Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff

Seven stars

With three somewhat inter-related books on the 45th POTUS, I thought that I would craft what I am calling my Trump Trifecta, which fits nicely into this non-fiction binge. Some may dispute the ‘non-fiction’ nature of these books, but that is for the reviewer (myself included) to decide in analysis while weighing the information presented. The first book in this group is Michael’s Wolff’s piece that hit newsstands early in 2018. Wolff, a journalist who was invited to cover the Trump Campaign and eventually the first year of the Administration, has penned an interesting book that explores not only the central figure, but also the chaotic ensemble of individuals who surrounded Trump and his unique start in the Oval Office. What jumps out first is that no one on the campaign thought that they had a chance to win, including the candidate. In fact, it comes across that no one wanted to win, truth be told. However, to get the ‘common’ message out, Trump continued to swing and seek gratification for how hard he was working before pulling off the unlikely victory, aided by Russia or not. Wolff further explores how some of the most conservatively-minded folks flocked to Trump and created a persona that the candidate (and eventually POTUS) fit nicely in there. I do think that Trump was stained with the Bannon association, thereby seen as the ultra-conservative thinker that many have come to presume Trump to be. Pulling together much of Wolff’s comments throughout and what is seen in his public displays (interviews, press conferences, and tweets), Trump is simply suckling at the teat to garner support, rather than espousing much of this rhetoric. The old saying goes that you are the company you keep, I suppose that could make him a xenophobic misogynist with white supremacist leanings, but only through supportive comments, which Wolff pulls primarily through public sentiments offered media outlets and social media. What Wolff does well throughout is to show how the Trump Team is not a team at all, but a number of spokes in a wheel, with POTUS as the hub and, for the most part, the only connection between them all. Many hated one another or sought to see the others fail. Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump; all players in this circus and few of whom could stand the others (as well as Trump). I would not say this book is chock-full of dirt or flashy gossip, but it does shed the light on some of the goings on and, if true, could prove just how fractured things will be leading into November 2018 and 2020. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to raise an eyebrow and wonder what is actually going on behind the mindless tweets and comments. Entertaining, to say the least.

I admit outrightly that I am not a fan of the current POTUS, nor will I one day see the light. He is not my president, so I need not like him or even respect what he is doing. That the current leader of my country, Prime Minister Trudeau, has been able to hold his tongue and curry favour is fine, but I am able to stand on my own personal soapbox and eschew comments as I see fit, not the least because I live in a country where that is respected and enshrined. Wolff does not try to pretend he is anything other than who he promises to be, a journalist writing a book about the inside view. Does he soften the blow in his writing? Not particularly, though he chooses to use the words of others in the inner circle or who have granted interviews, rather than sharpen his pen to write scathing things. I admire that and am happy to see that he felt the freedom to say what was on his mind. The chapters were well paced and offered insightful information, sometimes linking one to the other, but also choosing to spin biographical yarn about other players onto to return to the narrative later on. I found the book easy to digest, though I am not prepared to drink every drop of the Kool-Aid simply because it is salacious. What has come to be an interesting social experiment—by no means with a genesis in the publication of this book—is the reaction to negative press, print, or sentiment directed towards Trump or those who follow/support him. The blowback by those who support Trump and the POTUS himself about this or anything mildly critical is highly intriguing. Anyone who has followed things since January 20, 2017 (especially those who have Twitter) will see that negative press or comments immediately lead to a smear campaign or ‘#fakenews’ blather. It is that leap to bang pots and create a scene that has left me wondering if more truth can be said to be within the comments attributed to the man or his followers. Why make such a fuss? Is it not better to roll your eyes and move on, choosing not to dignify the comments or stories with even a small reply? Alas, as Wolff explores within the book, Trump cannot handle anything negative, he must reply and turn it into something favourable to him. Moving back from the Oval Office, I find that a number of people who read and comment on some of the things that I have said turn defensive, as if there is no time for a debate, but simply ‘take my ball and leave’ attitude. When reviewing a recent piece about the 2016 Election, someone who did not hold my less than happy sentiments about the outcome chose to say that she and her fellow Trumpers had ‘better crawl back under our rocks and eat Russian caviar’. Poignant and silly, but true. Also, when I said that I would be reading this book, someone deemed that ‘if you don’t like him and just want to substantiate your opinion, then that’s the book to start with. It’s only the reality of the most Left to consider that book accurate.’ Interesting… let’s toss a flagrant comment like that out there, so we will rush away, fearful of being grouped in a way that sounds sheep-like. Let me be clear, there are many who feel they found they way to return America to a greater nation and do not espouse these sentiments and I shall not paint too wide a brush, but I fear a select few have chosen to whitewash things and inject hasty generalisations to smear an entire group, simply for holding opinions that differ. All that noise must mean there is an attempt to distract or turn the focus elsewhere, no? Then again, politics does bring people out of their shells at times, and I am not one to stay away from a pot that needs stirring. While I do wonder what brought the electorate to choose Trump, perhaps that is for the next book in the trifecta to better explore, so it’s time to sink my teeth into that.

Kudos, Mr. Wolff, for an interesting look into the early time in the Trump Administration. The Trifecta is off to a good start and I appreciate your dedication to present what you saw and the sentiments of those who offered interviews. A great foundation, so let’s continue with more.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: