Hiding in Plain Sight: the Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, Sarah Kendzior, Flatiron £22

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If you only read one journalistic account of Donald Trump’s America make sure it is Sarah Kendzior’s Hiding in Plain Sight. It is certainly one of the most devastating indictments not only of the Crooked President himself but of the corrupt system that put him in power. Kendzior first came to notice with the publication of a collection of her journalism, The View from Flyover Country, which provides a powerful account of post-2008 America from the point of view of the blue and white collar working class.
Flyover Country chronicles the impact of low wages and casualisation in the richest country in the world, where there are huge numbers of people with two or three jobs but still unable to pay the rent and buy enough food to feed themselves and their families.
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 was celebrated in Missouri by a cut in “the minimum wage by $2.70”, by “a law that made it possible to fire women who use birth control” and with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People unprecedentedly declaring that Missouri “was too dangerous for black people to visit”.
In Hiding in Plain Sight, she proceeds to chronicle the incredible criminality of Trump and his people, the scale of the corruption that defines American politics and the dangers this poses for the survival of bourgeois democracy and to the lives of working people. All this, once again from the perspective of Missouri, which she describes as “a microcosm of a new America — one marked by paranoia and fear”; an America defined by “economic pain, anti-black racism and the ability of conservative propagandists to exploit both”.
One thing that becomes clear from Kendzior’s account is that no matter how hostile much of the US media seems to be towards Trump, they have in fact completely failed to get the full measure of his criminality and of the corrupt political system that has left him at large, let alone become President.
She is adamant that Trump has a longstanding relationship with the Russian mafia both inside and outside America dating back to the late 1980s, and she provides a detailed account of these relations. Trump Tower effectively served as “a dorm for the Russian mafia” with New York becoming a centre for their global activities. And why, she asks, have the US media failed to follow up the charge of rape of a thirteen year old girl made against Trump as part of the Epstein affair?
There is so much in Kendzior’s book that one is spoiled for choice for examples of criminality and corruption, but let us look at the installation of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in the White House as instances of the most gross nepotism. They both had the highest security clearance, whereas “Kushner’s massive debt and tax collection schemes should have prevented him holding any kind of clearance — but not in Trump’s dynastic kleptocracy”.
Indeed, Kushner “had lied on his security clearance forms more than any person in US history”. And once installed as one of Trump’s trusted advisers, Kushner, among other things, “lobbied for a Qatari blockade after Qatar refused to provide his family a loan to pay off its massive debt”. Qatar saw sense in the end and “ultimately paid off his 666 Fifth Avenue debt”.
As for Kushner’s role as Middle Eastern peacemaker, Benjamin Netanyahu is an old family friend; indeed he slept in young Jared’s bedroom when staying with the family and to this day, Kushner is apparently devoted to him. The Kushner family are also “investors in illegal West Bank settlements”. Kendzior’s interest in Trump led to an article appearing in Kushner’s newspaper, the Observer, “exposing” her as “a Soros plant”; an exposé that led to “the worst death threats of my career”.
One important point that Kendzior makes is that is that it is wrong to consider Trump’s presidency a ‘kakistocracy’, that is rule by the wholly incompetent. Instead, she insists the US today is a “kleptocracy with elements of burgeoning authoritarianism”. The Trump administration is “stripping America down for parts and selling those parts to the highest bidder”.