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POLITICS
Junk Food from Inside the Deconstructing State:
Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury
M.G. Poe

 Image © Donkey Hotey

Image © Donkey Hotey

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Well, I bought it. A gen-u-ine, hardback first edition copy of Michael Wolfff’s Fire and Fury, Inside the Trump White House. At first, I hesitated plunking down Amazon’s list price of $17.99 ($30 in stores) on a book I figured would say what we all think we already know (and it does) about The Prez and his entourage of revolving strange weirdos, but when it became #1 on Amazon’s bestselling book list even before its actual slated publication date of Jan 9, 2018, I couldn’t resist the urge. When its release date was moved up to January 5, after the President had his lawyers issued cease and desist orders in an attempt to block it, I was doubly-glad I had reserved a copy, even if the read proved to be sheer literary fiddle-faddle; even if, as I have suspected for a while now, I, like the rest of the over 1.7 million who have bought the book, was doing just one more thing to continue tuning-in to the macabre TV reality show the 45th President seemed to be conducting at the country’s expense from the now desecrated hearth of the Oval Office.

Fast moving, sloppily written, syntactically not error-free, and full of first-hand quotes cited without sourcing, Fire and Fury’s focus is the cast of characters inside the White House. It is tabloid journalism. Wolff states his own unreliability as a narrator in the Author’s Note. Still, this does not mean Fire and Fury is not worth reading. I feel this strongly, because in order to be a part of the change we wish to see, we the citizens, must remain informed, even if it is, to wit, by this book, the mere publication of which acts as just another stellar example of the warped reality in which we currently find ourselves living.

Fire and Fury’s content of gossip filled pages turns quickly. Its continuous recounts into the conflictive machinations of a Presidential administration whose nucleus is presented as an egomaniacal Commander-In-Chief unceasingly bent on transgressing established norms of the political process, shitting on presidential protocol, putting down those who work for him, and openly relying on lying and chaos as his main and sophomoric manipulation tactics, make Fire and Fury a bizarre cabinet of curiosities. Reading it is like a Twinkie binge; the more the reader turns the pages and consumes information, the more nauseous she becomes. However, it is not the factual and occasional grammatical errors or average writing that make the reader want to vomit; it is, instead, the intimate conversations and opinions with and about the President and his family and staff that are revealed that will likely make the reader sick.

So why read the book? Because, after a full year of presidential absurdity and irrationality where the mind of the leader of the free world is opaquely glimpsed pathologically through series of 140-character Twitter tweets, the majority of the country and the world seems still dazed and disbelieving that such an individual was elected President of the United States of America. We still seek to understand the reasons why and how this happened.

No Vision or Awareness 

Michael Wolff tells us what we already knew but were afraid to admit—that Donald Trump is indeed the man we think he is: an unethical, racist bully who abuses power, who doesn’t appear to have the capacity for long-term critical thinking or an interest in learning, especially not about political theory or how it can best serve his country. He is a man who doesn’t have the vision or awareness necessary to make critical decisions resulting in the long-term well-being of the people he governs, not just because he doesn’t have the intellectual capacity for it, but because he just doesn’t care. Wolff tells us that Trump is a man concerned first and foremost with himself and that which will bring him greater fame, and that he doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about anything that will not.

According to Wolff, Donald Trump didn’t think he would become President, and he didn’t want to be, either. (Didn’t we always suspect so?) Trump was fully expecting to lose the election. What he really wanted was the notoriety and fame that losing would bring. This ambition extended to the people who ran his campaign, who also did not believe he would win, who were totally unprepared when he did, and who were banking on his loss for their own professional aggrandizement.

Wolff writes: 

“Trump refused to spend any time considering, however hypothetically, transition matters, saying it was “bad luck”—but really meaning it was a waste of time. Nor would he even remotely contemplate the issue of his holdings and conflicts.

“He wasn’t going to win! Or losing was winning. Trump would be the most famous man in the world—a martyr for crooked Hillary Clinton.

“His daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared would have transformed themselves from relatively obscure rich kids into international celebrities and brand ambassadors.

“Kellyanne Conway would be a cable news star.

