Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow of the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
It wasn’t fun, but I read them all – well, almost all. All those big, big books about big, bad Trump. From Brain Stelter’s Hoax to Jim Acosta’s The Enemy of the People to Jonathan Karl’s Front Row at the Trump Show. Books by Jeffrey Toobin, Steven Hassan, and several others, plus two apiece by Bob Woodward, Rick Wilson, Michael Wolff, and David Frum, and no fewer than three (all doorstop-sized) by Seth Abramson. The flow of anti-Trump books seemed endless, because even though few of these writers had anything at all to offer other than buckets of bile, there was a built-in audience of Trump-haters who were always ready to plunk down yet another decent chunk of change for yet another slimy, fatuous anti-Trump screed.
My verdict on those books appeared in June. Now it’s December, and for my holiday present I finally had a chance to read a positive book – and a terrific one – about the Trump White House. Peter Navarro was one of only three senior staffers who were there with The Donald all the way from the beginning of the campaign to the end of the presidency, and he was also one of the few people in that administration who were true believers in the Trump cause, as opposed to the corporatists, globalists, Republican Party hacks, and out-and-out careerists who were determined to water down or squash every Trumpy initiative.
In his memoir In Trump Time: A Journal of America’s Plague Year, Navarro names them all. Mike Mulvaney, acting chief of staff, was a neverTrumper. Economic advisor Gary Cohn (now vice-chairman of IBM) “never saw an American job he didn’t want to offshore in the profane name of supply chain efficiencies.” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross operated on “transactionalist Wall Street DNA.”
Navarro, who’d earned a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard, was brought aboard by Trump to deal with the China trade situation and build up U.S. manufacturing. He supported full instant tariffs to wipe out China’s trade advantages. But the White House was packed with people who passionately opposed tariffs and were uncomfortably chummy with the Chinese. Jared Kushner? A “panda hugger.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin? The “second coming of Neville Chamberlain” and as a “Judas” who’d made millions in Chinese business and who “simply couldn’t believe” that the PRC “posed any economic or military threat to the United States whatsoever.”
When virus deaths mounted in China, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s second-in-command Stephen Biegun, who’d been Ford Motors’ “offshorer in chief” to China, opposed a travel ban because he feared it would offend Xi. Living outside the Beltway but also exerting an outsized anti-tariff influence in the West Wing was the “Billionaires’ Cabal” – whose membership ranged from Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn (both heavily invested in Macao casinos) to Steve Schwarzman and Larry Fink.
Navarro begins his account in January 2020, when Trump signed the first of several prospective agreements that, it was expected, would vastly improve America’s trade position in relation to China. Almost everything else was looking good, too: the border wall was going up a mile a day; the economy was hurtling along gorgeously, with record high employment levels for virtually every demographic category; there were no new wars; the Northern Triangle governments were playing ball; even Little Kim in North Korea had put his belligerence on hold.
All in all, Trump looked like a shoo-in for re-election.
Then came Wuhan, which Navarro experienced as “Pearl Harbor and the Twin Towers all rolled up into one massive biological Chernobyl.” From trade and manufacturing, Navarro switched his focus to the pandemic. This won him yet another enemy: Anthony Fauci, with whom, at their first meeting in the White House Situation Room, he feuded over the travel ban. Fauci considered a ban unnecessary, arguing that the virus posed “a very,very low risk” to the U.S. (Navarro notes that Woodward, in Fear, deliberately turned this story around, dishonestly crediting Fauci with pushing through the travel ban.)
Later, Navarro and Fauci would spar over hydroxychloroquine, which Fauci refused to take seriously as a prophylactic or early treatment because of a lack of data. Navarro reminds us that decades earlier Fauci had responded in the same way to possible AIDS remedies, hence causing the deaths of thousands of gay men “who literally suffocated in their own phlegm.” This time, as well, Navarro believes that the successful anti-hydroxychloroquine campaign by Fauci and the FDA (with a major boost from CNN) – a campaign motivated not by scientific concerns but by a cheap, unforgivable desire to deny Trump a policy victory – also led to a widespread lost of life.
Trump has been widely criticized for the slowness with which his administration recognized the seriousness of COVID-19. In fact, according to Navarro, the fault lay not with Trump but with many of his advisors. Larry Kudlow publicly pooh-poohed the virus. Mark Short did a lousy job as head of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force. Navarro, for his part, corralled U.S. business leaders into helping combat the pandemic. Among this book’s heroes are FedEx CEO Fred Smith, who, while fiercely opposed to Trump’s trade policies, readily provided planes to ship desperately needed testing swabs from Italy to six U.S. cities. Other corporate good guys include Honeywell, UPS, and Pernod (which shifted its factories on a dime from making booze to producing sanitizer). Among the bad guys: GM, which, it will be remembered, had to be forced to manufacture ventilators. Worst of all: Big Pharma.
