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Omarosa 'Unhinged' book review: In this inflated, bizarre and horrifying book, Trump's presidency might have found its ultimate document

The president finally gets a book by someone just as cynical and exaggerated as himself

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 16 August 2018 21:53 BST
Omarosa Newman releases tape of Lara Trump offering her $15K-a-month campaign job

Unhinged by Omarosa hopes to offer “an insider’s account of the Trump white house”, according to its subtitle. As a book, it is exaggerated, dramatic, sometimes given to outright lies and never fails to be entertaining even in its abject horror – which is to say it could be the ultimate document of the Trump presidency.

The facts as we know them are this: Trump first met Omarosa when she was a contestant on The Apprentice and since then they have had a rocky relationship, which continued into a job at the White House. Now she has written a book claiming to tell that story – and Trump has called her a “crying lowlife” and a “dog” for having done so.

The fallout between the two has led to a series of disputes about the accuracy of the book. Some claims are not precise enough to actually fact check – the famous suggestion that there is a recording of Trump using racial slurs, for instance – while others appear to be patently false.

But the book isn’t meant to be about anything so dull as the truth. She and Trump are creatures of the world of scripted reality; what matters isn’t what really happened, but what’s really entertaining.

Almost everything in the book is either well-known or ill-considered. At one point, Omarosa takes to simply listing out the events that took place during a particularly busy period in the White House, with no more insight than someone would have watching from the outside. Those indulgences are mostly broken up with some wild and unsubstantiated claim, such as the fact that there is tape of Trump saying the N-word, that he had a black and female member of staff for failing to deal with his tanning bed properly, or that his mental and physical health is degenerating. She spends plenty of time on that last point, laying out the ways that she believes the president’s mind and body is rotting from the inside.

The prose itself is written in the same slightly dazed, matter-of-fact tone that has come to dominate the books written by those inside the White House. Whether it is the rush to publish, the fact that all rely on recollections given to ghost writers, or simply the fact that everything in the White House is too bizarre to properly relate, each of the books are written like a diary, given to simply relating the dates and facts. That vacillates between sobering and soporific – it makes for scary and shocking reading when it relates to the secrets of the Trump White House, but can become very dull when it relates to Omarosa’s life before The Apprentice, for instance.

Unfortunately all of these books are given to indulging that a little more than expected, perhaps because they know the connection with Trump means these books are probably the only chance to have their life stories read.

The book, of course, is also a very long CV and pitch for the TV appearances and media coverage that will follow. Every book offering insight into the White House is just one part of a vast and now well-worn path to becoming a talking head, and Omarosa’s is no different.

Everything about it is cynical: the Trump digs are calculated (and they have of course worked), the analysis is simple, the politics are uncontroversial enough for her to sit comfortably on any of the US news stations.

But there are moments of guilt, even flashes of something like remorse or apology. She spends much of her time justifying the fact that has joined a White House that has flirted with white supremacy as one of the few members of staff who aren’t some oleaginous combination of male, pale and stale.

Omarosa is clearly aware that she was exploited by Trump as a way of diversifying his White House and appealing to African-American voters; sometimes, she even seems to regret that fact, before realising that she exploited the situation just as cannily in return. If the book has an overarching narrative or idea, it is the gradual movement towards realising Trump is actually a racist, which just so happens to take place right as she is kicked out of the White House and falls at the end of the book.

And that is the reason that Omarosa’s book is probably the most fitting of the post-Trump memoirs – why it seems far more appropriate than James Comey’s superior and sometimes sinister treatise on ethics, or Sean Spicer’s bitter, bilious attack on the press. Comey is unable to deal with specifics or practicalities and instead chose to waffle about the failures of principle and ideology that Trump had committed; Spicer is too stupid to realise he has been played by everyone around him, or perhaps too smart to admit it. Omarosa is the only person as cynical, scheming, vengeful and shrewd as Trump himself – perfect to tell his story, even when it isn’t true, given that falsehoods have become such a central part of that White House. Because Omarosa clearly was not a central part of the White House herself. Even in her account, her relationship with Trump seems a little strange and sometimes estranged; she says that Donald and other members of the family frequently call her a friend and tell her they love her, but there is little evidence of them actually embracing her. But even that exaggeration is classically Trumpian, and the greatest trick of the book might be in taking the president’s knack for inflation to let the air out of him.

Unhinged is the literary equivalent of the confessionals that serve as a peek into the mind of reality TV show contestants. As with those emotional chats to the camera, they are less about what is actually said than that they are being said at all; less about insights, more about infights.

Omarosa isn’t here to make friends, she’s here to win. But “here” just so happens to be the White House, and we’re all going to lose.

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