‘Unhinged’: The World According to Omarosa Manigault NewmanMore Info
Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House
Omarosa Manigault Newman
In a world where truth isn’t truth, where darkness and deceit engulf us, allow me to imagine an alternative universe where Omerosa Manigault Newman and Stephanie Clifford, a k a Stormy Daniels, are teammates on the Survivors, the all-women all-star roller derby team. Because, despite all attempts to demean and discount them, to magnify their faults and minimize their talents, they are nonetheless more responsible for rescuing our democracy than any and every Republican senator and congressman you can round up. For, in their own inimitable ways, they have helped nudge the president several large steps toward the coming day of reckoning.
Today I want to explore the world according to Omarosa. You can’t really appreciate “Unhinged” unless you’re willing to acknowledge the primal power of cults of personality, and acknowledge that ordinary folks like you and me can surrender to them. Like some survivors who can now look back in, Omarosa is hell-bent on blowing the whistle on He/They Who Humiliated Her while reluctantly grappling with the embarrassing understanding that she might have profoundly compromised herself.
At the end of the day there is no real way to avoid the fact that you have fallen for the con, to have believed and served the Liar-in-Chief. But before you, dear reader, throw that stone, remember that we humans are all susceptible: yoga-lovers, communists, racists, born-again-lovers of every God out there, Scientologists, Davidians, Witnesses, Moonies and Jonestowners all believing there is a better way to think, to feel, to love, mostly to believe—and in this case, to govern.
Democrats are prone to ask over and over why so many fell/fall for Trump and how can they not SEE — because, of course, Democrats always ask these questions of others and not of themselves. Haven’t they fallen for the Clinton hustle? How about because we all — this time around the Deplorables — yearn for something better and, in the thrall of believing, mightily resist the notion we’ve been hustled, are being hustled, because the pain of recognition is sometimes just too much to bear.
If there weren’t such a market for Trumpian tell-all books, and if Omarosa were more committed to getting to the root of her more complicated truth, she would have withdrawn from the public square to rest, reflect and therapize for a year or so, to pay penance for her profound complicity. But that seems too much to ask when there is a fortune to be made. Instead of monastic contemplation, she chose “Celebrity Big Brother.”
What kept her in all those years? “In hindsight, I can see that there were so many times I could have—and perhaps should have—left Trumpworld. But at every single juncture, I stayed. Many have wondered why I stood by President Trump for nearly fifteen years. The simple answer to this very complex question: I stayed because of loyalty.
“Loyalty is a loaded topic when it comes to Donald Trump. His moblike loyalty requirements are exacting, imperishable, and sometimes unethical (as in James Comey’s case). But for the people in Trumpworld, loyalty to him is an absolute and unyielding necessity, akin to followers’ devotion to a cult leader.”
I appreciate Omarosa’s desire to choose “loyalty” over “folly.” But as we all know deep down, accountability, personal responsibility is remarkably inconvenient. Nevertheless, at this critical moment in our enfolding national nightmare, I will enthusiastically take whatever ammunition Omarosa has to offer as she pulls back the Ozian curtain on this great fraud, to help rid the land of our mad king before he burns down our world.
Inclusion in any select circle begins with vulnerability, need: “My membership in Trumpworld began when I was in my twenties, in 2003. He was one of the most famous men in America, a businessman I admired and wanted to emulate. I grew up poor and on public assistance, and I looked up to affluent figures like him. I desired to experience his extraordinary success for myself, to have a life of wealth and luxury.”
And, no matter the vision they’re selling, whatever the rap, however much gold leaf glitters, the most persuasive and charismatic leaders have an uncanny ability to ferret out and exploit the weakness and desire of acolytes.
“Donald Trump was uncannily intuitive and extremely perceptive. He seemed to be able to sense when certain individuals were susceptible to being influenced by his power and abiding by his loyalty demands – as was seen later with people like his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen, his first campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, and Hope Hicks. His demands increased over time, as did the loyalty of his followers.”
