book reviews, narcissists, politicians, politics

A review of I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House, by Stephanie Grisham…

When Bill isn’t home, our dogs– usually Arran– often wake me up in the middle of the night. After they have their midnight pee or poo break, they come back in and go back to bed. I, then, spend another hour or so, trying to get back to sleep. That’s what happened to me in the wee hours of this morning, when Arran got me up TWICE— once to pee, and once to poo, and both times, demanded a cookie reward for doing his business. Noyzi, on the other hand, didn’t bark at me through the bedroom door early this morning, as he has the past two mornings, nor did he want to join Arran on his nocturnal potty runs.

It’s because of Arran’s second potty break that I finally finished Stephanie Grisham’s 2021 book, I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House. While it wasn’t a particularly difficult book to read, it did take me some time to plow through, mainly because I’m not capable of reading as fast as I once was. Nowadays, if I’m reading in bed, I fall asleep. I have to be careful, too, because I usually read on an iPad. I don’t want to get hit in the nose or teeth, or roll over on the iPad and break it. It also took time because I happened to be reading it while we were on vacation, and I was busy doing other things… like watching Netflix and hanging out with Bill.

I hadn’t actually planned to read Stephanie Grisham’s book. I remember reading her comments defending the Trumps when Donald Trump was 45. Many of my regular readers know I despise Donald Trump, and I’d like to forget about him. Still, I have found myself drawn to books written by people who worked for him at the White House (there is no working with him— the man is a raging narcissist and thinks he is the most important person alive). I did read Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady. I figured I might as well give Stephanie Grisham’s book a chance.

So now I’ve read it… and I have to say, for the most part, it wasn’t terrible.

Ambitious Stephanie Grisham had always dreamt of being the White House Press Secretary. In 2016, when Trump was running for president, she was a “junior press wrangler”. By 2020, she had worked for both Donald Trump, and his wife, Melania. For a time she simultaneously worked for BOTH Trumps, when Trump hired her to be the White House Press Secretary and Communications Director, and Melania Trump’s Communications Director. Grisham was an extremely rare high profile Trump employee, in that she was there for almost the entire time Trump was in office. She finally quit on January 6, 2021, in the wake of the attack on the Capitol, as pro Trump rioters breached one of our country’s most beautiful and recognizable government buildings in an attempt to prevent the 2020 presidential election results from being certified.

Having read Grisham’s book, and about all of the frustrations and mistreatment she no doubt faced, particularly at the hands of some of her male co-workers, I’m surprised it took her so long to finally throw in the towel. But Grisham has an explanation. She, like so many of us, was “trained” to take abuse from people, and she got unusually good at doing that. And she also claims that she’s a Republican and believed in what Trump was doing. She writes that he had some good policies, although she doesn’t really spell out which specific policies she thought were so good.

This book isn’t really about Donald Trump’s policies, though. It’s about what it was like to work for the Trumps. Grisham writes about what it was like to fly on Air Force One, which took the Trumps and their entourage on exotic foreign trips– at one point, meeting the British Royal Family, at another, visiting four countries in Africa. Much of what Grisham writes seems to be more about working for Melania, which I got the impression she did longer than working for Trump himself.

There were a few instances in the book in which Grisham seemed to want to be friends with Melania, but Melania apparently wasn’t interested. For instance, one day Melania seemed kind of depressed. Grisham invited her to take a walk on the beach, as if they were friends. Melania wanted to know if there would be photographers there. Grisham then found herself trying to arrange an impromptu photo shoot with real photographers. Throughout the book, Grisham mentions how beautiful and stylish Melania is, as if she really admires her, in spite of Melania’s hot and cold treatment of her and eventually being completely discarded by the former First Lady when the Trump era ended.

Incidentally, Grisham mentions Stephanie Winston Wolkoff’s book on more than one occasion. I get the sense there’s no love lost between those two. However, I also get the sense that both of them fancied themselves “close friends” of Melania’s. It’s almost as if they’re jealous of each other (Wolkoff also mentions Grisham in her book). Wolkoff eventually realizes that Melania is no friend to anyone. Grisham, conversely, seems to hold out hope that she and Melania could one day be besties or something. Spoiler alert– it ain’t happening. Melania is into herself, and maybe her son, Barron. That’s about it.

