Good Donald Trump and Bad Donald Trump

Jeffrey Toobin in The New York Times:

It’s a rare Washington memoir that makes you gasp in the very second sentence. Here’s the first sentence from William P. Barr’s “One Damn Thing After Another,” an account of his two turns as attorney general: “The first day of December 2020, almost a month after the presidential election, was gray and rainy.” Indeed it was. Here’s the second: “That afternoon, the president, struggling to come to terms with the election result, had heard I was at the White House. …” Uh, “struggling to come to terms with”? Not exactly. How about “struggling to overturn the election he just lost” or “struggling to subvert the will of the voters”? Maybe “struggling to undermine American democracy.”

Such opening vignettes serve a venerable purpose in the Washington memoir genre: to show the hero speaking truth to power. Barr had just told a reporter that the Justice Department had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.” This enraged the president. “You must hate Trump,” Trump told Barr. “You would only do this if you hate Trump.” But Barr stood his ground. He repeated that his team had found no fraud in the election results. (This is because there was none.) By the end of the book, Barr uses the election controversy as a vehicle for a novel interpretation of the Trump presidency: Everything was great until Election Day, 2020. As Barr puts it, “In the final months of his administration, Trump cared only about one thing: himself. Country and principle took second place.” For Barr, it was as if this great president experienced a sudden personality transplant. “After the election,” Barr writes, “he was beyond restraint. He would only listen to a few sycophants who told him what he wanted to hear. Reasoning with him was hopeless.”

More here.