A Review Of What Is (Maybe) The Worst Book On The U.S. Presidency Ever Written
Every Presidency produces a rash of books about why the President is awesome or terrible, like The Case Against Carter or Gettin' Jiggy with Johnson. The vast majority are vapid, surface-level analyses written in the moment for people who already agree with every word; no Obama voter thought "Maybe Epic Fail: Obama's Reign of Communist Terror will expand my mind," so all this crap ends up forgotten weeks after it's released.
Trump has kicked this industry into overdrive, but while the books are getting more ludicrous they're still pointlessly insular: for every The Catholic Case for Trump there's Why Our Lord Christ Would Have Punched Trump in the Penis, and their target market remains people who nodded at the title. Not to disparage the hardworking writer of Airborne: How The Liberal Media Weaponized The Coronavirus Against Donald Trump, but most of these books appear to be cranked out by cranks looking to make a quick buck from angry people. Amid this flood of bullshit, one rambling screed stands out as a tidal wave. It's called, and please take a moment to eulogize your life as it was before you learned this title, Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization.
This book is fascinating, albeit in the same way that a bad acid trip is fascinating. Regardless of what you think of Churchill, a man with a complicated legacy that's been debated for decades, it takes a... unique worldview to write "President Donald J. Trump will end up in the history books as a greater defender of Western civilization than even Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a man who deserves enormous credit for defeating Nazi Germany."
It helps that author Nick Adams' convenient definition of Western civilization includes vague personal opinions like "limited taxation," ironies like "a right to the freedom of speech" being on the same page as the questioning of judicial candidates being dubbed "disgusting" and "despicable," and some questionable scrawling about how Trump supports an open government because he's been "talkative." (One bullet point just says "Democracy," which should help clear things up.)
Whatever Western civilization is, Trump is apparently alone in defending it against the chaotic tides of ISIS and rich sociology professors because, and this is somehow about as deep as Adams gets, Canada's Trudeau is "weak and effeminate." How so? Don't ask, because proof is irrelevant. World War II and the battle for Trump's corporate tax cuts are the same basic struggle for freedom, while Churchill defeating the Nazis and Trump placing white supremacists in his administration is a trivial difference. This is a book for people deeply, deeply embedded in a cultural divide that pundits like Adams have repackaged as an existential total war. References like "attacks by Bernie Sanders against Russ Vought" are tossed off as though you intimately remember one minor news story from 2017 because, in this war, every day is the Battle of the Bulge.
Most of this book isn't worth picking apart for the same reason it isn't worth picking apart an expired egg. Trump and Churchill: What if They Kissed? reheats the same nonsensical talking points that have been shouted at us for years, like the argument that Trump's lack of knowledge on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is actually great, because it means he can just apply his supposed natural brilliance and "broker a deal." Large chunks of the book are written as though Trump's first term hasn't, you know, happened, like Trump is going to hash-out peace in the Middle East over a late October breakfast instead of just complaining that Froot Loops aren't what they used to be.
This book feels padded. Adams will include a Churchill quote that begins "We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France," but first clarify that it was meant as a "reminder that the British people were ready to fight until the death at the side of their ally France." It's unclear why this should be considered inspiring given that Adams soon complains about "socialist French bureaucrats and Chinese business leaders hand in hand to write the disastrous antifreedom, anti-American Paris Accords," but a man who opens a chapter called "Genius" by writing "What is genius? It takes genius to be a defender of Western civilization. Churchill should be considered the first great defender of Western civilization" is only qualified to write the instructions on a frozen dinner. Even that would probably end up reading "Preheat the oven to 350F. The oven will heat your Meatloaf Supreme, but only once its heat reaches 350F. If you use Celsius, liberals will force you to eat your Meatloaf Supreme with another man, Lady and the Tramp style."
