Confidence Woman Maggie Haberman's Book is Just a 600-Page Copy-Paste of Old New York Times Columns.
Haberman is the "journalist's journalist." Which is like being a "consummate politician" or "the FBI's finest." Not good.
I’ve done it. I’ve completed ‘Confidence Man’ by (the failing) New York Times’ Maggie Haberman, whose actual name appears to be Maggie, not Margaret. Given by the length of this book, nothing about Maggie is intentionally short. At a whopping 600 pages (or 17.5 hours for the audiobookers like me), I can safely say this was one of the greatest wastes of my life, ever. To belabor the point: I have uselessly completed many video games. It’s a habit I gave up about 18 months ago now to spend my time on even more useless things like Confidence Man, apparently.
Keep reading free, but drop me your e-mail so I don’t have to rely on social media to reach you.
There really are only two redeeming moments in this book. Neither of them were particularly worth the investment for what I cannot even use as a doorstop, because as I say, I did it on audiobook.
But it was definitely a bloody doorstop to my head. Repeatedly. Because out of what I can only assume was sheer spite aimed primarily at me, Haberman decided to narrate the darn thing herself.
So, to these two redeeming features. In brief:
I was reminded by her hackneyed deployment of the Chauncey Gardiner comparison that I hadn’t actually watched “Being There” all the way through. So I did. As a result of Haberman’s book. It was fine.
Learning that Hillary Clinton’s team thought Donald Trump was going to poison her at the debate, during their handshake, almost identical to a scene of out Seth Rogen and James Franco’s “The Interview”.
Before we get into the detail on these, it’s worth stating that it is so bleeding obvious that Haberman is simply cashing in on her lifetime obsession with Donald J. Trump. A lot of the book reads like a teenage girl’s diary.
“OMG he TOTES said I was like his psychiatrist! He DEFINITELY noticed me!”
– Maggie Haberman, basically.
I don’t actually blame her for wanting a payday out of all of this. Capitalism may be her only redeeming feature. But in case you were still thinking of buying it, I must inform you it is pretty much just a copy-paste job of her columns and podcasts over the past six years.
Barely anything is new or newsworthy in Confidence Man. Even Jared Kushner’s book was snappier, and no one has ever put “Jared Kushner” and “snappier” in a sentence before, I assure you.
Through hours of one-on-one interviews with Trump, she manages to elicit almost no interesting information - about him, the world around him, his ideas, or otherwise. You start to get the sense that far from her being his psychiatrist, it might just be the other way around.
For those wondering why Trump continues to give Haberman interviews, she gives us a hint that maybe he misses New York and she represents a connection to back home. I reckon he’d be better off just getting a pizza flown in.
Listening to her drone on (Maggie sounds like she bores herself, too) it occurred to me that Haberman is very much a journalist’s journalist. Which isn’t a good thing. It’s sort of like being called “a consummate politician” or “the FBI’s finest”.
She writes, not for the benefit of the wider public, but for an extremely small set of Acela corridor dilettantes who chortle at anecdotes about Trump and Giuliani sharing a bathroom on a private plane.
What is funny, however, is Haberman invoking the movie Being There, as if she was reporting something novel. In fact, National Review (and others) used this comparison even before the 2016 election. It takes a lot for me to credit National Review. Only Maggie could make it happen:
Shortly after his election in 2016, someone who had known Trump for years, in shock at the result, told me, “The country’s elected Chauncey Gardiner and nobody realizes it,” referring to the protagonist of Being There. The book was adapted into a movie in which Peter Sellers plays a dim man named Chance, a gardener, who through a series of misunderstandings ends up being confused for an upper-crust genius named Chauncey Gardiner. But that missed the mark; Trump was not especially knowledgeable of much beyond real estate deals, building construction, sports, movies, and television, but he was shrewd and smarter than his critics gave him credit for, possessed of a survival instinct that was likely unmatched in American political history. He also was not, as Chance the gardener was, harmless; Trump’s zero-sum mentality ensured someone else would often have to pay the price for his success.
So many words. So little said.
Perhaps the only worthwhile moment in the book comes when discussing the Clinton campaign, not Trump. And it provides an insight into just how tight a grip the “Putin is everywhere” mentality has on the West’s political class:
During preparations for the third debate, Clinton’s team was disrupted by a warning from the husband of Senator Dianne Feinstein, who said he had been told that Russians might try to poison Clinton through a handshake with Trump, to inflict a dramatic health episode during the debate. Clinton did not take it seriously, and Ron Klain, a former adviser to Al Gore and Joe Biden who was aiding with debate prep, wondered how Trump would poison Clinton but not himself. Her communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, took the prospect seriously enough to check it out; the warning turned out to be mere speculation from a historian with no knowledge of Russian plans.
Extraordinary paranoia, unrivaled by anything Trump did within the rest of the 599 pages of Haberman’s parvulum opus.
I will say this about Maggie though, as I know some of her sources, and I know some of the incidents she writes about: she does actually have good sources. It’s just a shame she can’t tell when they’re lying to her.
There are a number of “hook, line, and sinker” moments in Confidence Man. Then again, given that the entire book is regurgitative grift designed to afford her a home on Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps she has earned the title of “Confidence Woman” herself.