This slim volume is the author's mea culpa, projected well past personal apology to the sounding of a national alarm ... At this point, it's hard to imagine a White House narrative with real shock value — unless it could sell a vision of this White House as a happy workshop of harmonious cooperation ... What is different here is the near-total absence of gossip and the sustained presence of surprisingly high-minded, intellectual discussion.
However accurate and sobering such characterizations may be, they all belong in a folder labeled Stuff We Already Know. Unfortunately, much of A Warning reads like a longer version of the op-ed, purposely vague and avoiding big revelations in order to preserve the author’s anonymity. The writer admits as much ... The writer’s decision is not necessarily cowardly, but worse, it is self-defeating. Anonymity is often granted to acquire additional information, but in this book, it excuses giving less. A Warning tells us plenty about what Anonymous thinks, not enough about what Anonymous knows. And without learning more about the writer, it’s tough to know what to make of either ... In the absence of facts, readers are barraged by similes ... There are moments of detail and revelation, but they usually affirm points long understood about the president ... This is the fate of so many of the Chaos Chronicles — the insider books that tell us what it’s really, truly like in the Trump administration. Their explosive anecdotes about the president manage to be shocking and alarming yet, by this point in the Trump presidency, almost entirely unsurprising ... What frustrates about reading A Warning is that its author is not a journalist or a former official, but someone still working in the administration at a high level and ostensibly in position to not just chronicle conditions but to affect them. Instead, the book offers an endless encore of senior officials expressing concern to one another ... It’s like 'Profiles in Thinking About Courage' ... It is not clear why, if Anonymous has concluded that the quiet resistance is powerless, the author remains in the administration ... We don’t need a secret administration insider to tell us to pass the torch of liberty; we need that person to detail whether and how the torch is being doused ... parlor game? Maybe. But without a clearer sense of who Anonymous is and what this person has seen, done and is still doing, A Warning does not cut through the noise. It just creates more of it.
I realize that writing this while the president is still in office is an extraordinary step,' Anonymous says. In light of three years’ worth of resignations, tell-all books, reports about emoluments and sworn testimony about quid pro quos, this is a decidedly minimalist definition of 'extraordinary.' How can a book that has been denuded of anything too specific do anything more than pale against a formal whistle-blower complaint? ... It’s hard to look like a heroic truth teller by comparison, but Anonymous tries very hard, presenting anonymity as not just convenient but an ultimately selfless act, designed to force everyone to pay more attention to what this book says by deflecting attention away from the person who’s saying it ... You, the reader, will already recognize most of what Anonymous has seen and heard as revealed in this book if you have been paying any attention to the news ... to judge by the parade of bland, methodical arguments, the ideal reader would seem to be an undecided voter who has lived in a cave for the past three years, and is irresistibly moved by quotations from Teddy Roosevelt and solemn invocations of Cicero ... suggests a dyed-in-the-wool establishment Republican ... A big tell comes early on, when Anonymous reveals what 'the last straw' was. It wasn’t Mr. Trump’s response to the right-wing rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, when a white supremacist killed a woman and the president talked about 'the violence on many sides.' It wasn’t even the administration’s separation of migrant families at the border. These examples might have left Anonymous appalled, but the truly unforgivable act was when Senator John McCain died last year and Mr. Trump tried to hoist the flag on the White House above half-staff.