Fire and Fury:
Inside the Trump White House
Author: Michael Wolff
Henry Holt & Company
Note: This is not a review of this book – it is more a quasi “op-ed” piece on what it offers. If you are looking for a review – please move on.
“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is a 336 page book chronicling the disaster that has governed the White House ever since Donald Trump took office. I bought the book for the same reason that so many did – because Trump himself tried to stop it from being published. However, I did want to understand the “behind the scenes” view of the author, Michael Wolff, who initially saw this project as being an account of the first one hundred days of this administration. In the end, Wolff covered over eighteen months, culminating with the appointment of retired general John Kelly as the new Chief of Staff, and the exit of chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon. Wolff interviewed President Trump himself, as well as members of his senior staff, taping many of the interviews. Some of the interviews were off the record, some were meant to provide “deep background”.
The book reads like a conversation between friends – some truth, some rumor, some conjecture. It is an easy read, but the reader needs to sort fact from fiction on their own. The importance of this book for me was the insiders view of the inter- relationships between those who work in the White House, how they view the president (and each other), and how these relationships change over time.
Wolff is an author and journalist who has contributed to USA Today, the Hollywood Reporter, and the UK edition of GQ, and is the author of seven books, including “Burn Rate” (a book about his own company), and “The Man Who Owns The News” (a biography of Rupert Murdoch). He co-founded the website Newser, and is a former editor of Adweek. For those who might question his credentials, the train wreck that has been this administration has been so well documented in the news that I would say “Take with you what you will.” There are some errors, including wrong job titles, indicating that it could have been better edited, but the gist of the book, which is a running commentary on the inter-relationships between those working in the White House, is pure gold! And we get incredibly believable descriptions of various events, and how they played out.
This is a presidency that was never meant to be – candidate Trump did not think that he was going to win, nor did his campaign staff, so he was totally unprepared to take office. They never have come up to speed. Nor will they.
- We have Trump himself, with a questionable business and personal history, a narcissist who has a low level of comprehension of anything, who has an ego that constantly needs to be fed, who will not listen to others, who gets up and walks out of meetings when he is bored, and who does not seem to have the ability to read or understand what he is being given to read. Who now announces that he is a “very stable genius”. We also have Trump’s claims that he was wire-tapped by President Obama, and Trump distancing himself from Roger Aisles (former CEO of Fox News, and a somewhat mentor to Steve Bannon), while trying to befriend media mogul Rupert Murdoch (who has allegedly referred to Trump as a f***ing idiot).
- We have Trump’s daughter Ivanka, and son-in-law Jared, who have their own agenda, and were/are at constant odds with Steve Bannon. (I do have to say that I thought these two were educated people who might be able to influence Trump in a good way. It turns out they only want to influence Trump to their benefit. I was also surprised to see that Jared’s father in many ways resembles Trump.) We also find out that Ivanka is entertaining the idea of running for president at some point in time herself.
- We have Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for the White House, former investment banker, former executive chairman of Breitbart news, educated at Harvard Business School, and a former Naval Officer. He mistrusts Ivanka and Jared, as much as they mistrust him.
- We have Kellyanne Conway, who is a political consultant, Trump’s former campaign manager, and current counselor to the president. She loves to appear on national TV, and is very defensive of Trump (while not making much sense), but behind his back she talks another story.
- We have Dina Powell, former managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs, and president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, who was brought in by Ivanka Trump. She is currently National Security Advisor for Strategy with the Trump administration. She is allegedly planning on leaving her job soon.
- We have Reince Priebus, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, serving as White House Chief of Staff (January 20th, 2017 – July 31st, 2017).
- We have Rex Tillerson, former Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobile, and current Secretary of State (who allegedly referred to Trump as a “f***ing moron”).
The takeaway for me from this book is that Trump is exactly what he seems to be – an illiterate narcissist that does not like to make decisions, who does not do well in meetings, who refuses to be educated on the running of the government (our government), and who believes his own opinions, whether they have a base or not. His staff does not respect him (nor do they have a reason to), and they all work double-time to keep him from making mistakes (or just plain making an ass of himself). More than one of them are allgedly looking for the right time to leave their jobs and return to the private sector. Everyone in the White House is looking for leverage to further their own careers/agenda.
The continuous leaks from the White House? I thought they were from mid-level staff, but it turns out that most of them were either from major players at the White House (who leaked information in order to keep other major players in line), or inadvertently from Trump himself, in one of the many calls that he made to well placed friends every night. Steve Bannon was also the source of many strategic leaks.
Now it looks like there is a chance of this book being made into a TV series. Endeavor Content has purchased the film and television rights to Fire and Fury – Inside The Trump White House”. I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it may happen.
© January 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.