Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

‘Inside the Trump White House’

Why did I read this book? Well, I heard that Donald Trump tried to stop its publication and threatened to sue the publisher for libel. That certainly got my attention. What, I wondered, could Michael Wolff have written that so concerned Donald Trump?

I read the book over two days, and while some aspects of what’s written do not surprise me (sadly) other aspects really concerned me. Is it true, as Michael Wolff writes, that:

‘Donald Trump and his tiny band of campaign warriors were ready to lose with fire and fury. They were not ready to win .’

Making the transition from candidate to president would be, I think, difficult for anyone. But I guess it’s especially difficult for someone who has no direct experience of government and seems to have selected (at least initially) staff with limited experience. And I’m not going to touch on the wisdom of appointing family members as staff, or the revolving door of appointments.

‘The Trump campaign had built its central strategy around great rallies regularly attracting tens of thousands, a political phenomenon that the Democrats both failed to heed and saw as a sign of Trump’s limited appeal .’

But the Democrats were wrong. Donald Trump may have had limited appeal, but he mobilised it. He tapped into groups who feel disadvantaged and dissatisfied, people who were angry. Those people (and the vagaries of the US electoral system) delivered Donald Trump the presidency. But what has he achieved in the past twelve months?

Reading through the book, I’m reminded of the tale of the emperor’s new clothes, of the danger of sycophants, of the perils of not taking advice:

‘You could tell him whatever you wanted, but he knew what he knew, and if what you said contradicted what he knew, he simply didn’t believe you .’

I was amazed by how Michael Wolff managed to get the access he needed to write this book:

‘While the Trump administration has made hostility to the press a virtual policy, it has also been more open to the media than any White House in recent memory. In the beginning, I sought a level of formal access to this White House, something of a fly-on-the-wall status. The president himself encouraged this idea…. there seemed no one person able to make this happen. Equally, there was no one to say “Go away.” Hence I became more a constant interloper than an invited guest.’

And so, reading through the scuttlebutt and the outrage, the various analyses of Donald Trump’s ability to be president, made me wonder as much about the judgement of the people providing the comments to Michael Wolff as it did about Donald Trump. Did they really expect him to change?

I closed the book, wondering how (and when) the Trump presidency will end. Can it continue like this? What impact will this presidency have on the US in the long-term? Assuming, of course that there is a long-term. We are certainly living in interesting times.

“They take everything I’ve ever said and exaggerate it,” said the president in his first week in the White House during a late-night call. “It’s all exaggerated. My exaggerations are exaggerated .”

Jennifer Cameron-Smith