When 63 million people made the decision on November 8, 2016 to vote for Donald J. Trump to become the forty-fifth President Of The United States the rest of the country, indeed the rest of the world was understandably shaken. Whether you loved or hated Trump you could agree on one thing we would be getting something in The White House the likes of which we had never seen. Donald Trump is a man with no boundaries, no sense of decorum, no true ideology except a pathetic need for approval and a more transparent capitulation to white supremacy (I mean more transparent than a normal Republican which is already pretty translucent).
In “Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House” journalist Michael Wolff takes advantage of the chaos of the amateurish and discordant Trump Administration to observe and confirm what many of us have suspected. The President and his minions are a house of fools and the entire world is much worse for their usurpation of actual power.
Among the characters profiled in this story you will find no heroes. If you were searching for a “protagonist” I guess you would have to go with Steve Bannon which is odd because he’s done so much to agitate and amplify the worst things about America. But rather Bannon than the feckless Jared Kushner, the ineffectual Reince Priebus, the sycophantic Kellyanne Conway or anyone who’s last name is Trump.
Wolff starts with The Trump Campaign in 2016 through to the ouster of Steve Bannon and weaves a narrative around much of what we already learned through leaks. Throughout the book based on whatever subject or character he is currently expounding on Wolff will sometimes flashback to earlier periods either from the campaign or earlier in Trump’s life. While those of us who have been political news junkies won’t find many new facts it is interesting to hear direct quotes from the principals involved in the story. One thing that is more clear I will say is that even most of the Trump Administration believes their was collusion with Russia and Trump’s family made it worse by obstructing justice and firing Comey.
What I find most disconcerting is the cynical opportunism of the “adults” in the room. The serious Republican operatives who at times are baffled by Trump’s ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence and who privately express concerns about his mental health. Most can’t quite decide if he’s crazy but a running theme throughout the book is that they all agree that he’s a fucking moron. And yet rather than spare us they all put party before country and are playing politics at a time when the geopolitical ramifications could be staggering.
The most troubling thing about Donald Trump himself is that his blatant expression of racial animus is basically his only truth. He hasn’t made a dogged effort to follow through on any of his other campaign promises and as Wolff pulls back the curtain you understand why. The only thing he craves is the accolades, the applause and the attention. Where he actually believes in anything it is the racist, anti-semitic, and sexist stew that has transfixed much of the consciousness of the Make America Great Again crowd.
Trump isn’t the most hardcore believer of course. That would be Steve Bannon. But at times Steve Bannon comes across as a pragmatic and flawed mastermind. You quickly find that only in a room full of mental midgets does he loom as an intellectual giant. This book is interested in telling a very particular story about the ins and outs and political machinations in the Trump Administration. What you will come to understand is that these people are as objectively terrible at being human as any villain in a comic book movie. As a matter of fact I sympathize with the motives of Loki more than any of the people presented in this book. These people are so uniquely despicable they don’t even like each other.
What is pertinent and what gives me most hope as a political partisan but most dread as a citizen of the United States is that by the end of this book (which concludes some time in the fall of 2017) the most competent, and effective political operators have essentially been neutralized in favor of Trump’s incompetent, and extremely corrupt family. While they may not have the same exact nationalist agenda as a true villain like Bannon they do intend to pilfer the Treasury and use their plunder to reward the Republican congress and their donors (many of whom won’t be re-elected as a result). What’s worrisome is that their inability to reign in the worst impulses of Donald Trump could find us on the brink of a nuclear crisis. As Donald Trump, a man who is easily wounded, grapples with the fact that one of the United States’ most bitter enemies doesn’t like him very much and isn’t afraid of him.
As much as the election of Donald Trump gave me existential dread about the United States I still believe there are people here worth saving. Are there enough good people here to stop Trump and his flunkies from destroying our country? That remains to be seen. Maybe the “adults” in the room will invoke the 25th amendment and deal with the political fallout as opposed to you know… a nuclear one.