Slate’s Slow Burn – TwoMorePages Podcast Review

Slate’s Slow Burn – TwoMorePages Podcast Review

Holy shit this was good. Like “drop everything you’re doing and listen to this right now” good. I’m new to the podcast world and never thought I’d be a person who listened to podcasts, much less spent time reviewing them.

But HOT DAMN THIS WAS GOOD. Informative, entertaining – everything you could want from a history lesson.

Listening to Slow Burn was like listening to a remarkably fun history lecture. And I got do it with my friends Chadd Hanus and Rachel Hanes!

There were two main takeaways in this pod for me:

What even happened in Watergate?

A) What the hell happened in Watergate? It happened before I was born so I feel like most of what I know is just steeped in lore.

Everyone seems to universally agree it was bad (hence why every scandal now has a -gate next to it), regardless of political party. But I didn’t really know what was involved in it before I listened to this pod.

(Rachel here!) So, what struck me the most is this. Okay, imagine with me for a moment that you’re like 87 years old. Maybe you are, I don’t know. But you were born during the great depression and can remember WWII and you definitely remember the Cold War, not to mention the Watergate era. Now imagine getting the news today. Wouldn’t you be like “Wait. I thought we defeated the Nazis? What do you mean we have chilly relations with Russia again? Wait what? A president degrading the press and involved in electioneering dirty tricks? DIDN’T WE SOLVE THESE PROBLEMS???” 

Just a fun little thought exercise. 

I think if you had asked me about it before I listened to this podcast, I would have given you some vague answer about Republicans breaking into the Democratic headquarters, and Nixon helping to cover that up.

But I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what they stole or why that was important; more importantly, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you what exactly was involved in the cover up and why it brought down Nixon.

For instance, the first episode goes into how Republican government officials DRUGGED AND RESTRAINED A SENATOR’S WIFE WHO KNEW TOO MUCH AND WAS BLABBING IT ABOUT IT. Whaaaaat?! This is real life? Holy shit.

Less salaciously, the second episode goes into how there was a US Rep from Texas (FUCK YEAH TEXAS!) that smelled something fishy and worked really hard to get a congressional hearing, only to have Nixon have his Republican friends squash it and never see the light of day.

Ahhh, back when we had Texas leaders willing to stand up for what’s right….the good ol’ days.

Or, the fact that the case was almost dead in the water until one person in Nixon’s inner circle said something like “So, I guess you guys already know that the President has an automatic taping device in each of his offices?” Talk about an unforced error – would Watergate even be in the public consciousness if Nixon hadn’t been so paranoid so as to record his Presidential conversations? Or would it have just been buried as “another partisan attack” in the annals of history?

This KILLED me. Because basically Nixon got taken down in the same stupid manner that Trump’s administration keeps shooting itself in the foot. I had never heard this part of the saga before either – and in a way it’s scary that basically these guys just keep having to stick their feet in their mouths in order for us to have any idea about anything their doing. 

Speaking of partisan attacks: it was interesting – and both scary and comforting – to hear that Nixon and his guys tried to get out of the whole mess caused by their shenanigans by blaming a hyper-partisan, liberal press that was “out to get” Nixon and all Republicans. Sounds a little familiar. 

Also, side note – I did not know that Nixon’s Vice President got removed from office literally a week before he did for totally unrelated bribery charges; WHAAAAAAT?! Moreover, it was really shocking to hear that Nixon had counted on his VP to be his impeachment insurance policy – thinking that people would vote against his impeachment in order to prevent his VP from being President instead.

So yeah, I learned a lot haha.

Damn that also was super eerily close to what’s going on today, i.e. vp insurance policy. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if Trump is counting on everyone disliking Pence just as much as they dislike him – or on everybody being more scared of Pence because he may get more scary stuff done. 

Wait, what year is this?

Image result for what year is it

Episode 5, “True Believers” delved into the topic of President Nixon’s supporters and their thoughts during the whole debacle, and is the main subject of my second takeaway: how weirdly similar it is to today’s events with Trump.

Public support for Nixon apparently remained relatively high up until the Saturday Night Massacre, where he fired his Attorney General and his deputy Attorney General for refusing to fire the special counsel.

And you know, I’d like to think that a similar Saturday Night Massacre would convince people that some shady shenanigans were going on, but uhhh, James Comey and Sally Yates, etc, were already let go and there just wasn’t the same level of outrage from the entirety of the nation as there was when Nixon did it. Heck, just this week the Republicans in the House put up Articles of Impeachment for Rod Rosenstein so they could eventually get to firing Mueller and even that only earned a few small paragraphs in the nations news. 

It was really eerie hearing radio clips and arguments that could have literally been copy/pasted to today. Things like

(paraphrased) “The liberal press, namely the New York Times and the Washington Post, have it out for the President, and are just looking for controversy”

Geeeh, where might I have heard THAT before? At least they didn’t call them “the enemy of the American people”…so +1 point for Nixon’s supporters? lol

“Richard Nixon’s apologists thought that liberals were obssessed with attacking the President.

Liberals meanwhile thought that Nixon apologists were willing to go to absurd lengths to ignore the truth to cover up for the President.”

Uh…that seems familiar.

“What about Clinton/Obama Chappaquiddick? Nixon might be a bad guy, but Kennedy was WAY WORSE”

One of the arguments that Nixon supporters used to bring up whenever Nixon’s misdeeds were brought to light was a familiar refrain: WHATABOUT (other democratic person)?

As if there was no way for both things to be bad…?

Seems exactly like whenever Trump does something unquestioningly bad, and instead of trying to defend him, his supporters then just go “What about xxxx”.

Main difference being that most of the things that they accuse Clinton or Obama of are pure fantasy: Uranium One/Pizzagate with Clinton; Death Panels/Invasion of Texas/Not Being Born Here with Obama. Chappaquiddick at least *did* happen.

Yep yep yep, this is what I was saying earlier. There are SO MANY PARALLELS. Although, what worries me about the scary similarity Watergate has to today are actually the non-parallels. During the Watergate era there were a very limited number of news stations and newspapers. And definitely no internet. So it was kinda hard to get people totally into their partisan bubbles (yeah there were conspiracy theory radio shows but those were really not super effective – at least according to this podcast). Today, people are so hyper-“bubbled” that I don’t know if we’ll ever get enough people on the same page to start fully convincing the nation some more “dirty tricks” are going on. 

Conclusion

Slow Burn is the first stand alone podcast that I’ve listened to, standalone meaning it had a definitive beginning, middle, and end (vs serialized like Pod Save America.)

I really enjoyed it. I’ll be honest, I originally just wanted to see how similar/different Watergate was to what is going right now with Trump and Mueller’s investigation, inspired in part because John Oliver has hilariously named what’s going on as “Stupid Watergate: A scandal potentially on the scale of Watergate, but where everyone involved is dumb and bad and terrible at everything”

The similarities are…kind of eerie in how alike they are:

  1. Both Presidents described the investigations against them as witch-hunts
  2. Both Trump and Nixon supporters attacked the Press as “liberal” institutions making up fake stories to discredit the President.
  3. The House of Representatives initially had investigations squashed by partisanship (Dumb Devin Nunes in our time closed the House Intel Committee’s investigation without even interviewing all possible witnesses / Patterson in the 1970s got his squashed by Nixon’s friends)
  4. (Potentially), both could be blown wide open with the presence of tapes that nobody had previously known about.

 

Interestingly enough, Slow Burn is about to start a second “season” where it goes into Clinton’s impeachment proceedings. Given the quality of this podcast’s dive into Watergate, I am definitely listening to it. I’m not only going to listen to things that make Republican presidents look bad. I want to learn ALL THE THINGS! 😀

Oh yeah, the Clinton White House 100% deserves its turn, no doubt, no doubt. And I’m ready for it 🙂 

And this podcast has opened my eyes to stand alone podcasts. I just started The Wilderness in part because I enjoyed this one so much.

Slate.com did a really good job with Slow Burn; I was extremely impressed between the interviews, historical references, and new things I never knew before. 🙂

 

Advertisements

Yes We (Still) Can – TwoMorePages Book Review

Yes We (Still) Can – TwoMorePages Book Review

This book is an argument to young people that politics is something very much worth engaging in. It’s fun, fulfilling, and really damn important.

Hello all! Rachel here, I’ll be starting off this review, but don’t worry, I’ll still be writing in blue (just to make it easy). Oh, by the way, parentheses are a thing now. Dan Pfeiffer said so. (PAHAHAHAHA. well, if Dan Pfeiffer said so… haha)

Okay, so like many who read this book, I first heard of Dan Pfeiffer through Pod Save America; I just knew any book by those guys was bound to be pretty damn sweet. And I was not disappointed. Unlike many post-administration memoirs, this book is not a gossip-laden, my president and I were the most righteous people ever, here’s every instance in which I saved the country type of book (Dan also made that clear right off the bat.) Rather, this memoir was a rousing telling of how the Obama Administration came to be, its highs and lows, and how the nation can move forward in this um…interesting political era if we learn from past successes and mistakes.

This book BLEW ME AWAY. Like Rachel mentioned, I learned about this book from Pod Save America, my favorite podcast in the world. I thought it would be good, but HOT DAMN, THIS MIGHT BE THE BEST BOOK I READ THIS YEAR. (Yes, I’m shouting in caps. Yes, that’s on purpose!)

The tone, the message, the stories. I loved EVERYTHING ABOUT THIS BOOK.

This review will be quote heavy. Dan makes his points so well, sometimes it’s hard to build on his poignancy.

So let’s start with the most personally inspiring one shall we?

At the end of the conversation, Obama looked me right in the eye and asked “How often do you get to put your shoulder against the wheel of history and push?”

Wow. I think this is going to be my go-to phrase to pump myself up for volunteering this election season. Here we go Beto!

The Campaign

What most impressed me, in Dan’s description of Obama’s campaign years, was his tale of the campaign’s culture: no assholes allowed. Amazing. I already knew the campaign team was known as “No Drama Obama,” but I didn’t know quite what that meant. 

Our team eventually became known as “No Drama Obama.” Loyal to one another, total commitment to a cause, empowerment and inclusion, and no leaks. People who didn’t adhere to these principles didn’t get through the door, and the few that did ended up working a backwater field office in a noncompetitive state.” If you ask anyone from President Obama on down to a field organizer in Story County, Iowa, they will tell you that our culture was one of the things of which they were proudest.

Huh. Sounds a little different from a certain somebody’s campaign and presidency. No names mentioned. 

Most people think that the motto of the 2008 campaign was “Yes, We Can” or “Hope and Change”; it was actually something we abbreviated to the family-friendly “WTF.” This was our motto and our attitude. When faced with a choice between something safe with less upside or a higher-risk, higher-reward option, we always chose the latter.

I thought this quote was particularly hilarious. It’s weird to think that even from a staffer’s perspective, Obama’s presidency was the longest of long shots that worked basically because of gambles that paid off.

The Presidency

Obviously this book is partisan. Dan Pfeiffer played an integral role in the Obama Administration and he gives us no doubt about where his political loyalty lies. But he also takes a very critical view of politics in America that is honestly quite refreshing, when it isn’t soul-crushingly depressing. Oh well. In a great sum-up of the Obama years, Dan writes: 

For eight years, Barack Obama dealt with:

  • A dystopic, anything-goes media environment upended by the emergence of the internet.
  • An intellectually bankrupt and increasingly rabid Republican Party
  • A right-wing propaganda machine embodied by Fox News
  • The rising tide of fake news and conspiracy theories
  • The emergence of social media platforms such as Twitter that reward the loudest voices and penalize thoughtfulness and analysis.

I think we can all agree this has gotten worse in the past two years. 

Another notable difference between the former and current presidents (although if I was actually to list all the differences I’d be typing until December probably) was their so-called “media diets.” 

In contrast to Trump’s addiction to cable news and Twitter, Obama had a much healthier (and thoughtful) media diet. If Obama read something interesting in a magazine, he would tab it and ask his personal assistant to share it with the relevant members of the senior staff. Sometimes these were stories that highlighted an interesting policy problem that he wanted the staff to address, and other times they were just interesting stories he thought we should read, such as a piece by historian Taylor Branch in the Atlantic criticizing college athletics and a piece in the New Yorker about the possible extinction of bees.

I LOVED this. Remember when we had an intelligent, critical, discerning president…ah the good ol’ days. (*sigh* Are cartoons allowed in this review?

Image result for wolverine crush on Obama)

As someone who very nerdily once dreamed of becoming a presidential speechwriter or Chief of Staff this book was pure gold (even though I know Pfeiffer wasn’t actually a speechwriter or Chief of Staff, he was close – tomatoes, tomahtoes.) So when Pfeiffer was able to talk about how the inner White House functioned, and about Obama’s speech giving – which I always admired – I was pumped. 

Reagan mythology aside, Obama is the greatest communicator of the modern political era. He delivers speeches of oratorical brilliance. In interviews, he manages to seem extraordinarily talented and ordinarily grounded at the same time. No president has been able to hold a crowd so rapt, whether it was a boisterous political rally or a somber memorial service, like Obama.

I 100% agree with Dan here. Having read through many of his speeches, and listened to many more, it’s clear that he and his communications team were top-of-the-line. And I agree even more with Dan, that it is quite a shame that the culture of instant news, instant gratification, Twitter, and “fake news,” limited Obama’s ability to get his speeches and ideas to the public in the manner he wanted, and needed. And as Dan said, Democrats are gonna have to learn to move forward – ahead of the future, not just in line with it – if they want to take back Congress or the White House. 

Yeah one thing that Obama did *so well* was give speeches. I’m actually still seeing some NOW, after his Presidency, for the first time. It does suck that this amazing ability of his got sidelined because well…the internet kind of made ignoring speeches way easier. I’M SORRY OBAMA {and I’m also SO SORRY for not being as politically active as I am now, and not voting in midterms, giving you that awful Congress that you had to fight for 7/8 years of your Presidency… 😥   }

Fox (And Friends) is Destroying America

Yep, yep it is. Without a doubt. 

If you want to know why the Republican Party has become so far out of the mainstream, you have only to look to Fox News.

If you want to know why large portions of the Republican Party believe in debunked conspiracy theories about Barack Obama and refuse to believe accurate reports about Trump, look to Fox News.

If you want to know why so many Republicans yell “fake news” at information that challenges their point of view, look to Fox News. f you want to know why nativism and racism are resurgent in the Republican Party, look to Fox News.

And if you want to know how we ended up with Trump as president, yet again look to Fox News.