I’m being honest when I write that Grisham comes off as a likable person to me, probably because she uses a lot of profanity. I mean… she uses a LOT of cuss words, including the “f” word. As much as I like cussing myself, that was one aspect of her writing that I noticed and thought detracted a bit from her manuscript, especially given that she’s a journalist. On the other hand, she writes as if she’s having a conversation, which I also tend to do. And if cursing is something she does in her natural voice, maybe it IS appropriate, in terms of her authentic voice. I think if I had to work for either of the Trumps to make a living, I would cuss a lot too. And I would probably drink a lot more… which would not be a good thing. However, while the profanity makes Grisham seem more relatable to me, it also makes her seem less polished and professional. I guess that makes sense in Trump’s White House, given his penchant for “pussy grabbing”.

Grisham offers some details about some of the Trumps’ most notorious moments in the press, as well as Jared and Ivanka, whom she collectively refers to as Javanka. Like Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, she refers to Ivanka alone as “the princess”. Barron gets one mention at the end of the book, and she paints him in a good light. The other Trump kids are described as entitled brats, for the most part– but especially Ivanka. Grisham doesn’t seem impressed with Jared Kushner, either.

Toward the end of Grisham’s book, she writes about an abusive romantic relationship she was involved in with another Trump staffer. She doesn’t identify the man, but she does describe him, and her description of him certainly paints the picture of a classic abuser. This was a man she’d lived with, and even adopted a dog with, and at the end of their relationship, he turned out to be a total dick. One night, she got very upset and hung out with some friends. Another friend brought over some wine and encouraged Grisham to take an Ambien, which she did. It promptly knocked her out cold. Next thing she knew, she was being asked if she was okay by two guys in her bedroom. They were from the Secret Service. Her friend got worried and called the White House. They got the idea that she was suicidal.

At the same time she was reeling from her breakup, Grisham was also dealing with Mark Meadows, one of Trump’s many former Chiefs of Staff. Meadows made Grisham’s life hellish, and basically fired her from working with Trump. Although Grisham had supposedly wanted to keep the Ambien incident quiet, word got out, which is probably why she addresses it in her book. Meadows also got wind of it and was apparently quite the bastard about it, and a lot of other things. Make no mistake about it; Grisham and Mark Meadows are definitely not on good terms.

As she sums up her time fulfilling her ambitions of being the White House Press Secretary, among other things, Grisham discloses her own personal epiphany. She realizes that she has been well-trained to tolerate abuse, especially from men. She says she was abused by her White House boyfriend, by Mark Meadows, and even by Trump. She wrote that she’d gotten used to men being mean to her, calling her names, and treating her like a doormat. I must say, I was a little surprised that she hadn’t seen Trump as an abuser ages ago, especially since she’s a journalist. One of the main reasons why I despise Trump so much is because it’s so OBVIOUS to me that he’s abusive. It was very clear that Trump was an abuser, even in the 1980s, which is when I first heard of Trump.

I remember, in 2016, reading an article about the 1993 book, Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald J. Trump by Harry Hurt III. Within that article, there was an excerpt from the book about an incident that occurred between Donald Trump and his first wife, Ivana. It basically described Trump as having raped his first wife. I was horrified, and decided to read and review the book for myself, which I did, back in April 2017. You can find my repost here. Below is a screenshot of the passage in the article from The New Yorker that I read about Trump’s little domestic violence episode. This attack is also described in Hurt’s book.

Name calling… yet another one of Trump’s least attractive qualities that is constantly on display. I think the fact that he blatantly abuses women should have disqualified Trump from running. He should have been arrested, instead.

Stephanie Grisham seems to like Melania, even though Melania hasn’t said a word to her since the day Grisham quit her job. She does state that both Donald and Melania basically use people and discard them when they are no longer useful. In that sense, they’re both narcissists. However, Melania apparently comes off as a more “human” and less extreme version of a narcissist. Melania is probably more of a garden variety narcissist, while Trump is an obvious, off-the-chain, malignant narcissist. He was put into power by people who are probably actual sociopaths and are a hell of a lot more intelligent and cunning than Trump will ever be. I know there are snakes on both sides of the political spectrum, but the Republicans have really shown their asses in a dangerous way. It saddens me that so many Americans have fallen for it, hook, line, and sinker.

