Q1.  What are some features of the book that make it enjoyable to read?

A1.  Readers have at parts choked on their coffee (unanticipated hilarity; they survived). The final chapter is SAD.  

As one reader explains, “what you will learn in the book is SO different than what you learn from mainstream media … it is compelling and riveting.” 

Love him, hate him, or anywhere in between, President Trump is a fascinating character.  Yet there are few careful, firsthand, candid observations about this president. As the same reader told me, “you didn't have an agenda you were just sharing what you had learned with the reading public and you do so quite beautifully if not brilliantly.”


Q2.  Does the book evade the topic of Trump's tariffs and immigration policy?

A2.  No!  Two chapters are dedicated to tariffs and a third chapter to immigration policy.  They include what inside (the White House) economists cannot say and what outside economists do not know (although they should).


Q3.  Does the book reveal who wrote the Anonymous oped and book?

A3.  Pretty close.  Chapter 5's detailed comparison of the accounts of Mr./Ms. Anonymous and what I saw with my own eyes in the White House goes a long way toward identifying the author of those accounts. The author, for example, has some undergraduate training in history but no training in scholarship. For many more details about Mr./Ms. Anonymous, please read Chapter 5. 

Chapter 5 also anticipates why John Bolton's new book distorts the truth, omits important context, and contradicts critical facts in plain sight. I explain more in Bolton is wrong; I was there.


Q4.  What is “populism”?

A4.  Helen Dale's review of A Hillbilly Elegy describes how a “high-handed [policy-making] process relieves [policymakers] of the burden of thinking about what our rules will do to individuals on the receiving end. ...when people rebel at the ballot box, we are shocked.” Populism is conflict between everyday Americans and a small, unelected, and insulated ruling class. The latter often claims that there is no real substance to populism and that the former have retreated into a primitive “us versus them mentality.”


My book shows how the ruling class failed to fully appreciate the concerns of the rest of the country and is rarely accountable to them, which created political opportunities grasped by candidate Trump. The ruling class does not understand the costs of forcing people to buy health insurance. It struggles to remember that more people might see reversing the opioid epidemic as more urgent than reversing climate change. And, even while lacking many dimensions of wisdom, the ruling class will sometimes mock those that they rule.


Understanding populism, and not just from the ruling class perspective, is essential to understanding candidate and President Donald Trump.


Q5.  You refer to a “ruling class” but haven't government officials, journalists and academic commentators earned their positions on the basis of their skills and achievements? Hasn't there been a “Triumph of the Technocrats”?

A5.  The technocrats have certainly triumphed in that their pens/keyboards write the regulations and statutes.  But systematic examination of those rules (including, but not limited to, the findings of Patrick McLaughlin and I) reveals that the analysis of the technocrats borders on the absurd and is readily manipulated by special interests. Complementing the systematic examinations are the specific episodes described in my book.


Moreover, what is above is a charitable response to Q4. My book also shows how technocrats sometimes become invested in failed policies, make no effort to discover the failures, and sometimes actively attempt to hide evidence of them. The ongoing opioid epidemic is replete with significant examples (Chapter 4).


Q6.  Is the “ruling class” really that small and insulated?

A6.  It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that we all know each other.  At times the absurdity and insularity blend together so remarkably that new regulations are, with no discernible embarrassment, primarily justified by how many Harvard people the authors know (sic), rather than the net benefits of the regulation for the American people.


Q7.  How is the book different from other White House memoirs?

A7.  The book shares important lessons that I learned in the White House, and would not have learned any other way. Those are about the President himself, and what is the populist movement he tapped into.  I acquired a profound new respect for our elected leaders of both political parties. Their contact with, and accountability to, voters brings a valuable set of knowledge lacked by the technocrats, sometimes tragically. Perhaps that makes the book half Presidential biography and half memoir.


My interests, and incentives, are to provide a truthful representation of what happened. I always knew that I would be returning to university life where in principle (although not always in practice, especially at the present), uncovering facts is rewarded regardless of how unpopular the facts may be. The other books about the Trump White House seem to cite the successes, or the failures, but not both.


As preparation, I read every team-Obama memoir that I could find. (One of them is a film, which is fascinating for reasons unintended by its producers). Also memoirs from the Reagan White House, and even Lyndon Johnson's memoir (none of those authors showed any sign of reading memoirs from "the other side.") Their stories helped me formulate comparisons between the Trump White House and previous administrations, although the primary basis for the comparisons is text analysis of government documents.