Navarro’s title, In Trump Time, is a reference to the president’s famous drive to cut through needless bureaucracy and get things done prontissimo. The helpful corporate CEOs proved ready, willing, and eager to work in Trump time. Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine program, was the biggest of the miracles that would never have been accomplished if government bureaucrats hadn’t been compelled to act faster than ever before. The second biggest feat that resulted from this accelerated pace was the ventilator program, whereby not a single American patient who needed a ventilator was denied one. Navarro is rightly proud of his role in these achievements.
Not surprisingly, Fauci, the old-style bureaucratic drudge, balked at the Warp Speed approach. Along with the FDA, the media, the Democrats, and the poisonous bosses at Pfizer, Fauci conspired to keep the first of the COVID vaccines from being unveiled until after the November 2020 election – the goal, of course, being to deprive Trump of electoral victory; as a result, tens of thousands of Americans were robbed of their very lives.
After the shock of the 2020 election loss, Navarro was also shocked by the defeatism of many of his colleagues. When Rudolph Giuliani insisted on challenging the results, many White House officials accused him of “grandstanding”; after Rudy was put in charge of that initiative, Jared Kushner and others tried to foil his efforts. Trump attorney Cleta Mitchell complained that she’d warned GOP bigwigs since May 2019 about the Democrats’ plans to steal the election, but had been ignored. Meanwhile one major inside-the-Beltway law firm after another passed on representing Trump in his vote-fraud case – such being “the hardball Globalist Swamp reality of Washington, D.C.”
Voter fraud was scarcely in Navarro’s wheelhouse. But just as he’d switched from trade to COVID, now, confronted by apathy and duplicity all around him, he felt compelled to throw himself into the job of “definitively answering the question of whether the election was in fact stolen.” Poring through mountains of material from the four states under dispute, he concluded that the election had been “stolen beyond any shadow of a shadow of a probabilistic doubt,” and wrote a report to that effect.
Unfortunately, others who were expected to serve the cause failed it spectacularly. Lawyer Sidney Powell, who kept making extravagant claims on TV about election fraud, never produced any proof, thus making the whole effort look bogus. Attorney General Bill Barr also proved a crushing disappointment. But the greatest betrayal was that by Mike Pence, who on January 6, acting in his role as President of the Senate when that body met to certify the November 3 vote, could quite legitimately have paused the certification to give state legislators time to investigate claims of fraud. Instead Pence ended up, in Navarro’s words, being “the Brutus most responsible both for the final betrayal of President Trump and the unceremonious burial of electoral integrity.”
I don’t know Peter Navarro. But his book, unlike the dozens of anti-Trump jeremiads I read earlier this year, has the ring of truth. He’s also a hell of a lot smarter and funnier than the likes of Stelter, Woodward, et al. Yes, just like them, he sings his own praises and settles scores. But it’s all ultimately in the service of the Trump agenda, to which he remained loyal while others proved to be ideological wolves in sheep’s clothing or selfishly jumped ship along the way, knowing that the longer they hung on to Trump the more their job prospects would be in jeopardy.
Navarro’s portrayal of all this perfidy is eye-opening. One hopes that if Trump makes it back into the Oval Office, he’ll install Navarro immediately as chief of staff, heed his advice about other hires, and ship Jared and Ivanka off on a fact-finding mission to Saint Helena. One hopes, too, that the hard work Navarro did to prove that Trump was indeed cheated of a second term will, sooner or later, pay off. Navarro himself expresses confidence that the truth will eventually be established to everyone’s satisfaction. I wish I had such faith.
In any event, whatever you want to say about Navarro, he is – unlike the Stelters and Woodwards with their crummy, noxious tomes, and the Mnuchins and Kudlows with their self-serving White House stints – no careerist. He said goodbye to a top-flight corporate, media, or academic future when he decided to go all in on election fraud, out of loyalty to his boss and a stubborn determination to ascertain the truth. In other words, his book has a moral core, whereas all those insipid anti-Trump rants might just as well have been entitled Here’s My 100,000 Words – Where’s the Money? His book is a vital corrective to the grotesquely deceptive record propounded by the legacy media and the mainstream publishers. It deserves to be read by everyone who cares about what really happened in the Trump White House.