At the end of the book, Grisham does concede that she wished another Republican, other than Donald Trump, could have run for president in 2020. I can understand that. Before Trump took office, I had some sympathy for the conservative cause. However… as far as I am concerned, Trump has ruined the Republican Party. I think it’s unlikely I will vote Republican ever again. Grisham, on the other hand, still says she’s a Republican, and at times, even seems to apologize for the Trumps– including Donald, but especially Melania.

Below are a couple of insightful excerpts from Grisham’s epilogue (bolded emphases are mine):

IT HAS OCCURRED TO me as I’ve been writing that I seem to be blaming everyone but myself for how things turned out for me in the White House, especially in the last six months. According to me I was the victim of covid, of Meadows and his people, of my ex, of the former East Wing chief of staff, of some of my own East Wing staff, of some West Wing senior staff, of the president, and even of the first lady at the very end. And although the stories I have laid out are all true and it was very much a perfect storm of certain personalities coming together in opposition to me, I don’t feel that I am a victim who did no wrong. It is my fervent belief that when you are the common denominator in situations like this, you need to look within and determine where your own responsibility lies. People need to hold themselves accountable to situations so that they can learn from them and apply them in the next chapter of life, and that includes me.

I think the first part is obvious: I became heady with power. I got cocky. You get inside the walls of the White House, the most important building in the country and arguably the world, and you are catered to like nowhere else. You go in wanting to help the people of the United States, but I don’t think many people in the Trump administration left there as the best versions of themselves; I know I did not.

Grisham, Stephanie. I’ll Take Your Questions Now (p. 326). Harper. Kindle Edition.

AND

I did think somebody needed to stick around to look out for Mrs. Trump. I was loyal to her personally, and I didn’t want her to be staffed by incompetent or untrustworthy people who didn’t have her best interests at heart. And as she had most always been good to me, I felt gratitude. But her apathy in response to the January 6 riots made it hard for me to stay at the very end.

I also turned a blind eye toward my own falling into a trap I saw over and over again: believing I was a trusted and valued member of Trump World. The plain truth is that most of the Trump family dismisses and cuts people from their lives on a whim. They demand total loyalty, but they are loyal to no one. I don’t blame them, to be honest. They are businesspeople, and business should not be personal. Some people learned that once and walked away; others kept going back for more, and there are many who are still doing it. I allowed my ego to grow in such a way that I never considered that the Trumps would allow me to be treated poorly. I put myself onto the same level as Hope Hicks, Dan Scavino, even Javanka, and that was ludicrous. Mrs. Trump did defend me when she could, and privately she always told me of her anger on my behalf, but I’m not sure it ever went farther than that, and I wrongly expected that it should have.

Finally, and most importantly, I should have spoken up more.

Grisham, Stephanie. I’ll Take Your Questions Now (pp. 326-327). Harper. Kindle Edition.

A lot of narcissistic, abusive people rise to meteoric heights and great fame, with many loyal, hardworking people like Stephanie Grisham working tirelessly and thanklessly to put, and keep, them in power. But not every successful person is like this, nor should they be. These are not qualities that are healthy or desirable in world leaders. Until Stephanie Grisham recognizes and acknowledges that, I fear that she’ll keep making the same mistakes… and allow her ambition to blind her to toxic behaviors from others that will simply make her miserable. More importantly, these behaviors also make innocent people miserable… including the folks who went to the Capitol in January of this year, mistakenly thinking Trump would reward their loyalty by pardoning them for the crimes they committed on his behalf.

Grisham said it herself– the Trumps expect loyalty, “but they are loyal to no one.” Trump even ominously told this to Grisham straight up, when he said to her “I am the only one who matters.” I really think Stephanie Grisham should think about that, and reevaluate her idea of what makes appropriate and effective leaders… or even appropriate people to have in her private life. In order to be a great leader, the leader must care about other people and be a decent person themselves. Otherwise, they’re just power hungry toxic people who use others and spit them out when they’re deemed worthless. They’re just like parasites. And they aren’t even polite or kind about it. At one point, Grisham writes that Trump asked her Grisham’s ex boyfriend if Grisham was “good in bed.” When they later broke up, Trump wanted the details, and didn’t seem to care that Grisham was obviously upset and crying about her pain. Trump has no empathy, and that makes him unworthy of anyone’s vote or attention or anything else.

