“What the heck just happened here?”
You ask yourself that a dozen times a day, none more so than the time between last October and this past January. What really happened in Washington during those weeks? Author Michael Wolff says he knows and in “Landslide” he lays it all out.
Let’s skip the preliminaries; there can’t be many Americans left who don’t know how the 2020 election proceeded and ended. The date’s been in the news almost since Donald Trump became president in 2016, but Wolff – who wrote this book based on details supplied by the former president’s office and through interviews – says that Trump’s frenzied efforts to stay in office seriously escalated, starting in early 2020, with the Covid-19 crisis.
To begin, Wolff chronicles weeks and weeks of chaos as Trump’s staff carefully placated Trump to avoid his notoriously short fuse, while others floated ideas that were impossible but that he embraced, much to the dismay of some of his advisers. There are few surprises in this; it’s rather familiar territory for most readers.
This changes in Wolff’s account leading up to Election Day 2020.
Yes, we know what happened in the end, but Wolff makes the timeline seem, curiously, like something out of a thriller, with a tense, almost minute-by-minute recreation of election night. Among other niggling insights, we also learn who had Trump’s ear at this point and who tried unsuccessfully to bring reality to the table. Adding to the chaos, the pandemic is a constant backdrop, as is a blithe lack of concern from the White House.
It wasn’t long after the election loss that January 6 was floated as a chance to change the results, setting off what Wolff calls “an obsessional fixation” on Trump’s part, leaving Mark Meadows to quietly, surreptitiously start the transition for the Biden team. Readers may have sensed as much but to wonder, in print, who was in charge, is unsettling. Throughout this book – but particularly here – words like “crazy,”and “loony” are found, giving it somewhat of a lighter tone, poking the ribs of Wolff’s most-likely audience before returning to thriller-mode as he focuses on mid-December, leading up to and including January 6.
It’s hard, no matter who you voted for, to avoid being shocked here; in fact, don’t be surprised if you feel a need to squirm while reading this. Wolff conveys chaos well, and it’s easy to pick up on the feeling of distress that shapes these pages.
Long before he wraps up with a post-inauguration update and presents his interview with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Wolff explains why White House aides stayed, though most of them indicated that their jobs were far from enjoyable. He tells readers who likely kept Trump in line between January 6 and the inauguration. And he shares the saga that is Rudy Giuliani.
Left-minded readers will find entertainment in this book; right-standing readers, perhaps not. Nothing’s drastically new here except the angle but if you’ve got nagging questions, “Landslide” may help you understand what the heck happened here.