This book’s greatest failing, is that it is a victim of its own success: the most salacious details have already been publicised in the media. Nevertheless, despite a slightly boring middle, it starts fiercely and ends very entertainingly.
The veracity of Wolff’s work has been questioned. From what I’ve read, Wolff’s overarching narrative is correct, however he seems to have embellished certain information to make the work more tantalizing and gratifying. I don’t necessarily have a problem with this, but if he’s putting this book forward as an accurate portrayal of the West Wing, then it casts doubt on which parts to believe. One peculiar example is the correct term for the portmanteau, of the boy wonder and Trump’s
wife daughter. It is widely reported that Bannon referred to them as “Javanka” not “Jarvanka”, Wolff later asserted he picked the latter, because the former sounded too much like a Scandinavian caveman. Make of that what you will. It does feel like we’re splitting hairs at this point. Wolff writes well overall but at times he seems to be using overly flowery language, perhaps to give his work a greater air of importance.
Fire and Fury, feels like it is written for a large part from Bannon’s perspective. Bannon is of course an absolute cunt, and it is deeply disconcerting when at times he comes across as the smartest person in the White House. Though, that’s like picking the shiniest turd out of an animalistic portaloo. However, Bannon does have a talent for picking quite funny pejorative nick names for his enemies. You learn about Bannon’s stance on globalism. I’m slightly sympathetic to an aspect of this viewpoint (citizens losing jobs due to cheaper working capital abroad) but this is a failure of government more than a reason to become isolationist. If the government planned, invested and provided training opportunities to workers affected by the global economy, then this is a much better solution than being a right-wing nutjob about it.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the book’s title solely refers to the threat Trump gave Kim Jong-Un. Early on we learn that everyone but Bannon believed that the Trump campaign would fail and once it did, they would raise fire and fury at society through the media. “We lost because it was rigged!”. I often wondered why such a selfish, disdainful horrible man would want to serve public office. Well, with failing ratings of his muppet show The Apprentice, he needed a new schtick. A failed president would be guaranteed airtime post campaign, he had reasoned.
The book opened my eyes to Anthony Scaramucci. I had a soft spot for the Mooch (naive I know), mostly because he said Bannon sucked his own cock. In an interview with Matt Forde on Unspun, he also came across well and likable. However, his appearance on Bill Maher’s show, was marred with interruptions, outbursts and misleading statements. We saw the real side of him here perhaps. On Unspun, he said he accidentally got offered the job as White House communications director. Wolff’s account is completely the opposite, the Mooch was hovering around Trump for a long time, like a bad smell, to snaffle up a position in the government. This was so he could get a tax break, on the sale of his business, through deferred payment of capital gains. This was causing ethical issues for his employment, one of the few instances in the Trump government when someone’s business conflicts interfered with a White House appointment. The mooch was the brainchild of Jarvanka, as was the firing of Jim Comey. So we can see how smart “the geniuses” are, to borrow Bannon’s phrase.
Incidentally, I am somewhat aghast at the revelation that Tony B. Liar (Blair), attended the baptism of Rupert Murdoch’s daughters. What a corrupt slime ball. The douchebag that is Blair, also told Trump that the British possibly spied on him (without any evidence I might add). Is there no end to Blair’s despicability? More shockingly, Paul Ryan didn’t care about health care, to such an extent, that he got insurance companies to write the failed bill for him.
We can draw one piece of solace from Trump’s presidency, that is he is utterly miserable during it. He didn’t want to win but he did. Whether it’s a thrashing in the media, having to sit through meetings or putting up with government digs (The White house), he’s hating every second of this. Rather ironically, Trump has railed against leaks but he was one of the greatest leakers himself. He’d bawl his eyes out on the phone to confidants, who would of course, sell or leak the story.
Some light has been shed on Trump’s foreign policy, why does he cozy up to dictators? He once even called Kim Jong-Un, a pretty smart cookie. Well, his thinking is, if I cajole these problem people they’re less likely to cause problems for me in the future. This is the binary nature of Trump. He’ll try the carrot with you first, afterwards the stick. Rather worryingly Trump can be courted easily by flattery, we saw this with Egypt and Saudi Arabia who ostensibly got the US to support the isolation of Qatar, on charges of state sponsored terrorism. How ironic, given that Saudi Arabia has a tradition of doing the same. Trump is a walking contradiction, he’ll flip flop from one idea to the other days apart. In part, this is down to him not being fully aware of his own past statements. Whether this is due to degenerative brain disease, is an exercise left to the reader. A dangerous side effect of this is, that he can be manipulated, by saying that a purported new idea was something he said a few years ago, or even during the campaign. He doesn’t know any better.
