15 January 2018

Fire and Fury -- a Review

Observant readers may have noticed i) I am not an impartial observer of the Trump presidency, and ii) Steve Bannon makes my skin crawl. Now that that's out of the way, this is as impartial a book report as I can muster.

First, I read the Kindle version, and didn't bother to bookmark favorite passages.  The Bannon quotes about the "treasonous" Donald Jr., and the "dumb as a brick" Ivanka need no reminding. But though it was the Bannon bombs that made the headlines, the best part of the book is the fine milling of the daily give and take among an ever-changing, ever-warring White House staff -- especially the turf wars between the Bannon clan, and what the Bannon and the author referred to as Team Jarvanka. This is logical, fascinating, important dirt that no one has denied. Even the Bannon semi-apology was not only unconvincing, it in effect confirmed the accuracy of his reported condemnations and criticisms.

Remember Scaramucci, the ten-day wonder? The description of how the Mooch came to be appointed is bizarro. But the best is his contribution to what I thought was the funniest anecdote in the book. At some point in the middle of his brief tenure, the Mooch called a reporter from the New Yorker, and boasted how, unlike others, he had accepted a post in the Trump administration on account of patriotic duty, not self interest: "I'm not here to build my own brand, I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock." Doncha love the "established" media?  No fake news tolerated: A fact checker for the magazine called Bannon and asked if it were true he sucked his own cock.

While the internecine turf battles are fun to read about, the real scary part is the portrayal of our Commander in Chief. The book is the syntheses of all of the stuff we have seen dribbling out in the press over the past year. The man not only does not (cannot?) read, he does not (cannot?) listen either. Briefers are left with hanging jaws when the President simply leaves the room after five minutes. No subject is too important to overcome his chronic inattentiveness. North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan? Position papers are ignored, and oral briefings cut short by his attention-deficit prompted exclamations of pre-conceived simplistic notions. All we have heard about his fabulism appears to be deadly accurate, and more. The man is totally disconnected from facts, and everyone around him knows it and tries to "manage" around it. Trump not only constructs his own reality that he is incapable of dismissing, but resents anyone who corrects him or appears to be smarter than he is. He has surrounded himself with Generals Kelly, McMaster, and Mattis, and dislikes all three intensely. (The only one he liked was Flynn!)

Wolff concludes with Bannon's prognosis for the Trump presidency: (and this, of course, before Bannon was kicked out of Breitbart):

On third likelihood of impeachment, one third likelihood of an Article 25 incapacity, and one third likelihood of serving out a single term.

Bottom line:  Lost in all the hype is the fact that this is a well-written book and bears indicia of accuracy. (I liked his description in the Acknowledgement: his meetings with the publisher's libel lawyers were like visits to the dentist). All in all, a fun read.  Even if you like Trump, you should buy this book. (And there must be lots of people out there who like Trump because, after all, but for the 3 million illegals who voted for Hillary, Trump won the popular vote and had the largest inauguration crowd in history.)

Now, a return to duty: I expect Chernow's Grant is going to go down a bit easier with my feet buried in the warm sand of Gouvernour Beach!

A bientot.

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