A little thing I’m gonna be doing here from now on is reviewing books. There is a considerably-sized pile of books by my bedside, and what use is it just READING them? A book is not truly read until it is fully dissected and analysed by a self-entitled teenager on the internet, after all.
Yes, yes, I know I’m a little late to the party with Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. Okay, extremely late. I’ve been busy! Or so I tell myself… fortunately, it was more than worth the wait. I burned through the book in a matter of days. Wolff’s salacious prose deserves some credit, however, like it or not, as with any and all news which bears even a modicum of relation to Donald, our attentions cannot help but be held captive. He simply commands engrossment from us, and we obey. He is a creature constructed to absorb and immerse us, to lock our eyeballs and minds in place, fixated on one subject and one subject alone: him. Curiously, however, I found the book to be less about Trump and more about Steve Bannon.
He’s in it a lot.
It seemed like every page was accompanied by a Bannon quote, either disparaging Donald/literally anyone else, or bigging himself up as the Second Coming. In a way, this is more of a book on Steve Bannon than it is on Trump (it often felt like Trump was merely a spectre hovering above an eternal war between Bannon and Jared Kushner – a fixed point in space and time, an immovable object). Wolff captures a man who has a strong sense of destiny and an equally strong belief that he has a part to play in the wars to come. Bannon always provided the ideological underpinning of the Trump Presidency, somewhat unintentionally. He only joined the campaign in August 2016, although his Breitbart News had expressed their Trump support long before then because everything Trump was saying was aligning with the isolationist, nationalist, xenophobic rhetoric they spew. Donald and Steve first met in 2011, but, come on, we all know that Trump’s Bannonism was unintentional. There is no way that Trump planned any of the shit he came out with during the campaign to line up with the shit Steve Bannon had been coming out with for longer. The marriage was an accident – just like winning the election.
It makes for a comical first chapter: to continuously stress how laughable the notion that these guys would actually achieve what they had to pretend to want to achieve was to them. According to Wolff, nobody – not even Donald himself – thought they would or wanted to win the election. I find the idea that Donald didn’t want to win a little hard to believe; he undoubtedly didn’t want the responsibilities of being President (by all accounts, he is incredibly unhappy now – a pity), but there is a reason he ran in the first place. It all stems back to his need for constant attention and love. To feel important. And who is more important than the President of the United States?
But I digress: the Trump Presidency was an accidental one. This partly explains why both the campaign and the administration have been absolute fucking messes. When Kushner, Don. Jr et al met with Russians in Trump Tower to talk Hillary gossip, for example, they didn’t even think to have lawyers present, and didn’t question hosting the Russians in a giant gold building with a big sign saying ‘Trump is here,’ because it would only be an issue if they won, which definitely wasn’t gonna happen! That was eighteen months ago, and it’s been a downhill spiral in terms of organisation and administration since then. Wolff paints a picture of a White House consistently in chaos: nobody ever knows what to do, nobody has a job description, nobody likes each other. It’s how he got all the information in the book. He says that he basically showed up at the White House, chatted to important people, and stayed, because there was nobody to refuse him.
It’s stuff like that which makes me doubtful that formal collusion between the Trump Campaign and the Russian Government occurred. Think of Donald Trump, for a moment. Then Jared Kushner. And Ivanka Trump. And Kellyanne Conway. And Stephen Miller, and so forth. Does anyone of these people seem capable enough to hitch a plan to steal the election with Russia? No. Of course not. Everyone on Team Trump – past, present, and, probably, future – is dumb as shit. Did they accidentally collude? Probably. Did certain individuals connected to Trump conspire in this way? We already know this to be true. Are pro-Russia sentiments a big part of the alt-right? Oh yes. Did Russia actively work toward Trump’s ‘election’? Most definitely. Ultimately, though, I think this entire debacle stems from the fact that Trump just wanted to meet Putin because Putin is a powerful strongman and Donald fancies himself as such. Even in private, as accounted in the book, he dismisses the “Russia thing” as “fake news.” Either he is lying to everyone out of fear of being exposed (unlikely), or he genuinely thinks it’s bullshit. And that can only be true if this was all just a big accident, caused by idiots gaining positions of power that they didn’t know what to do with.
It is no surprise that, when idiots are in charge, nothing is done properly. When nothing gets done properly, idiots fight. When idiots fight, certain idiots resign, and other idiots remain out of idiocy. The back cover of Fire and Fury is emblazoned with an image of Donald in the Oval Office, accompanied by his key team: Vice President Mike Pence (of which there is sadly little of in the book); Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon; Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus; Press Secretary, Sean Spicer; and National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. Save for Pence and Donald, none of those men work in the White House anymore. The only people of importance who are still around are Jared and Ivanka (Kellyanne being reportedly sidelined) – and even with them, Trump apparently wants them to leave.
All of which begs the question: what is the point of the Trump Presidency? He only ran for attention, then accidentally won. He has no desire to do anything in office beyond a) be called President, and b) play golf. No goals, no ambitions, no ideology – nothing. Steve Bannon’s job was to provide the thought process, but he’s long gone. Fire and Fury tells us that he considers the Trump Revolution to have now moved beyond Trump. As a direct result of the book’s publication, the relationship between the two men is dead, and Bannon is no longer at Breitbart, his significance in the grand political scheme of things greatly diminished. As I said, many of the key people surrounding Trump have dissipated – and we’re only one year into a (theoretically) four-year term, over the course of which there will be many more new faces who promptly resign. If we get to 2020, who will make up the Trump Administration? Trump will be forced to truly scrape the bottom of the barrel, and even then he may come up with nothing but lint. Everyone who could theoretically work for the White House already has, is, or will immediately turn it down after a moment’s consideration of what the Trump Administration has produced so far: nothing, bar chaos and the conclusion of careers.
When we think about Trump, fear is conjured quite easily. What evil thing shall he do next? What is his team conspiring on now? It is easy to see this presidency as one defined solely by malice and selfishness – which it very much is, but, after reading Fire and Fury, I have a different sense of it. This presidency is pointless. Only decay and Fox News live where direction and life should reside. The only significant achievements will come from the Republican-controlled Congress – and even they struggle to actually do anything, and will, in all likelihood, be blown the fuck away by the Democrat surge of November 2018. The biggest accomplishment of the White House itself is to split America in half, emboldening a treasure trove of racists and Nazis galore. They will prove harder to get rid of. Politically, though? The Trump Administration merely sets an example of how not to run a government. Or how not to run anything, really. They are all bark and no bite. They are, by definition of populism, vacuous, doomed to become lost amidst pointless in-fighting, posturing, and dick-measuring.
Do give Fire and Fury a read, if you have the time. It’s sizzling and salacious and brilliant fun for all my fellow self-righteous liberals/lefties – a few hours’ worth of smugness and moral superiority, complete with an indictment of some very stupid people. What could be more fun to read, other than a review of it?