The Pentagon's top intelligence official under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Clapper recounts his lengthy career in Washington and sounds a warning about weakened democracy under President Donald Trump, who he argues owes his office to the interference of Russia in the 2016 U.S. election.
While his book doesn’t shrink from direct criticism of the new president and an administration that prizes 'alternative facts' and condemns all dissenting views as 'fake news,' the most insightful and important part of Clapper’s book is not the two chapters at the end on Russia and Trump’s election...but the sustained argument that Trump is merely a particularly acute and deadly symptom of a longer and, to Clapper, worrisome trend in American society ... Readers of this memoir will find a more complex and nuanced portrait than they might expect. The James Clapper who comes across in the book possesses a self-deprecating charm and wry sense of humor...that would surprise people familiar only with the dour and gruff 'grumpy grandpa' routine he’s known for at congressional hearings and on cable news interviews ... Much of the book’s subtlety befits an intelligence professional comfortable working in the spaces in between ... No part of the life story of a grizzled military veteran comes across as more human and surprising than his recounting of his journey to being an 'LGBT ally' ... Every chapter of the book offers hard-earned lessons for our modern moment ... The truth, Clapper argues time and again, is critical.
The book begins and ends with a bitter appraisal of Trump and the Russian plot to put him in power ... This may sound sanctimonious to those aware of the dirty tricks played, covert wars waged and tortures inflicted by the CIA over the years, but Clapper, who worked in other, more antiseptic parts of the intel world—mainly monitoring communications—is quite sincere ...Given the overall tone and themes of the book, there are some passages by the old hand that readers may find surprising. At several points Clapper writes with considerable emotion about how unfairly LGBT intelligence officers were treated in the past and how pleased he is that they are fully accepted now. Clapper is generally sympathetic to Obama’s leadership—but not always ... Trump will want to convince his hard-core supporters that people like Clapper...were the real power in the country before Trump took over, and it is he, Trump, who is now speaking truth to them. Could be. Who knows?
In Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From A Life In Intelligence, Clapper traces his life and career from what he calls the 'halcyon days' of the Cold War, when Washington, D.C., led the international consensus against Communism ... Clapper doesn't break any new ground as to whether Trump and his campaign conspired with the Russians who attacked the election, though he describes his fears about aspects of the story that are already public ... The scheme, for Clapper, appears to have worked. When he left government service, he barely recognized the United States to which he was returning as a civilian.