On the Mueller investigation, Wolff reaffirms what we already know. The way he wants to get to Trump is on money laundering charges through flipping key witnesses. Start small, end big: Paul Manafort -> Mincael Flynn -> Michael Cohen -> Jared Kushner -> POTUS. Looks like as of May 2018, we’re at the Cohen stage. Watch this space. Some other interesting tidbits about Trump are, he appointed General Kelly by tweet, who was unaware of his appointment but reluctantly agreed to the job. On his oratory, much is done by improvisation as you’re aware. In Huntsville he started to lose his audience through his incessant rambling. He needed to pivot, so he pulled a rabbit out of the hat, by a tirade against Colin Kaepernick and it worked. In this sense, Trump is highly susceptible to adaptation to his environment. Like a cantankerous, obese chameleon. Perhaps this is why he’s successful at rallies.
At times, it’s easy to pick sides with factions. Oh Jarvanka is better than Bannon etc, let’s root for them. Then you understand how dumb they are and what jeopardy they’re putting the country into. Here then you realise, it’s an utter cesspool of shit and so is everyone else, it deserves to be burnt to the ground with everyone in it. So give it a read, at least for some schadenfreude if for nothing else.
Bannon predicts there’s a one third chance POTUS won’t run for a second term, one third that he’ll be impeached and one third he’ll survive. I like those odds.
Some of my favorite quotes:
For Steve Mnuchin and Reince Priebus, he [Trump] was an “idiot.” For Gary Cohn, he was “dumb as shit.” For H. R. McMaster he was a “dope.” The list went on.
“Men who demand the most loyalty tend to be the least loyal pricks” – Roger Ailes
“Hicks […] was in fact thought of as Trump’s real daughter, while Ivanka was thought of as his real wife”
‘“The kids”—Jared and Ivanka—exhibited an increasingly panicked sense that the FBI and DOJ were moving beyond Russian election interference and into finances. “Ivanka is terrified,” said a satisfied Bannon.”‘
“And it certainly didn’t help that they were unable to hire a law firm with a top-notch white-collar government practice […] afraid Trump would stiff them for the bill.
In the end, nine top firms turned them down”
“Even worse than Jared was Ivanka […] she’s dumb as a brick.” – Bannon
‘“You don’t know what you’re doing,” shouted a livid Bannon at Hicks, […] “You don’t know how much trouble you are in,” […] “You are dumb as a stone!” Moving from the cabinet room across the open area into the president’s earshot, “a loud, scary, clearly threatening” Bannon, in the Jarvanka telling, yelled, “I am going to fuck you and your little group!” […] In the Jarvanka-side account, Hicks then ran from Bannon, hysterically sobbing and “visibly terrified.” ‘
“If we have to be in Afghanistan, he demanded, why can’t we make money off it?” – Commander in chief.
“The most peculiar and ill-advised interviews in presidential history, from a president who had already, several times before, achieved that milestone”
“He”—the president—“said to me everybody would take that Don Junior meeting with the Russians. I said, ‘Everybody would not take that meeting.’ I said, ‘I’m a naval officer. I’m not going to take a meeting with Russian nationals, and do it in headquarters, are you fucking insane?’ and he says, ‘But he’s a good boy. (Don Jr)’”
“Charlie Kushner,” said Bannon, smacking his head again in additional disbelief. “He’s going crazy because they’re going to get down deep in his shit about how he’s financed everything. . . . all the shit coming out of Israel . . . and all these guys coming out of Eastern Europe . . . all these Russian guys . . . and guys in Kazakhstan. . . . And he’s frozen on 666 [Fifth Avenue]. . . . [If] it goes under next year, the whole thing’s cross-collateralized . . . he’s wiped, he’s gone, he’s done, it’s over. . . . Toast.”