When she speaks of unhinged, Omarosa focuses on the unhinged Trump. She has known him so long—and has so greatly benefitted from the visitor’s pass he has bestowed upon her—that she seems sincerely concerned for his health. While journalists routinely employ a kind of distant poetic commentary to describe him as mad, disturbed, erratic, she has witnessed his significant decline up close and personal:
“Day sixty-nine, Ivanka officially became an assistant to the president. The external outrage about nepotism and the press’s questioning of her credentials aside, I was comforted by her new title. I’d been watching Donald for two months day-to-day in the White House with growing concern about his mental state. He seemed to be showing signs of deterioration. I chalked it up, mainly, to his being out of his comfort zone in unfamiliar settings and the immense pressure of the job, after having operated at the helm of the Trump Organization at Trump Tower for decades.
“His forgetfulness and frustration were getting worse. Any time somebody new came in to brief him, he’d get angry and say, “Who’s that guy? What’s he want?” … He was paranoid and constantly irritable. I thought that Ivanka’s promotion from adviser to assistant would give him a measure of emotional comfort and support that he needed …”
For many, Trump’s admission to Lester Holt that he fired Comey because of Russia was about obstruction of justice; for Omarosa, it was a red light flashing: “Hope Hicks … and counsel prepared him to deny any collusion with Russia. It was the wisest strategy, because he could remember it. Donald thought he would get away with just saying, ‘There’s no collusion. There’s no collusion. There’s no Russia. There’s no Russia’” ….
But “Donald rambled. He spoke gibberish. He contradicted himself from one sentence to the next. Hope had gone over the briefing with him a dozen times, hitting the key point that he had fired Comey based on the recommendation of the DOJ, which the vice president and other surrogates had been reinforcing for days … And then, with Lester Holt, he changed the talking point again, saying, ‘I decided to fire him.’ Holt tried to help him. He said, ‘In your letter, you said that you accepted [the DOJ’s] recommendation.’ ‘But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,’ said Donald. ‘In fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Omarosa continues: “I’d known Donald to exaggerate and boast … But this was different. It was like he didn’t know what the truth was or couldn’t remember what he’d previously stated as truth … I realized that something real and serious was going on in Donald’s brain. His mental decline could not be denied. Many in the White House didn’t notice it as keenly as I did because I knew him way back when …
“Should I report this insight to . . . to whom exactly? The White House doctor Ronny Jackson, whose job depended on Trump’s approval of him, a man who would go on to declare an obviously obese, sleep-deprived man in excellent health? To the chief of staff, a man I didn’t trust or respect? To Don Jr., Ivanka, or Eric, who had to be seeing what I saw, and had done nothing? To Melania? She was completely trapped herself. And what would I say?”
Page after page, it becomes clear that they were all unhinged. Then, overwhelmed by the revelation of such serious madness, you put aside psychopathology and go for the gossip. It’s one of the guilty pleasures of “Unhinged” that we witness Omarosa take down some of Trumpovia’s best known sycophants.
Vice President Pence, the man we may have to live with: “Every one in the senior staff thought that Mike Pence was a Stepford Veep … too perfect to be genuine. His and Trump’s personalities and worldviews were diametrically opposed. And yet, Pence agreed with everything Trump said or did. In real life, no one beams worshipfully at you all the time like that. If someone looked at you that way, you’d be disturbed and think about a restraining order …”
But while Pence beamed, his underlings thought about redecorating: “His staff kept slipping up and calling him president – accidentally sometimes. Jokingly, in private, I heard people say things like, ‘When we’re in charge …’ or ‘Once you become president . . .’ I asked him explicitly if he had any ambitions for the highest office after Donald completed his two terms. Pence said, ‘Two terms? You think two terms? That’s good, I like the way you think, Omarosa. I’m here to serve the president. I’m only loyal to the president.’”
Our chief of state, General John Kelly: “On October 4, four soldiers were killed in an ambush gone wrong in Niger. One of them was Army Sergeant La David Johnson, married to his childhood sweetheart, Myeshia Johnson, the mother of his two children, and pregnant with a third. Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson had known La David Johnson his whole life, long before her time in Congress …
“After much pressure for Donald to make a condolence call to the fallen soldiers, he called Myeshia on October 17. Wilson happened to be with her at the time and listened to their conversation on speakerphone. As she recounted on CNN over two interviews, Trump showed no empathy for the widow, saying, ‘[Your husband] knew what he signed up for, but I guess it still hurt.’ Also, Trump didn’t remember La David’s name. As soon as the call ended, Myeshia, said Wilson, ‘broke down.’
