Fire and Fury
© 2018 Michael Wolff
“You look at the operation of this White House, and you have to say…’Let’s hope to God we don’t have a crisis.” – Bob Woodward, CBS Sunday Morning interview
Even its fans must admit that the present administration is the most unstable in American history, with an incredible amount of staff turnover in the first year. The election results themselves were clouded in intrigue, involving multiple intelligence agencies, and just recently an op-ed contributor of the New York Times claimed to be part of a resistance group within the administration itself, actively interfering and manipulating Trump’s actions as president to minimize his disruptive and unpredictable behavior. When we are presented with supporting for either an unelected shadow-cabal or a temperamental and reckless executive , all Americans should be gravely worried. Michael Wolff’s tabloid-esque Fire and Fury argues that the present administration’s instabilities were baked in, that Trump and his allies entered governance not seriously expecting to win, and were wholly unprepared for the responsibility once it was theirs.
Trump’s team was not a ‘team of rivals’, but a soft detente between bitter factions who found Trump’s position a useful tool. Trump actively encouraged rivalry between his subordinates to prevent any one from assuming too much importance and overshadowing him, and the man himself — in Wolff’s portrayal, one shared by virtually everyone except for his admirers — is…”anti-professional”, to put it mildly. Wolff claims that Trump is totally disinterested in the materials of administration — reading, reviewing, listening — and mostly spends his days talking and then getting excited over various bugs lobbyists had put in his ear. While there are people within the office with coherent agenda, said agendas often conflict. One faction might convince Trump to back more work visas for immigrants which his business friends need, while at the same time the populist faction reminds him that he ran on immigration being a problem. Although Fire and Fury cannot be taken seriously as an expose of the administration (its style, lack of citations, etc), two years of watching Trump’s public behavior makes the general premise believable. However one may wish to think that the popular portrayal of the president as temperamental, aggressive, etc, is a multimedia conspiracy, his own output betrays him. As Hurricane Florence drew near the Carolina coast this past Friday morning, Trump was seemingly more interested in arguing over the death toll from last year’s devastation, defending himself over twitter. Even if the estimate of three thousand deaths was inaccurate, the eve of another disaster isn’t the time to argue it. At such an hour one would hope for a projection of strength and competence from the nation’s chief executive, not playground petulance.
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this, it may be helpful to those who find the Trump administration inexplicable, in explaining some of the causes of its internal chaos. Bob Woodward’s Fear is presumably a more considered review of the same, and I hope to evaluate it soon.