More than a decade or so later, I am still in awe of how ham-handedly racist Fox can be.

Really couldn’t have summed up Fox New’s effect on America better than that. I could go on more about it, but I imagine you should probably just read the book.

This was by far my favorite chapter in the book. And woohoo – Rachel opened this section with my favorite quote from it! Fucking Fox News…turning my otherwise 100% reasonable friends and family into conspiracy lunatics. 😥

Fox News isn’t covering news from a perspective that is outside the elite media bubble; it is not even covering issues from a conservative perspective. Simply put, Fox News is not a news outlet. It is a Republican propaganda machine masquerading as a news outlet.

Preach!

“These are just hyperbolic claims” you say? Well, Dan goes into the evidence:

When Obama was president, Fox News almost never covered the good news in the economic recovery, but now that Trump is president, the same jobs and growth numbers that were ignored or dismissed under Obama are trumpeted from the rooftops.

When Obama was president, the consistent theme was that Obama was not tough
enough in his response to Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria. Now that Trump is president, in part because Russia interfered with our election, Fox News is leading the defense of Trump’s pro-Putin foreign policy.

Going outside the scope of this book, here is Fox News reporting on talking with North Korea, both under Obama and under Trump.

The brazenness of Fox’s bullshit really bugged me. I wanted to inflict some measure of pain on them. Denying them an Obama interview and giving one to their competitors was the biggest card we had to play.

Switching topics to something that I *didn’t* know about before, Pfeiffer went into detail about the time that Obama’s administration temporarily took away Fox’s press credentials. I honestly entirely missed this when it happened – whoops…

First, Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday and son of legendary journalist MIke Wallace, is the exception to the rule when it comes to Fox. Unlike most of his counterparts, he will aggressively question Republicans and Democrats and at times has called out some of Fox’s bullshit. Wallace was the wrong person to pick t his fight with.

I really liked how he was introspective about the mistakes he made when making that decision too. Very few people would be able to do this. Honestly, that makes him a bigger man than me.

Many of the reporters who rose to Fox’s defense now tell me that they regretted the way it played out because it gave Fox a veneer of objectivity that they didn’t deserve.

And years later when Trump declared war on all of the media except Fox, blacklisting some from campaign events and using the White House to attack networks by name, Fox did not reciprocate that loyalty. In fact, they reveled in their new role as the propaganda arm of the Trump White House.

…aaaaand, bringing this back to present day, we have a President that calls the press the enemy of the American people. Ugh.

When Pfeiffer tried to exclude Fox News, every other news outlet came to their defense. Now that the Trump administration is basically giving preferential treatment to Fox News and shitting on CNN and MSNBC and even CBS now somehow…crickets.

I wonder if we make it out of this administration if Fox News will start being excluded again, and if that’s the right decision or not. I suppose you could ONLY give interviews to Wallace…?

That Stupid “Obama Wasn’t Born Here” Conspiracy

While we were focused on things like saving the economy and passing a health care bill, however, the rightwing fringe was in overdrive. They had become convinced that the “Certificate of Live Birth” we’d released during the campaign was a forgery.

A major part of the conspiracy centered on the difference between the “Certificate of Live Birth” we released and his “long-form birth certificate,” which was on file with the state of Hawaii.

It’s hard to overstate how dumb a discrepancy this is, but it is also hard to overstate how dumb the Far Right of the Republican Party can be.

It still makes me instantly angry whenever someone tries to say that Obama wasn’t born here. Hearing a firsthand account from Pfeiffer’s perspective was illuminating.

During this period, I was living in blissful ignorance of these machinations even though I knew the president was interested in releasing his birth certificate. This was a classic Barack Obama move. He had a natural tendency to want to address the elephant in the room, even if it took him off whatever we thought was the best message. His instinct was usually right, but in this instance, I couldn’t bring myself to give in to Donald Trump and the band of racist nutjobs that he represented.

I didn’t realize that Obama really wanted to just release his birth certificate and be done with it. I remember distinctly thinking at the time that if I was him, I would want to, just to say “STFU YOU STUPID IDIOTS. HERE’S MY BIRTH CERTIFICATE. STOP BEING IDIOTS.” on live TV.

I had always just assumed that he didn’t for so long because that would in essence be “letting the crazies win.” I didn’t realize it was people like Pfeiffer that were holding him back haha.

The president wanted to use this opportunity to take the conversation to a bigger idea beyond the birth certificate. He wanted to talk about the danger of the political conversation getting diverted by these side issues.

Obama is a much better man than I am. I definitely would have just taken the podium and said “Fuck you Fox News.” Instead, we got this:

“Now, normally I would not comment on something like this…but two weeks ago,when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate.

But we’re not going to be able to do it if we are distracted. We’re not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other. We’re not going to be able to do it if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts. We’re not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers.”

HOW DID I MISS THIS SPEECH?!

The Affordable Care Act

“What’s the point of amassing political capital if you aren’t willing to use it to help people?” He pointed out to us that if he didn’t try to pass a law to give access to health care to the uninsured on the heels of a landslide election win with huge majorities in Congress, then it would never get done. “If not now, when?”

This quote is just as poignant to me as the “How often do you get to put your shoulder against the wheel of history and push?” quote that I started this review with.

It says so much about two things:

(1) Obama’s character as a person – He could have remained much more politically popular had he not pushed for health care reform. But he did it, because his biggest goal was not his popularity, but to help people. It wasn’t about his ego – it was about people.

Side note – Apparently Obama, in an effort to try to convince Trump to keep the Affordable Care Act intact, told him to just rename it TrumpCare instead of repealing it. “I didn’t have pride of authorship, I just wanted people to have healthcare.”

(2) Obama’s political pragmatism – That quote basically says “This is as good as it realistically gets. If we’re too chickenshit to try this now, it will literally never happen.”

We prepared for some of the obvious criticisms of any health care bill: Is it a government takeover of health care? Will it raise your taxes? Will it raise your premiums? Etc.

Here’s one we didn’t prepare for: Obamacare will kill you.

I’ve been in arguments before, political or otherwise, where a counterargument comes so far out of left field that I’m temporarily stunned and just go “WAT?!’ (spelled like that on purpose). (Side note – apparently my friend Joe thinks that is my signature phrase, since he said that when trying to do an imitation of me lolol)

Like you prepare for reasonable arguments. How do you prepare for something based on lies that isn’t based on the truth at all?

“This provision may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia if enacted into law.” Boehner knew that what he was saying was complete bullshit. He just didn’t care.

(Iowa Senator Chuck) Grassley, who was intimately familiar with health care policy and certainly knew the truth, had two options at that moment: Tell his constituent the truth and reassure them, or try to score political points. Grassley chose the latter, telling the constituent that “you have every right to fear…[We] should not have a government run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Republicans – cowards, the lot of them. I’m so ashamed to say that I was ever a Republican.

Obamacare as a not-so-secret strategy to kill old people was the highest-profile and most pernicious attack, but it was far from the only one. The Republicans would repeat ad nauseam that our plan would increase the deficit, even though it was completely paid for through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts. They alleged that it would cut the Medicare benefits that seniors depend on. Also completely false.

When you can’t attack something on its merits, just make shit up – the Republican strategy to literally everything.

On trying to play nice with Republicans

It seems quaint to think about now, but at the time, outreach to Republicans was a core part of our strategy, so much so that at one point I pitched Plouffe on hiring a disillusioned Republican staffer to join the campaign to serve as a point of contact with the conservative media, including Fox News.

Plouffe loved the idea, and we went so far as to put together a list of possible names before the plan died on the vine. The fact that we even considered such an idea is a sign of how different politics was back then.

The president-elect decided in an unusual gesture of bipartisan outreach to travel to Capitol Hill to pitch the Republicans on his plan and personally solicit their help in saving the economy. Usually Congress gets summoned to the White House, but Obama wanted to show them his desire to work with them in good faith.

Reading about how Obama’s administration basically bent over backwards despite at once point having a super majority is…simultaneously inspiring (because it gives me hope for what  President can be) and rage inducing (because @&*@*%@&^% at Trump’s cabinet selections and judicial nominees.).

Zero “yea” votes from the Republican caucus. Not a single House Republican was willing to work with the newly elected Democratic president to prevent the economy from careening into another Great Depression.

“What a dick,” I thought to myself (about Boehner) “You do the right thing and they ratfuck you anyway.”

To this day, I have perfectly reasonable Republican friends of mine continue to accuse Obama of trying to run the country like a dictator…and it is so upsetting knowing that if he had wanted to, he literally could have run roughshod over the Republicans at one point, but decided he wanted to try to compromise for the good of the nation…and was rebuffed.

The President looked up at us, laughed at whatever the Republican lunacy du jour was, and said: “You know, I was elected about a decade too soon.”

The President said that it was inevitable that the country would have a president of color, but the unique circumstances of his candidacy caused this to happen much sooner than would have otherwise occurred.

He went on to explain that we were living in a period of massive, disruptive economic, cultural, and technological change. And that having a black president with the middle name Hussein as the face of that change had real political and cultural consequences. In other words, Barack Obama drove the Republicans insane.

So insane that the Republicans nominated and America elected Donald Trump. When I think about how the first African American president was replaced by a man whose election caused white supremacists to come out from behind their Pepe the Frog Twitter avatars to dance in the street, I think back to this conversation with Obama on the helicopter.

When I watch Paul Ryan and McConnell bend the knee to a man they know to be dangerously unfit for the presidency, I hear Obama’s observation in my head.

The modern Republican Party is dead. It has no coherent ideology or policy agenda. It’s a conglomerate of clowns, con men, and racists and those who enable the clowns, con men, and racists. American democracy depends on having two functioning political parties. We have only one (it’s the Democrats, I swear).

I know that’s a long passage, I’m sorry! But it’s SO GOOD.

The Republicans did not want to be seen breaking bread with Obama because it would upset their voters. They were petrified of being tossed out in a primary challenge if they were photographed treating Barack Obama like a human being.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Their voters hated Obama so much that it paralyzed the Republican Party. Now these Republicans should have had the courage to stand up to the rabid fringe of their party that believed Obama was a secret Muslim Manchurian candidate. That failure is how we ended up with Trump. Before the Republican establishment knew it, the far-right fringe they tried to placate started calling the shots and mainstream Republicans like John
Boehner served at the pleasure of the Breitbart birthers.

*sigh*

During heated budget negotiations in 2011 when Obama and Boehner were on the cusp of a historic deal, Paul Ryan, who was then chair of the Budget Committee, scuttled the deal because it would guarantee Obama’s reelection—even though the deal would have been good for the country and accomplish some of Ryan’s longheld policy goals. In the Republican mind-set, beating Obama in 2012 wasn’t just the primary political goal of the Republican Party; it was their only goal. It was their entire reason for being.

Look. I get that Pfeiffer was an Obama staffer and his perspective will be a bit skewed. But I went and did a little research on this after and it seems true.

Republicans literally turned away a compromise deal that included things that tTHEY WANTED, and THAT WERE GOOD FOR AMERICA, simply because it might make Obama look good.

What. The. Fuck.

But every Obama win came at a long-term cost. The Republican base got angrier and more radicalized. Not just at Obama, but at their own leaders. Faced with this revolt, Republicans like Ryan and McConnell decided to accommodate the crazy instead of confront it.

And this is how the Republican party that I knew (and was a part of) died. Because Ryan and McConnell would rather coddle racists and idiots for votes/power rather than govern.

Barack Obama hates to lose and he really hates to lose to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate. McConnell is smart, diabolical, and basically a robot sent from the future to destroy the progressive agenda. He is the most cynical person in politics and cares about nothing other than the accumulation of power.

Everyone hates Mitch McConnell. He’s terrible.

He’s really bad. Like, really bad.

OH! And the analysis of Mitch McConnell – that’s the kind of good for America gossip I live for. 

Love it. I, like many, can’t stand the man, so it’s somewhat comforting to know that those who work with him also can’t stand him. 

Trump is a symptom of the plague that has infected the Grand Old Party, but he is not the disease itself. Trump didn’t take over the party; he is the end result of a party that weaponized racial anxiety to motivate their base during the Obama era.

:/

Relationships with the Press

Every White House is engaged in a low-intensity conflict with the reporters who show up every day to report on its happenings. Ours was no different.

This is the nature of the beast—the White House wants to get its chosen message out on any given day, and the press wants to report on the things it believes its readers and viewers are most interested in.

The White House reporters want as much access as possible; the White House wants to find the amount of access that is minimally acceptable without getting in the way of doing their job. Conflict is inevitable.

Dan did a really good job of making me learn things when reading his book. I’ve gotten so used to Trump’s ridiculously antagonistic relationship with the press that it genuinely has slipped my mind that the relationship between an administration and the press is not always sunshine and roses, even if you’re not attacking the 1st amendment on a regular basis.

Their job was to hold the president accountable for his or her actions and to be watchdogs against malfeasance and corruption. They took this job seriously—as they should.

Pfeiffer did a great job giving context and nuance to that relationship with his own personal anecdotes.

Presidential frustration with the media has been around as long as we have had presidents and a press. Some presidents vent to their aides; others angrily tweet that journalists are the enemies of the American people.

Twitter Matters

Pfeiffer went into great and insightful detail about why Twitter matters. I never had twitter before King Mierdas became President. I remember being introduced to it and thinking “What can I do on twitter that I can’t do on Facebook? And I’m character limited? This is dumb.” Whoops…

Twitter removes a layer between politicians and the public—creating a closer relationship that is not filtered through the mainstream media and potentially offering an opportunity for conversation or engagement that is normally reserved for elites and the lucky few who find themselves in a town hall. These are all positive  advances for politics and journalism.

On the other hand, Twitter makes politics louder, meaner, and faster. It distorts reality, hypes the trivial, and obscures the important.

Beyond not understanding why twitter even matters to a layperson, I definitely did not understand why twitter matters to campaigns. Pfeiffer’s insights into the pros and cons were much better than I had expected. This is probably where I learned the most from Dan’s book.

Without twitter, Trump would not have won. I believe this. Without Twitter, there is no President Trump.

He managed to use the platform to dominate the political conversation to the point where his Republican primary opponents could never get enough oxygen to mount a real challenge and Hillary Clinton was forced to respond to him so often that her own positive narrative fell by the wayside.

But it’s more than that. Twitter facilitated a coarser, less substantive political culture that significantly benefited Trump, who is at his very core a Twitter troll.

This put her at a disadvantage against Trump, who is legimigately good at Twitter, because for good or ill, he is his authentic self on Twitter. And that is what the platform calls for.

