Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House - Michael Wolff

My last review ended with finding where the policies being espoused by Trump are coming from, since he, himself, is so disengaged that they clearly aren’t coming from him.


When I was thinking about an analogy to describe my theory on the “Trump White House.” I basically came up with Trump as an ocean on a more or less dead planet with three moons. His policy-related activities are the result of the tidal effect of whichever of moons - Bannonus, Jarvanka Major and/or RNC #1 - is currently on the rise. The only activity that comes directly from Trump himself, independent of these tidal influences, are the self-focused tweets and the personal feuds, which are a result of the bacteria extant in the primordial soup of TrumpWorld. He has no policies of his own that he is focused on.


It is easy to see how these influences interact. Only one of them can be ascendent at a time. The immigration stuff, the nationalist nonsense - that’s all a result of Bannonus. The tax bill and the Obamacare repeal - we get that when RNC#1 is on the rise. And Jarvanka Major is a small but powerful moon that is almost wholly focused on self-preservation, so its ascendancy resulted in the Comey firing and the Scaramucci debacle. This the reason that so much of what comes out of the White House is contradictory - none of it is actually coming from Trump. It’s all coming from whatever faction has the power at that precise moment. And all three of the factions hate each other with million watt intensity.


I promised some quotes, so here we go:


“The candidate and his top lieutenants believed they could get all the benefits of almost becoming president without having to change their behavior or their fundamental worldview one whit: we don’t have to be anything but who and what we are, because of course we won’t win.


Indeed, while everybody in his rich-guy social circle knew about his wide-ranging ignorance—Trump, the businessman, could not even read a balance sheet, and Trump, who had campaigned on his deal-making skills, was, with his inattention to details, a terrible negotiator—they yet found him somehow instinctive. That was the word. He was a force of personality. He could make you believe.”


This is from the beginning of the book. I think we’ve all seen Trump’s preposterously terrible negotiating skills at work.


Bannon on Trump:


Bannon described Trump as a simple machine. The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door.


Katie Walsh on Trump:


Trump, observed Walsh, had a set of beliefs and impulses, much of them on his mind for many years, some of them fairly contradictory, and little of them fitting legislative or political conventions or form. Hence, she and everyone else was translating a set of desires and urges into a program, a process that required a lot of guess work. It was, said Walsh, “like trying to figure out what a child wants.”


Katie Walsh is probably the most interesting character in the Trump White House, as I see it. She was quite young, and an RNC operative who went into her job (Deputy Chief of Staff, IIRC) thinking that her role was to help the Commander in Chief put together his agenda. She was accustomed, presumably, to dealing with grown-ups who were capable of actually having an agenda. She didn’t last long, and probably the most telling quote of the entire book is this one:


“To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus and lack of concern were simply incomprehensible. In early March, Walsh confronted Kushner and demanded: “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on. What are the three priorities of this White House?”


“Yes,” said Kushner, wholly absent an answer, “we should probably have that conversation.”


I’m almost done with this post - I am loosely planning on two more, one to discuss Trump’s intense dislike of women in general, and smart women in particular, and then a last one to synthesize what I took away from this book.


I want to leave you with this thought: we have elected a President who has no policy priorities. Who is less engaged than your horrible Aunt Mildred who ran for the local School Board because she wanted to make sure that those devil books about gay people didn’t make into the library.


He could not care less about anything. You name it, DJT does not give a fuck about it. Unless, of course, it directly relates to his infantile need for immediate self-gratification. There is nothing deeper here than that, which isn’t exactly a newsflash. But seeing Wolff spell it out in black and white is . . . disconcerting.