March 23, 2018

Michael Wolff’s ‘Fire and Fury’ Is Tired and Merely Fun

Donald Trump's bad hair day and the book cover of "Fire and Fury - Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff

BOOK REVIEW: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House  by Michael Wolff


When you open the dust jacket to Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, the controversial best-selling book about the reality-television star turned president and his first year in office, you will see the claim “With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time.”

I take issue with that claim because anyone paying rapt attention to the news every day, is quite familiar with most of the salacious stories that Wolff writes about, in three hundred twelve pages of text. He introduces the reader to a few staff members that we haven’t heard much about before, though by and large we’ve been seeing and reading about the protagonists in Fire and Fury for years.

"Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff
We know that Donald Trump schedules “Executive Time” on a daily basis, in order to watch television (Fox Snooze) morning noon and night. Perhaps we didn’t know that he puts his pajamas on and eats fried chicken and hamburgers in bed, while watching his TV news network of choice. Somehow I could have done without that visual.

We already knew that Trump the grump NEVER expected to win the 2016 election, and therefore was the most unprepared candidate to be elected to the highest office in the land.

When Trump voters have been asked why they voted for “The Apprentice” star, they often state unequivocally that Trump was so successful in business, that they were certain he would replicate that success in the oval office.

One of the most surprising facts revealed in this book was the fact that Trump doesn’t know how to READ A BALANCE SHEET! A balance sheet is “a statement of the assets, liabilities, and capital of a business or other organization at a particular point in time, detailing the balance of income and expenditure over the preceding period.” Helloooo! You can’t be successful in business if you can’t read a balance sheet. One learns about how to read a balance sheet in Accounting 101, so is it any wonder that Trump drove six companies into bankruptcy?  Trump’s business success is largely a myth, and the American people were duped.

What I found to be most interesting was the constant power struggles and internecine wars taking place in the White House. On one side was the incendiary Steve ‘Deep State’ Bannon, who was obsessed with belittling and discrediting ‘Jarvanka’ (Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump).

I can’t vouch for Bannon’s intelligence of lack thereof. It’s patently obvious that he’s anti-establishment and loves to blow things up (including our government), and he’s the primary source of information for most of the stories and anecdotes in this book. What I can’t figure out is why he thought he could have prevailed doing battle with Donald Trump’s immediate family. That’s not very smart.

Bannon was Trump’s chief political strategist, and was supposed to be the ‘Karl Rove’ or 'David Axelrod' in the Trump White House. Yet Wolff claims that the chief strategist failed to develop any friends or personal relationships with any other members of the White House staff. Maybe that’s why the chief strategist was fired after eight months.

Wolff claimed that Bannon was fearful about the ongoing investigations in Congress, and acutely aware of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. He was determined to steer clear of anything having to do with Russia, and avoided interacting with any White House personnel who might be called as a potential witness, except for Donald Trump himself.

Was Bannon merely paranoid or was he overly cautious? Not speaking to anyone and having zero allies is a surefire way to alienate yourself from co-workers and colleagues, as well as the media and the public. Politics is about personal relationships, and Bannon didn’t have any.
If you didn’t want to find yourself getting wrung out in front of Congress, your career and your net worth in jeopardy, be careful who you spoke to. More to the point: you must not under any circumstances speak to Jared and Ivanka, who were now Russia toxic. It was Bannon’s widely advertised virtue and advantage: “I’ve never been to Russia. I don’t know anybody from Russia. I’ve never spoken to any Russians. And I’d just as well not speak to anyone who has.”
Bannon can talk a good game, though his mission to inoculate himself from the various investigations didn’t go very well. Consider that he was subpoenaed to testify before Congress after refusing to do so, and was compelled to sit for twenty hours of interviews with the special counsel’s investigators.

What’s clear is that Bannon caused more drama and political problems for the country, the president and the first family, than Trump did himself. The only lasting policy prescription that he had a hand in was withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

Michael Wolff observed that Donald Trump “seemed to lack the most basic understanding that a president’s words and actions would, necessarily, be magnified to the nth power. In some convenient sense, he failed to understand this because he wanted the attention, no matter how much it disappointed him.” DUH.

A large stack of Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fursy: Inside the Trump White House"
Fire and Fury is filled with insights that we’ve seen and heard already, and while many of the anecdotes and gossip might be new to some readers, the book covers very little new ground. This isn’t a literary masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to read about politics and enjoyed it because it was an easy read.

If you’re a political junky, buy the book. If you’re not obsessed with politics, you can get much of the same information and more by subscribing to and  reading the excellent reporting in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Most Americans are furious with Trump, and would like to fire him immediately. That’s where the real Fire and Fury is, not in the pages of Michael Wolff’s book.


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