Some people are expending a lot of emotional energy on the excerpt in the Atlantic from Maggie Haberman’s new book Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. It’s anti-Trump, of course, so it feeds a certain well-formed habit. But it strikes me as pretty thin gruel.

The essay is based on three interviews that Haberman, White House correspondent for the New York Times, conducted over the spring and summer of 2021, the first two at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach Residence, the third at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. A tag line for...

Some people are expending a lot of emotional energy on the excerpt in the Atlantic from Maggie Haberman’s new book Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America. It’s anti-Trump, of course, so it feeds a certain well-formed habit. But it strikes me as pretty thin gruel.

The essay is based on three interviews that Haberman, White House correspondent for the New York Times, conducted over the spring and summer of 2021, the first two at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Palm Beach Residence, the third at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. A tag line for the Atlantic excerpt tells readers that the former president “tried to sell his preferred version of himself, but said much more than he intended.” Did he?

A lot has been made of two statements. One is Trump’s supposed observation to his aides that “I love being with her; she’s like my psychiatrist.” The other is some disparaging remarks he supposedly made about Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie.

About the first, I can imagine Trump saying something similar in the presence of Michael Wolff, whose writings on the former president have been even more disobliging than Haberman’s. I suppose the real question is why Trump allows himself to be interviewed by people he knows will write so uncharitably about him.

I don’t know the answer — a certain species of narcissism, perhaps, but that is a character trait that Trump shares with almost all politicians (maybe hold the “almost”).

As for the disparaging remarks, who knows whether he really did make them? Haberman introduces the remarks with the hedge “I heard that Trump was describing…” But even supposing he did say what she says she heard he had said, so what? What did you expect from the man who suggested that Ted Cruz’s father might be implicated in the assassination of JFK?

And speaking of assassination, Haberman’s piece is a somewhat flaccid, faux-confidential exercise in character assassination. Trump is presented as “shrunken,” craving approval and “oblivious” to the world around him. According to Haberman, “Trump was more comfortable looking backward than forward.”

I finished reading the excerpt and immediately wanted to take a shower. Not because of any scandalous revelations. There were no revelations to be had in that excerpt, not even (as Jack said to Gwendolen in The Importance of Being Earnest) of any kind. No, I find a quick shower wakes me up and I felt positively dozy after reading that tired litany of innuendo and arch knowingness.

Two observations. First, I had the opportunity of seeing Trump at Mar-a-Lago myself with some friends in April. He gave a thirty-minute, off-the-cuff talk and was at the top of his game: amusing, informed about the issues and very much looking forward, not backwards. (Though he certainly did want to get to the bottom of the irregularities of the 2020 election, even to mention which in the vicinity of the anti-Trump fraternity is to be guilty of “the Big Lie.”)

Second, you would never know from Maggie Haberman’s portrait of the former president that he remains the single most potent force in American politics. Every poll has him trouncing the GOP competition and most show him winning against a slate of Democratic candidates in 2024 as well. Haberman mentions his endorsement of various congressional and gubernatorial candidates but presents that as evidence of a psychological tic on the former president’s part. In fact, for most of those candidates, Trump’s endorsement is a high-octane shot in the arm. They crave his endorsement because they know that, outside the parochial precincts of NeverTrumpdom, his benediction is political gold.

I have no idea whether Trump will run in 2024. I suspect he will. If he does, he will assuredly win the GOP nomination. It’s popular now to say that in 2016, Trump was the only GOP candidate who could win but that in 2024 he will be the only one who could lose. I think this is mistaken. His quirks and crotchets notwithstanding, he is the only politician who has stood up to the Deep State apparat that is destroying the country.

Maggie Haberman adduces “the breaking of America” in her subtitle. I think that Trump went a long way towards restoring America during his first term. It will be refreshing to see what he can do in his second.