That "analysis" of one of Churchill's wartime speeches segues into an analysis of Trump's inauguration speech, in the same way that a school bus driven by 17 irascible orangutans segues into a telephone pole. For many, the meaning of "We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done" would be a hopeless enigma. But Adams gleams the ingenious truth behind Trump's words. Trump, you see, "acknowledges that there are problems they face, but they 'will get the job done.'"Ooh. Now I get it.
Was the job done? Precisely what job was it, anyway? Nick's book lacks those little touches, and so I'm afraid I can't give him a sticker of a star wearing sunglasses. But credit where credit's due: Adams found an innovative new way to perform literary fellatio. Again, these are largely the same brain worms that Fox News has been drilling into the skulls of your maddest relatives for years. When Adams complains that Obama " seven-year-old girls to shower with fifty-year-old men," says "leftists ... have never had to fear job loss" because "a steady stream of taxpayer funding and George Soros money" has kept them employed, and fantasizes about "the pure horror on a gender studies professor's face if a student were to walk into class wearing a 'Make America Great Again' hat," we're not really talking about Winston Churchill.
But the Churchill analogy is a stroke of evil brilliance. Churchill's fame makes him baby's first great man of history, a figure even someone who slept through school can associate with generic success. (Even Iron Maiden wrote songs about him.) Some of his quotes, once they're plucked from all the quibbles of context, are vague enough for us to be told "Churchill argued against political correctness, even without using that exact phrase," as though Churchill once announced to the nation, "Every man should ask himself each day whether he is not too readily accepting negative solutions, but also if a shopping mall installs a gender neutral toilet stall I will publicly soil myself in anger for a year straight."
Churchill, conveniently, has also been dead for 55 years, which lets Adams equate historic accomplishments with Trump's ongoing vagaries. Churchill said the Allies would beat the Nazis, they eventually did, and therefore when Trump says he respects women that claim is equally self-evident. This is a book for people who think reading something with "Churchill" and "Civilization" in the title is inherently intellectual, despite "Civilization IV Churchill Nude Hack" somehow having more insight into both.
The Churchill analogy is also brilliant because it let Adams charge 23 bucks for what is tantamount to a hardcover copy of churchillquotes.co.uk. The final 30% of this slim book is just two full speeches by Trump and Churchill, half the pages are slathered in their quotes, and even then Adams keeps repeating himself. He references the Masterpiece Cakeshop case three times, works in a trio of identical shots at the Iranian nuclear deal, and finds two occasions to harangue John Kerry, who's been retired for three years. (You know, just like how Churchill's famous Finest Hour speech was mostly trashing Stanley Baldwin.) Chapter 4, "Feared and Despised" complains about college students and LGBT rights, but then Chapter 5, "Patriotism," ingeniously complains about LGBT rights and then college students.
Although maybe I shouldn't complain that Adams doesn't use many of his own words, because whenever he strings more than a couple of sentences together he ends up with shit like " was able to get LGBT Americans, who had concerns about gay marriage or transgender bathrooms, to unite with conservative Christians against the common enemy of radical Islam, after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Being protected from terrorism is a uniting factor, not a dividing issue, like whether Christian bakers should be forced to bake wedding cakes for gay weddings." What in the absolute fuck does that mean? Adams, if you were stranded on a desert island you'd write "Thank Trump I don't have to eat a gay wedding cake in a locker room!" in coconuts on the sand as erstwhile rescue planes shot at you out of spite.
Despite claiming to love Churchill, Adams repeatedly references just two elements of his long career, and so Churchill's concerns about the Soviet Union are used as an analogy for everything from "Trump's decision to enforce the public-charge rule in immigration law" to "Trump's prescient warnings about China and radical Islam," America of course having no knowledge of Islamic extremism before 2016. There are also bizarre failures of basic history, like "chancellor" Winston Churchill supposedly leading Britain's confrontation of Nazi Germany in 1933, although this does render the book's claim to be "complete with never-before-told anecdotes" technically correct.
