Donald Trump is going to acquire a book.
The book in question, as Gizmodo reported on Thursday, is titled Donald J Trump: An Environmental Hero, by Edward Russo. And the shocking news emerged as the president announced a rollback of environmental regulations at the White House, taking an ax to the environmental review process required for infrastructure projects. The move, which he pitched as a way around “endless delays” to various projects, poses a new threat to the climate and is likely to face legal challenges.
The president’s war on the environment is nothing new. His plan to bury his nose in a book is.
Trump isn’t known for his literary bona fides. Though the bestseller The Art of the Deal helped make his name, it was ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz – who deeply regrets his work on the book. Ghostwriters have been involved in most, if not all, of his many other volumes. “He doesn’t read books and he doesn’t write them,” Schwartz told the Independent in 2018. (The late night host Samantha Bee has developed a conspiracy theory that Trump can’t read at all.)
But one subject fascinates the president so much that he’s willing to invest in a volume of prose. That subject is, of course, himself.
The president highlighted Russo’s volume in his own defense after a question over whether he feels the climate crisis is made-up. “The environment is very important to me. Somebody wrote a book that I’m an environmentalist – it’s actually called The Environmentalist … I’d like to get it,” he said, before apparently contradicting himself and suggesting he already had it “in the other office”.
Russo, who has advised Trump, describes himself as a lifelong advocate for the planet. His self-published work claims to offer “a personal picture of a man who doesn’t just care about success but the impact of his success on the world”.
Trump, the book’s blurb says, offered Russo a job to ensure that Trump’s business developments wouldn’t “negatively affect habitats”, conjuring an image of a concerned Trump nodding thoughtfully as Russo warns of the toll his latest golf course could take on the local squirrel population.
The book seeks to counter a narrative – supported by robust evidence, including Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement, his assault on Obama-era environmental rules, and his complaints about excessive toilet flushing due to low water pressure – that the president actually doesn’t care very much about the planet.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Trump sought to paint a very different picture of himself. Asked about the climate crisis, he said, according to the pool report: “Nothing’s a hoax about that. It’s a very serious subject … I’m a big believer in that word, the environment.” That would seem to run counter to his previous claims that the climate emergency is a Chinese hoax and casting doubt on global warming during a snowstorm.
As for Russo, his own brand of environmentalism seems a little shaky. He has hailed proposed EPA budget cuts, suggesting they will increase the agency’s “focus”. “Every time there’s lightning or thunder that, oh, it’s climate change,” he told the energy news site E&E News in 2017. “Climate change is a natural change in balance of the Earth, it happens all the time.”
Whether the book’s claims of environmental heroism are accurate or not, the president appears to have developed an interest in the written word. We can only hope his newfound passion means a little less TV time.