“On October 18, Trump tweeted at 4:25 a.m., ‘Democrat Congresswoman totally fabricated what I said to the wife of a soldier who died in action (and I have proof). Sad!’ Sarah Sanders accused Wilson of politicizing, and said her having listened in on the call was ‘appalling and disgusting.’
“On October 19, General John Kelly held a press conference at the White House to continue to beat down this grieving widow. He … recounted the circumstances of his own son’s death in Iraq. He said that he’d been the one to tell Trump what to say on his condolence calls. He then said, ‘I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing. A member of Congress who listened in on a phone call from the president of the United States to a young wife . . . It stuns me that a member of Congress would have listened in on that conversation …
“He continued to trash Wilson, telling another story about her being ‘an empty barrel that makes the most noise.’ As he told it, at the dedication of a new FBI building in Miami to two fallen agents, the congresswoman stood up and took credit for securing the funding for the building, making the ceremony all about her …
“The next day, the Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale posted a video from that dedication ceremony, and showed that Congresswoman Wilson had not stood up and taken credit for the building’s financing. Kelly lied, or he had a very racist memory of being offended by a black woman even when she did nothing inappropriate. The day after that, at the daily press briefing with Sarah Sanders, reporters wanted to know if Kelly would apologize or admit he was wrong. Sanders said, ‘If you want to go after General Kelly, that’s up to you, but I think that if you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that that’s something highly inappropriate.’ In other words, when a general lies to smear a black woman, it’s business as usual.”
There’s Betsy DeVos, our Secretary of Education, visiting a historically black college, Omarosa’s alma mater, Howard University: “Betsy got up onstage to give her speech and was immediately loudly booed by the entire audience. Graduating students and their families stood up and turned their backs on her …When the booing started, she should have wrapped it up, but she went on and on for twenty minutes, talking over the booing. I was thinking, It’s not about you! Abandon your full speech! Adjust, woman! …
“I asked her later on how she felt about what happened. She said, ‘I did great! … They don’t get it. They don’t have the capacity to understand what we’re trying to accomplish.’ Meaning, all those black students were too stupid to understand her agenda … I said, ‘Oh, no, Madam Secretary. They get it. They get it, and they aren’t happy about you or your goals.’ … Her plan, in a nutshell, is to replace public education with for-profit schools. She believes it would be better for students, but the truth is, it’s about profit … Once I returned and told DJT about what had happened, he shook his head in disgust. He said, ‘She is Ditzy DeVos, what do you expect? In a very short period of time, I will get rid of her. Believe me, believe me.’ She is still serving and destroying the education system in this country …
Some are gone without us knowing they were even there: “On May 5, the head usher of the White House, Angella Reid, the first woman and second African American to hold that position was fired. Although Reid was a carryover from Obama, having held the job since 2011, it was not considered a political position and it was unusual for an incoming president to fire an usher … The official line: ‘We don’t discuss personnel matters.’
“The unofficial line? … Trump didn’t approve of her handling of his tanning bed. I’d heard he was unhappy with her efforts to procure the bed, to bring it into the East Wing securely, to find a discreet place for it, and to set it up properly.”
