Eryk Banatt's Reviews > Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff
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George W. Bush, on the dais, supplied what seemed likely to become the historic footnote to the Trump address: "That's some weird shit."

I just finished this book and it was certainly a thrill ride from start to finish - Wolff paints an incredibly vivid picture of the White House as a veritable political funhouse of horrors.

If you're looking for a levelheaded view into the workings of the Trump White House, you have come to the wrong place - this is a hit piece, and disliking Trump is sort of a prerequisite for enjoying this book in any capacity. I had to continue reminding myself to read this with a healthy dose of skepticism, since it's clear by the format alone that Wolff used substantial imagination in his portrayal of everybody involved. Wolff takes an omniscient, yet baffled, narrator role, and frequently outlines what people are thinking inside their own heads (e.g. "Steve Bannon, still waiting in his temporary office in the EOB, thought, Oh my god, there he goes. I told you so") and while I'm certainly not suggesting there was any shortage of research that went into this book (Wolff did something like 200 interviews) I think it's fairly clear that a substantial amount of this book is Wolff filling in the blanks or otherwise fitting things into this crazy narrative. In this sense, it reads almost like fiction, and I found myself abruptly laughing in disbelief several times.

The big thesis of this book is that the Trump administration did not actually intend to win the election, doing it mostly for publicity to springboard their own careers forward in other fields. Having ultimately won it, they ended up spending almost every waking moment sorely out of their depth. Likely not the intended effect on the reader, I came away from this book with a sort of sympathy for Trump. The poor guy ran for president as a wild publicity stunt under the assumption that he would lose and all of his naysayers would fade into the background, and he'd continued to be beloved by almost all of the people that paid any attention to him. Trump, the man who "just wanted to be loved", ended up thrust into a position where he could not escape the critics nor appease them with anything he could reasonably be expected to come up with. I can imagine such a scenario being a living nightmare for Trump, like a wish from a genie gone horribly wrong.

Likewise, the people orbiting Trump are all, more or less, cast as entirely incompetent by Wolff:

Bannon, as Walsh saw it, "believes he is Darth Vader", but ends up being more like a Kylo Ren - an irritable, decidedly unlikable, vulgar villain that more or less just wants to ruin everything because everything is bad the way it is right now. My favorite example for this is his rationale for the Travel Ban being enacted on Friday, the obviously most traffic-heavy day which would create the biggest backlash, to which he responded "Err... that's why, so the snowflakes would show up at the airports and riot." Bannon cycles between trying to not-so-subtly manipulate trump (going so far as to maintain a whiteboard with "things Trump has promised", a number of them things Bannon wanted that Trump never promised) and complaining/leaking incessantly to the media to try to gain the upper hand on Jared Kushner and Ivanka. Ever by Trump's side, getting minimal amounts of sleep (How could you, when Trump is awake and tweeting at 4am?) and physically deteriorating, Bannon eventually snaps in frustration with Trump and Jarvanka, blowing up on Hope Hicks and telling her "You are dumb as a stone! I am going to fuck you and your little group!" Appropriately, the book ends with Bannon musing about Trumpism's future being one likely without Trump.

"It's going to be wild as shit."

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are the main opposing force to Bannon, and they alternate between "Little kid wearing Dad's suit" and "Wait a minute, why are you even here?" They constantly give Trump bad advice (i.e. "Fire Comey"), and their goals are decidedly incongruent with the Trump White House (Ivanka, at one point, pushes for aiding Women Entrepreneurs in developing countries, which I'm sure Trump was enthralled by). Kushner and Ivanka are the antithesis to Bannon's white house - where Bannon wanted to burn it all to the ground, Jarvanka (or "the geniuses", as Bannon so derisively called them) tried their hardest to convince Trump to just stop doing shit that would make people angry. Notably absent from this are any, you know, actual goals:

"'Just give me three things the president wants to focus on. What are the three priorities of this White House?'
'Yes," said Kushner, wholly absent an answer, 'we should probably have that conversation'"

These three, along with Priebus, all attempt to wrangle Trump as if he's some sort of non-sentient giant monster, and they're all Godzilla-tamers. "As Walsh saw it, Steve Bannon was running the Steve Bannon White House, Jared Kushner was running the Michael Bloomberg White House, and Reince Priebus was running the Paul Ryan White House. It was a 1970s video game, the white ball pinging back and forth in the black triangle."

All of the minor characters get similar treatment (My favorite being Pence, whose entire characterization is "yeah, your impressions are pretty much right, Pence just kind of smiles in the background") but not quite as badly as Scaramucci, six-day White House Communications Director. It seemed entirely clear to everybody involved that The Mooch was doomed from the start. His seemingly only motivation to obtain a White House position seemed to be to obtain a Certificate of Divestiture, which would allow him to sell off his holdings without paying taxes on them. Having obtained that, Scaramucci seemed to almost abruptly decide that he didn't want to be Communications Director at all. Everybody's opinion on Scaramucci is profoundly negative and was one of the most amusing parts of the book for me (Bannon: "He'll literally blow up in a week. This is why I don't take this stuff seriously. Hiring Scaramucci? He's not qualified to do anything. He runs a fund of funds. Do you know what a fund of funds is? It's not a fund. Dude, it's sick. We look like buffoons."). Scaramucci called Lizza and gave a wholeheartedly ridiculous interview ("I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock.") and was promptly fired shortly after.

Ultimately, this book was a highly amusing take on the White House, and it was certainly fun to read. A bit heavy on schadenfreude, Fire and Fury is a likely-not-entirely-accurate work on the living ball of, well, Fire and Fury that is Donald J. Trump.

"Because nobody in the Trump administration really knew how to do anything, it was therefore not clear what anyone did.

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Reading Progress

January 6, 2018 – Shelved
January 6, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
Started Reading
January 13, 2018 – Finished Reading

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