Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Trump’s Looming Indictment

Of the several criminal investigations and civil lawsuits that have trailed Donald Trump since he left the presidency, the charge currently being considered by a Manhattan grand jury—that he lied about paying hush money to the adult film actor Stormy Daniels—now looks to be the one that will stick.

“It is a lurid—and seductively entertaining—sideshow in the great circus of which he is the ringmaster,” writes Fintan O’Toole in an analysis of the likely indictment, which will be published in the magazine’s May 11 issue. “It is not just that using Stormy Daniels as the way to hold him to account plays dizzying tricks with perspective, zeroing in on a molehill of sleaze when the mountain of Trump’s criminal sedition continues to loom so large against the horizon of American democracy. It’s that all of this drags us back into Trump’s territory.”

O’Toole, who over the last twenty-five years has written seventy-six articles for the Review, has, in more than a dozen essays since 2018, painstakingly mapped Trump’s territory. His clear-eyed observations—collected below—of the former president’s “most contemptible qualities” and the “complex relationship of truth and lies, of the real and the unreal, that is at the heart of Trumpism” (not to mention his parallel examination of Boris Johnson) have proven to be prescient, incisive documents of American politics in the Trump era. We are proud to announce that O’Toole has joined The New York Review of Books as Advisory Editor.

Fintan O’Toole
Bump and Grind

That our former president is likely to be indicted for paying hush money to a porn star and lying about it shows the Trumpification of our politics: the relationship between reality and story has gone buck wild.

Saboteur in Chief

When you want to discredit government itself, obliviousness and ineptitude are their own rewards.

The King and I

Trump cannot function as a dictator—there are still too many constitutional and civic constraints on him—but he thinks and behaves like one. And this contradiction of an authoritarian in a democratic system turns upside down one of the central qualities of dictatorship: the monopoly on predictability.

The Designated Mourner

Joe Biden is the most gothic figure in American politics. He is haunted by death, not just by the private tragedies his family has endured, but by a larger and more public sense of loss.

Whatever He Wants

Republican senators are now quite openly behaving as courtiers. It is impertinent for courtiers even to go through the motions of putting the monarch on trial.

Vector in Chief

To understand Trump’s incoherence, we have to take into account two contradictory impulses within the right-wing mindset: paranoia and risk.


Toxic residues from the Civil War, the Vietnam War, and the so-called war on terror continue to flow into American politics.

Democracy’s Afterlife

The malignant presidency of Donald Trump seems moribund, but also vigorously alive. Trumpism, after all, is a narrative of death and resurrection, in which bankruptcy becomes The Art of the Comeback and American carnage becomes American renaissance.

The Trump Inheritance

Trumpism has always been here, it was waiting only to be named. What does this mean for the Biden presidency?

Dress Rehearsal

Trump’s attempt almost two years ago to undermine the 2020 election reads today like a blueprint drawn for a future autocrat.

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