Anthony Scaramucci was brought in to take over communications and ferret out the leaking rats: “Ivanka … asked the team to compile a list of suspected leakers … and, once she had it, she would give it to Scaramucci, so he could fire them all. The final list that was texted to me on July 22 had ten names on it … On July 27, the day before he was going to fire everyone on the Hit List, Scaramucci talked to Ryan Lizza from The New Yorker, who recorded the interview … Anthony boasted about heads rolling. He called Reince a ‘f**king paranoid schizophrenic,’ and made some anatomically descriptive comments about Steve Bannon, a man who, to my knowledge, does not do yoga and is not nearly as flexible as Anthony made him out to be …
“Reince was fired the next day—literally kicked out of the presidential motorcade at an airport. To replace him, Donald hired General John Kelly as the new chief of staff. Anthony lingered for another three days, and on July 31, ten days after he was hired, Donald called him in and said, ‘You have to go.’ Anthony walked out, made a left by the chief of staff’s office, where all the assistants sat, stepped into a little cubby-like office, and started crying …”
There’s Hope Hicks, both more involved in what went to and from Trump and less competent than Omarosa wished: “My efforts … was to get minorities, particularly African Americans, to sit down at the table with the leadership and discuss issues that were important to them. We got one hundred church leaders into a closed-door conference with Trump … Hope Hicks, the campaign spokesperson, had originally described the ministers’ participation as a prelude to their endorsement of the candidate, which was not true. So instead of headlines about Trump opening a dialogue with black church leaders, there were headlines like Esquire’s “No, 100 Black Pastors Are Not Endorsing Donald Trump Today.” This would be the first of many, many communication issues that would undermine or sabotage my African-American outreach during the campaign and throughout my year in the White House.
“On April 15, four days before the crucial New York primary, we were blindsided when six former Apprentice contestants — season four winner Dr. Randal Pinkett, Kevin Allen, Tara Dowdell, Marshawn Evans Daniels, James Sun, and my old teammate Kwame Jackson; all of them black, except for James, who is Asian – rented a ballroom in New York and held a press conference to speak out against Donald Trump’s racism … Meanwhile, Hope Hicks wrote a statement for Trump describing the former contestants as ‘six failing wannabes out of hundreds of contestants. How quickly they forget. Nobody would know who they are if it weren’t for me. They just want to get back into the limelight like they had when they were with Trump. Total dishonesty and disloyalty …’”
Then, to remind us: “Hope Hicks was in charge of all the president’s interviews, including the ones conducted by Lester Holt for a prime-time NBC special about the Comey firing on May 11 …”
I had forgotten about this one: “On December 5, Corey Lewandowski’s book, ‘Let Trump Be Trump,’ co-authored with David Bossie, came out. In an early chapter, he described how Hope Hicks would steam-press Donald’s trousers while he was still wearing them. Hope was furious. It portrayed her in a servile demeaning light. It might have been a bit of revenge on Corey’s part for Hope’s ending their relationship to move on to a law enforcement officer. When that romance fizzled, she got involved with Rob Porter.”
Then: “Hope Hicks pushed her fashion choices as far as possible, wearing miniskirts with thigh-high boots or diaphanous summer dresses in the dead of winter, the opposite of traditional Washington conservative style.”
As for faint praise: “I always found Hope to be very nice, capable, sensitive, and out of her depth. She handled PR for Ivanka’s fashion line, and then she became a press secretary in a presidential campaign. She lacked the understanding of politics for the job she was given … She was always Googling terms while we were in meetings, always playing catch-up, always sensitive about what she didn’t know. She was so painfully aware of her inadequacies, she refused to speak publicly about the campaign or as a surrogate to express the candidate’s views … She lacked confidence because she knew she wasn’t qualified to talk about policy or the political process. She had no insight into or understanding of what was going on and could not speak on behalf of the candidate, or later, the president.
“So why was she there at all?” A question Omarosa knew the answer to: “Trump has an affinity for pretty women. He’d rather have a pretty woman with no experience around than a qualified, less-attractive woman.”
Given Omarosa’s critique, it’s not surprising to learn that Hope helped accelerate Omarosa’s exit from Trumpovia: “The day after the infamous Access Hollywood tape came out, a former Apprentice producer named Bill Pruitt sent a tantalizing tweet that ‘there are far worse’ tapes of Donald Trump captured on set; in October 2017, Pruitt told NPR the tapes contained unfathomably despicable words about African-Americans, Jewish people, all of the above … Jason Miller, the campaign’s communications director, had also received a heads-up call that the N-word tape was about to drop. On a four-way conference call with Jason, Lynne, spokesperson Katrina Pierson, and myself, we discussed whether it was possible Trump really had said those things and, if so, how it would be handled. But the tape never came out. I had to assume something or someone stopped it from happening …
“Until now. Speculation about the N-word tape had become intense again, and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. When I’d first heard about the possibility of a tape of Trump using the N-word a year ago … My first thought was to protect the candidate about something false. But in the year since, my mind was turning about the man I’d called a friend for almost fifteen years. I’d been loyal to him all this time, but if I had any proof that this tape was real, I would pack up my office and submit my resignation immediately.”