Authenticity is the coin of the Twitter realm.

An unexpected takeaway from this book was “how to be good at twitter as a politician” Dan went into great detail about how a speaker’s authenticity rather than his/her choice of words is what matters the most on Twitter. Politicians can use it to directly connect to a base that would otherwise never know a candidate existed.

(on the Muslim Ban protests)

I was struck by how this many people could end up here so quickly. How did they know about the Muslim ban? It was a Saturday during the NFL play-offs, not exactly a time when people are glued to cable TV.

It was also clear that there was no group organizing the protest, which is frankly how most protests happen these days. Yet somehow all these people from all these different walks of life had gathered together at a moment’s notice. A flash mob for equality and decency.

I heard a group of people standing near Howli and me talking to one another. “How did you hear about all this?” “I saw it on Twitter and it felt like somewhere I should be, so I came.” Twitter. It’s not all bad.

and lay people can use it to organize more efficiently than ever before. As Dan points out, Twitter is a powerful tool. That’s still a weird sentence…

The 2016 election

Not long after, my phone blew up with push notifications informing me of the outcome I’d never imagined possible. An outcome I’d persuaded everyone would not happen—could not happen—had happened. Donald Trump was the president-elect of the United States. Fuck. How did this happen?

Because I (and almost everyone else) thought Trump was too loud, too crass, too inexperienced, and ultimately too ridiculous to be elected, I discounted his strengths as a candidate and the power of the political forces that propelled his candidacy.

Ugh, reading this chapter was like re-living a horrible nightmare. But Pfeiffer did a good job being reflective about what happened so as to learn lessons from it. Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, right?

For all of Trump’s offensive statements and absurd tweets, he had a clear and consistent message that broke through. And the candidate with the more clear and consistent message always wins.

(on attacking Trump for all the terrible things he did in his campaign)

But in the end, these various arguments were never woven into a single coherent narrative about why Donald Trump shouldn’t be president.

Ugh, how I wish this wasn’t true.

Pfeiffer went into detail about how Clinton’s campaign never coalesced around a specific narrative about *why* Donald Trump shouldn’t be President. Their messaging didn’t work.

To my recollection, no one has ever tried the strategy “do so many bad things that the world can’t concentrate on just one and dissect it”. For fuck’s sake, IT’S STILL WORKING NOW! People can’t keep up if you just constantly do bad shit apparently?

It’s counterintuitive to think, but if you’re going to do bad things, you may as well do a BUNCH of bad things? 😕

And I’m just as guilty as Clinton’s campaign. I just assumed that well hey, if one reason is good enough to disqualify him, ten should be TEN TIMES as powerful, right? WRONG.

Campaigns are about telling the American people a story—a story about where we are, where we are going, and why you are the right person, and your opponent is the wrong person, to take the country there.

I never even talked with people like my dad (who ended up voting for Trump…ugh, HOW?!) to see if he was planning on voting for Trump because well…he had disqualified himself so many times, he would obviously lose right?

Well, I talked with my dad AFTER the election, and apparently a big part of the reason for his vote was that “well, everyone discounted him and said he’d never win the primary, and he did, so I thought he must be good at something.”

…..

Oh my god, what Dad?

My sister and I went into the plethora of reasons why Trump would obviously be an unfit President and not only did my dad’s eyes start to glaze over after like the third reason, but he only knew ONE of the three reasons my sister and I started with (the pussygrabbing comments).

If only I’d talked to him BEFORE the election…fuck.

So yeah, poor messaging. Can’t just rely on people figuring it out themselves I guess?

Instead of causing older, more conservative white voters to flee the Democratic Party, Obama was holding on to these voters, who might otherwise have left years ago.

This was a weird realization. Especially since Fox news basically created a narrative out of lies that Obama was the most liberal President ever who had alienated moderates. The only people who believed that were Republicans that weren’t going to vote for him anyway.

It’s hard to argue with numbers showing that more moderate white folks voted for Obama than for Clinton.

Other poignant quotes

There were a couple other quotes that really hit home, but didn’t fit in easily in one of the sections above.

The fact that one of our two political parties now openly traffics in false conspiracy theories as their primary political strategy poses a threat to our system of government. This may sound dramatic, but if anything, it understates the problem.

I hate how some of my conservative friends now openly decry “the death of civil political discourse” while still openly supporting Trump and the current Republican party. Hell, I’ve already lost one closer friend because of it.

Normal political discourse should go like this:

Conservative: Global Warming is real, but for the government to come in and start telling private companies how to behave is problematic. Wouldn’t you be upset if you owned a company and now the government was telling you what to do?

Liberal: Yes, it is a real thing. And while I get why it’s problematic for the government to step in and tell private companies what to do, this is a crisis of as yet unimaginable proportions. Famines! Droughts! This a national security problem, and we need to face it head on as a country; therefore the government will need a heavier hand in this.

Conclusion: Perhaps a cap-and-trade policy, where we provide financial incentives for companies to pollute less would be a good free market solution. We can do temporary subsidies to jump start adoption, but those subsidies should fall off eventually. Let’s argue about when they should fall off and how to do the cap and trade program.

The arguments should be about solutions to problems, NOT WHETHER OR NOT PROBLEMS EXIST IN THE FIRST PLACE if there is scientific consensus that something is happening!

Instead, arguments go like this:

Edmund: Hey, it’s pretty fucked up that Trump might have colluded with Russia to win the election. We should look into that to see if it happened.

Trumpist (I will not label Trumpists conservative): FAKE NEWS!

Edmund: What’s fake? The testimonies are real; the CIA, FBI, and NSA all unaminously agree that this happened; PLUS every intelligence agency of our allies as well.

Trumpist: FAKE NEWS!

Edmund: How are we supposed to have a conversation about this if you call everything that disagrees with you ‘fake’?

Trumpist: Can’t listen to the media man. It’s all fake! It’s the DEEP STATE, out to get Trump!

Edmund: ….this is like arguing with a flat-earther. I want to stab you.

What I didn’t understand at the time, but quickly learned, is that the role of the president is more than to inform or even persuade; it is to comfort.

Chalk up another reason why I think Trump is a terrible president. Even under Bush, I felt like he cared about us all as Americans, and not just his base. Trump only cares about the people who still support him, the rest of us be damned.

Multiple studies show that people are most likely to believe news if it comes from someone they personally know; therefore, there is great power in people sharing on social media the stories and fact-checks that debunk the lies being spread by Trump and his friends in the Republican fringe.

You want to know why my facebook feed has gone from like 5% political posts to like 90% political posts? Why I talk politics in normal conversation way more than ever before? This is why. It’s important to prevent the spread of lies and misinformation (tangent- read that in the voice of Arcturus Mengsk :D)

Maintaining Optimism in Hateful Headwinds

When I was working in the White House and the world felt dark and depressing, it never lasted because hope was just down the hall. Now that hope had gotten on Marine One and left the White House for the last time,

…not gonna lie, this part hit me HARD. When people ask me how I’m doing nowadays, I usually cynically answer “quickly turning into a bitter, angry old man” as a joke, but it is pretty much spot on.

Having a beacon of hope replaced with a beacon of hatred has turned me into not only less of a hopeful person, but more of a hateful person. And I know some of that is my own fault – after all, only you can control your own attitude, right? – but gosh…it’s a hard realization.

The America that I thought I grew up in, where compassion and cooperation is rewarded, where honesty matters, where good intentions matter – was that all a dream? A lie?

Many people are clinging to the idea that someone good and decent like Barack Obama was once president as evidence that America has not crossed a point of no return. People want to believe so desperately that the good, decent smart man they saw on their TVs and social media feeds is the same person off camera as on camera. The good news is I can tell you with every bit of conviction that there is really only one Barack Obama.

:’)

“The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate,” he said. “The arc of the universe may bend toward justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.” We are masters of our fate.

Dan’s concluding chapter talks about how we have to be the change we seek now. It’s part of why he wrote this book, to inspire people like you and me to go out, talk to our friends and family (and have slightly uncomfortable conversations), to educate people who don’t bury their lives in politics like we are now.

Hell, recently, Obama even basically told us all to “Stop Moping” and start doing things to help in the Nov 2018 mid-terms.

So that’s what we’ll all have to do. I know, it’s scary. I actually am terrified. But hopefully  it’ll be easier with a friend or two, and one nice thing about this awful Trump Presidency is that it’s helping us all make new political friends (Thanks Joe and Katie and Katie and Madison; hi Rachel lol).

“Sir, how are you doing?” (to Obama)

The tone of my voice made it clear that my question was about something bigger than how his day was. I was trying to get at two things that had been on my mind since the election.

Basically, I was asking him, “How fucked are we?”

Obama knew what I was asking, and he sighed and shook his head and said, “Look, this isn’t an ideal situation to say the least,” and then we both laughed.

Understatement for the purposes of gallows humor is a tried-and-true Obama-ism.

Then, he said, “Maybe I am just looking for a silver lining, but I am hopeful that this will be the clarifying event that will show the public the two different visions for the country.” And there it was: the eternal optimism and unending faith in the American people. I am going to miss him. We are going to miss him.

Rachel’s Conclusion

Dan sums up the last portion of the book with strategies for Democrats to use to win offices in the era of Trump and radical Republicanism. He talks about messaging, politicking, and the use of Twitter and the internet. It’s fascinating to a policy wonk like me, but I won’t bore you with that here. Can highly recommend though. 

If you want an uplifting, quirky, inspiring, but appropriately cynical book in this time of crisis, this is the book for you. I finished feeling optimistic and with way more knowledge than I had before. Every politician and inspiring politician needs to read this book. Like, now. Before the midterms. As fast as possible, please. 

Edmund’s Conclusion

This is my favorite political book I have read since reading Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken, or Pretty But Ineffectual Words Conscience of a Conservative by Jeff Flake (I’m pretty mad at Flake for immediately caving). Definitely better than Comey’s book, or even Senator Sander’s.

Sure, Rachel and I are definitely the target audience for this, since we both love Pod Save America, and are already used to Dan’s speaking style. But this book DELIVERED, surpassing my already high expectations.

Anyone want one? I’ll buy you a copy.

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey – TwoMorePages Book Review

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey – TwoMorePages Book Review

Well, this review is…interestingly timed, since the inspector general just released its report yesterday about its findings about Comey’s actions during the election.

While Republicans once again cried wolf about HOW SHOCKING THIS REPORT WOULD BE (like the stupid Nunes Memo TWICE!), when it actually came out, it said that the FBI acted without political bias, and that if anything, Comey’s actions helped Trump, not Clinton.

Like duh, obviously. Anyone not living in a Fox News delusion would know that. If the FBI wanted to help out Clinton’s campaign, it would have A) not announced that they were re-opening the Clinton email investigation so close to the election and B) announced that they were investigating possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign BEFORE the election.

But of course, reality doesn’t matter in Fox News Fantasyland.

But anyway…we were talking about Comey’s book! Rachel went on this journey again with me (comments will be in blue).

I might have hyped this book up a little too much in my head. I had expected interesting POV moments where I would learn a lot more than I already knew about the Clinton email investigation and Comey’s interactions with Trump while he was FBI director.

Those things actually only were in the last 1/2 of the book. And didn’t really have a ton of information I didn’t already know from keeping up with events as they unfolded and from his interviews with Colbert, 60 Minutes, etc.

What I did glean from those sections though, was some more insight into his thought processes behind his actions and a lot of insight into who he is as a person.

Hi all! Rachel here. What struck me about this book was not really the dry, straight manner of writing so much as the “I swear I’m the good guy here,” high moral-ed (that’s not a word but oh well) way Comey expressed everything. How he spoke about his past was very interesting and revealing, but it did make you wonder (especially in light of recent events and findings) whether he has altered in his mind how some of his past went down. He does emerge from this book looking overall the good guy, but of course he does – he wrote the book. I think it’s a good memoir, just one that needs to be read with a clear, discerning mind, and a grain of salt. 

He began the book by talking about the progression of his career and the events that made him decide to enter public service. In talking about a trial he witnessed he described two prosecutors who, he says, set the example for who he wanted to be. 

The two prosecutors were only a few years older than I was. They stood straight, spoke clearly and candidly. They didn’t overstate, they didn’t posture. They seemed to have no other motivation that tackling injustice and telling the truth. I was struck by lightning. “This is what I want to do with my life,” I thought.

His description of this event seems worthy and certainly frames the entire rest of the book. He goes on to describe years of being bullied in high school and the lessons he learned from school, family, and early jobs. In discussing his experience with bullies he once again makes a pretty clear insinuation about the current presidency and the events leading to it. 

We all have a tendency to surrender our moral authority to “the group,” to still our own voices and assume that the group will handle whatever difficult issue we face. We imagine the group is making thoughtful decisions, and if the crowd is moving in a certain direction, we follow, as if the group is some moral entity larger than ourselves

But by imagining the group has these centers, we abdicate responsibility, which allows groups to be hijacked by the loudest voice, the person who knows how brainless groups really are and uses that to his advantage.

Wonder who/what he could be referencing there…

Bush/Cheney Administration Storytime

Let me start off with this: Comey is kind of boring haha. It comes off in his writing style where he’s describing scenes in ways while including incredible amounts of (imo unnecessary) detail. I’m sure it’s a byproduct of his craft – these are all things he’d notice as someone who worked at the freaking Federal Bureau of Investigation.

“It was a reservoir of trust and credibility built for you and filled for you by people you never knew, by those who are long gone. A reservoir that makes possible so much of the good that is done by the institution you serve…the problem with reservoirs is that they take a very long time to fill but they can be drained by one hole in the dam. The actions of one person can destroy what it took hundreds of people years to build.”

That being said, you can tell from his writing that he very much is NOT PARTISAN. AT ALL. He basically only cares about one thing: the “reservoir of trust” in the FBI to be nonpartisan and to uphold the law, no matter what, especially against political pressure.

He gives 0 shits about how the FBI can help someone politically.

I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about expediency. I don’t care about friendship. I care about doing the right thing. And I would never be part of something that I believe to be fundamentally wrong. I mean, obviously we all make policy judgments where people disagree, but I will do the right thing.

Boy oh boy is Edmund right – Comey could not appear any more non-partisan. If there is ONE thing you get from reading this book, it is that he really truly does care about the reputation and appearance of the FBI and DOJ, politics be damned. To quote all the times he talks about that theme would bore you guys to tears, so here’s just a few examples I found most revealing. 

