LISTEN UP: Exclusive Reviews - Omarosa, FBI’s Comey and Sy Hersh
“Unhinged,” “A Higher Loyalty,” and “Reporter,” curated in this Political Edition of B & T.'s series on audio entertainment worth discovering
PART ONE - THE WOMAN MANY LOVE TO HATE - HER NO. 1 BESTSELLER PEELS BACK THE CURTAIN ON THE INSANE TRUMP WHITE HOUSE, ITS DYSFUNCTION, ITS MANY LIES AND HER MINORITY ROLE AS A MINORITY
UNHINGED: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House
Written and narrated by Omarosa Manigault Newman
Simon & Schuster Audio
Listening length: 11 hours and 6 minutes
Released August 14, 2018
ALTHOUGH SHE ONCE SERVED TRUMPWORLD WHERE LIES ARE AS COMMON AS BREATHING BUT WITH THIS BOOK I BELIEVE OMAROSA IS TELLING THE TRUTH
This controversial book soared to number one because it is a well told human story and rings of truth telling. It deliciously dishes on Trumpworld, as Omarosa refers to it, and provides behind the scenes glimpses of Trump, his dysfunctional White House and his inner circle that is shockingly revealing.
Omarosa places herself in the context of a rebel who has just broken out of the enemy camp and can’t wait to spill its secrets.
However as much as she attacks Trump much of this book is to designed to justify her service to Trump, who she called her mentor, from “The Apprentice” to the White House.
To be honest, from her actions and the media reactions, I have held a strongly negative opinion of Omarosa in recent years
But after listening to her story and experiences in WaWa land, I can’t help but admire her in some ways, even if I can’t forgive her in other ways.
I will never forgive her for being part of a political campaign and a presidential administration that cynically lied to America to get Trump elected and then proved to be racist, sexist, anti-environment, disastrous in international relations and frankly, anti-African American.
This is still the Omarosa who in 2016 said on PBS Frontline that, “every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump.”
In the atmosphere of the rich, very white Trump White House and cabinet, what made Omarosa stand out, along with her powerful personality, was that she was usually the only black in the room and at best always one of the very few.
Every black leader who isn’t in Trump’s pocket has blasted his presidency and many have turned on Omarosa, who admits her shock that old friends no longer wanted to know her since she became Trump’s “Special Assistant.”
Finally, Trump’s Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly fired her – she says she was plotting to leave Trump after Charlottesville anyway – and she is hanging out her dirty laundry.
She is not afraid to make clear that the emperor has no brains, manners or empathy, for anyone else.
Omarosa – she calls herself simply by her first name, so we will too - is more substantial, qualified and intelligent than I had realized from her prior White House experience to her career as a minister.
She may now have left the Trump White House but she spent nearly a year there, going along with the PR daily truth twisting to whitewash the president’s latest racist comment, sexist action or ill-advised tweet.
She was part of the train wreck but she claims that she became painfully aware that what Trump said after Charlottesville revealed him once and for all as who he is – a virulent, unrepentant racist.
She claims that she knew then she had to find an exit, but not the messy one planned for her by Chief of Staff John Kelley.
Omarosa denies the widely circulated story that she went crazy when fired, tried to storm the Oval Office and had to be escorted out bodily by security.
She believes it was planted as a dirty trick to discredit her and justify pushing out the rare African American in the entire Trump administration.
Once she shifts focus in her storytelling to the campaign and then the transition and the White House, Omarosa behind the scenes details of everything from Trump’s racism and sexism to his wife Melania’s dislike for being First Lady.
She singles out some in Trump’s largely white cabinet for her toughest barbs, especially Secretary of Education Betsy De Vos.
Omarosa describes going to public events at schools with the Education Secretary and thinking there would be a dialogue - but at De Vos’s direction, they all turned into awkward photo ops instead. The result: A visit meant to build good will instead often left bad feelings.
Omarosa butted heads with De Vos who was especially disdainful of events designed to foster diversity.
Omarosa paints De Vos as small minded, and unqualified for her job. She said De Vos really wants to destroy public schools and replace them with privately run charters and academies, often those with a religious slant.
Omarosa survived as long as she did because she had personal access to Trump, but that was shut down after Kelly took control. That was the real beginning of the end of her membership in the Trump cult.
Omarosa comes off as a sane narrator who has learned a bitter lesson, as she presents a warts and all portrait of the truly crazy, dysfunctional White House and the infighting – much of it of Trump’s making.
