Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff: A Review

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White HouseFire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wolff gives what seems a reasonably accurate take on the infighting at the White House. My impression is that to a vast degree the book is correct. Wolff has tapes of interviews and an expert attorney doing a libel reading, so I seriously doubt if the *facts* are incorrect. Steve Bannon is clearly a primary source, a biased and untrustworthy one, and his temperament pervades the accounts. He comes off to me as a smitten, egocentric, vindictive man who is obsessed with his revolution, willing to ride Trump like a bull at a rodeo for as long as it takes to win his worldview.

To stay for long, though, Bannon needed to thwart two other forces inside the White House, Priebus and the Jarvankas (sounds like a bad band name), who in turn assailed him, all of them using leaks. Others quoted are Dina Powell (seems like a smart lady in an untenable situation), Sean Spicer, Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Sam Nunberg, Katie Walsch, and many others. I doubt if Ivanka Trump, Melania Trump, or Jared Kushner are ever directly quoted or their words are seen through Bannon's eyes (it's hard to tell).

Much of the narrative includes opinions about how current events shaped the actions of the administration. This keeps the reader apprised of the timelines, but these opinions sometimes are speculative. I'll give a specific case: After stating Bannon's opinion about Ivanka's intelligence (dumb as a brick, IIRC), the narrative then uses the premise as an accepted parameter in the discussion of the narrative of events. That's not really fair because Bannon is trying to oust Jared and Ivanka, so he won't be unbiased. I doubt if Ivanka is dumb, even though she did help hire the Mooch.

Trump comes off very well, in my mind, much better than I expected. A tragic figure, direly needful, he seems genuine and unable to be anything other than so. In one of my favorite episodes, after her ex-flame Corey Lewandowski is fired, Hope Hicks, Trump's most loyal cohort, tries to do something to help him. Trump says:

"Why? You’ve already done enough for him. You’re the best piece of tail he’ll ever have.”

That's Trump all over.

I read the fascinating Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win last year after its release and found it difficult to align the incompetence of the administration with such a bold plan. Wolff's story gives even more evidence to how difficult it would be for Trump's campaign to purposefully collaborate with foreign powers against Clinton (though, they could absolutely be guilty of doing it by mistake and incompetence, as Bannon coldly asserts here).

Both books are interesting takes, though, on the nightmare of these days.


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