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Summary

From praising dictators to alienating allies, Trump made chaos his calling card. But four years into his administration, had his strategy caused more problems than it solved?

Richard Nixon tried it first. Hoping to make communist bloc countries uneasy and thus unstable, Nixon let them think he was just crazy enough to nuke them. He called this “the madman theory". Nearly half a century later, President Trump employed his own “madman theory", sometimes intentionally and sometimes not.

Trump praised Kim Jong-un and their “love notes,” admired and flattered Vladimir Putin, and gave a greenlight to Recep Tayyip Erdogan to invade Syria. Meanwhile, he attacked US institutions and officials, ignored his own advisors, and turned his back on US allies from Canada and Mexico to NATO to Ukraine to the Kurds at war with ISIS. Trump was willing to make the nation’s most sensitive and consequential decisions while often ignoring the best information and intelligence available to him. He continually caught the world off guard, but did it work?

In The Madman Theory, Jim Sciutto showed how Trump's supporters assumed he had a strategy for long-term success - that he somehow played three-dimensional chess. Four years into Trump's presidency, it was clear his unpredictable focus on short-term headlines did in fact lead to predictably mediocre results in the short and long run. Trump’s foreign policy undermined American values and national security interests, while hurting allies who had been on our side for decades, leaving them isolated and vulnerable without American support. Meanwhile, Trump had comforted and emboldened our enemies. The White House’s revolving door of staff demonstrated that Trump had no real plan; all serious policymakers - and those who would be a check on his most destructive impulses - were exiled or jumped ship.

Sciutto interviewed a wide swath of then-current and former administration officials to assemble the first comprehensive portrait of the impact of Trump’s erratic foreign policy. Smart, authoritative, and compelling, The Madman Theory is the definitive take on Trump’s calamitous legacy around the globe, showing how his proclivity for chaos was creating a world which was more unstable, violent, and impoverished than it had been before.

©2020 Jim Sciutto (P)2020 HarperAudio

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A recap of a catastrophe

I have read most of the popular books on Trump during his presidential term, mostly out of morbid curiosity and sheer horror. Therefore while reading this book there were no real surprises or revelations. However it does a good job of recapping and refreshing the memory on some of the events of the last three and a half plus years. Probably not essential reading, but important none the less.

A passage towards the end of the book however immediately jumped out and stuck with me. This passage is something I have contemplated many times during this presidency, but I have never managed to articulate it as accurately or succinctly as presented here:

'He and his supporters create and accept their own reality. History eventually overwrites even the best propoganda. Until then, his supporters, who make up a large proportion of the country may continue to see successes where there are only partisan mirages.'

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Profile Image for Robert A. Raymond
  • Robert A. Raymond
  • 11-08-20

Another look into a dangerous man.

I have many books on Trump, because I am fascinated by the man, and how he is handling being a world leader This time, We are getting a look at the president from a tv news journalist's perspective. Listen to this, and you will get at least an idea of what is going through Trump's head during daily briefings, and you will get insight, I believe, on what kind of a country he thinks we live in.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Maui Diver
  • 15-08-20

Will SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU

A must read before the 2020 election. Enormous amount of well structuted information. Brings together multiple well reported events for greater clearity. Gives a balanced view of Trumps presidency.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Marja
  • 20-09-20

all this happened

I have wondered since 2017, how long can this go on. what does America want to become.
This is a very important book and easy to listen.
Thank you Jim

3 people found this helpful

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  • Carolyn
  • 06-09-20

Fair and Balanced but Revealing

Interesting. Appreciated that tone is not accusatory but solidified my reaction to Trump. Author is very open about his resources.

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  • William R. Todd-Mancillas (Name includes hyphen and camptalized M)
  • 22-08-20

Devastating analysis of 45’s “performance”

Narration: clear and pace is Walter Mitchell-like

Content: detailed, well supported analysis of 45’s atrocious, self-serving, cowardly failed stewardship.

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  • R-N
  • 07-04-21

There is opinion, and there are facts. This is simply conclusive through the later.

Easily verifiable facts, this book is a real eye-opener. Staunch Trump supporters will discount the credibility of the author and of the content. However, anybody can look at the documented facts and come to their own conclusion if they read this book/listen to it with an unbiased ear.

The eye witness statements and testimony are by Americans (business leaders, politicians, government and military personnel AND former Trump supporters and friends) who have nothing to gain and feel it is their duty to communicate our worst fears- that America is weaker and more vulnerable than the previous decades. All because of an unchecked leader who used rhetoric, lies, and support by grifters and policy makers to gain support by the uniformed and those fed up with a “liberal agenda”.

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  • Priscilla Hancock
  • 28-11-21

We knew this.

We knew a lot of what Trump did, but not from behind the scenes. Fascinating !! The only trouble is, how do we get the “others” to listen?
THANKS !!