Whoops! “I’d informed Hope Hicks, the White House director of communications at the time, that chatter about the N-word tape was heating up. The very existence of it fell squarely in my portfolio since it centered on race relations … I’d emailed before one of our daily comms meetings that a source from The Apprentice days had contacted me and claimed to be in possession of the tape. By that point, three sources in three separate conversations had described the contents of this tape. They all told me that President Trump hadn’t just dropped a single N-word bomb. He’d said it multiple times throughout the show’s taping during off-camera outtakes, particularly during the first season of The Apprentice …
“I need to hear it for myself,” I told Hope. ‘What’s the plan?’ she asked. ‘What are you going to do?’ Ever since that meeting, she’d been eager and asking frequently about my progress on the matter … What I suspect happened: Hope Hicks had told John Kelly that I was this close to getting my hands on the tape. As had been widely reported, Kelly had been dying to get rid of me since his first day. Now he had cause. I wasn’t sure how he’d justify it, but I was sure it all led back to that tape.”
Which immediately led to Omarosa’s capture and containment by General John Kelly in territory under his command: the Situation Room. “On Tuesday, December 12, 2017 … my assistant, Alexa Pursley, walked in looking perplexed. ‘I just got an email from General Kelly’s executive assistant,” she said. “He wants to meet you in the Situation Room at five.’ ‘Really?’ … he rarely had two minutes for me. And now, suddenly, he wanted a meeting? It was highly unusual to be called to the Situation Room in the West Wing — where former president Barack Obama plotted the strategy to kill Osama bin Laden; where President Donald Trump planned the attack on Syria to retaliate for their use of chemical weapons …
“We sat down at the large boardroom table. Next to arrive were several White House lawyers, including Uttam Dhillon, deputy counsel to the president, and Stefan Passantino, deputy White House counsel in charge of compliance and ethics. Finally, General Kelly walked in. A brusque man, Kelly looked at Alexa and asked, ‘Who are you?’ She said, ‘Omarosa’s assistant.’ He said, ‘Could you leave us alone?’ Alexa gathered her things and left.
“General Kelly sat down and said, ‘We’re going to talk to you about leaving the White House. It’s come to my attention there have been significant integrity issues related to you. The integrity issues are very serious. If this were the military, this would be a pretty high level of accountability, meaning a court-martial. We’re not suggesting any legal action here. It’s a pretty serious offense. I’d like to see this be a friendly departure. There are pretty significant legal issues that we hope won’t make it ugly for you. If we make this a friendly departure, you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation. You can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation. But it’s very important that you understand there are serious legal issues that have been violated and you are open to some legal action that we hope we can control.’
“I asked whether the president was aware of this. ‘This is a nonnegotiable discussion.’ ‘I’d like the opportunity to understand,’ I said. ‘There are serious integrity violations,’ he said. Why was he being so vague? What violations? ‘The staff works for me, not the president. So after your departure, I’ll inform him. With that, I’ll let you go.’ What is he talking about? Where is this coming from? Quickly, I connected the dots. This had to be about the N-word tape.”
Which brings us to the bossman. During “The Apprentice”: “The task on episode four was to take over the dinner rush at Planet Hollywood. The woman on the team ran the bar and flirted with customers to entice them to order more drinks. The boardroom discussion focused on the profitability of women using their sexuality to sell. A sanitized version appeared on TV, but the outtakes and off-camera moments were not appropriate for a family show. Trump asked personal questions of the female contestants, like ‘What do you think she’s like in bed?’ and ‘Do you think she’s sexy?’ Then he turned to the male contestants and asked, ‘Who do you think would be better in bed between the two of them?’ and ‘Rate how you think she’d be in bed.’I thought it was just part of TV production, Trump being provocative. Now I know better.”