The American people must see the administration of justice as independent of politics, race, class, religion, or any of the many other things that divide humans into tribes. We had to do everything we could to protect the department’s reputation for fairness and impartiality, its reservoir of trust and credibility.

The Constitution and the rule of law are not partisan political tools. Lady Justice wears a blindfold. She is not supposed to peek out to see how her political master wishes her to weigh on a matter.

When we tell a judge or a jury or Congress what we saw, or found, or heard, they are not hearing it from a Republican or a Democrat. They are hearing it from an entity that is separate and apart in American life. The FBI must be an “other” in this country or we are lost.

…If we at the FBI started to think like every other partisan in Washington thought – what’s good for my “side” or whose political futures we might help or hurt – then the FBI would no longer have, and would no longer deserve, the public trust.

Say and believe what you want about the man, he truly believes in his work and in the need for integrity in the American justice system. And that is admirable. It is how it should be. Although the recent IG report seems to declare that Comey himself messed up in the Clinton and campaign investigations, it also seems to leave the FBI’s reputation intact, so at least we can take small comfort in that. 

There was one section where I straight up learned about things I knew nothing about before – Comey’s tenure in the Department of Justice under the Bush / Cheney administration. Comey went into extensive detail about how he could not support the “enhanced interrogation techniques” being employed by the US and why: not only was the information gleaned basically useless (because a tortured man will tell you anything, including lies, to get you to stop torturing him), but it wasn’t right in Comey’s eyes AND it wasn’t right legally either.

His description of how the Bush/Cheney administration basically tried to railroad him and the Department of Justice into signing off on the torture programs (nicknamed “Stellar Wind”) was probably the most interest part of the book, especially the part where Bush/Cheney/Republican officials tried to sidestep him entirely by getting a delirious Ashcroft to sign a renewal of Stellar Wind while in the hospital.

Yeah, so the Bush Administration did NOT come out looking too hot in this book. Which, considering Comey, I believe, is a registered Republican, is quite interesting. Comey learned some valuable lessons that can be transferred to our knowledge of the Trump Administration. 

I would discover in the coming months that the pressures to bend the rules and to make convenient exceptions to laws when they got in the way of the president’s agenda were tempting. And it was a temptation fed by the urgency of the topic and the nature of the people around the president, people who couldn’t take the long view or understand the importance to the country of doing things the right way, no matter the inconvenience. They would be painful, exhausting lessons in the importance of institutional loyalty over expediency and politics.

Oh, and Cheney definitely kept his troubled reputation in this book. In discussing the Bush Administration’s attempts to get him to continue the ‘torture program’ he wrote: 

It was obvious that the purpose of this meeting was to squeeze me, although nobody said that. To have the vice president of the United States accuse me of recklessly provoking another 9/11 – even seeming to suggest I was doing it intentionally – was stunning. He didn’t want to hear another side. He didn’t seem to accept the obvious truth that there was another side. To him, he was right, everyone else was wrong, and a bunch of weak-willed and probably liberal lawyers weren’t going to tell him otherwise.

Not a good look. 

 

(Then FBI Director) Mueller and I were not particularly close and had never seen each other outside of work, but I knew Bob understood and respected our legal position and cared deeply about the rule of law. His whole life was about doing things the right way.

~~~

“In every man’s life there comes a time when the good Lord tests him,” Mueller told Ashcroft. “You passed your test tonight.”

~~~

Bob had proven it would be a mistake to break the FBI into a criminal investigative agency and a counterterrorism agency by making the FBI great at both.

We even got small insights into Comey’s opinions of Mueller, which I really enjoyed.  Mueller comes off as universally well respected in this book. It boggles my mind that Republicans today can so mercilessly attack a decorated military veteran who has done nothing but serve his country well (and who was so well respected that both Republicans and Democrats requested legislation to keep him in his FBI Director role for longer than the normal 10 years).

Anyway…we were talking about Comey, not Mueller, so back on topic we go!

Buttery Males!

The middle of his book talked about what most of us came to read about – the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Our investigation required us to answer two questions. The first question was whether classified documents were moved outside of classified systems or whether classified topics were discussed outside of a classified system. If so, the second question was what the subject of the investigation was thinking when she mishandled that classified information.

In secretary Clinton’s case, the answer to the first question – was classified information mishandled” – was obviously “yes.” … The heart of the case, then, was the second question: What was she thinking when she did this? Was it sloppy or was there criminal intent? Could we prove that she knew she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing?

He did a great job framing up the situation right in the beginning.

In 2011, Patreus had given multiple notebooks containing troves of highly sensitive, top-secret information to an author with whom he was having an affair. In contrast to those Hillary Clinton corresponded with, the author did not have the appropriate clearance of a legitimate need to know the information.

Despite the endless drumbeat in the conservative media, filled with exaggerated scandals and breathless revelations of little practical import, Hillary Clinton’s case, at least as far as we knew at he start, did not appear to come anywhere near General Patreus’s in the volume and classification level of the material mishandled.

Although she seemed to be using an unclassified system for some classified topics, everyone she emailed appeared to have both the appropriate clearance and a legitimate need to know the information.

Now that I’m doing this review, another thing that I learned from this book that I didn’t know from before was the context around Patreus’s situation from before. I like that Comey approached this in his book in a similar manner to the way a courtroom would – by drawing comparisons to concluded cases.

His distinction of just how egregious Patreus’s crimes were vs Clinton’s is an extremely important parallel, because not only was his more egregious, he lied to the FBI about it as well. And he only got a misdemeanor + a $40k fine and two years of probation. So the exaggerated “lock her up” bullshit was just that – bullshit, and would never have happened.

We knew that the Department of Justice would never bring – and had never brought – criminal charges in such a situation without strong evidence that the subject of our investigation knew she was doing something she shouldn’t be doing. Accidents, sloppiness, and even extreme carelessness with regard to classified information were not things that were prosecuted. Ever.

This was an interesting piece to read for two reasons. One, being that Comey was basically saying that worst case scenario, criminal charges were never being brought against Clinton. Ever. She was careless, but at the end of the day, not malicious.

Two, and this goes to today’s political climate regarding Trump…it basically says that intentions matter. If you are MALICIOUSLY going around and fucking things up, the DoJ will come wreck your shit. If you are INCOMPETENTLY going around and fucking things up, the DoJ will be more lenient on you.

Well, for Trump and all the things he and his campaign are accused of, which way will judgement lie? Maliciousness? Or incompetency?

“I have asked myself many times since if I was influenced by that assumption (that Clinton was going to win). I don’t know. Certainly, not consciously, but I would be a fool to say it couldn’t have had an impact on me. It is entirely possible that, because I was making decision in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump were ahead in all polls.

And then of course there was the whole announcement of re-opening the investigation, the thing that Democrats crucify Comey over, and that…arguably was a large tipping point for the election.

I can understand why, with the benefit of hindsight – knowing that the emails on Weiner’s laptop contained no new information – people are super upset at Comey’s actions.

But that’s the thing; this is with the benefit of hindsight.

I can 100% understand Comey’s thought process there, ESPECIALLY if he strongly thought that Hillary was going to win. He was faced with the very real possibility that Hillary would get elected, and that this investigation would find something on Weiner’s laptop AFTER the election was concluded.

Conspiracy theorists are ALREADY going crazy in today’s world with their completely unfounded theories of “the deep state” and how the FBI wanted Clinton to win (lol); imagine how it would have played out if Clinton had won and then suddenly the FBI announced “oh, by the way, we re-opened the Clinton investigation during the weeks up to the election because of new evidence – but we didn’t tell anyone. Oh, and by the way, we found stuff. Elections over though so…….sucks to suck?”

I don’t have much to add here that Edmund hasn’t already wonderfully covered and explained, but I do think that Comey did a pretty good job of giving a very detailed explanation of his actions – which is all we can really ask for anyways, right? It will forever be impossible to know with 100% certainty that his actions – whether subversive and irresponsible or not – influenced the election to such a degree as to hand over the win to Donald Trump. But we can take some comfort in knowing that he, too, is still trying to figure that out and still trying to make sense of all that happened in 2016. 

I have spent a great deal of time looking back at 2016…Like many others, I was surprised when Donald Trump was elected president. I had assumed from media polling that Hillary Clinton was going to win. I have asked myself many times since if I was influenced by that assumption. I don’t know. Certainly not consciously, but I would be a fool to say it couldn’t have made an impact on me. It is entirely possible that, because I was making decisions in an environment where Hillary Clinton was sure to be the next president, my concern about making her an illegitimate president by concealing the restarted investigation bore greater weight than it would have if the election appeared closer or if Donald Trump was ahead in the polls. But I don’t know.

Even if I couldn’t persuade them that I made the right decision, I hoped that at least I could explain what I was thinking, the doors I saw, and why I chose the one labeled “Speak” rather than the one labeled “Conceal.” I didn’t handle everything in the investigation perfectly, but I did my best with the facts before me.

Thoughts on Obama

I do enough Trump bashing in my life. He’s a terrible, unfit President who is an embarrassment to the country.

Don’t think it particularly adds to the review here for me to do more, so I’m actually going to take this review in a different direction – Comey’s thoughts on Obama.

(on being asked to interview as Obama’s FBI Director)

Maybe it was because I had become so hardened to the tribal loyalties of Washington, D.C., that it was difficult to believe a Democrat would choose someone who had been a political appointee of his Republican predecessor for such an important post.

(Obama) “In a way, this and the Supreme Court are the two most important personnel decisions a president makes, because I’m choosing for the future. You will be here after I’m gone.” He said he thought there was great value in that long tenure and hoped that if I were the director, I could help a new president.

(Obama) “I don’t want help from the FBI on policy. I need competence and independence. I need to sleep at night knowing the place is well run and the American people protected.” Contrary to my assumption, the fact that I was politically independent from him might actually have worked in my favor.

First off, let’s start with the beginning of their relationship. The great propaganda machine, Fox News, has so consistently pushed out the lie that Obama never wanted to work with Republicans, that he did everything unilaterally, that people seem to have believed it.

But right here is concrete evidence that isn’t true. In fact, Obama went WAY out of norms specifically to pick who he thought was the best person for the job, regardless of party affiliation.

With a serious look on his face, Obama turned to me and said, “Jim, there’s one thing I forgot to talk to you about.”

While I looked confused, the President nodded toward Mueller. “Bob long ago made a commitment to me, and I need you to honor it.” What could this possibly be? The president had assured me of my independence. Now I was being asked for secret assurances?

The President paused to signal the gravity of the moment. Then he went on. “Bob has always allowed me to use the FBI gym to play basketball, and I need you to commit to continuing that.

I laughed. “Of course, Mr. President. It is your gym, in a way.”

Though I love basketball, I knew I would never join him in the FBI gym. I also love golf, but knew we would never play. FBI directors can’t be that way with Presidents. Everybody knows why. Or at least I thought they did.

I picked this passage both because it is humorous, but also because it highlights the strong differences between similar interactions that Comey had with both Presidents.

With Obama, Comey ALSO had the very real fear that he was going to be asked to do something shady outside the norm. But of course, “everybody knows” that you can’t do that. And so Obama made it into a funny joke – “I want to still be able to use the basketball gym.”

With Trump of course, we got…”I need you to see your way to letting Flynn go”.

To be effective at the FBI, I spent a lot of time listening, something we all struggle to do well. It is hard for leaders to listen well because it requires us to be vulnerable, to risk our superior position.

Barack Obama surprised me by picking me as FBI Director. And this is where Barack Obama surprised me yet again. He was an extraordinary listener, as good as any I’ve seen in leadership.

In various meetings with the President, I watched him work hard to draw as many viewpoints as possible into a conversation, frequently disregarding the hierarchy reflected in seating arrangements – principals at the table, lower-ranked folks in chairs against the wall.

Obama hunted for points of view. Maybe it was a legacy of his life as a professor, cold-calling someone in the back row. This approach often led to chaotic conversations, but it allowed him to hear views that, in the Bush administration, would have been watered down by rank or by fear of being teased.

Obama had the ability to really discuss something, leveling the field to draw out perspectives different from his own.

I also appreciated Comey’s insights in his brief interactions with Obama. Most of us probably are ever going to meet him. From his deeds and his actions, I can draw an inference into what type of person and leader he is, but these firsthand accounts of interactions with him are WAAAY more valuable than my third-hand accounts of  reading about him in the news.

“Hey, why don’t we take another (picture) without the guys. You know, just in case.” He was playful as he said it, and he did it in a way that no one was offended. But I could tell he was also being thoughtful in a way few leaders are. What if things didn’t work out with one or the other of these guys? Would having them in a picture with the president ruin it for the Comeys forever? So Obama gestured the boyfriends out of the show, to our great amusement.

Though it was a small moment, what struck me about President Obama’s remark is that it displayed a sense of humor, insight, and an ability to connect with an audience, which I would later come to appreciate in the president even more. These are all qualities that are indispensable in good leaders.

It’s the small things that really show you the character of a person.

Couldn’t say any of this better than Edmund or Comey himself, but yes, Obama comes out of this looking very good – even when described by a Republican. So maybe Fox News people just need to get to know the guy, play basketball or golf with him or something. One can dream, right? Comey talked to Obama about his decisions and the investigation and wrote: 

He wasn’t telling me he agreed with my decisions. He wasn’t talking about the decisions. He was saying he understood where they came from. Boy, were those words I needed to hear.

Although I hadn’t supported President Obama when he ran for office, I had developed a great respect for him as a leader and a person, and it was only at that moment that I felt the full weight of his imminent departure and what it would mean.

This might have been my favorite passage in the book. To hear someone say they hadn’t supported a candidate for office, but that upon getting to know and work with them, they now respected them was truly, truly refreshing. And I think we can all learn a little something from that. 

Republican, Democrat, Independent, agree with Comey or disagree, everyone should read this book. Yes, it’s a little dry. Yes, parts of it will anger you, regardless of where you lie on the political spectrum. But it is an illuminating piece of work, and it does its best to explain the FBI’s and Comey’s role in the 2016 election. And I must admit, my faith in the ability of the FBI to remain nonpartisan still stands. 

Conclusion

When we tell a judge or a jury or Congress what we saw, or found, or heard, they are not hearing it from a Republican or a Democrat. They are hearing it from an entity that is separate and apart in American life. The FBI must be an “other” in this country or we are lost.

I 100% believe Comey when he says everything he did was with the idea that the FBI’s impartiality was the most important thing on his mind. When I look through the lens of his experience in this book, I understand his reasoning perfectly.

