Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Insane Clown President by Matt Taibbi

Hardcover Expected pub: January 17th 2017 by Spiegel & Grau (ISBN13: 9780399592461)

Matt Taibbi is a helluva writer. Even if you don't agree with his political views, you might kinda wish you did…to see what he sees. He is really funny, and it is inevitable that you will choke out a few guffaws against your will when he goes after someone you fell for, or settled for. Sucker. The only person Taibbi doesn't speak of in sarcastic or cynical tones is Bernie Sanders, who never tried to entertain us so much as educate, inform, and move us.

After the election in November last year, Taibbi wrote a last dispatch in which he heralds some of the thoughts he exercises in this book. Called President Trump: How America Got it So Wrong this article published in Rolling Stone gives you some idea of who Taibbi is and how he writes, in case he slipped your notice. He no longer works full time for that magazine, but has moved to First Look Media, working with Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras. His leaving statement from Rolling Stone is presented here.

Listening to Washington news today, I am getting the burning sensation in my belly again. Trump just had his first news conference (1/11/17) and listening to his incomplete sentences and careless way of speaking started my slow burn. What is he trying to say? Why should we have to have an interpreter? Who should be our interpreter? Breitbart? KellyAnne? My anxiety and frustration will kill me if I have to listen to this straight on. I am afraid I may only be able to view Trump’s presidency through a filter or in the rear view mirror.

Which brings me to Taibbi. Taibbi followed the campaign trail as much as he was able this time round, and filed reports that were meant to dovetail with the illustration work of Victor Juhasz. This book, after the preface in which Taibbi takes a long view, is a collection of his dispatches from the 2016 campaign trail, following a long tradition beginning with Hunter S. Thompson.

In these dispatches, Taibbi makes comment on events as they unfolded, recognizing that the anti-truth candidate might win but still reiterating that he "can’t." It may be too soon for some of you, scarred from that campaign as you are, to even consider laughing at the unbelievable thing we as a country did in electing Trump. But some say to jump right back on the saddle, and Taibbi is a great trail leader.

Taibbi admits, despite his writing eight years earlier a book about a post-truth society based on fake conspiracies and exemplified by Fox News called The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire, that even he did not foresee that a charlatan like Trump could hijack an electorate that voted twice! for Barack Obama, and which had led movements in racial parity and same sex rights. Therefore, while he is critiquing the “childlike” crowds that throng to Trump rallies, faces turned like believers to the clarion call a of television evangelist, throughout the year preceding the vote Taibbi can’t believe this clown can possibly win.

He is disbelieving but accurate and very, very, funny in describing the absurd Republican debates fielding seventeen candidates for president. Clearly some folks weren’t getting the memos, or, as we had surmised for some time already, were refusing to go along with the Party hierarchy. Well, they reaped what they sowed: confusion.

But what Taibbi does very well indeed is show us how long we have been living with our heads in the sand while small indignities were perpetrated upon us, e.g., Fox News Channel the only news network available on some cheap cable packages when free public television was not; news networks hiring attractive airheads who all ask the same questions and parrot one another until we get less accomplished in an hour of watching than if we’d had the TV off, etc. We were victims but we didn’t rise up.

Taibbi helps, along with giving us a few laughs, to chart the train wreck that was the election and pinpoints moments when the cake-icing edifice melted and started to slide off the steaming heap it was hiding. For me in particular, he makes me wonder how we will manage without news organizations worthy of the effort of reading/listening to them. Traditional newspaper outlets have been under stress for many years now, and their ranks are decimated. TV news, you already know, are terrifying in their ineptness & self-satisfaction. They need to hire armies of journalists to back up their newscasts rather than taking big profits and giving such high salaries. They simply must do a better job informing us (and themselves).

I listened to the audio production of this book, produced by Penguin Random House Audio and read by Rob Shapiro. Shapiro has just the right amount of incredulity and snark in his voice to accentuate the disbelief and horror in Taibbi’s tale of woe.

Below please find a short sample clip of the audiobook:

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores


  1. I used to think the worst thing we could do was elect Bozo, then we went and elected Pennywise. Dan Quayle never looked for comforting. For me, it will always be "too soon" to get over this calamity, but reading Taibbi sounds like a good place to start.

    1. The only thing about Taibbi is that cynicism takes us only so far. We laugh but we are still left unsatisfied. I'd rather go down fighting than listening to the stuttered and incoherent and unfinished sentences of our new "leader."