On Donald, the husband: “In March 2006, Melania gave birth to Barron, Donald’s fifth child. If she had any idea about his extracurricular activities, I didn’t know, and again, it wasn’t any of my business. I’d seen him at events that Melania did not attend – his birthday parties, fund-raisers at Mar-a-Lago, golf tournaments – and he behaved like a dog off the leash. He never hid his appreciation for beautiful women. We all know about Stormy Daniels, whom he met in 2006 at a charity golf event in Lake Tahoe, and Playmate Karen McDougal. It would be safe to assume that there were many others …”
There’s Donald Trump, the parent: “If Donald didn’t like Don Jr.’s assessment in the boardroom, he’d berate him in front of everyone, using words like wrong and stupid. Don Jr. was clearly terrified of his father. People interpreted his fear as complete and total respect and deference. I did. But now, I see the verbal abuse as a method of control. He was rough on them, so they tried even harder to please him and avoid further abuse.
“Ivana Trump, Don Jr.’s mother, wrote in her recent memoir ‘Raising Trump’ that when she and her husband were deciding what to name their firstborn, she suggested Donald Jr. Trump was against it. She asked why, and he said, ‘What if he’s a loser?’”
And there’s Donald’s favorite child: “On the final night of the convention, Ivanka Trump walked out to the Beatles’ ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ and gave her MAGA-power speech … Unfortunately, her polished address was overshadowed by controversy the next day. Ivanka tweeted a photo of herself that showed her blush pink dress to great advantage, with the caption, “Shop Ivanka’s look from her #RNC speech” with a link to Macy’s retail page. The $138 Ivanka Trump Collection dress quickly sold out …
“The nominee walked onstage from the wings, went over to his daughter, placed his hands on her bare upper arms and kissed her. Then he placed his hands low on her hips while appraising her, and then patted her on her hip. The placement of his hands made everyone uncomfortable. But I was used to the sickening feeling I had whenever they touched or kissed or he openly admired her form. Usually, it was in private, like the time not too long before the convention, during the campaign, when Trump and I and a few other people were in a meeting. Ivanka came into the room wearing a fitted skirt. The entire meeting had to stop so he could gush about her body. ‘You look great! I like the way that skirt fits. Doesn’t Ivanka look great?’ He insisted that we all agree that his daughter’s tight skirt was very flattering … It appeared to me that Ivanka had gotten so used to his touching her in ways that made others cringe and either didn’t notice it anymore or purposefully allowed it to happen — as I’ve said, Ivanka uses his obsession with her to her advantage.”
As for Trump and God: “We organized an event at the Great Faith Ministries Church in Detroit where Donald would address the congregation … Right off the bat, there was some trouble with Pastor Wayne T. Jackson. Because of the vocal protesters outside, he was waffling about letting Trump speak from his pulpit. Donald snapped at me, ‘Why did I come here if I’m not going to speak. You have to fix this.’ The pastor and I had a heated exchange …The pastor agreed that he could speak, and then I escorted him into the sanctuary. I had a lot of organizational things to do, so I got up to take care of them. He grabbed my wrist and said, ‘You can’t leave me with these people.’ The look in his eyes was like a lost child. I stayed with him …
“We’d only gotten through the devotional part of what would be a two-hour service when he leaned toward me and said, ‘This is the longest I’ve been in church in my life.’ A bit later: ‘When is this going to end?’ And again: ‘God, how much longer do I have to sit here?’ When he finally got to address the congregation, I hoped he’d speak from the heart, but he pulled out a piece of paper and read some bland, stump-speech remarks. I’d pushed Pastor Jackson so he could just say, ‘I want to help you build and rebuild Detroit. I fully understand that the African American community has suffered from discrimination and there are many wrongs that should be made right.’ This community didn’t need reminding that their lives were hard.
“The singing and dancing at the end might’ve been a relief, but he was still at odds. ‘What do I do?’ he asked. I said, ‘Just go with the flow.’ He started swaying creepily, and I wanted to tell him, ‘Okay, stop going with it.’”