Of course, I believed him before I read the book too. I didn’t really blame him and only him for Trump winning like most die hard liberals did; nor did I subscribe to the conspiracy theories that said his firing was justified by Trump (whichever stupid reason you subscribed to at the time).

Comey to me was the definition of nonpartisan. If both sides hate you, you’re probably nonpartisan. This book didn’t change my mind on that, and his response to the IG’s report cements that notion in my mind.

Hopefully, someday soon the insanity will lift from this administration’s awfulness, and people like him can serve the US again.

The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Good That Men Do (Star Trek Enterprise) – TwoMorePages Book Review

TRIP!

I bought this book because I had read somewhere on /r/StarTrek that *this* is the ending we should have had for Enterprise. This book DELIVERED.

I *loved* how it interwove the details of the actual ending of Enterprise, and gave more plausible reasons for some of the dumber things that happened.

(1) What do you mean that this little shit freighter would be able to catch up to Enterprise, the flagship of the fleet, and board it?

(2) What do you mean that Trip just DIED in the most anti climactic way possible? You’re telling me we got out of the Xindi War and all sorts of conflicts with all sorts of species, but Archer and Trip can’t figure out a way to get out of a kidnapping situation without Trip DYING?!

Oh…it was all a dog and pony show. Okay, I feel vindicated. 😀

Trip and Section 31

I *loved* Trip’s continuing story arc with Section 31. We got to delve a little further into his relationship with T’Pol after the Terra Prime fiasco, AND we got to see some more working of Section 31, namely that they are not all knowing. Just people working with very limited resources trying to figure out what they can.

Having Phuong and Section 31 be totally duped by the rogue Romulan faction was very interesting to read; and even moreso watching them learn that Romulans are just offshoots of Vulcans. This section of the book was very spy-esque, which is very different than most Star Trek novels, and I appreciated it.

Shran!

My favorite character in Enterprise was actually NOT one of the main characters. It was SHRAN. It’s a shame that Enterprise got cancelled right as they were going to bring him on to be a regular.

Why wouldn’t I love Shran? He is everything I want to be – passionate (basically to a fault), smart, aggressive, emotional.

Shran’s arc with Jhamel and with Theras was very interesting to read. He basically treated Theras as an idiot coward for not doing anything to help Jhamel in the kidnapping. And I empathized completely. Here is the dude getting to marry the girl I’m in love with, and he ran to me for protection instead of trying to help Jhamel? Pffft.

I know part of this was to highlight the very different cultures of the Andorians and the Aenar, but I completely empathized with Shran in that spot.

Theras’s character development as the book progressed was heartwarming to see. Seeing him overcome his pacifistic tendencies to help keep the away team alive was great; and watching him grapple with this inner demons for having tricked Romulans into killing each other with his mental capabilities was enlightening.

Shran had never enjoyed apologizing, but he sincerely wished for a chance to do so to Theras. He’d treated Theras abominably; he’d acted like a bully, intimidating a mild, gentle being every chance he’d gotten. He was trained to be a warrior, and was therefore used to putting himself into harm’s way. There was no heroism to much of what he did; it was mostly done out of duty, or a love of the accompanying adrenaline rush, or perhaps just plain orneriness.

It was nice to see Shran recognize his efforts as well at the end. This was a story arc I particularly enjoyed, probably moreso than that of Trip’s, and that had the benefit of reviving my favorite member of Enterprise’s crew.

Plus, he got the girl! Yay for Shran, getting over Talas’s death to be with Jhamel, hooray!

Setting up for the Romulan War

I loved the exposition of the story arc that the next season was probably going to take with the Andorians/Aenar and the Romulans, and Shran’s role in all of that. We got to see a little of that at the end of Enterprise’s final season, but the fleshed out version with the conspiracy in the Romulan government to make more drone ships was *very* interesting to read.

And we got to learn more about the Coridians, who I actually…did not remember anything about. Were they in the show? It’s been so long. I can’t remember…

But we learn that they are supposed to be a founding member of the Federation – they have the most dilithium, and they are the only ones with Warp 7 capable ships. Sweet, they’ll make the Federation as strong as anyone else!

Except wait…shit, their planet gets devastated, and they withdraw from the Federation for…reasons? I didn’t really get that part. They refused help from Enterprise, saw half their world burn, and they leave the Federation? They should want in now MORE THAN EVER while they rebuild?

Conclusion

 

“This new take on Archer-era history holds together for me a lot better than the standard version does – you know, with Captain Archer’s whole command crew not receiving a single promotion, even after having served together aboard the NX-01 for ten years.

Or Archer’s dog somehow not having aged a day during that entire time.

Or Archer’s famous Big Speech at the ‘Stick, which makes a lot more sense now in the context of the post-Coridan disaster era than it does in the post-Earth-Romulan War time-frame where most of the histories place it.

Of the pirate ship that could barely manage warp two somehow catching up to Enterprise, which had to be traveling at nearly warp five when-”

-Nog

“You’re preaching to the choir, Nog”

-Jake Sisko

I laughed out loud when I read that little conversation between Jake and Nog. Bringing them in as a device to give the past viewers of Enterprise a nod / give the writers of that final episode the finger was genius.

This book helped give me closure on Enterprise’s story, whose final season was SO GOOD. It’s a shame it didn’t get *really* good until after news was announced that it was cancelled. If this Romulan War arc was up next, it would have been *really fun to watch*.

 

 

 

The Carnival of the Night – TwoMorePages Book Review

The Carnival of the Night – TwoMorePages Book Review

Every once in awhile, the internet truly surprises you with something special. I found this book from a link at /r/WritingPrompts , and wow was it great! I finished it in 3 days, and couldn’t put it down.

Not the first book I’ve read from /r/WritingPrompts, but as we know, some of my last experiences weren’t that great.

Nicholas Carey’s writing style was the perfect weave of dialogue, scenery, and bits of mythology thrown in. I loved the introduction of Greek/Roman mythology; I loved the protagonists and the characterization of the antagonists; I loved the description of a corrupted purgatory; and I loved the snippet chapters that read like news reports.

Oftentimes, short writing prompts leave character developments by the wayside, but Nicholas did a great job in this book. The tease with Derek’s character in the beginning was well executed, with the readers not knowing why he was covering his face until we learn about what happened on the boat.

The characterization of Death’s daughter as a sliver of himself, and the reason why he softened was very interesting. And her spunkiness was very endearing.

Tying Greek/Roman mythology in with Bacchus and Zeus and the Gods was also very interesting. If there’s a sequel, I’d like to explore those themes more – I love learning while I’m reading lol.

All in all, by far the best novella from /r/WritingPrompts that I have read yet. I think I actually paid the most possible on Amazon for it, but I don’t regret any of it. Money well spent.

Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Oathbringer – TwoMorePages Book Review

Woohoo we’re back in Roshar! 1200 pages worth, and we learn SO MUCH! Brandon Sanderson once again builds a wonderful world to share, and we get to spend some more time with our favorite characters, Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar.

Arielle is here to join me this time in co-authoring this review – you’ll see her thoughts in blue. 

YAY! It’s me! Hopefully I don’t spell anything wrong because I listen to the audio version.

Okay, let’s get to the meat of things. Spoilers start now.

Dalinar’s Story

Yours is the power Ishar once held. Before he was Herald of Luck, they called him Binder of Gods. He was the founder of the Oathpact. No radiant is capable of more than you. Yours is the power of Connection, of joining men and worlds, minds and souls. Your surges are the greatest of all, though they will be impotent if you seek to wield them for mere battle.

The Way of Kings was Kaladin’s story; The Words of Radiance, Shallan’s. I thought, between her surprise re-appearance at the end of book 2 and her appearance on the cover of this book, that Oathbringer would be Jasnah’s story. Nope. Dalinar’s. Surprise!

In Oathbringer, we got to learn all about Dalinar’s past as The Blackthorn. Up until now, I had just assumed he was some sort of badass in combat, perhaps a brilliant tactician, and that’s how he earned his name. Sure, some people mentioned he was brutal, but let’s be real – war is brutal. That kind of comes with the territory.

“I want them to suffer for this. Men, women, children. They must know the punishment for broken oaths. Immediately.”

“I promised Tanalan that his widows would weep for what I did here, but that is too merciful for what they’ve done to me. I intend to so thoroughly ruin this place that for ten generations, nobody will dare build here for fear of the spirits who will haunt it. We will make a pyre of this city, and there shall be no weeping for its passing, for none will remain to weep.”

O.o Oh, okay. Well then.

Arielle insert time – THANK GOD Edmund takes notes. I’d just like to point out in the above quote from the book that “none will remain to weep” is such an understatement. Sure, no one is alive to weep, but all the crying comes back to literally HAUNT Dalinar in his mind.

Slight tangent – I’m actually going to post an unpopular opinion here and say that I’m 100% okay with what Dalinar did there, razing the rift. This entire debacle was because he refused to murder a small child earlier. Or did we forget that an act of mercy in sparing a small child is what got us here in the first place?

Only one other person was in the small chamber: a young boy. Six, perhaps seven. Tears streaked the child’s face, and he struggled to lift his father’s Shardblade in two hands.

Dalinar loomed in the doorway.

“You can’t have my daddy,” the boy said, words distorted by his sorrow. Painspren crawled around the floor. “You can’t. You…you…” His voice fell to a whisper. “Daddy said … we fight monsters. And with faith, we will win…”

Last time he granted mercy and clemency, the child grew up to cause a rebellion. And more than that, he used underhanded tactics to try to A) get Dalinar to turn on his allies and B) murder Dalinar in a trap. I’d be pissed too. I’d *also* want to burn the city to the ground.

So, if we’re to learn our lessons from history, we should raze the city, lest its inhabitants grow up just to try and take vengeance on all of us later. If he’d just killed that little boy, none of the other citizens of the Rift would have had to die decades later. To take an example from another series, didn’t Tywin Lannister do something similar in Game of Thrones with the Castameres? And everyone thinks that he’s smart and prudent.

Okay, tangent over.

So apparently Dalinar wasn’t just The Blackthorn because he was really good at killing people, but because he had earned a reputation for being unnecessarily cruel and harsh in doing so, murdering scores of civilians along the way. This was a really harsh contrast to the Dalinar we saw in the previous books, especially the Dalinar that we saw in Book 1.

“What is a man’s life worth?”-Dalinar

“A life is priceless” – Kaladin

“Coincidentally, that is the exact value of a Shardblade. So today, you and your men sacrificed to buy me 2600 priceless lives. And all I had to repay you with was a single priceless sword. I call that a bargain.” -Dalinar

“You really think it was a good trade, don’t you?” Kaladin said, amazed.

Remember that exchange from Book 1? Dalinar was supposed to be the pinnacle of honor! Of all that was good in the world! Welp.

I really liked how Brandon Sanderson had us realize the same way that Dalinar did, in slow, small snippets. As we’re feeling betrayed and lied to about his character, Dalinar has to come to grips with the fact that he isn’t the person he thought he was. That it was all built on a foundation of…not lies perhaps, but omission.

Dalinar’s arc in this story is one of redemption, of him feeling guilty for having killed all the people in the Rift and accidentally killing his wife in doing so (oops). We see him try and hide from his grief, first by drinking, and eventually by going to the Nightcrawler/Cultivation.

“I will give you…a pruning. A careful excision to let you grow. The cost will be high.

In doing this, I provide for him a weapon. Dangerous, very dangerous. Yet, all things must be cultivated. What I take from you will grow back eventually. This is part of the cost.

It will do me well to have a part of you, even if you ultimately become his. You were always bound to come to me. I control all things that can be grown, nurtured.

That includes the thorns.” – Cultivation

Woah! In exploring Dalinar’s backstory, we learn

A) Why he went to the nightcrawler (to try and stop feeling all the guilt)

B) What he got (he stopped feeling guilt about killing Evi, but also forgot Evi entirely, which allowed him to grow as a person)

C) That the Nightcrawler and Cultivation are different entities. I had personally been under the impression for most of the book that they were one and the same, instead of having a relationship similar to the Stormfather and Honor. 100% in the same boat here. I definitely thought they were the same person. It was interesting that Cultivation wanted to take care of Dalinar, instead of letting the Nightcrawler handle it.

D) Cultivation KNEW he was going to get his memories back. You’ll see some hypothesizing below but I wonder if bonding a spren is what makes his memories come back. It began at pretty much the same time. 

E) That Cultivation had a plan in doing this. There’s even foreshadowing when she speaks above about “even if you become his”. Also here, she would’ve known that he was to become a Knight Radiant? The Nightcrawler even specifically calls him “Son of Honor? Son of Odium?”

The Thrill boiled within. And Dalinar knew. He knew he’d always been a fraud. He was the same as Amaram. He had an honest reputation, but was a murderer on the inside. A destroyer. A child killer.

“Let go,” Odium whispered.

Dalinar squeezed his eyes shut, trembling, hands tense as he hunched over and clawed the ground. It hurt so badly. To know that he’d failed them. Navani, Adolin, Elhokar, Gavilar. He couldn’t live with this.

He couldn’t live with her tears!

“Give it to me,” Odium pled.

Dalinar ripped his fingernails off, but the pain of the body couldn’t distract him. It was nothing beside the agony of his soul.

Of knowing what he truly was.

Dalinar’s struggle with his guilt over his actions at the Rift was the central point around which the story revolved around. I loved how Brandon Sanderson made everything tie together at the end with Odium wanting to make him his Champion (plot twist!!) and offering to absolve Dalinar’s guilt as a way of enticing him.

The most important step a man can take. It’s not the first one, is it?

It’s the next one. Always the next step, Dalinar.

“I will take responsibility for what I have done. If I must fall, I will rise each time a better man.”

He closed his eyes, breathing out, listening to a sudden stillness. And within it a simple, quiet voice. A woman’s voice, so familiar to him.

I forgive you.

Side note – You know sometimes how a book reaches out beyond its confines and affects you in real life? When a quote is so poignant that you just stop reading and say “wow”? That was the “always the next step” line for me.

Sometimes it’s not about who you are or what you’ve done in the past, but who you are or what you’re doing *right now* that defines who you are.

I love that Dalinar’s redemption arc concluded with him accepting that he did certain things, that they’d always be with him, but that those things didn’t prevent him from doing the right things *going forward*, namely, you know, not becoming Odium’s Champion. That was nice.

Side note: I think Odium was also training Amaram to be a champion backup.

Kaladin

“Maybe you don’t have to save anyone, Kaladin. Maybe it’s time for someone to save you.

