New Republic critic Alex Shephard blasted three new books by conservative authors Hugh Hewitt of MSNBC, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Fox News host Eric Bolling, each of whom, Shephard said, struggles to form a coherent political philosophy out of President Trump's scattershot agenda and ever-shifting positions.
Liberals and conservatives writing about Trump, Shephard said, are struggling to establish that "there must be a person of substance behind the weird hair and the too-long ties -- that there is a profound truth amidst the tweets and the hoopla and the bombast."
He continued, "Six months into Trump’s first term, however, there is no evidence that there is any depth to the man. The real Trump is the one right in front of us, tweeting about the blood coming from Mika Brzezinski’s face. He has almost no grasp of policy, and takes no interest in it. He has no ideological convictions, even if he has a raw, emotional understanding of the politics of white grievance. He acts like the extremely wealthy and privileged man he is, without fear of consequence."
This hasn't stopped three right-wing authors from trying to claim that the Trump phenomenon is confirmation and justification for their own personal beliefs, however.
Hugh Hewitt's new book The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook For a Lasting GOP Majority, Shephard wrote, "like its author, is comically pretentious." Hewitt trots out a parade of platitudes and vagaries that serve as conventional wisdom in the AM talk radio demimonde from which he sprang.
"The Founding Fathers knew liberty," Hewitt says repeatedly in his section on the judiciary. At another juncture, Shephard noted, Hewitt pontificates that Trump "needs some wins, and early. Big Wins. Lasting wins. Wins you can point to for decades to come.”
Newt Gingrich's new book, Understanding Trump, is mostly remarkable, Shephard said, for how little writing Gingrich actually did to produce it.
"Significant chunks of Trump’s 1987 opus The Art of the Deal are quoted in full. At one point he quotes BuzzFeed plagiarist turned Independent Journal Review bully Benny Johnson for more than three full pages. Much of the remainder of the book is made up of passages from Trump’s speeches and excerpts from articles Gingrich may or may not have read online," Shephard said.
Essentially, New Republic concluded, Gingrich's book is a lighter-than-air retelling of Trump's story with the more problematic racist episodes airbrushed out.
"Trump, in Gingrich’s telling, is a kind of political idiot savant -- which is why he needs Newt Gingrich. Ultimately, the vision of Trump that Gingrich settles on is a vision of Gingrich himself," said Shephard.
Eric Bolling, like the previous two authors, beholds our new president and sees his own beliefs writ large. In his The Swamp: Washington’s Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It, the Fox host argues that every American presidential administration to hang out its shingle in Washington has been corrupt.
Government is an evil in and of itself, Bolling's book says, and therefore the free market should be the only arbiter of regulations and requirements for companies.
"Bolling mostly comes across like a dumb Hobbes: People do bad things and because they do bad things, we should destroy the state as we know it and let these same people regulate their own affairs," Shephard said.
Each of the three books seeks to co-opt and claim the Trump movement to suit its own ideological conclusions, wrote Shephard. The fact that it's so easy for them to do so is an indictment of both Trump and of the modern Republican Party.
He concluded that the GOP "has reached a nihilistic endpoint. It might control the federal government but, as we’ve seen with the sputtering attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare, it is devoid of a coherent governing program beyond redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich. As Trump himself has shown, when a party has been hollowed out, the hucksters rush in."