And for all the evangelicals out there: “Traditionally, the president-elect would visit the National Archives with a guide and select one from the vast collection of historical Bibles that had personal meaning to him … Barack Obama, an Illinois native and a black man, chose the same Bible that Abraham Lincoln was sworn in on, as well as the traveling Bible of Martin Luther King Jr. …
“He asked me, ‘Omarosa, what do you think about me getting sworn in on ‘The Art of the Deal’?’ I said, ‘Instead of the Bible?’ ‘Yeah. The ‘Art of the Deal’ is a bestseller! It’s the greatest business book of all time. It’s how I’m going to make great deals for the country. Just think how many copies I’d sell — maybe a commemorative inauguration copy?!’ ‘I know you’re not going to be a traditional president, but that’s just too crazy. Whatever you do, don’t repeat that idea to anybody else,’ I said. We laughed. He wanted me to believe he was kidding.”
The end of the beginning and the beginning of the end:
“Donald gave his victory speech, framed by Mike Pence and Barron Trump. I was on the stage along with the family members, Kellyanne, Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, Lynne, everyone who’d played a major part in this win. After he finished, Donald made his way down the stage, shaking hands and embracing everyone up there. When he got to me, he gave me a hug and a cheek kiss. The moment was caught on camera and broadcast to the world.
“That moment was one of the highlights of my life. I marked it down as proof of how wonderful and great this country had been to me. At that moment, I was living the American dream. I’d had many low points in my life: being on public assistance, going to the mission to get food from the food bank, the murders of my father and brother. And now I was standing on that stage with the president-elect of the United States, soon to be the most powerful man in the country, if not the world. That anyone could overcome such tremendous odds, so many hurdles and barriers, to wind up there, seemed incredible and humbling …and now, against all odds, the two of us were on that stage together.”
At a certain point, “Unhinged” overwhelms. There is a limit to how much stupidity, pettiness, dishonesty and greediness one can absorb. There’s Trump’s and Sean Spicer’s bizarre insistence that theirs was the biggest inauguration crowd, and Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts,” the egregious impropriety of Trump’s speech before the fallen stars at CIA, Trump’s rage at Steve Bannon’s TIME magazine cover: “Thinks he’s so f**king smart? He thinks he can manipulate me? An idiot!” There’s Omarosa’s efforts to get him to celebrate Black History Month: “I was going over his speech, but he couldn’t retain any of the bullet points …he couldn’t remember the key points and stumbled over large words, which we scratched out and replaced with simpler terms … he said, “I got it. Don’t worry. The blacks love me!”
And about the man who tells us Maxine Waters is “an extraordinary low IQ Person” and who challenged Rex Tillerson to an IQ test: “I knew from The Apprentice days that Donald is not a big reader. While working with him side by side on my own briefings, I’d come to understand that he read at an eighth- or ninth-grade level. That’s fine for some, but for the leader of the free world? We went from Barack Obama, a scholar, an academic, to Donald Trump, who was just this side of functionally literate.”
There’s Trump the diplomat who “went to a NATO summit in Brussels, and shoved Duško Marković, the prime minister of Montenegro, out of the way so he would be standing in the center of the group photo. Of course, he was called out for the move. I asked him, ‘You came off a little aggressive. Why did you do that?’ He said, ‘Oh, he’s just a whiny punk bitch.’”
And Trump the role model: “On July 24, Trump spoke at the annual Boy Scouts Jamboree in West Virginia. Despite the fact that his audience was comprised of thousands of teenagers, Trump decided to ramble on about fake news, the swamp (‘Today, I said we ought to change it from the word ‘swamp’ to the word ‘cesspool,’ or perhaps to the word ‘sewer’) … [then] told the saga of William Levitt of Levittown fame, with this snippet, ‘He went out and bought a big yacht, and he had a very interesting life. I won’t go any more than that, because you’re Boy Scouts, so I’m not going to tell you what he did. Should I tell you? Should I tell you? You’re Boy Scouts, but you know life. You know life.’
“Trump thought he’d done a fabulous job with that speech and was furious about the criticism of it … I said, ‘You have to be aware of whom you’re talking to.’ He said, ‘[The Scouts] are going to have to man up and grow some hair on their chests. They’re not little boys. They have to man up!’ He kept saying ‘man up!’ over and over, for days.”