At this point you're probably wondering who Nick Adams is, aside from someone trying to make his former English teachers commit suicide with rambling run-ons like "And neither did Obama , who was one of the worst foreign policy leaders this country has ever seen, and that includes in his own party, which includes the racist Woodrow Wilson and the naive FDR (just read the parts about Churchill in this book to see how bad a leader FDR was when it came to seeing the threats posed by Stalin and Hitler.)" Adams has, if nothing else, what appears to be a genuine love for America, which is fitting given that he is the quintessential example of a privileged child failing upwards in it.
An Australian who once got kicked out of his homeland's center-right Liberal Party for verbally abusing a journalist, Adams moved to America to reinvent himself as a pundit. In 2016 he published Green Card Warrior, where he complains without evidence that left-wing bureaucrats targeted his immigration application because of his political beliefs. At one point, when asked to provide proof of financial solvency, he points at $200,000 of his father's money. It's an angry, petty portrayal of a world where illegal immigrants get all the breaks and independently wealthy scions who make conservative YouTube videos are the world's real political refugees. Adams bought his way into what he says is the greatest country in the world so that he can be paid to complain that the uppity poor are ruining it. Trump, during one of his meandering Twitter sprees, offered Green Card Warrior a few generic words of praise, and thus a career was born like an Uruk-hai slithering out of its pod.
Adams parlayed the endorsement into more books and a couple of Fox News appearances, and he's been begging Trump for another high ever since. On Twitter, where he describes himself as "PRESIDENT TRUMP'S FAVORITE AUTHOR," he fires off dozens of missives a day, either directing praise at Trump in a thirtysomething-year-old man's sad ploy for retweets, or screaming stuff like "President Barack Hussein Obama commuted more sentences than any President in history! Congratulations to Roger Stone!" into an uncaring void.
Imagine the highlight of your life being a comment Trump put half-a-second's thought into while presumably perched on the can. At one point, Adams got Trump to retweet his fawning "You are the greatest President of my lifetime, and writing this book was truly the greatest honor of my lifetime." Afterwards, Adams posted an image of their interaction to his Facebook page, commenting "And another one! Thank you, Mr President!! 5 tweets for 1 book!" There are no words for how sad this is. I hope, for Adams' own sake, that he never meets Trump, because it's embarrassing to ejaculate in public.
The career of people like Adams sits at a confluence of grifting and getting grifted, of thinking you're a genius while being played. Trump does not give a shit about any of them: he praised George Papadopoulos as one of his top foreign policy advisors right up until he was arrested for his role in the Russian electoral interference scandal, after which Trump pivoted to calling him a "young, low level volunteer who has already proven to be a liar." But Papadopoulos wrote a book praising Trump anyway, because that's all people like him know how to do.
Adams is destined to fade back into the obscurity from which Trump dragged him. But you're going to be hearing a lot from the Adams and Papadopouloses of the world before the 2020 election, because you can't have a career telling the President that his piss tastes like strawberries if he's no longer President. Adams' brain seems to have been sincerely melted by modern politics -- he spent days treating Washington's football team announcing a name change like another 9/11 despite zero indication that he even watches the sport -- but his "Please notice me President Senpai" shtick might not survive an electoral defeat. Conservative media isn't going anywhere, but one needs at least a modicum of talent to survive a changing of the guard.
At one point in Trump and Churchill: My Fantasy Spit Roast, Adams writes "For those who may be reading this book after Trump is out of office, it's worth pointing out that as I write this, Trump's presidency is contentious." I can see how Adams can claim to be a lover of history, not just because his book is a historic crime against the English language, but all books in its vein are written like they're contributing to history too. There's this exhausting self-importance to them all, as though being the 400th book of the year to zing "triggered college students" makes you a modern Herodotus. But no one's going to be reading this book after Trump's presidency, because people are barely reading it now. And whether that presidency lasts four more years or just a few more months, people like Adams will have to figure out a new dumb scheme.
Top Image: Yousuf Karsh/Wikimedia Commons