Speaking of twists and turns, how weird was it that Kaladin took a backseat in the story in book 3? Not only did he have much less screentime (pagetime?) than in books 1 and 2, he also wasn’t the savior at the end of the day.

“I…I will…”

He thought of friends lost. Malop. Jaks. Beld and Pedin.

Say it, storm you!

“I…”

Rod and Mart. Bridgemen he’d failed. And before them, slaves he’d tried to save. Goshel. Nalma, caught in a trap like a beast.

The Words. Say the Words!

He *almost* speaks the 4th ideal, but not quite. I’m curious as to what it is. One of the better theories that I read on the internet was that the fourth ideal would be something like “I will forgive myself for those I cannot save.” Oooh. I like this theory.

That would explain why he thinks of all the friends he lost as he’s trying to speak the 4th ideal. He can’t quite get there to forgive himself.

“What about me?” Kaladin asked.

Dalinar pointed at Amaram, who was climbing to his feet in Shardplate. “He is going to try to kill me for what I do next, and I could use a bodyguard. As I recall, you have a score to settle with the highlord.”

Kaladin DOES however *finally get the showdown he and I have been waiting for since book 1 against AMARAM*! Wooooooh.

I’ve been waiting for this for SO LONG. I got blue balls when it didn’t happen in The Words of Radiance and just kind of assumed it would never happen. So Jonah Hill there pretty much embodied my excitement when I got to this portion of the book haha.

“Didn’t you tell me you’d given up that grief?” -Kaladin

“Yes! I’m beyond guilt!” -Amaram

“Then why do you still hurt? Murderer! You’ve switched sides to find peace, Amaram. But you won’t ever have it.” -Kaladin

I found it interesting that Amaram basically confessed that he went through similar trials to what Dalinar was going through regarding guilt (see note about Amaram maybe being a backup champion above). And that he, unlike Dalinar, accepted Odium’s way out in trying to convince himself that he didn’t need to feel guilt, that it was all Odium’s fault that he did those terrible things, not his.

But Kaladin is able to tilt him during the battle by continuing to pick at that scab. It’s not healed. Amaram doesn’t *actually* think that everything is fine and that he shouldn’t feel guilt.

I made you, Kaladin! I gave you that granite will, that warrior’s poise. This, the person you’ve become, was my gift! “I made you! I forged you!” -Amaram

“Today, what I do, I do for the men you killed. I am the man I’ve become because of them. Ten spears go to battle. And nine shatter. Did that war forge the one that remained? No, Amaram. All the war did was identify the spear that would not break.”

And I loved the further exchanges between the two where Amaram tries to convince Kaladin that everything he did to him was a good thing for Kaladin, forging him into what he was.

“I saw it in your eyes, Amaram,” Kaladin whispered as the husk of a man stumbled up to him. “When you killed Coreb and Hab and my other friends. I saw the guilt you felt. You tried to break me as a slave. But you failed. They rescued me.”

Maybe it’s time for someone to save you, Syl had said in Shadesmar. But someone already had.

Amaram raised the Shardblade high.

“Bridge Four,” Kaladin whispered.

It was so satisfying to see Amaram continue to tilt while Kaladin didn’t, and for Bridge Four (and Rock!) to be the ones who ultimately saved Kaladin. Closing circles feels *so good*!

My little note and something that didn’t quite make sense to me this section of the fight:

“You have great form, spearman! Do you remember when you first came to me? Back in that village, when you begged me to take you? You were a blubbering child who wanted so badly to be a soldier. The glory of the battle! I could see the lust in your eyes, boy!” – Amaran to Kaladin

Amaram makes it sound like fighting was all Kaladin wanted to do, but we, as readers, know that isn’t exactly the truth. Kaladin wanted to protect his brother. Sure, of course, he wanted to be a soldier too but I wouldn’t say that’s why he went running off to war. I feel like this is another piece/lie Amaram tells himself so that he feels “okay” about what he did.

Some other notes about Kaladin is I really enjoyed the part where he became friends with the Parshmen. We get to see things a bit from their side, their confusion, the fact they just want a life, and more spoilers from Edmund below. BUT this friendship directly changed the outcome of the Kholinar battle – WHICH WAS OFF THE CHAIN.

ALSO HE FINALLY REUNITES WITH HIS FAM. LIKE OMG. AND – HE HAS A BROTHER.

Adolin (and Maya!)

“You want to fight it, don’t you?” Adolin asked. “It reminds you of when you were alive.”

Something tickled his mind, very faint, like a sigh. A single word: Mayalaran.

Special shoutout to Adolin, who is at this point my favorite side character. And while Kaladin is obviously my favorite character, I identify most with Adolin. We both grew up relatively privileged, and we both apparently talk to our inanimate objects and treat them as though they had thoughts and feelings, which apparently makes us weird haha.

So it was a pretty cool reveal to see Adolin’s spren in Shadesmar, even if she is a deadeyes. It warmed my heart to see her help protect Adolin right after he got stabbed, especially since deadeyed spren are supposed to basically be no brained passive zombies.

“The world is full of gods and Heralds now, and you’re one of them. I’m practically a nobody. I’m not used to that feeling.”

-Adolin, to Shallan

His battle sequence snippets were great, especially since he went through this entire book without his shardplate, which he’s used to fighting with. His coming to grips with the fact that he’s no longer a member of the most important group of people since he’s not a Radiant is interesting character development. If he’s a central focus of Book 4, I bet that will be his character arc.

I wonder if there’s a way that he can bring her back to life? After all, Syl said in the last book that spren are never truly dead in the way that people are. I was hoping for this too, especially since she is showing “signs of life.” I’d love for that to happen.

Plus, he was able to summon her with only 7 heartbeats once. And he felt sadness from his Blade when he had to lend her to the Theylen shardbearer.

I need more Adolin + Maya in my life like I needed Kaladin + Syl.

So… part of me wants Adolin to be a Radiant, but:

“They say you have to be broke,” Lopen said…

I don’t think he’ll get there. As Edmund mentioned, he’s a little too privileged. I would like to give a shout out to Adolin for confronting Shallan on her “feelings” towards Kaladin. I know that must’ve taken a lot of guts, but I shouldn’t have been too surprised, Adolin is honestly a pretty brave dude. ALSO he’s brave enough to tell his dad he killed Sadeas and it was just like “Oh… okay. Well I guess we will figure it out.”

Lastly, about Adolin is that I LOVE how much Sanderson brought out Adolin’s fashion sense. One, it was hilarious. And two, I think it helps with how in modern day, fashion isn’t really assumed to be a guy’s thing. I liked how unabashedly interested he was in it.

Nale and Szeth!!!

Really? Didn’t you tell me you spent a thousand years following the instructions of a rock?

“More than seven years, sword-nimi. And I didn’t follow the rock, but the words of the one who held it. I…”

…had no choice?

But it had always been nothing more than a rock.

Speaking of side characters, Szeth is back! And…I guess I was wrong in wanting Kaladin to have murdered him in Book 2. Like I *really* wanted that…

The disagreements between the Skybreakers and the Windrunners have grown to tragic levels. I plead with any who hear this to recognize you are not so different as you think. – drawer 27-19

All of his entire interactions with Nale were very interesting. For one, I don’t really get the difference between skybreakers and windrunners. They seem to have almost identical lashing and binding abilities.

The only differences seem to be in their ideals. Compare “I will protect those who cannot protect themselves” (Windrunners) to “I will put the law before all else” (Skybreakers). Whereas skybreakers (and highspren) only seem to care about the law, windrunners (and honorspren) only seem to care about “doing what is right”, which is a much more nebulous concept.

Syl actually touched on this concept in Book 2, specifically stating with derision that she was NOT a highspren.

“You must choose, Szeth-son-Neturo. The skybreakers will swear to the Dawnsingers and their law. And you? Will you join us?”

-Nale

And we see the importance of such a nebulous distinction at the final battle. A HERALD says he’s going to join Odium’s side, WHAAAAT? I suppose Brandon’s entire point regarding the two different orders is that what is lawful is not always what is right.

Nale went around murdering surgebinders for who-knows-how-long, under the pretense of law, making the entire world less prepared for this Desolation. And he’s now done the mental gymnastics to say that yes, he’s still following the law by switching sides. Because he gets to pick which laws are “right.”

Honestly, I fail to see how that’s functionally different than just nebulously following what is “right.” It’ll be interesting if in book 4, there are windrunners vs skybreaker fights, not only physical ones, but mental arguments between them as well regarding what is “right.”

“I serve Dalinar Kolin. I cannot know truth, so I follow one who does.”

Szeth’s decision to follow Dalinar is interesting in two ways.

(1) Nale basically says that he’s going to tell all the other skybreakers to join the parshmen, even stating that “it will be hard” for some of them. But Szeth gets a choice? Why? This is interesting. I’m not sure if Nale specifically meant he’d force them into it, but that he thinks they will follow his will, even if they don’t necessarily want to. But Szeth, during his trials, etc, has shown to think a bit outside the box.

(2) I honestly felt like there wasn’t a ton of buildup to make Szeth’s character innately trust Dalinar, especially not to the point where he would trust Dalinar more than Nale. Super agree. Szeth spends most of Book 2 trying to kill Dalinar, and is spurned only by Kaladin. Is Szeth’s basis for following Dalinar entirely based on the fact that Kaladin is then? And will this change if Kaladin’s feelings change once he learns about Dalinar’s past?

It will be really interesting to see 1. how Kaladin’s feelings do change about Dalinar, for sure, BUT also, how he feels about the assassin in white just nilly-willy joining up with Dalinar. I am going to assume that he’s going to be pretty untrustworthy towards Szeth for a good while.

I’d like to talk about the sword here too. Like WHAT IS UP WITH IT?! 

Wow! I’m impressed. You know, Vivenna never drew me even once? She carried me for a long time too. Maybe a couple of days even?

“And how long have I been carrying you?”

At least an hour; the sword said satisfied. One, or two, or ten thousand. Something like that.

That sword’s mind is definitely in a weird place, and I honestly wonder why that is. Are the other swords like this? 

Kathleen was right! That *IS* Nightblood!

(spoilers – if you haven’t read Warbreaker, just skip to the next section, sorry Arielle – and lol at your question about the sword since you can’t read the next section yet)

You should draw me, the sword said.

“And do what, sword-nimi?” Szeth whispered.

Fight him. I think he might be evil.

When are we actually going to fight someone? You sure do like to talk. Even more than Vasher, and he could go on and on and on…

I read Warbreaker after The Words of Radiance on Kathleen’s recommendation. She thought the sword that Szeth got at the end of Book 2 sounded a lot like the sword in the beginning of Warbreaker – same snarky tone, same snarky personality, same proclivity to DESTROY EVIL!

Well, SHE WAS RIGHT!

One of the things that was touched on in Warbreaker was that while Nightblood is basically a sentient sword, made with the purpose to “destroy evil”, he wasn’t made with the capacity to truly discern *what* evil is. And so passages like the one above where he just kind of guesses at what is evil and what needs to be destroyed are both funny and poignant.

Does he think Nale is evil because he sees that Nale is going to switch sides to the Parshmen? Or does he think he’s evil just because?

“You almost ate him,” Lift said. “You almost starvin’ ate me!”

Oh, I wouldn’t do that, the voice said. She seemed completely baffled, voice growing slow, like she was drowsy. But … maybe I was just really, really hungry…

And his interactions with Lift were very interesting too, if for no other reason that Lift hears Nightblood as a *girl* while in all of Warbreaker, he’s referred to by Vasher as a boy, and even Szeth refers to him as a boy. I think I remember a passage about how Nightblood doesn’t really understand gender, and so he/she’ll appear to different people as different genders as a result.

“I have known royals. Including one woman who left it behind. Throne, family, responsibilities…

I can’t help feeling that this is merely one in a long string of duties abdicated, of burdens set down, perhaps to disastrous results. But of all the things I’ve walked away from, the one I don’t regret is allowing some else to rule. Sometimes, the best way to do your duty is to let someone else – someone more capable – try carrying it.”

-Azure

Bonus, we got Nightblood, AND WE GOT VIVENNA! It took me until after I finished the book to put two and two together, but Azure *has* to be Vivenna!  She talks about needing to be royalty, but then abandoning it, like she did to her home kingdom in Warbreaker. And Vasher *was* kind of a bounty hunter.

So many questions though then –

(1) Where is Vasher?

(2) How do colors / breaths interact with this world? Nightblood feeds on stormlight first, and THEN colors. But obviously colors are still a thing.

(3) Everyone in Roshar should still have all their breaths. How do breaths interact with shards or spren?

The Fall of Alekthar

More twists and turns. Who saw Alekthar falling? I definitely did NOT. I assumed the entire book was building up to a giant battle at Alekthar for the final Act, Dalinar and Alethi troops rolling in to stem the tide to rescue a beleaguered Kaladin, Adolin, Elhokar, and Shallan . Welp, I was wrong.

Kaladin saw them. All of them. Sah and the parshmen, fighting to keep their freedom. The guardsmen who had been rescued, fighting for their king. Azure’s Wall Guard, terrified as their city fell around them. The Queen’s Guard, convinced they were loyally following orders.

In that moment, Kaladin lost something precious. He’d always been able to trick himself into seeing a battle as us against them. Protect those you love. Kill everyone else. But…but they didn’t deserve death.

None of them did.

Kaladin screamed, tears streaming form his eyes. He begged them to just stop, to listen.

They couldn’t hear him. Sah – gentle Sah, who had only wanted to protect his daughter – died by Noro’s sword. Noro, in turn, got his head split by Khen’s axe.

Noro and Sah fell beside Beard, whose dead eyes started sightlessly – his arm stretched out, glyphward soaking up his blood.

We spent so much time with Kaladin as he befriended the parshmen on his reconnaissance before; just as much time with Kaladin as he made friends on the Wall Guard. I thought for sure the ending to this battle would be Kaladin at the *very least* convincing everyone to stop killing each other. That it would be this grand scene where everyone lays down their weapons because they know Kaladin, and they all work together to defeat the queen and save the city.

But nooooope. Everyone died. And it broke Kaladin. And a little bit of me as well.

Kaladin could almost hear Elhokar stuttering the words.

Life … life before death …

The hair on Kaladin’s neck rose. Elhokar started to glow softly.

Strength … before weakness …

“Do it, Elhokar,” Kaladin whispered.

Journey. Journey before …

A figure emerged from the battle. A tall, lean man – so, so familiar. Gloom seemed to cling to Moash, who wore a brown uniform like the parshmen. For a heartbeat the battle pivoted on him. Wall guard behind him, broken Palace Guard before.

