As part of their long-term deal with Netflix, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama have bought the rights to a book detailing the chaos within the Trump administration, Slate reports.
Published in October, “The Fifth Risk” was written by Michael Lewis, author of the best-selling Moneyball, who specializes in analyzing how systems work. The book eschews overheard-in-the-Oval gossip already available in Michael Wolff’s and Omarosa’s bestsellers for a fly-on-the-wall view of how an unprepared new administration confronted — or more accurately, ignored — the well-oiled machine that makes our government run.
In an NPR interview, Lewis described how the Trump administration was totally unprepared for (or uninterested in) the time-honored transition process. He recounted the traditional post-Election Day handover of a Cabinet office: “[The Obama administration’s staff] had parking spots reserved, and they had offices set aside and the briefing books on the table. And they’d arranged Wi-Fi for the computers and passwords for everybody and, you know, badges to get in and out of the buildings. And then days passed, and they finally kind of get word that, well, they’re a little disorganized, and nobody’s coming… And it was actually the better part of two months before anybody shows up who’s going to be — who’s going to represent Trump’s transition to the Department of Agriculture. So they had — they were just left waiting for a long time.”
The book provides more evidence that Trump appointed officials to bury their departments, not to raise them. The New York Times review spotlights how Lewis covers the appointment of Barry Myers, Trump’s nominee to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “‘Myers also happens to be chief executive of AccuWeather, his family’s company. As a private citizen, Myers lobbied to prevent NOAA’s National Weather Service from having direct contact with the public, saying that ‘the government should get out of the forecasting business’ — despite the fact that AccuWeather repackaged free government weather data and sold it for a profit. With Myers in charge, Lewis says ‘the dystopic endgame is not difficult to predict: the day you get only the weather forecast you pay for.'”
The Times review also noted that the book contains smaller amusing detail in the cluelessness realm: “A woman astronaut recalls that male NASA technicians were so flummoxed by the prospect of menstruation in space that they offered her a kit of a hundred tampons for a short journey. The wrappers had been removed and the tampons sealed in little red cases, strung together in an ‘endless unfurling’ that she likened to a ‘bad stage act.'”
Of course, the risk in the book’s title is that too much of the Washington machine is spiraling into entropy, at a time when urgent action is required on any number of fronts, from the environment to foreign policy.
The Obamas haven’t commented on their acquisition, and the terms of their overall Netflix deal are largely mysterious. The First Couple emeritus signed the production pact in May and are still casting about for material. But a documentary about a fledgling administration could be a natural fit: Barack Obama entered the White House after a single term as senator, making him a conduit between Washington insiders and outsiders.