Let’s assume President Donald Trump won’t be a big fan of what bestselling author Michael Lewis may be working on next.
Even Trump can’t deny that Lewis’s writing has been a game changer for certain industries, forcing many readers to rethink their views on, for instance, professional sports (with his books “Moneyball” and “The Blind Side”) and the stock market (in “Flash Boys,” “The Big Short,” and the investing classic, “Liar’s Poker”).
Washington D.C. could be his next subject, Lewis said at the Morningstar Investment Conference Thursday, covering what he called the “government of ignorance” under Trump.
Lewis stressed that he hadn’t yet decided officially on his next subject because he liked to give himself at least a few months between projects. His most recent book, “The Undoing Project,” about psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, was published late last year.
Watch MarketWatch’s Jeremy Olshan and Michael Lewis in a Facebook Live interview.
Nonetheless, Lewis said, “It’s been very hard to think of anything else since Trump happened. It’s so disruptive to society, and not just disruptive, but interesting. I’ve started to spend some time in Washington, and the story is even better than I thought.”
He added, “I have ideas about how to go about writing this down.”
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The genesis for his idea, he said, came in observing the incoming Trump administration in the transition period.
“Normally when people get elected president, they’ve prepared to be president. They have teams of people who will go in between the election and the inauguration to develop a plan on how to run this incredibly sophisticated and important program called the federal government,” Lewis said.
He noted that both Presidents Bush and Obama sent people into the agencies to learn everything they could about how they worked prior to taking the reins, and that both arranged to teach their successors the same.
“Obama’s team was so grateful [for what the Bush administration did], that ahead of the election they said they would do one better for whoever came next,” Lewis said. “They set up these huge briefings and all this information for the Trump people, and no one from the Trump team came. In some cases they showed up for an hour, but in other places, they didn’t show up at all, and they didn’t read all the material that was prepared.”
The result of this, Lewis said, “is a very peculiar situation where all this institutional knowledge has been flushed down the drain.”
‘Not that the president would read it, but maybe someone could read it to him, or give him an audio book. Maybe someone on Fox News could read it on the air.’
This, he said, is what he’s referring to when thinking about potential book topic “government of ignorance.”
“Do not think this is normal,” he said. “You may think it’s good—and God help you—but it is not normal.”
Lewis reiterated his desire to work with former President Barack Obama on a handbook about how to be president, though he acknowledged that such a project would be unlikely given Obama’s schedule and obligations.
“People don’t have a good sense of the job of being president,” he said, adding “I may get myself briefed by the Obama administration so that I can teach readers what the [Trump] administration didn’t bother to learn.”
Lewis suggested that such information would be “incredibly relevant” given the current administration, which has struggled to pass legislation in its first 100 days, despite sharing party control with Congress.
“It would be so useful to have this book,” he said. “Not that the president would read it, but maybe someone could read it to him, or give him an audio book. Maybe someone on Fox News could read it on the air.”