“Moash, no…” Kaladin whispered. He couldn’t move. Stormlight bled from him, leaving him empty, exhausted.

Lowering his spear, Moash ran Elkohar through the chest.

And when I say everybody, that doesn’t mean “no name characters that no one really knew anyway,” that includes freaking ELHOKAR. And of storming course it’s Moash that does it.

So sad that he was *so close* to becoming a Radiant, to coming one step closer to becoming the hero and leader he wanted to be.

All of this is so same. I’m honestly surprised Elhokar was killed. I’m still trying to figure out what is going to become of Moash though.

Teft

“Can you see it, Teft?” the Spren whispered. “Can you feel the Words?”

“I’m broken.”

“Who isn’t? Life breaks us, Teft. Then we fill the cracks with something stronger.”

Storm you! Be a man for once in your life!

“I will protect those I hate. Even … even if the one I hate most … is … myself.”

I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy most of Teft’s chapters for almost the entire book. Same. I thought he was a whiny little bitch that kept abdicating his responsibilities. But I guess that was just one giant elaborate setup for his own personal little redemption arc at the end.

Hilarious it is to see his spren basically be as gruff as he is. She basically calls him a pussy and literally tells him to man up.

Light exploded from the Oathgate platform in a wave. The Fused cried out in a strange tongue, zipping into the air. A luminous wall expanded from the Oathgate platform in a ring, trailing a glowing afterimage.

It faded to reveal an entire division of Alethi troops in Kholin blue standing upon the Oathgate platform.

Then, like a Herald from Lore, a man rose into the air above them. Glowing with Stormlight, the bearded man carried a long silver Shardspear with a strange crossguard shape behind the tip.

Teft. Knight Radiant.

And as a result, Teft gets major screentime in one of the best scenes of the book! The entire end is of course breathtakingly amazing, but for him to figuratively ride in as the cavalry with the description above was…jawdropping.

Shallan/Veil/Radiant

“We’re still ignoring too much,” Shallan said. “We’re getting too good at pretending.” She had decided to stay with Jasnah in the first place to learn. But when the woman returned from the dead, Shallan had – instead of accepting training – immediately fled. What had she been thinking?

Nothing. She’d been trying to hide away from things she didn’t want to face. Like always.

Shallan’s character took a *very* interesting turn in this book, where she deals with split personalities and has a crisis of confidence in herself.

Much like Dalinar, she has to come to grips with some stuff from her past; whereas Dalinar hid himself in drinking and went to the Nightcrawler to assuage his guilt, Shallan tried to just run away from it all together and never face it, making up new personalities to deal with problems as she went.

We saw Veil again, but instead of being a character she puts on to accomplish things sometimes, we saw Shallan start to imagine herself with Veil as her main personality and Shallan as a personality she wanted to hide from the world…which was…weird.

Moreover, we saw Veil undergo her own plot lines and suffer major setbacks herself. Which ordinarily wouldn’t have been a problem since she’s a made up person, but…

“Since the first day, you storming woman. Hate…hate you…Others too. We all…hate you…”

The whole city was depending on her, but she hadn’t even been able to save a little beggar boy. As she curled up on the floor, Grund’s death seemed a shadow of everything else, of her good intentions turned arrogant.

Everywhere she trod, death haunted her. Every face she wore was a lie to pretend she could stop it.

Couldn’t she be somebody who didn’t hurt, just once?

Tragedy! How horrible would it be to genuinely figure out that while you were trying to do something good for people, you were actually ruining their lives? And that they *hated* you for it!

I give money to the homeless folks on the street; I donate to charities. I would feel crushed if I figured out that I had basically gone out of my way to accidentally hurt people.

“You tried to help the people of the market. You mostly failed. This is life. The longer you live, the more you fail. Failure is the mark of a life well lived. In turn, the only way to live without failure is to be of no use to anyone.”

-Wit

And the same things happens to Veil. She doesn’t “come out” as often anymore after that soul crushing realization. Wit literally has to rescue Shallan/Veil and help her back to her feet. And even then, she really doesn’t do much in the climax of the book.

Shallan’s struggle with who she was (Veil? Radiant? Shallan?) was honestly a little weird for me. I thought her battle with self doubt was basically over in Book 2, and it was curious to see it bleed over as her central theme in Book 3. I wonder how much of Shallan’s story in Book 4 will center around it. I hope in book 4 that Shallan figures out who she is and comes to terms with it. 

Adolin searched her eyes. She bled from one, to the other, and back. A moment of Veil. A moment of Radiant. Shallan peeking through –

Adolin’s hand tightened around her own

Shallan’s breath caught. There, she thought. That’s the one. That’s the one I am.

He knows.

Speaking of things spilling over from Book 2 to Book 3, remember that whole sexual tension between her and Kaladin and her and Adolin? It’s resolved!

And in a pretty cute way at that. Adolin noticing that Veil and Radiant have a thing for Kaladin and offering to step aside, only for Shallan to confidently proclaim that she wanted to be with him and he with her. Their exchange was heartwarming.

Some other things about Shallan is her involvement with the Ghostbloods. I guess we are going to see how that plays out in Book 4 but I’m wondering if her brother’s are going to be held against her in someway now that they are around. Honestly, I thought she (and Brandon) had forgotten about her brothers altogether. I even messaged Edmund when i had about 40 minutes left thinking they weren’t going to be mentioned. But nope, they get a super short scene where they show up just before her wedding, convenient!

Lift

This is not possible, the Stormfather said in Dalinar’s mind. How did she come here?

“You didn’t bring her in?” Dalinar said softly.

No. This is not possible! How…?

This is a creation specifically meant to defy my will!

That child is tainted by the Nightwatcher. This is different. This is unnatural. She goes too far. The Stormfather rumbled his discontent, refuisng to speak to Dalinar further. He seemed genuinely upset.

It was really interesting that she was able to pop in and out of the Stormfather’s and Odium’s visions, and even take people out of them. Both of them seemed so unnerved whenever she did so. In fact, it’s the only time that Odium ever seemed freaked out.

Lift seems to be tied closely to Cultivation, who I assume will play a larger role in the books ahead. With Honor dead, Cultivation is really the only thing that can stop Odium.

Her deal with the Nightwatcher seems very interesting. She asked to stay young forever, but in addition, she seems able to do a lot of things other Knights Radiant can’t. She can metabolize Stormlight directly from food (I think this is an extra bonus about being an edge dancer, but I’m honestly not sure); she can screw up things from Odium and the Stormfather; her spren seemed to survive with more of his memories intact than either Syl or Pattern after transitioning over, and he always talks about “mother” who I can assume is either the Nightwatcher or Cultivation.

I wonder what her curse is? And how her special abilities as a Knight Radiant will factor into everything. I think that somehow her curse/boon will be reversed – like Dalinars. I think that since bonding, that is what has given Dalinar back his boon/curse, so maybe the same thing will happen with Lyft.

The VoidBringers

The biggest twist of this book was set up perfectly. *We* are not necessarily the good guys in this story, defending our land from the voidbringers. We are the original voidbringers!

Syl confirmed that humans originally brought Odium with them when they came from another world. They switched to Honor as a religion *afterwards*.

You could protect your home. You could kill to defend the people inside. But what if you’d stolen that house in the first place? What if the people you killed were only trying to get back what was rightfully theirs?

It got so complicated. Humans had lived upon this land for thousands of years. Could anyone really be expected to let go because of what ancient people had done, no matter how dishonorable their actions?

“The oaths are about perception, Syl. You confirmed that. The only thing that matters is whether or not we are confident that we’re obeying our principles. If we lose that confidence, then dropping the armor and weapons is only a formality.”

“Kal-”

“I’m not going to do the same,” Kaladin said. “I’d like to think that the past of Bridge Four will make us a little more pragmatic than those ancient Radiants. We won’t abandon you. But finding out what we will do might end up being messy.”

This brings about all sorts of interesting philosophical questions that I’m sure will be delved into in further books.

Will it kill people’s will to fight? Or will they not care, because fuck, it’s their lives they’re fighting for, and we’re now thousands of years removed from that. Plus, it’s *Odium* that we’re fighting, and he is the one bringing the void.

A good analogy is “Should Americans today feel less national pride because of what we did to the Native Americans?” and the answer in society has been a resounding NO. What we did to Native Americans has, for most intents and purposes, just become a footnote in history. So I feel like it’ll be something similar here in Roshar.

The Oathpact and the Heralds

Honor let the power blind him to the truth – that while spren and gods cannot break their oaths, men can and will. The ten heralds were sealed upon damnation, trapping the voidbringers there. However, if any one of the ten agreed to bend his oath and let voidbringers past, it opened a flood. They could all return.

That started a desolation.

“They were tortured, weren’t they?”

Horribly, by the spirits they trapped. They could share the pain because of their bond – but eventually, someone always yielded.

Ohhhh! We learn the secret of the oathpact relatively early on in the story, about 1/3 of the way through. NOW that first prologue in The Way of Kings makes sense! I’d always wondered why that battle was described and then basically never really referenced again.

Poor Talenelat. 4,500 years of torture. So that explains why HE’S crazy. Why are the rest of them crazy? And if any of them were like Ash, who felt bad about the whole thing, how come none of them ever decided “Hey, we should prob go back and help out Talenalat?”

Can new Heralds be made? Is that the endgame of all this? Kaladin, Shallan, and Dalinar as new Heralds? Or is that the obvious BAD solution that we’ll shy away from at the conclusion of this series since that really doesn’t solve anything, but only delays another desolation? Plus, it’s the obvious solution, so I’m sure Brandon Sanderson won’t bring us there.

Most of the remaining Heralds all seem crazy. Ash is the only one who seems even remotely sane that we see any screentime for, and she spends all her time trying to deface anything that praises the Heralds. Talenelat’s brain is broken except for small outbursts of clarity; Nalan went crazy and is now actually going to join Odium’s side. Jezrein, king of the Heralds, was acting like a crazy hobo dude and just got perma-murdered by Moash? And there’s one Herald who apparently has his own army? Can’t remember his name right now, but I imagine he’ll end up being some sort of antagonist in future stories.

Arielle’s Final Comments

Here are some things I’d like to say that Edmund didn’t really cover! 😀

Venli: I loved seeing her grow, loved seeing her start to understand and dislike Odium, and I really LOVED Timbre. I loved that she bonded a spren and he speaks her language. It’s adorable. I kind of hope she helps out Dalinar, she did see him as a beacon of light or something really similar to that.

Renarin: HOLY SHIT. He bonded a spren and then it became corrupt! His visions weren’t correct! HE WENT TO FIGHT A GIANT ROCK MONSTER! What a freaking badass. I have high hopes for Renarin in the future.

Taravangian: This guy will stop at fucking nothing. I know that when he met with Odium that The Diagram had a lot of applicable parts.  I WISH he had just followed Dalinar and tried to help him once he realized that people would actually follow him. I thought there was a bond there and then he effing goes running off to Odium. Little bitch. 

The Unmade: It’s really exciting to see the sides of the unmade. Some of them are “nice and some of them are definitely not. I’m wondering if the one Shallan scared away will be back, but it was awesome of the one in the castle to warn Shallan. I like the little insert from Hessi’s Mythical too.

Shadesmar: I really like that we got to learn more about Shademar and how it works. We’ve always known about the beads but it was definitely interesting learning about the spren, the perpendicularity, how Oath Gates USED TO BE ABLE TO GO BETWEEN REALMS LIKE WHAT.

Book 4: I really hope they figure out how to “run” the tower. I hope our Radiant’s learn to summon their shardplate. I wonder if Kaladin’s family is going to play a bigger part in the book as well.

Last side note: Apparently I need to read another book to put the Azure thing together. 😛

Random Nitpicks

All this to say that a LOT of stuff happened in Book 4. And I really enjoyed it. Sucks that I have to undergo a multi-year wait now for the next book. But I guess not everyone can be like James S.A. Corey and pump out a new novel every year. I got spoiled since it was only a few months between Books 2 and 3 for me personally.

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind if these were released in smaller novels more regularly. Like you could publish each part every year? I wonder why Brandon Sanderson doesn’t do that…

That all being said, one thing I did notice was that I had a lot less of Kaladin + Syl in my life in this book, and chatter from the internet seems to think that this will be a trend going forward. If so, that’s disappointing, as Kaladin is the main reason I read and love this series. Doh.

Conclusion

I’m pretty happy with this book overall, and am sad that I probably won’t get to read the next until until 2022. I’ll definitely have to come back and reference this review, maybe even read this entire book again in order to get ready.

I hear that we’ll have a significant time jump between books 3 and 4, which is…honestly, a little disappointing for me. Time jumps always kind of mess up my flow quite a bit. I just finished reading The Expanse Book 7, Persepolis Rising, and the time jump really messed up my immersion since literal DECADES had occurred between books. But I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

I loved that we got to see Kaladin’s showdown with Amaram, loved seeing Dalinar’s character development through flashbacks, and the two twists (Alekthar NOT saved, *We* are the voidbringers) were really well done. Never saw them coming.

I hope that we’ll see more of Kaladin and Syl in future books, but am a little afraid that won’t happen. While I enjoy Lift’s chapters, and Pattern + Shallan’s chapters, nothing really comes close to the banter between Kal and Syl. But again, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

(Warbreaker spoilers for one paragraph – ignore it you haven’t read it yet)

I’m really happy that Kathleen introduced me to this world, and will probably read some of the other books in Sanderson’s cosmere. I LOVED the crossover from Warbreaker and it felt so cool when I figured out that Azure was probably Vivenna, and that Nightblood MOST DEFINITELY was the same sword!

Sanderson has a real gift for world building and tying everything together. I’m sincerely impressed. Kudos to you, Brandon. See you in your next book.

 

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House – TwoMorePages Book Review

You know how best to get everyone to read a book? Freak out and tell everyone not to read it, call it a bunch of lies without even knowing what’s in it, like Trump’s administration did lol. I hadn’t planned on reading this book at all, and yet here we are!

Honestly, I thought my friend Elijah would be right when he said that I probably wouldn’t learn anything by reading the book. It would just reinforce some of the things I already thought, and so it probably wouldn’t be a good use of my time. So surprise surprise, when I *did* actually learn things in Fire and Fury!

It never really occurred to me that Trump’s advisors would not only NOT be one unified front, but would actively be undermining each other. I thought they were just incompetent and that’s why they couldn’t get on the same page.

