... an attempt to capture the madness that is the Trump presidency and the danger to democracy it poses. Aided by measured prose and healthy skepticism, Karl succeeds ... Well-organized and respectfully written before the pandemic, Front Row at the Trump Show conveys the chaos and the characters that inhabit the president’s universe.
... Karl follows Trump in his first years as president, reporting with accuracy and clarity but little new insight. To be fair, it's not Karl's fault that we've visited these spots again and again like weary pilgrims traversing the Via Dolorosa ... Karl's book happily does not, as many other accounts do, over-rely on former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who, because of his willingness to give interviews, has managed to enshrine his version of events as public record. We also get mercifully little palace intrigue — Karl knows better than to let White House insiders use his book to sound off anonymously about their enemies ... Karl's book is irritatingly unspecific ... Karl's exclusive coverage of a conversation about Charlottesville in which Trump praised Confederate generals would feel more urgent if Trump had not said more or less the same thing a few days later, in front of cameras ... Karl's purportedly hard-won insights, too, are discernible by anyone with the slightest interest in politics ... in the sheer obviousness of his account, Karl inadvertently points to a larger and more alarming truth: We are all of us, always, in the front row at the Trump show now.
One senses in this account that, like many others, Karl is both attracted and somewhat repelled by Trump largely because of his propensity to lie ... Karl, writing before the coronavirus outbreak, seems to argue that some reporters have been too tough on Trump ... Karl’s book is chiefly a compilation of his encounters and interviews with Trump and members of his staff. There is far too much recounting, often in somewhat tedious detail, of Karl’s daily coverage of Trump ... It’s an account of things we have mostly seen and heard before, and it lacks analysis of the larger issues Trump and his presidency represent.
If Trump takes the podium in the White House briefing room and delivers a rambling, muttering completely incoherent slew of resentment, innuendo, and spite, Karl and his network behave like clockwork: they seize on a couple of semi-coherent half-sentences, they stitch together various semi-points often separated by 30 minutes of garbled nonsense, and they tediously rebut 'factual inaccuracies' they know perfectly well are fully conscious lies. In other words, they normalize Trump, again and again...That is not informing the public. That is not asking tough questions. That is certainly not holding those in power accountable ... is not in-the-moment reporting, of course, although it’s a reporter’s book. In these pages Karl is free to add more flesh to the bones, to spin some of his anecdotes into the kinds of stories that can be excerpted on cable news shows. He provides pacing; he provides color ... The principal events of Trump’s first three years in office are presented through Karl’s perspective. That perspective is often valuable - Karl has known Trump for decades - and Front Row at the Trump Show is often entertaining reading. And if it becomes a bestseller, well, that’s how deals are made, right?
... a book devoted to the importance of objective journalism, even in the face of widespread dissimulation. Sober instead of smug, Karl still can’t quite get past Trump as an individual ... This is Trump as a case history instead of Trump as the expression of a deep rupture in the country. By limiting our opprobrium to Trump himself, we manage to both feel superior to him while also dismissing him ... Karl, like other journalists, positions himself as a sober-minded and fair arbiter of the truth, doing his duty tirelessly and hewing to the notion that facts and objectivity, by themselves, will carry the day. But such lofty ideals are undercut by the book’s promise of delivering more inside gossip and unbelievable spectacle ... Marketing national crisis as page-turning diversion, Front Row at the Trump Show makes the administration seem slightly less than real, a distant episode that might almost involve some other country ... Unable even to muster this milquetoast call to action, Karl’s book ends by suggesting that if we just do nothing, the bad dream will go away on its own.
Mr. Karl, the chief White House correspondent for ABC News, necessarily tells the story from the media’s side, but he is a fair-minded reporter rather than a media cheerleader. Unlike other books about Mr. Trump by members of the news media, Mr. Karl’s book presents the 45th president as a complex, multilayered person: self-regarding, sometimes mean, disdainful of factual accuracy; but also approachable to ordinary people, at times reflective, and smarter than his critics give him credit for ... Mr. Karl also manages to convey something missing from other books by his media colleagues about the Trump era: the sheer hilarity of it all ... Mr. Karl treats the two-year controversy over whether the Trump campaign 'colluded' with Russia as an ordinary political debate rather than what it was, a bloody-minded conspiracy theory rooted in the machinations of bumbling FBI officials and tirelessly hyped by gullible journalists ... Mr. Karl’s insistence on truth from government spokesmen is well taken. One only wishes he could say more about the kind of perverse groupthink that so often impels mainstream journalists to espouse tendentious interpretations of events even as they claim to care only about the truth.
... detailed yet disappointing ... Karl delivers a plethora of insider anecdotes, but his analysis of the administration’s impact on democratic norms feels shallow, and his tendency toward self-congratulation grates. (Is it really necessary to know that Anthony Scaramucci thought Karl’s exchange with Mulvaney over the Ukraine affair was 'the question that saved America'?). Readers searching for headline-worthy insights into the Trump White House should look elsewhere.