Once upon a time, I had a boss I admired greatly. He helped my career and made my professional life better. I liked him personally, and, in case you wonder, we had a professional relationship that never crossed the line of impropriety. At some point, however, I saw him doing things that were coming close to dishonesty. His behavior became aberrant. Before his actions were widely noticed, he went on to bigger things. His career crashed when he was involved in a giant bribery scheme. While we had lost touch by then. I assume that he did not start out to be dishonest, but looking back, I could see that many times he had done things that were, at best, slightly off. Not right. But it would have never occurred to me to take him to task. He was my mentor. My friend.
I suspect this is a fairly common story, especially during one’s younger years. It is, in fact, the story that Omarosa Manigault Newman tells in “Unhinged”.
By now, you have probably read excerpts – or descriptions of excerpts – of “Unhinged”. Once more, we have a book that will be quoted and disparaged by many people who haven’t read it – beginning with Trump and his minion, Rudy Giuliani.
Now, I might be one of the few who has never seen “The Apprentice” or any of the other reality shows Trump and Manigault Newman have appeared on. I have never seen or heard an entire interview with her. I don’t like or dislike her – I am just uninterested in reality TV in general.
As a book, it is far from the worst memoir I’ve ever read. There is a fair amount of name dropping, and a tinge of sanctimonious spite now and then. I wish she had more back up for some of her assertions, but she does draw from reputable news outlets for most of her anecdotes.
And let’s face it – her primary subject, Trump, has proven himself a most unreliable narrator.
The crux of most criticism of “Unhinged” can be summed up as “Who the hell is she to throw stones?”
Well, she is someone who has known Trump for fifteen years, admired him, defended him and, ultimately, was disappointed in him. She is intelligent, articulate, and admits that she was wrong in her initial opinion. President Trump is not the Donald J. of “The Apprentice” days. She offers no pop psychology rationale. It’s more basic than that: this person was her meal ticket for years. She was grateful to him, she admired him and she thought her life would be better on his team than anywhere else.
Then, he began doing things she could no longer overlook. Finally, while demanding her loyalty, he proved himself disloyal to her.
Let’s scrape away the politics for a moment, if we can. This is a readable book, more nuanced and better written than “Fire and Fury,” less pompous then James Comey’s or James Clapper’s books, more intelligent than the slew of sycophantic drivel written about Trump. The author, having seen others thrown under the bus, took the precaution of taping many interactions, making it harder to refute her points.
About those tapes: her firing by Trump’s chief of staff also resonated with me. In the corporate world, employees often rise hard, then, after a change in senior management, find themselves on the outs. Because their employment records are full of praise, something has to be cobbled together as an excuse to fire them. Cheating on an expense account is a favorite. A simple mistake can be couched as dishonesty, and the employee is gone in an instant.
In Manigault Newman’s case, her transgression was using the government car service to go to a Congressional baseball game. No matter that this was a political event, a “must attend.” No matter that other people used car services. No matter that she had not been warned about car service use. It was a technical misdeed and, apparently, the only reason they could come up with to fire her.
This was a dim-witted move – unlike the private sector, political appointees serve at the pleasure of the administration. They can be fired for no reason. By inventing a weak excuse, the people who criticize Manigault Newman have given her credibility.
Is it worth reading? Sure. It won’t change your mind about anything major, but no one reads these books to be convinced. If you can, get the audiobook – Manigault Newman reads with an almost preternatural calm. She would have been an asset in many organizations. Had she not hitched her wagon to the Trump star, she might have been a contender.
Writer, editor and collaborator D Ferrara’s work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals. Recently, she co-edited and contributed to “Jewels of San Fedele,” an anthology. Her script, Arvin Lindemeyer Takes Canarsiewon Outstanding Screenplay in the Oil Valley Film Festival. Her play, Favor, won NJ ACT’s Outstanding Production of an Original Play.