As you read on, it seems they all became more unhinged by the day: “Most of our conversations at the time were of my listening to Donald rambling incoherently, speaking in random fragments, veering from thought to thought and topic to topic: the election, fake news, Clinton emails, trade, Obama tapping his phones, and all the people who’d slighted him.
The Trumpovian answer: “Kelly limited office visits. Every document passed through him. Every phone call had to be briefed. Nothing went in or out that he didn’t approve first. Who was the president now? Kelly seemed to be setting himself up to be a Dick Cheney figure, pulling the strings, controlling the president and calling the shots. I didn’t swear an oath to serve at the pleasure of John Kelly. As miserable as things were at the White House, and outside it, I reminded myself of my commitment, and did my job to the best of my ability.”
So it’s back to the fundamental question of our ability not to see, not to know. It could be the local priest, the neighborhood bully, the out-of-control cop, the abusive boss, the lunatic president: “The longer I stayed involved, the deeper my loyalty was to Donald Trump and the bigger my blind spot became. As I’ve said, he chooses people who are very loyal, who subscribe to the fame and charisma that is Donald Trump’s magnetism. And I was one of those people.
“I never stopped to ask myself what all this conflict meant for the future of the country. If I acknowledged my role in what was happening, I would have had to come to terms with nearly thirteen years of suppressed doubts and concerns about Donald Trump, and I was simply incapable of doing that at that point. I’d wake up the next day and put out a new fire, or do damage control about a new tweet or one of his crazy claims. There was always an emergency to manage. I focused my mind and energies on short-term Trump problems, which allowed me to avoid thinking about my own long-term Trump problem of having given him the benefit of the doubt for more than a decade, despite having many reasons not to.”
It’s easy to dismiss Omarosa as an invention of Donald Trump, assuming she’s no more trustworthy than the boss who created her in the boardroom of “The Apprentice.” But there is much you don’t know about Omarosa. Lost in much of the controversy over her intentions and where she has landed—with the No. 1 New York Times bestseller—is the story of where she came from. It’s a story about poverty and the unique struggle that poor people endure: the projects, the violence, the death of a 3-year-old cousin by fire, her father beaten to death when she was 7. Her mother worked from three to 11 at night, then back for a second shift until seven in the morning at the plastics factory. Omarosa and family survived only because of Section 8 subsidized public housing and food stamps: “I remember circling the store and trying to wait until the other shoppers cleared out of the grocery store so they wouldn’t see me putting the stamps on the counter to pay. The looks were withering, and the stigma was real.”
Then she offers this unique insight: “To my knowledge, the United States is the only country in the world that has created a separate currency for its poor. To me, it seems to be a form of intentionally shaming those in need. After my father died, we wouldn’t have had enough to eat without that aid. That was the new reality of my mom as a widow and having to raise four kids the best way she knew how. She did what she had to do to make the most out of the difficult situation we found ourselves in back then.” (Emphasis added.)
There is a difference that never, ever disappears between rich and poor, between white and black and brown, and Omarosa has survived and thrived. So despite all the mistakes she’s made, she is rightfully proud: “A girl from the Westlake Terrace housing project in Youngstown, Ohio, can grow up in abject poverty and rise — not once, but twice — to work as a political appointee to two U.S. presidents. I accomplished this despite pre-existing racial biases toward strong black women. Say what you will about my standing by Trump for way too long (which I agree with!), I was the only African-American woman in the room, the only one speaking up for a community that, in the Trump White House, had not one other voice.
“My break with Donald Trump was not just a matter of resentment over how my separation was mishandled by John Kelly and the team of lawyers who locked me in the Situation Room that night. The change in my mind and heart was due to a combination of factors, but mainly, my growing realization that Donald Trump was indeed a racist, a bigot, and a misogynist. My certainty about the N-word tape and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I’d experienced with him, during the last two years in particular. It had finally sunk in that the person I thought I’d known so well for so long was actually a racist. Using the N-word was not just the way he talks, but, more disturbing, it was how he thought of me and African-Americans as a whole.”
These days we are all a bit unhinged. Omarosa Manigault Newman helps explain why.