The fact that Grisham recognizes that the Trumps dismiss and cut people from their lives is a positive step in the right direction. However, I think she still has some work to do, because in the next sentence, she writes that she doesn’t blame them. In fact, there are several times in her book that Grisham makes excuses, not just for the Trumps, but for herself. I recall reading more than once that Grisham had gotten DUIs– maybe it was only one, but I know there was at least one– but she basically explains that she got caught drinking and driving after hanging out with her girlfriends, and blows it off as if it’s not a big deal. Then, there was the Ambien incident, apparently after she’d enjoyed some wine. Maybe she should also seek some professional attention regarding her use of substances.

So… that about does it for my review. I’m not sorry I read I’ll Take Your Questions Now, even though I initially wasn’t inclined to read the book. I don’t agree with Stephanie Grisham’s politics, but I appreciate her decision to share her story. I think Stephanie Grisham is, deep down, an okay, but deeply flawed person… maybe even someone I’d enjoy talking to, in spite of her politics and deep flaws. After all, most of us are deeply flawed. What can I say? I still have Republican friends and family members.

I just hope Stephanie Grisham finds herself a good therapist and explores her own self worth more. My friend Audra shared these two thoughts on Facebook yesterday. If Stephanie Grisham ever reads my review, I hope she’ll read them and take them to heart. Based on her book, I think these are lessons she should practice a bit more.

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5 thoughts on “A review of I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House, by Stephanie Grisham…

  1. Speaking as someone with some journalism training, I have little (miniscule, actually) respect for a Presidential Press Secretary who, from Day One on the job, decreed that she would not hold press briefings with the White House Press Corps, but only spoke with conservative “news outlets” such as Fox News or One America News Network. She was happy to hold the position and play the role of Joseph Goebbels to Trump’s Hitler.

    I understand that all Presidential Press Secretaries, no matter what political party they are from, have an adversarial relationship with the press. Even Presidents I admire, such as FDR, Ike, JFK, G.H.W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama have seen the fickle media as adversaries. But Grisham, like her well-known forerunners Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, mirrored Trump’s attitude that the “press is the enemy of the people” and behaved accordingly.

    One is left to wonder just which of Trump’s policies Grisham thinks were good. I am not an expert on Trump’s policies beyond the obvious ones of building the wall on the southern border (which he did not do), signing that poison pill of a treaty with the Taliban, or giving tax cuts to the uberwealthy.

    Trump can’t even claim that he single-handedly conjured up the new uniformed armed service, the Space Force. Sure, he signed the legislation to create it, but was it his idea? Nope. It seems that the U.S. Space Force idea has been kicking around for over 20 years; Trump just happened to be the Republican President who fell in love with the idea and embraced it.

    Hopefully, someday Grisham will realize that American conservatism has veered off into a path in which the extreme far right has destroyed the good name of the GOP. It’s sad, really, because every civilized nation needs to find a balance between liberalism and conservatism. I used to vote Republican back in the 1980s…I turned my back on the GOP when I saw how Nixon acolytes, Christian fundies such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and Newt Gingrich were remaking the party into what it is today. A nation as diverse and large as the U.S. can’t be ruled by one party alone, but if the Republican Party is no longer relevant for centrists like you and me, what happens then?

    Anyway, enough of my rant. I must say that I enjoyed your review and got some insights into Grisham’s worldview. Thanks for your incisive reporting and honest opinion about the author, her style of writing, and what you got out of “I’ll Take Your Questions Now.”

    • Thanks for reading, Alex. I have to confess I don’t know much about Grisham, other than what’s in her book and quotes I have read in the press. I read her Wikipedia entry last night and actually, based on that, she seems perfect for Trump’s staff.

      But… maybe it’s good that I stuck to the book and had few preconceived notions about Stephanie Grisham. I had few biases, other than her decision to champion Trump. So my opinion about the book is probably less cynical than some readers’. Also, I know something about what it’s like to be around narcissists, although I haven’t been around any as malignant as some in the Trump administration.

      Anyway, Grisham has probably had more fame and professional success than she deserves… especially as a so-called professional journalist. But I can’t deny that her book wasn’t too bad, at least in my opinion.

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