BOOKS: IN­SIDE THE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE

India Today - - INSIDE - Su­mit Gan­guly is a Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor of Po­lit­i­cal Science, In­di­ana Univer­sity, Bloom­ing­ton By Su­mit Gan­guly

The noted Bri­tish news­pa­per, The Guardian, has ac­quired an early ver­sion of a book, Full Dis­clo­sure, writ­ten by the porn film star, Stormy Daniels (Stephanie Clif­ford), about her life and al­leged af­fair with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump. Apart from high­light­ing the pres­i­dent’s quirky per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics, it is also rich in sala­cious de­tail about the pu­ta­tive af­fair. Once pub­lished, it will prob­a­bly com­ple­ment what two other books, in­clud­ing Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: In­side the Trump White House and Omarosa Mani­gault’s Un­hinged: An In­sider’s Ac­count of The Trump White House, have re­vealed both about the tribu­la­tions of the cam­paign trial and the sub­se­quent chaotic work­ings of the White House un­der the Trump pres­i­dency.

Bob Wood­ward’s book, Fear: Trump in the White House, is also re­plete with de­tails per­tain­ing to the tur­bu­lence that has marked de­ci­sion-mak­ing within the White House since Trump as­sumed of­fice. Wood­ward, a jour­nal­ist with an ex­tra­or­di­nary pedi­gree hark­ing back to the days when he and Carl Bern­stein of The Wash­ing­ton Post broke the story on the Water­gate bur­glary, does not, un­like the other tell-all ac­counts pub­lished thus far, write in breath­less prose. How­ever, he pro­vides de­tailed, telling and trou­bling ac­counts about how the pres­i­dent reached a se­ries of crit­i­cal de­ci­sions laden with much im­port for both the United States and the world.

Trump’s choices on a se­ries of mat­ters deal­ing with South Asian pol­i­tics will be of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to the read­ers of this mag­a­zine. Among other mat­ters, Wood­ward de­votes a fair bit of a chap­ter to Trump’s views about Afghanistan. He re­minds read­ers that dur­ing the cam­paign, Trump had re­peat­edly and sharply crit­i­cised the US in­volve­ment in Afghanistan and had threat­ened to with­draw Amer­i­can forces from the coun­try if elected.

Once in of­fice, he hewed to his orig­i­nal po­si­tion even as his aides, most no­tably the then Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Gen­eral H.R. McMaster, sought to de­vise a new strat­egy for end­ing the war. Trump, scep­ti­cal of any plan that in­volved adding more troops, had lit­tle use for the new strat­egy and cat­e­gor­i­cally told McMaster as much in rather colour­ful lan­guage. More to the point he even coun­tered McMaster stat­ing that his friend, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi of In­dia, had in­formed him that the US had not ben­e­fit­ted from its long in­volve­ment in Afghanistan. Worse still, Trump in­sisted that the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China (PRC) was busy ex­tract­ing Afghanistan’s sub­stan­tial min­eral wealth.

Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, he made clear to his aides that the pay­ments to Pak­istan would have to end un­less it was will­ing to co­op­er­ate. On the ques­tions of Pak­istan and Afghanistan, Trump proved to be un­yield­ing. How­ever, the hawk­ish Sen­a­tor from South Carolina, Lind­say Gra­ham, even­tu­ally per­suaded him to aug­ment Amer­i­can forces in Afghanistan ar­gu­ing that a fail­ure to sta­bilise the coun­try would in­evitably dam­age his pres­i­dency.

Iron­i­cally, de­spite Trump’s stated fond­ness for Modi, Wood­ward also re­ports that it was McMaster who had to make a spir­ited but ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful case for invit­ing Modi to Camp David. De­spite McMaster’s ad­vo­cacy, Trump de­cided to sim­ply host Modi at the White House. This cu­ri­ous un­will­ing­ness to in­vite Modi to Camp David notwith­stand­ing, Wood­ward shows that Trump gen­uinely be­lieves in the power of per­sonal diplo­macy. This is ev­i­dent from the dis­cus­sions that Wood­ward re­counts about Trump’s deal­ings with Chi­nese pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. When the PRC signed off on a raft of new sanc­tions on North Korea, Trump at­trib­uted them to his per­sonal chem­istry with Xi. Yet, true to his mer­cu­rial self, he had no com­punc­tions about im­pos­ing sig­nif­i­cant tar­iffs on the PRC when it suited his per­ceived elec­toral needs. As he com­pletes nearly two years in of­fice, Wood­ward’s book pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing aper­ture into the tu­mul­tuous White House.

De­spite Trump’s stated fond­ness for Modi, McMaster was un­able to con­vince Trump to in­vite Modi to Camp David. Trump de­cided to sim­ply host him at the White House

FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE Bob Wood­ward Si­mon & Schus­ter 420 pages; `467 (UK price)

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