It’s hard to know how Trump and Trumpism will weather the Michael Wolff/“Fire and Fury” moment.
Personally, since I never thought Trump/Trumpism could get this far, I humbly make no predictions about how it ends. But a great many people are being treated to a view of Trump’s lack of presidential qualities (to put it mildly) and a far more detailed and serious portrayal of a White House in chaos than even what we had seen heretofore.
Trump’s lawyers are trying to block publication of “Fire and Fury,” which was supposed to occur next week — until the publisher announced on Thursday that it would move the release date up to today. (If you’re interested, you can read Trump’s lawyers’ demand that the book be withdrawn here.)
Various Wolffian excerpts have already been widely published. The author wrote a summary of his observations for “The Hollywood Reporter,” where he is a regular columnist. That piece is titled “‘You Can’t Make This S— Up’: My Year Inside Trump’s Insane White House.”
The summary is staggering, as is every other excerpt I’ve seen from the book.
Right at the top, Wolff explains, vaguely, how he managed to get permission from POTUS himself, to hang out on a couch in the West Wing often during the first year of the Trump term and talk to whoever came and went, including many top administration figures.
It’s not clear to me whom they thought they were talking to, but I assume they are now regretting treating Wolff as some kind of confidante who could be trusted to share the general sense of almost everyone in the administration (according to Wolff) that the president is a weird, disengaged cipher. A couple of excerpts from the Hollywood Reporter piece:
Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.” A chronic naysayer, Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against. …
Everybody was painfully aware of the increasing pace of [Trump’s] repetitions. It used to be inside of 30 minutes he’d repeat, word-for-word and expression-for-expression, the same three stories — now it was within 10 minutes. Indeed, many of his tweets were the product of his repetitions — he just couldn’t stop saying something.
Donald Trump’s small staff of factotums, advisors and family began, on Jan. 20, 2017, an experience that none of them, by any right or logic, thought they would — or, in many cases, should — have, being part of a Trump presidency. Hoping for the best, with their personal futures as well as the country’s future depending on it, my indelible impression of talking to them and observing them through much of the first year of his presidency, is that they all — 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.
By the way, fairness and a devotion to accuracy (qualities that, of course, our president does not model) require that I mention something important, at least to journalists. Wolff does not claim to practice old-fashioned, nothing-but-the-facts-ma’am journalism, which would require a journalist to make clear that he is asking them for on-the-record quotes. He conveys his impressions, as described in this Washington Post Style Section piece.
It seems likely that some of those conversing with Wolff in the West Wing did not believe they were participating in on-the-record interviews. And yet, it is also reported that Wolff has tapes of many of the interviews of which he writes, so if things go far enough, some of his interlocutors may be unable to deny some of the comments attributed to them. Some of those quoted by him are disputing that they said the things Wolff reported them saying.
The problem, of course, is that Wolff’s subject, the current president, lies constantly. That doesn’t make it okay to lie about him. But it puts him and his minions in a weak position to complain about matters of facticity.