ABC News correspondent Karl (The Right to Bear Arms) offers a blow-by-blow chronicle of Donald Trump’s path to the White House in this detailed yet disappointing account that concludes two months before impeachment. Though Karl credits Trump with “pulling off the greatest political upset in American history” and carefully notes that all presidents have “bitterly complained” about their press coverage, he condemns the Trump administration for waging a “war on truth” and “pour rocket fuel” on America’s political divisions. His litany of evidence includes a 2013 TV interview in which Trump refused to take the “golden opportunity” to walk back claims that President Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.; White House press secretary Sarah Sanders lying to reporters about air strikes against Syria; and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney admitting, in response to Karl’s question, that Ukrainian military aid had been withheld for political reasons, then denying the admission. 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. Agent: David Larabell, Creative Artists Agency. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Front Row at the Trump Show
“Jonathan Karl gives us much more than program notes for the Trump Show in this revealing and personal account of his relationship with our 45th president. We learn what it is really like to be on the White House beat, about the peculiarities of dealing with the personality in the Oval Office, and ultimately the risks and dangers we face at this singular moment in American history.”—Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary (1995-98) and director/professor, Center for Public Theology, Wesley Theological Seminary
“The Constitution is strict: It says we must have presidents. Fortunately, we occasionally have reporters as talented as Jonathan Karl—an acute observer and gifted writer—to record what presidents do. Karl is exactly the right journalist to chronicle the 45th president, who is more—to be polite—exotic than his predecessors.”—George F. Will
“No reporter has covered Donald Trump longer and with more energy than Jonathan Karl. It pays off in his account of what he calls the Trump Show with some startling scoops. What did the president scrawl across the rejected resignation letter from his attorney general? He tells us.”—Susan Page, Washington bureau chief, USA Today
“Jon Karl is fierce, fearless, and fair. From cub reporter at the NY Post to chief WH correspondent for ABC News, he’s covered Donald Trump—and the White House—for a generation. He knows the man, and the office. Front Row at the Trump Show takes us inside the daily challenge of truthful reporting on the Trump WH, revealing what’s at stake with vivid detail and deep insights.”—George Stephanopoulos
“Jonathan Karl is a straight-shooting, fair-minded, and hardworking professional so it’s no surprise he’s produced a book historians will relish. It’s about good old-fashioned news-getting—about the process and the rules and how it works. Overlaying it is this most amazing moment in American political history. Underlying it is a story about waking up each morning and trying against the odds to find out what’s true.”—Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal
“Front Row at the Trump Show provides an unvarnished view of the deceptions, eccentricities, and occasional achievements of the Trump presidency from a first-rate television correspondent with a ringside seat.”—Lou Cannon, author of President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime
“Must read: Jonathan Karl's Front Row at the Trump Show. Time and again he was in the room where it happened. I've read every book about the Trump presidency. This is the best.”—Bill Press
“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… 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.”—Wall Street Journal
“A valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Front Row at the Trump Show is the best long-form study of the relationship between Trump and the media—and it’s not possible to understand the Trump presidency without understanding that relationship.”—The Morning Dispatch
“[Front Row at the Trump Show] is 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.”—The Guardian
“Karl, the chief White House correspondent at ABC News, has known Donald Trump since 1994, and it shows.”—New York Times Book Review
“It was so good I was sad when it ended.”—Olivia Nuzzi, New York magazine
The chief White House and Washington correspondent for ABC provides a ringside seat to a disaster-ridden Oval Office.
It is Karl to whom we owe the current popularity of a learned Latin term. Questioning chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, he followed up a perhaps inadvertently honest response on the matter of Ukrainian intervention in the electoral campaign by saying, "What you just described is a quid pro quo." Mulvaney's reply: "Get over it." Karl, who has been covering Trump for decades and knows which buttons to push and which to avoid, is not inclined to get over it: He rightly points out that a reporter today "faces a president who seems to have no appreciation or understanding of the First Amendment and the role of a free press in American democracy." Yet even against a bellicose, untruthful leader, he adds, the press "is not the opposition party." The author, who keeps his eye on the subject and not in the mirror, writes of Trump's ability to stage situations, as when he once called Trump out, at an event, for misrepresenting poll results and Trump waited until the camera was off before exploding, "Fucking nasty guy!"—then finished up the interview as if nothing had happened. Trump and his inner circle are also, by Karl's account, masters of timing, matching negative news such as the revelation that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election with distractions away from Trump—in this case, by pushing hard on the WikiLeaks emails from the Democratic campaign, news of which arrived at the same time. That isn't to say that they manage people or the nation well; one of the more damning stories in a book full of them concerns former Homeland Security head Kirstjen Nielsen, cut off at the knees even while trying to do Trump's bidding.
No one's mind will be changed by Karl's book, but it's a valuable report from the scene of an ongoing train wreck.