Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” is a sustained attack on the Donald Trump presidency. Trump is revealed as a narcissist bumbler who repeats himself. A buffoon who is out of his depth for the job of being President. The White House staff he has surrounded himself with are a barely competent collection of factions competing for his attention but all of whom are individually aware of the extent of the Trump inadequacies. Organizationally the White House is a shambles partly because of the “crash through” philosophy of Steve Bannon and partly through the competing family versus the rest factions. “Fire and Fury” is a sustained attack on the Donald Trump presidency.
There have been so many scandals and incidents during the Trump Presidency that putting them all together is confronting. It is also oddly repetitious. A major flaw in the book it seems is the failure to appreciate the Trump cunning and the more positive aspects of his personality. Those who read this and who encounter Trump publicly or privately are likely to think that he is not as bad as portrayed here. The unrelenting attack, as several reviewers point out, probably helps Trump.
What did I find interesting in the book? The following claims surprised me:
- The claim that Trump never wanted or expected to win the Presidential election. He wanted to be a runner-up to the evil Hilary and to make a publicity splash. But once he did win he promptly reversed gear and claimed a great victory.
- The key role of a few rich Republican-supporting families (particular that of Rebekah Mercer) in driving a Trump victory. Trump didn’t back himself since he saw his candidacy as inevitably failing.
- The extent to which Trump sees himself as a performer on a stage. It is a continuation of his ethic of putting the name “Trump” on buildings he has built for him. Trump is obsessed by the media.
- The role of Rupert Murdoch as an advisory to Presidents and as a key part of the American political scene. Apparently, he is still on good terms with Trump even though he is claimed to regard him as a “fucking idiot”. Generally, Trump adores financial celebrities such as Murdoch and Carl Icahn.
- The role of the US power elites and particularly of New York’s Jews. For example, on of a billionaire Jewish family, Jared Kusher is a White House employee, is married to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and is a friend of Netanyahu. His primary policy concern in the White House is US Middle East policy. It’s a tight group of financial celebrities. Ivanka, for example, is a close friend of Rupert Murdoch and Murdoch’s previous wife Wendy Deng.
- Steve Bannon is no masterful Machiavellian figure. He is just a small time right-wing flog with a much-exaggerated view of his own intelligence. Bannon is a flash in the pan figure who will soon be forgotten. On the other hand, Bannon did drive much of Trump’s early policy craziness.
- Everything is ultra personal to Trump. Who likes or who criticises him seems to matter more than any policy stance. His immediate family (daughter Ivanka and her husband Jarod Kushner) have a central role and are the possible weak link in the Rusian investigations. None seem to have much political intelligence. The role of Jarod Kushner, raised an orthodox Jew, in driving Trump’s Middle East policies seemed to me astounding.
To Wolff, and of course to Steve Bannon, the Trump presidency seems unlikely to continue. Trump is an ignorant child who seeks approval from those around him but who has neither intellect nor discipline. He is a “fucking idiot”, not only to Rex Tillerson,, but to all those around him. No one is fooled. Nor can some of the considerable talent around him compensate for his stupidity since Trump refuses to be upstaged. I am unsure myself even after reading this book. Trump’s stupidity and lack of suitability for the presidential role seems to be a major asset that keeps 35% of the American people loyal to him. Those who fume at him seem to derive a “guilty pleasure” from listening to and from exposing this fraud.