“The book itself is what you might expect, given the lead-up,” wrote Vox recently. “Unhinged is part memoir (the first chapters are devoted to Manigault-Newman’s upbringing and her role on The Apprentice), part tell-all from behind the scenes at the White House, complete with plenty of gossipy asides.”
“It’s filled with salacious — and often unverifiable — allegations and wild tales. It reads like a guilty pleasure, a beach read that delves into the lives of the rich and famous or purports to take us backstage at a hit reality TV show to reveal backstabbing and gossip underneath. Except that the subject is, in fact, the president of the United States, and the reality show in question has the highest stakes of all.”
While the reader wants to cheer Omarosa for calling out the fakers, morons, greedy and gross in what she calls Trump World, the fact is she was a part of it for many years, on “Apprentice” and then as part of his political operations.
Trump operates by loyalty, like a Mafia Don, and that is how Omarosa justified her years at his side acting more like a sycophant than a liberated lady. She was there because he had been loyal to her and she wanted to be loyal to him.
When Omarosa was finally out, she felt liberated. It was as if after WW2 Hitler’s biggest boot licker became reformed, switched sides and went public with the good, bad and ugly, of the gilded cage around the corrupt sick leader.
This analogy may not be fair because Trump isn’t Hitler, who committed mass murder, but the analogy is hard to dismiss. Even in her book as she tells tales about the horrors, she also endorses a lot of his policies.
So, what to make of Omarosa, whose book is highly readable and a lot of gossipy fun? Is she a hero or a villain, or is it impossible to pin her down with one label?
For a comparison, I was reminded of a scene in one of my favorite films, the great 1994 movie, “The Shawshank Redemption.”
In the scene in which inmates are at a dining hall table, Brooks, a longtime con and gentle old man who runs the library, tells the rest that Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who is sitting there, is doing taxes for the guards and one “actually shook his hand.”
“Shook his hand,” laughs Brooks. “I near soiled myself…”
Dufresne’s best pal, Red, played by Morgan Freeman, who earned an Oscar nomination in the part of a con who has wised up, smiled and shot a wise crack.
“Making a few friends, huh, Andy?” Red gently jibes his pal.
“I wouldn’t say friends,” answered Andy. “I’m a convicted murderer who provides sound financial planning. It’s a wonderful pet to have.”
For many years on TV and in politics riding Trump’s wake, for the president Omarosa was a “wonderful pet to have.”
If nothing else, her book provides a look inside the mind of the president and his administration that is beyond disturbing. She describes a president who is not mentally, physically or emotionally fit for his high office.
She has proven to be a promotional powerhouse by dropping her secretly recorded audio tapes like crumbs for the media to chase, so a lot of people will read this book.
This is my suggestion to choose the audio and let her read to you, which is another way to take her measure, and then enjoy the dish and remember the lies.
And in November vote in person or by mail, and get your friends to join you for an election that may determine if we continue in a democracy or accept life under an authoritarian regime.
PART TWO: HIGH NOON FOR THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT AND THE FBI DIRECTOR
This edition of LISTEN UP is all about politics. Having listened to quite a few books in recent times spurred by Trump’s reign, the one I keep coming back to, the one that I most believe is truthful, the one that speaks to the quandary America is in under Trump, is the one by the FBI Director that the president sacked and since has carried on a disinformation campaign about.
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
By James Comey
Narrated by the author
Listening Length: 9 hours and 4 minutes
Publish Macmillan Audio
Release date April 17, 2018
Although this book came out over four months ago, former FBI Director James Comey remains a central figure as a potential witness in the ongoing Special Counsel’s “Russia” investigation, and has as a result has been the subject of a public degradation effort by the President and many of his Republican loyalists.
It is important you hear what Comey says. So, if you have not yet read “A Higher Loyalty” yet, I am suggesting you do so and actually, listen to it instead.
Comey delivers his personal story, his career as a prosecutor in New York and at the FBI, and then his interactions with President Trump. A lot of my understanding of Comey is possible only because I listened to him narrate his story, and it left me convinced he is a man who can be trusted.
He wasn’t always on Trump’s Hit List.
Early in his administration, Trump told the Obama-appointee, who still had years left on his contract, that he wanted him to stay on.
Things changed in the White House where in several highly charged meetings that Comey recalls in detail, Trump made clear he expected loyalty no matter what.
Comey refused to commit to loyalty over the facts and truth, but tried to keep it civil. He thought he could keep his head down and do the job at the FBI.
