By Dean Obeidallah, host of "The Dean Obeidallah Show"
The new book, “A Warning,” penned by an anonymous author about his or her time serving in the Trump administration, has generated a massive amount of hype given its very timely publication date. Amidst the ongoing impeachment inquiry hearings, the book reportedly garnered massive preorders before its Tuesday release date. That’s good news for the publisher, the Twelve imprint at the Hachette Book Group, great news for the author — whoever he or she is — and also good news for President Donald Trump.
The benefit to the author, who claims to be “a senior official in the Trump administration,” is self-evident. “A Warning” is on its way to being a hit.
The benefit to the author, who claims to be “a senior official in the Trump administration,” is self-evident. “A Warning” is on its way to being a hit. Per the book’s publisher, the book has already "garnered more preorders than any other nonfiction book at any imprint in the history of Hachette."
Get the think newsletter.
But how does Trump benefit? The excerpts are not kind; in one, the author describes the president as "a twelve-year-old in an air traffic control tower, pushing the buttons of government indiscriminately, indifferent to the planes skidding across the runway and the flights frantically diverting away from the airport." And yet, lots of books have been negative of Trump — Michael Wolff’s highly hyped “Fire and Fury” comes to mind. Without a clear author, Trump can cast doubt on the veracity of the book’s claims, while also playing his favorite card, the victim card.
Trump truly has made victimhood great again. And while myself and many others view Trump’s whining as both laughable and pathetic, Trump’s base seems to love it. (Have you watched “Fox News” lately? It offers a nightly master class in how to twist various political and social narratives and reposition them as evidence that the world is out to get you.)
The very fact this book is written by an anonymous author further enables Trump to claim he’s again being attacked by his favorite nemesis. Trump has repeatedly attacked “anonymous sources” cited in articles critical of him as being “fake news” that “don’t even exist.” Now he has a whole book to rail against, as well as the media establishment which will be covering it. In fact, don’t be surprised if Trump slams the book as just proof that the liberal media is out to get him. It doesn’t matter to Trump that the publisher, Hachette Book Group, has also released books by Trump defenders Newt Gingrich and Fox News contributor Star Parker, whose latest book praises Trump as being great for America. Facts don’t matter to Trump when he’s throwing hunks of red meat to his base.
Nor should you be surprised if Trump or his media allies dub the author a “Never Trumper” or part of the deep state’s efforts to unseat him.
Those allegations are both damning and downright frightening. Such information from a credible source could possibly move some people still undecided about Trump as we head into the 2020 election to not vote for him. Whether it will have the same impact without a name attached to it remains to be seen.
Another problem created by the author’s anonymity is that it requires the book to edit out specific details about episodes of conduct documented in order to protect his or her identity. By doing so, again, the author deprives us of more vivid details that might better reinforce the “warning” he or she wants us to grasp.
Overall, though, the big question is what are the actual stakes here? If this was truly such a dangerous and pivotal moment, surely that would be more important than job security?
The author has answered that question with a very uncompelling reason: “I have decided to publish this anonymously because this debate is not about me.”
I won’t call the author a coward. But the author has missed an opportunity to do exactly what he or she said they wanted to. This is supposed to be a warning, but it feels like more of a profile in profits than a profile in courage.
Dean Obeidallah, a lawyer, hosts "The Dean Obeidallah Show" on SiriusXM radio's Progress channel and is a columnist for The Daily Beast.