"Unmaking the Presidency, devastating in its understatedness, may prove to be the most important book about the Trump presidency." —Tabatha Southey, Maclean's
The definitive account of how Donald Trump has wielded the powers of the American presidency
The extraordinary authority of the U.S. presidency has no parallel in the democratic world. Today that authority resides in the hands of one man, Donald J. Trump. But rarely if ever has the nature of a president clashed more profoundly with the nature of the office. Unmaking the Presidency tells the story of the confrontation between a person and the institution he almost wholly embodies.
From the moment of his inauguration, Trump has challenged our deepest expectations of the presidency. But what are those expectations, where did they come from, and how great is the damage? As editors of the “invaluable” (The New York Times) Lawfare website, Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes have attracted a large audience to their hard-hitting and highly informed commentary on the controversies surrounding the Trump administration. In this book, they situate Trump-era scandals and outrages in the deeper context of the presidency itself. How should we understand the oath of office when it is taken by a man who may not know what it means to preserve, protect, and defend something other than himself? What aspects of Trump are radically different from past presidents and what aspects have historical antecedents? When has he simply built on his predecessors’ misdeeds, and when has he invented categories of misrule entirely his own?
By setting Trump in the light of history, Hennessey and Wittes provide a crucial and durable account of a presidency like no other.
Hennessey and Wittes (The Future of Violence), editors of national security website Lawfare, deliver a penetrating partisan analysis of President Trump's first term in office. Part catalogue of current events, part historical study, the book draws unflattering comparisons between Trump and former presidents, including George Washington, whose statement condemning the razing of a Cherokee town by Georgia settlers in 1792 is set alongside Trump's comment there were "very fine people on both sides" of a 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a white supremacist killed a counterprotester. Hennessey and Wittes illuminate how the constitutional system of checks and balances has stymied Trump's "processless brand of decision-making," noting that his first two executive orders restricting travel to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries were struck down by federal courts, and recounting instances in which officials in the State and Justice departments contradicted presidential statements. The book's wealth of factoids ("President Grover Cleveland answered the White House telephone each time it rang") and keen insights into Trump's character ("a man who wore his propensity to abuse power on his sleeve") provide much food for thought. Liberals and independent-minded readers of presidential histories will savor this thorough, lucidly written account.