Book Review: A Warning Anonymous – A warning about Trump that comes a little too late

Sarthak Ray
Anonymous was prompted to write A Warning because he was appalled at the pettiness and bile Trump showed himself to be capable of at the time of Republican rival John McCain's death.

A Warning, authored by an anonymous Trump administration official who, in a 2018 New York Times op-ed, had claimed to be a part of the quiet resistance in the White House working to thwart the President's 'worst inclinations' and save America from its incumbent president, is an unusual book. And not because of its content. What Anonymous warns of was pretty much evident to everyone who had their eyes and ears open during Trump's campaign in 2015. There were many warnings then, but Anonymous and his tribe of 'naive Republicans' ignored these. Willfully, because if they have the faculties to see today the shadow the Trump presidency casts on the planet's future, they were certainly capable of choosing differently in 2015. But, they didn't.

It is an unusual book because it is hard to say what one should make of it. Much of what is written is known. What is new, isn't unexpected. Also, none of it seems like it comes from a true insider-Anonymous is aware of what has transpired in certain cases, but doesn't seem like someone who had a ring-side view. To be fair, the book perhaps was deliberately kept so, given the horrors exposure could bring for Anonymous (Trump had tweeted "TREASON?" after the 2018 op-ed got published). That said, it isn't just more Trump literature. It is, after all, the silent defiance of someone handpicked by Trump to be part of his administration put into words. So, Anonymous must also be read into while reading A Warning.

Anonymous was prompted to write A Warning because he was appalled at the pettiness and bile Trump showed himself to be capable of at the time of Republican rival John McCain's death. Not because of how Trump walked America out of the Paris deal on climate action (the most important issue of our time), how his administration undermined the Healthcare Act (it hit poor Republicans as bad as it did poor Democrats), the administration's inhuman immigration policy, etc. In fact, that all this has come to pass despite the insider resistance is evidence that the resistance means little. Hence, the realisation that a "wet Band-Aid wouldn't hold together a gaping wound". That said, Anonymous does feel guilty. Else, he wouldn't be offering the painful banalities about 'reasonable people' who voted for Trump because they "love their country" and wanted to "shake up the establishment". Unfortunately, 'reasonable people' didn't shake up the establishment; they facilitated the worst attack on the 'founding principles' of the US that they wanted to protect from the establishment's apathy.

One of the most revealing passages in the book is the part where Anonymous discusses how some of the most damagingly partisan steps were taken in spite of Trump's flip-flops. The US Supreme Court has now crucial conservative bench strength that could further the Republican agenda, especially in matters like abortion, religious views on homosexuality influencing denial of service, etc. That was achieved, partly, with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, who had been accused of sexual assault. Though Trump and the Republican Party were on the same page on this one, there are issues where "when he (Trump) goes wobbly, GOP leaders stage late-night or unplanned interventions". Whether Trump is just the smokescreen and it is the Iikes of Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell who run the show, the fall guy is irrelevant. What we do know is the dangerous lengths the Republican Party is willing to go to keep its current occupant in the Oval Office. The Trump impeachment trial shows up the basket of deplorables the Senate Republicans showed themselves as willing to become to keep the Trump circus running even as the fundamentals of America's liberal democracy are bulldozed. Anonymous, too, doesn't favour impeachment, even though he has written a whole book on why Trump shouldn't be brought back to power.

The early parts of the chapter, Assault on Democracy, however, do reveal a particular trait of Trump's personality that one would, not surprisingly, find among the worst dictators and authoritarians-a premium given to loyalty, above all else. The string of Trump firings and the very public accusations of Deep State out to undermine him are evidence of the American president's paranoia about being betrayed and undermined. It also explains why his family members, notably daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, have been given state responsibilities in a manner that is deeply worrying, if not outright illegal.

There are bits in the book that are deeply disturbing, if not shocking. For instance, it wouldn't have been until A Warning was out that anyone outside the White House would have known that Trump wanted to label undocumented immigrants as 'enemy combatants' and have them locked up in maximum security prisons. Thankfully, even the most partisan members in the administration didn't stand for this.

It is hard to think of A Warning as a warning. Those who would choose differently in the coming elections have already known, if not in 2015, then over the last four years. And those who are still considering voting for Trump will not be swayed. They perhaps want the reality show Trump's producing for them, and wouldn't hesitate to be in it. With A Warning, Anonymous has done what he thinks is his job-tell Republicans to push for their party to go 'Never Trump' or, at the very least, not vote for him. But, the fact is, Trump is the packaging; it is the Republican Party and its positions that are looking increasingly ominous, not just for the US, but also for the world. You have been warned.

Book Details

A Warning
Pp 272, Rs 599