cover image The Best People: Trump’s Cabinet and the Siege on Washington

The Best People: Trump’s Cabinet and the Siege on Washington

Alexander Nazaryan. Hachette, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-42143-0

The Trump Administration is wallowing in the swamp instead of draining it, according to this partisan exposé. Yahoo News correspondent Nazaryan decries the corruption, incompetence, and misrule of President Trump’s cabinet-level appointments, calling them a “low-class orgy of first-class kleptocrats.” Much of the book rehashes their venality: Cabinet secretaries Tom Price (Health), Ryan Zinke (Interior), and Steve Mnuchin (Treasury) spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money for dubious junkets on private jets and military aircraft; HUD chief Ben Carson dropped $31,000 on office furniture; EPA administrator Scott Pruitt overspent lavishly on bodyguards and armored SUVs, then had government employees help him with personal errands. Nazaryan’s graver argument is that the administration has crippled government agencies by undermining bureau experts, staffing them with ex-lobbyists and subordinating them to industries they oversee, all to advance the Republican deregulatory agenda. In keeping with the overall outraged tone, he treats every axed regulation as equally problematic without considering their relative importance or the controversies surrounding them; this is more a blanket condemnation than a nuanced consideration of each case. Readers seeking a substantive politicohistorical analysis of the administration’s effects might prefer Michael Lewis’s The Fifth Risk, but furious left-leaning readers seeking Trump-related schadenfreude will thrill to this takedown. (June)