Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis's latest book is The Fifth Risk.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:

ZAKARIA: President Trump, the head of the federal government, scoffed at the [climate change report of November 2018], telling The Washington Post, "A lot of people like myself -- we have very high levels of intelligence, but we're not necessarily such believers."

Such a response does not surprise my next guest, the bestselling author Michael Lewis, who spent more than two years reporting on first the Trump transition, then the Trump administration. "The Fifth Risk" outlines the potentially catastrophic consequences when the federal government is led by people who don't believe or care for what it actually does."

Michael, you begin the story with the transition itself, the Trump transition team. Tell that story.

LEWIS: Right. So -- so Trump, by law, was strongly encouraged to prepare to be president before the election, as was Hillary Clinton. They built this transition team basically over Trump's objections. Chris Christie does it for him.

Trump is basically saying to Christie all along, "Don't spend any money on it." And I think it's because he thought he wasn't going to win. He wins, and he has in place, thanks to Chris Christie, what is, by independent observers' judgment, actually a fairly competent transition, hundreds of people who are ready to go into the federal government and receive the government from the Obama administration.

Trump fires this entire operation right after the election. So he has nobody. The -- the kind of briefings that go on, where you learn the basic functioning of the government, like -- this isn't an ideological question. It's, sort of, like you go into the Center for Disease Control and you learn how they manage the Zika virus.

ZAKARIA: You have a -- you have an interview with the deputy, I think, director at the Department of Energy who says, "The election happened and then we just sat around waiting and we heard nothing from the Trump administration."

LEWIS: So, from the other side of things, the Obama administration had prepared what amounted to the best course ever prepared on how the federal government works because they had been encouraged to do such a thing. And so places like the Energy Department, which is the department of nuclear weapons. I mean, it's where the nuclear weapons are tested, are managed, where loose nuclear material is cleaned up. I mean, it's like -- it's a mission-critical kind of thing, expected the next day that dozens of people would come in to start to learn about what they were managing.

And they, you know, the sort of thing like they had set aside the parking spots and the conference rooms and they wait and wait and wait and no one shows up the next day or the next week or the next month.

I mean, it was -- so my interest in this was, like, what don't they know that they need to know? And I wandered around the government and I got...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue