My Copy: 9781324002642 (image from bn.com)
I don’t know what all I was expecting from this book, but I gotta say, I learned a helluva lot about certain government entities and departments… and how badly things can get screwed up during a bad transition period.
The Fifth Risk is essentially about the election of Donald Trump and the way presidential transitions are supposed to work. But it’s not a book completely skewering Trump, it’s more about how transition works, with what Trump did– being unprepared to have people ready to go to take over and get approved for the positions he was supposed to staff– really screwing things up. It talks about the election in regards to this, and some details regarding that mythical inauguration night.
Mr. Lewis interviewed several key members or former heads of departments like the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, and some others to get a feel for who they were and what they’d done during their time in D.C. And then came January 2017, though some of Trump’s “transition team” had taken their time showing up to their respective departments. And you get a real awful feeling reading how all these Trump loyalists got into these positions and started trying to overhaul everything to profit themselves outside the office.
Every time it went from how things were before and then January 2017, I kept thinking, “okay, now we’re gonna get somebody who’s going to take this seriously and learn from the folks that are here for them.” I wanted to bash my head against the wall every time I was let down. And when they did want to know something, it was generally all about short-term gains and no real knowledge of the position (and some not seeming to care).
Michael Lewis summed up one of his interviewees realizations rather well, I think:
There was a rift in American life that was now coursing through American government. It wasn’t between Democrats and Republicans. It was between the people who were in it for the mission, and the people who were in it for the money.
If you’re curious how the less obvious aspects of government departments work out, or how the transition process goes (or is supposed to), or want to read one of the first books about Trump’s policies and early days of his presidency, then this one’s definitely worth a read. I’m hanging onto it because Mr. Lewis’ writing was very good, and I was surprised at how much about how much I didn’t know about the basic subject matter.