cream, solipsistically assuming his guest will have the same; he’s surprised when McCarthy forgoes the fries, throws the bun, and asks for some fresh fruit rather than a gooey dessert. “Does it really work? Trump sneers, gulping down some grease. What Pelosi calls her “big ass,” exposed to be kissed by McCarthy, heralds her immense self-satisfaction.

After the insurgency on Capitol Hill on January 6, General Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, anxiously watched the nuclear chain of command because he feared Trump “had entered a serious mental decline.” But Trump could hardly regress, since he never reached rational adulthood. In Danger, he’s indistinguishable from the Trump Baby, the diaper balloon that floated over Westminster on his state visit. As he subordinates Pence to dismissing the election results and undoing Biden’s victory, his cajole suggests an overheard dialogue in the courtyard of an elementary school. “Wouldn’t it be almost cool to have that power?” he asks, as if to tempt the vice president with a shiny new electronic toy. When Pence resists, Trump’s appeal is pouting petulance: “I don’t want to be your friend anymore,” he moans.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, who feared Trump “is getting stuck in serious mental decline.” Photograph: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images

Milley fears that Trump, berserk after his electoral defeat, will reach a “trigger point” and order a diversionary attack on China or Iran. Adam Smith, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, is less alarmist. Smith agrees that Trump is a “mentally unstable narcissistic psychopath” but argues that he is unable to start a war because “he’s a coward, he doesn’t want that level of responsibility.” We were saved by Trump’s laziness and his inability to focus the blame of Woodward and Costa on his addicting gaze on television. To the dismay of the advisers, he capriciously changes the subject; with a zapper where his brain should be, he can’t help but flip through the channels to see what’s going on elsewhere. When he left office, he only dropped F-bombs, “spitting curses” and shouting to his cabinet colleagues: “I don’t care. You are all screwed. You are all screwed.

This versatile little word sprinkles the story of Danger, and proves indispensable in the Washington DC speech. This gives Rex Tillerson a legal denial: he gets away with insisting he didn’t call Trump a “jerk” because he actually called him a “fucking jerk.” When Biden used curses while getting votes for his economic stimulus, “the number of ‘kisses’ he said seemed to multiply as the story went from senator to senator.” The partisans also sign their oaths in the urine, so that Mitch McConnell declares his support for a Trump candidate for the Supreme Court by swearing, “I feel stronger about Kavanaugh than mule piss.” In Kentucky, which McConnell represents in the Senate, mule urination comes across as positive proof of sincerity. It all sounds harmless to childish or adolescent at best until you realize these men are determining the fate of a nation and possibly the future of our planet.

Their claim to piety is founded when the zealous Catholic Steve Bannon decides to outdo Herod Herod by suggesting that a campaign of lies about the election result “will kill the Biden presidency in the manger.” Yes, politics is murder in other ways, and the deity, having long withdrawn in despair or disgust, is not about to save us. The final fatalistic word should go to Biden, on an occasion when his rosary remained in his pocket. Arguing over the exit from Afghanistan, he said to his secretary of state: “Do not compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative. I don’t know if he meant Trump or the devil, but is there a difference?

Danger by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa is published by Simon & Schuster (£ 20). To support the Guardian and Observer order your copy at guardianbookshop.com. Delivery charges may apply

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