Instead, Trump forced him out, admitting to Lester Holt on NBC days later he did it because of the Russia investigation. Trump later denied that, but months later, had to confirm again it was his reason.
Now Special Counsel Robert Mueller may ask if that firing of the FNI director was a sign of collusion or obstruction of justice or something else?
Listening to Comey, based on the words he wrote, the candid nature of his revelations, and his history as a straight shooter, I believe he was telling the truth.
That means Trump is lying.
This to me is the most important “political” book, certainly of any memoir, this year. I believe what Trump did when he over-reached and fired Comey and then attacked him, marked the beginning of the end for his reign.
Whatever happens, as this plays out, you will be better informed if you listen to him tell his own story, in his own words.
I just checked Amazon and out of more than 4,000 people who have commented on “A Greater Loyalty,” over 80 percent give it the maximum five stars. There are virtually no comments raking it below four stars. It is that good.
And it is that important, so do yourself a favor and give it a listen like I do in the car, using Bluetooth, to connect to the Audible downloads in my phone. Makes the traffic go down easier and you will have arrived smarter than when you departed.
And REMEMBER TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER AND GET OTHERS TO VOTE – VOTE OUT THE LIES!
LISTEN UP: PART THREE
LOTS OF POLITICAL BOOKS, SO LITTLE TIME TO LISTEN, BUT SOME YOU SHOULD NOT MISS
If you have not read it yet, “Fire and Fury,” by Michael Wolff is still the most fun read of all the political books this year, and a game changer. However, since it has been so widely discussed, my final recommendation for the best political audio books out there is something few of you will have read.
By Seymour M. “Sy” Hersh
Narrated by Arthur Morey
Listening Length 13 hours and 52 minutes
Publisher Random House Audio
First released June 5, 2018
President Trump has called reports on in major media “fake news,” and charged that 80 percent or more of the journalists are “enemies of the people.”
So, it is with pleasure the people, or at least B&T.biz, present a journalist who is a shining example of how dogged reporting can defeat even the biggest liars in government, the military and even big business.
You may remember Seymour M. “Sy” Hersh as the Washington, DC-based (mostly) investigative reporter who in 1969 exposed the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up, aspects of Watergate, clandestine U.S. bombing in Cambodia, the mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and many other reports, most of which politicians like Trump did not want to be seen by the general public.
A winner of the Pulitzer Prize and many other honors, Hersh’s book on former Secretary of State under Nixon, Henry Kissinger, won the National Book Critic Circle Award.
Hersh was not always popular, even among fellow journalists, but in his tenure at the New York Times and especially The New Yorker Magazine, and other places, he set the gold standard for good reporting, careful sourcing and when necessary for handling anonymous sources.
Seymour "Sy" Hersh
In this book, he tells his own personal story from failed law student to newspaperman to the wire service and eventually to the New York Times (twice), the New Yorker and in recent years the London Review of Books.
Learning how Hersh got his scoops puts the lie to charges anything he wrote is “fake news.” He did the research and found the truth where ever it took him.
Hersh credits the late I.F. Stone, a legendary Washington, D.C. investigative reporter who with a small newsletter made big news, for inspiring him.
After they met Hersh stopped accepting whatever officials told him. He began walking out of official briefings at the Pentagon, where he was the New York Times beat reporter, and going instead for one on one interviews with top brass away from the glare of all the other cameras.
In a world where sources can mean everything, he cultivated some of the best possible contacts.
Hersh especially stands out in the Internet era when legitimate journalists are side by side on the daily news feed with anyone with a computer – including a lot of conspiracy theories, troublemakers, criminals and even foreign governments (i.e. Russia) out to poison our political discourse and trash our culture and heritage.
Trump and many Republicans buy into all of that, from crazies like Alex Jones to the carefully filtered flatulence on many Fox news shows, especially that of Sean Hannity.
However, none of that takes away from the work of Hersh and others who are dedicated to telling the truth even when it is not popular or in fashion, and may even be dangerous (a sickening number of journalists were killed last year doing their jobs).
So, skip the eight books by Fox News hosts with the same sorry sad party line parroted over and over and pay heed to journalisms equivalent of another hero, Senator John McCain. Each is or was a maverick who lived by the rule that you need ethics and you need to stand by what is real and true, even when the spin artists say otherwise.
You may not agree with all they say but you know everything they say is true to the best of their ability to present it, and they are prepared to deflect the arrows of the newspeak crowd that values a sick form of personal fealty over truth to get out the message.
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