Nor did it occur to me that Steve Bannon, of all people, would sometimes be the voice of reason among the senior advisors. For instance, he was the loudest voice against firing James Comey! WUT?! I’m sure this is due in part because he ended up being such a primary source for the book, but he’s painted as this racist political mastermind.

So here we go. Let’s talk about some of my favorite passages from this book. And Rachel’s too (in blue!)

The Administration’s Beginning

“Don’t let him piss off the press, don’t let him piss off the Republican Party, don’t threaten congressmen because they will fuck you if you do, and most of all, don’t let him piss off the intel community,” said one national Republican figure to Kushner. “If you fuck with the intel community, they will figure out a way to get back at you and you’ll have two or three years of a Russian investigation, and every day something else will leak out.”

Lol, if this was really told to Kushner and Trump’s advisors right in the beginning, that was extremely prescient. The only thing they got wrong so far was predicting legislative pushback from Republicans, since they seem to be actively aiding in obstructing Mueller’s investigation so far (*cough Nunes*).

Hi guys – Rachel here! Writing this a few months out, (and quite a few Mueller team revelations and subpoenas later), it’s remarkable to watch how little the modern Republican leadership (and I’m not taking shots at all of them or all Republicans so hold your horses people) seems to care that Trump is actively going after the Mueller investigation. Basically the strongest quote is Lindsey Graham saying firing Mueller will be “the beginning of the end of his presidency,” but since I’m pretty sure we’ve already past that point, its not much of a threat. And wow, let’s just say Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have severely given up the mantel of any ethical leadership. I pretty don’t much want to hear them say the words moral, right, or good, ever again 

The Breitbart formula was to so appall the liberals that the base was doubly satisfied, generating clicks in a ricochet of disgust and delight. You defined yourself by your enemy’s reaction. Conflict was the media bait – hence, now, the political chum. The new politics was not the art of the compromise but the art of conflict.

On Friday, January 27th, the travel ban was signed and took immediate effect. The result was an emotional outpouring of horror and indignation from liberal media, terror in immigrant communities, tumultuous protests at major airports, confusion throughout the government, and, in the White House, an inundation of lectures, warnings, and opprobrium from friends and family. What have you done? Do you know what your’e doing? You have to undo this! You’re finished before you even start! Who’s in chart there?

But Steve Bannon was satisfied. He could not have hoped to draw a more vivid line between the two Americas – Trump’s and liberals’ – and between his White House and the White House inhabited by those not yet ready to burn the place down.

Why did we do this on a Friday when it would hit the airports hardest and bring out the most protesters? almost the entire White House staff demanded to know.

“Err…that’s why,” said Bannon. “So the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot.” That was the way to crush the liberals: make them crazy and drag them to the left.

Never really thought about it in that respect. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that okay, this was Bannon trying to set a tone for the administration, one that purportedly never thought it was going to win, and so never planned for what to do if it did.

The way Bannon is described in the beginning of the administration is true to what we know about him – he is brash, and he is a man of action. It makes perfect sense that he would advise Trump to just start making executive orders, and then let the fallout happen. Even more than that, it makes perfect sense that he would do something that would provoke the maximum response and push people away from what would have been the middle.

If I’m being introspective for a second, I’m as guilty as anyone of being pushed left from his actions, and then condemning people that were pushed to the right. There are some friendships of mine that will never recover.

Bannon and Trump’s actions reshaped the national dialogue. The administration of most Presidents, after winning, tries to unite the country again, bringing people back to the middle so that compromise can be reached. So that we can move on and move forward as a country. Bannon and Trump did the opposite, and that’s part of why you still see stupid shit about Clinton when the election was FOURTEEN MONTHS AGO.

But it’s interesting to see that this was planned. That we were all part of Bannon’s game. Which if I take a step back, is honestly…pretty impressive. Especially when the rest of the book paints everyone else as basically incompetent idiots running around just trying to make the best of their situations. Steve Bannon – racist political genius.

 This is probably something I’m going to end up saying a lot here, but Steve Bannon – at least Michael Wolff’s Steve Bannon – is scarily prescient. This man, from what it appears, was smart enough to know enough about a deep, dark, scary vein running through America. Do I severely dislike the man? Hell yes. Do I think maybe the way he is portrayed in this book is at least in part a product of his own making? Again, 100%. Do I think he is extremely, virulently racist and discriminatory? Oh yeah, for sure and for certain. But, I also think he knew pretty much exactly what he was doing and what he needed to push and prod to make his scary-ass dreams come true.  

The Stupid Wiretapping Allegations

“At the Obama White House, Mr. Trump’s statements toked fears among some that intelligence could be covered up or destroyed – or its sources exposed – once power changed hands. What followed was a push to preserve the intelligence that underscored the deep anxiety from which the White House and American intelligence agencies had come to view the threat from Moscow.”

-The New York Times

Here was more confirmation of a central Trump thesis: The previous administration, its own candidate defeated, was not just disregarding the democratic custom of smoothing the way for the winner of the election; rather, in the Trump White House view, Obama’s people had plotted with the intelligence community to put land mines in the new administration’s way.

So here is one example of something I genuinely learned from this book. Perspective, however screwed up, from the other side.

I remember being absolutely livid when Trump’s allegations against President Obama came out. I got a fight with my buddy Scott, from which our relationship has never truly recovered. I almost doxxed him, I was so mad, in order to prove a point as to how dangerous those allegations truly were.

It’s interesting to see how Trump and his administration saw it. From Trump’s POV, where he’s always a victim, the fact that intelligence agencies were scrambling to protect themselves wasn’t a symptom of a larger problem – namely, that they didn’t trust the President.

No, instead, it was a symptom of some larger conspiracy, where Obama’s administration set “land mines” in Trump’s way to prevent him from having a good relationship with the intelligence agencies. Absolute lunacy from a 3rd party perspective, but at least now, you can get a glimpse into the craziness.

“Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped” in Trump Tower jsut before the victory.”

And once you understand that level of paranoia and craziness from Trump, you can see how it was so easy for Trump to jump to his stupid tweets accusing Obama of heinous acts that he didn’t do.

So…learning…yay…?

Yeah, okay so here’s something  I still have problems understanding. So I get that Trump is terribly paranoid. Sure, I think we’ve all grasped that by this point. But, in reading this book, it struck me once again just how odd it is that the rest of the Trump team – like all of them, generals, commanders, RINOs, CEOs, the Kushner family, etc. – are going along with the paranoid shtick. I know they get to be in some of the powerful position in the world by following along with Trump’s paranoiac behavior, but you know…they still technically won the election. Meaning, they could hold onto power and not bow to conspiracy theories every three days. Just a thought! *cough* Javanka and Kelly *cough* 

Steve Bannon’s Best Quotes

Despite the fact that I think he’s an absolutely awful human being, Steve Bannon has the most entertaining and memorable quotes in this entire book.

“The three senior guys in the campaign thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the 25th floor – with no lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately.”

-Steve Bannon

“He (the President) said to me everybody would take that Don Junior meeting with the Russians. I said, ‘Everybody would not take that meeting.’

‘I’m a naval officer. I’m not going to take a meeting with Russian nationals, and do it in headquarters, are you fucking insane?’ ”

-Steve Bannon

It boggles my mind that Bannon and I have things we 100% agree on. Bannon’s condescension and disbelief at the stupidity of that meeting in Trump Tower mirrors mine. He just makes it so entertaining to read lol.

“I’m pretty good at coming up with solutions, I came up with a solution for his broke-dick campaign in about a day, but I don’t see this. (Russia thing). I don’t see a plan for getting through. Now, I gave him a plan…but he’s the President…and you can’t stop him. The guy is going to call his own plays. He’s Trump…”

-Steve Bannon

“If he fires Mueller, it just brings the impeachment quicker. He wants an unrecused attorney general. I told him if Jeff Sessions goes, Rod Rosenstein goes, and then Rachel Brand goes. We’ll be digging down into Obama career guys. An Obama guy will be acting attorney general.

I said you’re not going to get Rudy (Guliani) because he was on the campaign and will have to recuse himself, and Chris Christie too, so those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain.”

-also Steve Bannon haha

That last one is I think my absolute favorite. “Those are masturbatory fantasies, get those out of your brain” bahahaha

The way that Bannon describes *just how bad* of a decision firing Mueller would be is hilarious entertaining.

Quick snap back to real life, I’m obvious on Team Mueller, and hope he finds enough to not only get Trump out of this Presidency, but charged with actual crimes. With the increasing speed of front-page worth news articles related to Trump, since this book got released, Mueller got a subpeona to interview Bannon.

What’s weird to me is that Bannon has basically lost everything now. He was kicked out of the White House by Kelly/Jared/Ivanka. Then, because of some of these hilarious quotes in the book, he and Trump no longer publicly get along. And on top of that, the Mercer family, the main family backing Breitbart, cut ties with him and so he got fired from Breitbart, of all places.

So here he is, having lost everything. No income. No relationships. No nothing. He’s literally got *nothing* to lose by talking.

So why isn’t he turning on Trump and Trump’s family? *Especially* because the book goes into so much detail about how much he hated Jared and Ivanka. Considering how vengeful he seems to be, this would seem to be a prime opportunity for some vengeance at getting ousted by them.

Instead, he’s hiding under executive privilege from Trump, and seems to be actively trying to not answer Mueller’s questions. WHY? I’m so confused…

Couple months out from the release of the book and not one whisper from Bannon. Which, agreeing with Edmund, is super super super odd. It’s kinda like the saying about toddlers and puppies, although this time applied to a much more sinister case scenario — The scariest sound of all is silence. 

Favorite Quotes from Other People

It’s worse than you can imagine. An idiot surrounded by clowns. Trump won’t read anything – not one-page memos, not the brief policy papers; nothing. He gets up halfway through meetings with world leaders because he is bored. And his staff is no better. Kushner is an entitled baby who knows nothing. Bannon is an arrogant prick who thinks he’s smarter than he is. Trump is less a person than a collection of terrible traits.

I hate the work, but feel I need to stay because I’m the only person there with a clue what he’s doing. The reason so few jobs have been filled is that they only accept people who pass ridiculous purity tests, even for midlevel policy-making jobs where the people will never see the light of day. I am in a constant state of shock and horror.

-Gary Cohn

I think this totally unrefuted blurb from Gary Cohn is the most telling thing about the inner workings of the Trump White House. This is someone who was on the inside, who worked for Goldman Sachs. Why wouldn’t I believe him?

“Its impossible to make him understand you can’t stop these investigations. In the old days, you could say leave it alone. Now you say leave it alone and you’re the one who gets investigated. He can’t get this through his head.”

-Roger Ailes

I think it’s funny that even Roger Ailes speaks condescendingly of Trump, especially in relation to the Russian investigation that most die hard Trump supporters think is a “nothing-burger.”

To me, the exposition of the relationship between Murdoch, Ailes, Trump, and Bannon was fascinating. Three of these men have been household names for decades now, and all four will be for a long, long time in the future. But I guess what’s crazy is you never think about the fact that these guys actually know each other – like each other, hate each other, tolerate each other – in real life. But that’s beside the point. The point is this quote by Roger Ailes: 

“Men who demand the most loyalty tend to be the least loyal pricks.” 

Now, who on earth in the White House do we know demands absolute loyalty from anyone he encounters… You’d think by now people would know Trump is one of the least loyal humans ever. I mean come on, the man’s been stabbing people in the back since the 70s. 

Trump: Marshmallow in Chief

“The President fundamentally wants to be liked. He just fundamentally needs to be liked so badly that it’s always…everything is a struggle for him.”

-Katie Walsh

The speech also confirmed Ivanka’s understanding of her father: he just wanted to be loved. And, likewise, it confirmed Bannon’s worst feat: Trump, in his true heart, was a marshmallow.

This is simultaneously the most insightful and most sad revelation from this book. That maybe, at his core, Trump isn’t an awful person. He’s just a someone with the mind of a child who’s surrounded himself with awful people, and so he does awful things with the powers granted him based on their influence.

It makes sense when you zoom out and see which world leaders he gets along with the best. They’re all people and regimes that flatter him – literally almost everything else doesn’t matter. He gets along with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the Phillippines, autocratic regimes that flatter him.

And the countries that he gets along least with? Our allies who don’t just cowtow to him, but expect him to lead and set a good example. Germany, Australia, France, Great Britain, Canada.

Or when you look at his visceral reaction to the press. Fox News, which is basically a propaganda machine built on fellating Trump, is his favorite. He even likes Infowars and Breitbart, not because of the quality of their journalism, but because they praise him. Meanwhile, actual good news outlets are all “fake news” because they are critical of the MANY things his administration is failing at.

So how do we approach things given this information? Because right now, the only people who deign to be his sycophants are awful people with awful agendas. They are the only ones with his ear.

Does the press start focusing on praise when he does well, to encourage him to do more good things? Like a child? I’ve always heard you teach children/pets tricks by praising them when they do something well, not punishing them when they do something you don’t want to do. Could that work with Trump as well?

And if so, how does that change the national discourse? Does it change it in a positive way? Will he stop attacking the press if so?

To be clear, this argument is not advocating to go full on Fox News apology mode, ignoring anything he does poorly and making excuses for them. It’s just to give him a little positive press when he DOES do something well that’s popular – like when he pulled out of the TPP for instance. And then continue being critical of him where he fails.

Or maybe we can praise him for things like NOT firing Mueller? 😀

Would that work? Would that help dilute the advice of his awful advisers, and somehow mitigate some of the terrible effects of his awful presidency? Food for thought.

I gotta agree – this portion of the book hit me hard too. But, maybe I’m more cynical, I just have a hard time believing that underneath the racism, sexism, power hunger, class-ism, etc. that Trump is just a big Marshmallow. Truly, I think he has a narcissistic personality that has been fed simpering, sycophantic flattery over his entire life, is someone who has never worked an honest job (yes, I know he worked, but come on, it wasn’t really honest), and is very rarely contradicted by his inner circle when he says something blatantly (or dog whistle-y) wrong. Give a man like this nearly unlimited power and attention…well, why did we except him to change upon entering the Oval Office. I’m sure he does feel some level of sympathy about bad situations, but if the man – who, let’s just reiterate, is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES – needs a card that reminds him to say “I hear you” at a listening session for shooting victims…something’s off there. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, this book was a better read than I thought it would be. I got a little glimpse into Trump’s POV (however wrong) in certain issues, developed a better understanding of the adversarial relationship that Priebus, Bannon, and Jared/Ivanka had in Trump’s White House, and maybe got a little glimpse into the President’s character as well, along with some *very* entertaining quotes from Bannon.

A worthwhile read.