10 Thoughts on “Fire and Fury”

Throughout 2018, I’m going to try to blog on Mondays (more often whenever possible).

So for today, my thoughts on Fire and Fury, in no particular order. I know we’ve moved on to whether or not Trump is a racist (spoiler alert: he is!), but I think many have dismissed the book as being just idle insider gossip.

That’s missing the point. There’s a lot in the book that we should pay attention to.

1) Wolff’s theory of the case (i.e., that neither Trump nor folks on his campaign wanted to win – that the bigger advantage for him and his business was losing and forming Trump TV) is a big deal.

2) Furthermore, the theory that basically nobody on his staff thought he SHOULD win as he was unfit to be president… is also a big deal.

3) That 100% of the people  around him still find him unfit for the office – “like a child” – is the biggest deal of all.

4) That the media has mostly been deferring to Trump and treating this presidency as legitimate is absurd. The picture Wolff paints is NOT the image you’d get from reading, say, Maggie Haberman or Michael Schmidt. If what Wolff says is true, the daily reporters are pulling their punches, big time.

5) Steve Bannon gets off way too easy. I get it, he’s Wolff’s main source – and in return, Wolff gives him respect that’s not even veiled. Throughout, Wolff depicts Bannon as a bad boy, skin-of-the-teeth raconteur.

Moreover: in NPR’s On the Media from January 12, 2018, Wolff himself says “I do not feel good about what happened to Steve [post publication… i.e., losing his job at Breitbart]. I don’t feel good about taking him down. I feel sad about that. I like Steve, I like Steve a lot. I came to, as you can see in this book, deeply appreciate his insights.”

Well, I don’t feel sad about what happened to Bannon. Steve Bannon is a nasty, stone-cold racist and anti-Semite, who helped get Donald Trump elected, who propped up Donald Trump and his racist policies, and who is actively trying to destroy the country. Wolff seems to have trouble seeing what should be so obvious. That’s really worrisome.

6) In a way, Trump himself gets off easy, too. As badly as he comes off (he’s painted as clueless, hapless, even cruel…) Wolff rarely shows him having agency in what he does. Trump is both inept and malevolent, but Wolff goes heavy on the former and light on the latter. This sometimes makes it seem as if Trump is just a meaner version of late-Presidency Reagan, doddering away while everyone acts around him – and while everyone jockeys to be the last one to talk to him so that he’ll do or say whatever turns out to be the last thing he hears.

While this may be true from time to time, there’s no doubt that Trump often acts on his own – or Tweets on his own. He’s been a crooked, rotten person for years, and he often acts on his own rotten, crooked impulses. He isn’t completely devoid of personal agency at all (at least not yet).

7) Wolff therefore misses the big picture to some extent: he’s so focused on depicting the Trump administration as dysfunctional… that he misses how it’s malicious, as well.

8) Jared and Ivanka are terrible people. They’ve jettisoned their Democratic (big ‘D’) and democratic (small ‘d’) impulses to gain power from an autocrat.

9) Trump thought Jared would make a good Secretary of State. Let that sink in.

10) It’s incredible (and incredibly damning) that these things were made known to a reporter. But they knew he was a reporter. Imagine the things they kept hidden? So I hate to end with this, but… as bad as things inside the White House sound from Wolff’s account, they’re probably worse than we even know.

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