Watch CBS News

"Mr. Trump's Wild Ride": Major Garrett talks new book, SCOTUS drama

Major Garrett talks "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride"
"Mr. Trump's Wild Ride": Major Garrett talks new book, SCOTUS drama 03:46

In his latest book, CBS News correspondent Major Garrett likens covering the day-to-day of the Trump White House to what it would be like to see Cirque du Soleil on acid – or rather, what he imagines that would be like.

But instead of focusing on the chaos of the current administration, the longtime White House reporter chose to zero in on the president's most important moments, ones that he believes will affect America for decades to come, in "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency."

"The Trump presidency is real. It affects us emotionally, it affects us constitutionally, it challenges our institutions. It's a constant topic of conversation and amid all the cyclonic spasms … things are getting done. Everything he wants to get done? No. But there are things that this Trump presidency has already accomplished or done – depending on your point of view – that will be with this country, five, 10, 20 years from now," Garrett said on "CBS This Morning." 

He also addressed what might be President Trump's biggest legacy: reshaping the Supreme Court. Neil Gorsuch's confirmation last year thrilled conservatives. 

The confirmation of Mr. Trump's second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was approaching completion until the news broke that a woman was accusing him of sexual assault when they were in high school. Kavanaugh denies the allegation. The Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it would move the committee vote on his nomination to allow Kavanaugh and his accuser to testify.

"Seventy percent of this drama with Brett Kavanaugh is related to what did and didn't happen in the campaign year of 2015 and 2016 when Senate Republicans didn't fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, and I explain exactly what Mitch McConnell's calculations were on that," Garrett said. "So when Republicans now say, 'Well, Democrats, you should follow process,' they're like, 'Forget that!'"

According to Garrett, Republicans galvanized behind President Trump – despite some of their reservations about him – precisely because of what it could mean for the Supreme Court.  As for what the White House is doing now to save its nominee, he says not a whole lot.

"They know the president has limited political capital right now and very little moral authority. They're relying on the Senate Republicans and taking a break trying to get some space to breathe on this," Garrett said. "They're doing sort of a rear-guard action to get some time and space, have this public presentation, and then vote as rapidly as possible and hold the votes if they can."

Republicans have a long list of nominees on deck to tap should they decide to withdraw their support of Kavanaugh. Asked whether there's any evidence to suggest that might happen, Garrett said, "Not yet."

"But this intervening period between now and Monday, they're going to be pushing back. They're going to be lifting up and they're going to see where the politics lands."

Read an excerpt below from Major Garrett's new book, "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency": 

"Major. Fantastic. I watched you with President Obama two weeks ago. He was not thrilled. I'm sure I'll be more thrilled."

Those were the first words Donald Trump spoke to me. And they should have told me so much more than they did.

At the time, they told me nothing. I was surprised by what sounded like informality and an odd sense that somehow my presence at an August 2015 press conference with Trump in Birch Run, Michigan, mattered.

As for the "thrill," I have been a journalist in Washington since 1990 and attended thousands of press conferences in the Capitol, in the White House briefing room and in campaign venues across the country and "thrill" had never been part of the politico patter. Who gets thrilled or not thrilled? Angry, sure. Evasive, of course. Bored, sometimes. But thrilled? That was a circus word. Not a campaign word.

Had I taken time to analyze that sentence, I would have learned a lot about Trump. But I didn't. I foolishly thought it was silly rhetoric from a silly reality TV celebrity running a silly campaign for the presidency.

How silly I was. How silly almost all of us were.

If I had taken the time, if I had been more curious and paid Trump more respect, I would have diagrammed that sentence—in literal and psychological ways—and found a trove of information. Like so much with Trump, it was all out in the open. Trump at times made it hard to listen—hard to fathom him, hard to take him and his "movement" seriously. Experienced political reporters like me have grown accustomed to being spoken to (perhaps even stroked) in certain ways by politicians and those who serve them. By that I mean our experience left us sensitized to and desensitized by the sick pseudoscience of campaign strategy, focus groups, wedge issues, bank shots, double bank shots, feints, dog whistles, doublespeak, okeydoke and flimflammery. Trump didn't play that game. He spoke beneath voters, never down to them. He bypassed political reporters entirely and scorned the process of engagement, disarmament and flattery. When I say Trump spoke beneath his supporters I mean he met them at their level and then made them feel smarter—as if what they had long been thinking was now the truth of our times. This mystified traveling reporters and enthralled Trump supporters. Trump lifted his supporters up and tossed skeptical reporters on a metaphorical pyre of their own skepticism. I don't think many of us, in the moment, saw Trump for what he was or is. We never bothered to seriously study the strutting, trumpeting id that was transforming American politics before our very eyes—and paving the most improbable path to the Oval Office ever.


If we had paid closer attention to Trump—what he was telling us and how he was harnessing the passions of millions—we would have understood the campaign better and been less surprised. And we would have had a leg up in comprehending the chaotic maelstrom that became his first year as president.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.