“Reince Preibus and Katie Walsh would get their Republican party back.

“Melania Trump could return to inconspicuously lunching.

“That was the trouble-free outcome they awaited on November 8, 2016. Losing would work out for everybody.” (p18)

Wolff’s easy access to the White House is rather perplexing. In an interview the day of publication, Mr. Wolfff told MSNBC’s Lawrence O’ Donnell that he wormed his way into the White House by simply pitching Donald Trump a book intended to catalog the first 100 days of his administration. Wolff says he remained ensconced in the White House because nobody ever told him to leave, thus, his presence remained largely unnoticed. It is a convenient story, one that has gone unchallenged perhaps because of its believability to outsiders looking into what appears to be a helter-skelter administration.

Equally perplexing, are the number of grievous, yet basic, errors in Fire and Fury. Errors that going through normal procedural editing should have been fact-checked and corrected. (for a list of errors, check out The Washington Post’s article). One wonders why Mr. Wolff, a veteran author and journalist, a prior editor at Adweek, a writer who has received two National Magazine Awards and a Mirror Award, and who has published 7 prior books, would allow a book of his to go to publication this way. Critics will poo-poo these small errors. As Sam Tanenhaus, former editor of the New York Times Book Review put it, “Errors creep into almost all nonfiction books, especially on politics and history. Some of our most meticulous and scrupulous authors will get things wrong.” It nevertheless leaves this reader wondering if there was an ulterior motive to its hasty publication.

Throughout Fire and Fury Michael Wolff deliberately plays into the public’s morbid curiosity to know more about the volatility and strangeness of Trump’s administration and that of the President and First Family. Tidbits include:

  • The President, who yells at the cleaning staff for picking up clothing he left on the floor, stating that if the shirt is on the floor it’s because that’s where he wants it.
  • The President, who prefers fast food because he has a phobia of being poisoned. His rationale: McDonald's has no idea he’s showing up, so there is no chance they can plan on the poisoning. 
  • The President, who by 6:30 PM almost every night is usually in bed with a cheeseburger, (Donald and Melania have separate sleeping quarters) watching TV on his all three of his Presidential quarters televisions.
 Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump 

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump 

Wolff paints a disturbingly Post-Orwellian picture of the Jared-Ivanka (“Jarvanka”) relationship, as well, describing them as a power couple united in “recasting themselves as “figures of ultimate attainment, ambition and satisfaction” in a global world. Ivanka, Wolff describes as following the “family business” by marketing herself as a “kind of postfeminist socialite,” involved in a “noblesse oblige” type of world where the main objective is to “work at knowing other rich people, being an integral and valuable part of a network of the rich”, and “having your name itself evoke riches” (p80). Even more than real-estate, Wolff says, this is the family business.

Fire and Fury reads like an extended summer episode of Bachelor in Paradise. But that doesn’t make Michael Wolfff’s book unbelievable, just snarky. The characters depicted within its pages are spiteful, divisive, troubled, mean, and oft-times not all that smart. Wolfff writes:

“There was no competition in Trump Tower for being the brains of the operation. Of the dominant figures in the transition, neither Kushner, Preibus, nor Conway, and certainly not the president-elect, had the ability to express any kind of coherent perception or narrative.” (p 60)

Former White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, whom Wolfff refers to as witty, intense, and provocative, features prominently throughout the manuscript, and in many instances, is portrayed rather respectfully:

 “By default, everybody had to look to the voluble, aphoristic, shambolic, witty, off-the-the cuff figure who was both ever present on the premises and who had, in an unlikely attribute, read a book or two.” (p 60)

The idea that an intentional blind eye could have been cast to Michael Wolff’s presence by any number of people within the administration (Steve Bannon, for one) in order to allow Wolff access to write an accurate enough, sustainably valid account unavoidably and critically damming to the President and the administration is totally reasonable to assume. Though Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that he authorized Wolff “zero access” to the White House, and that Wolff’s accounting is “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist,” it is also not impossible to believe that the President, narcissistically might have allowed Wolff to remain within the White House walls never thinking that Wolff would be canny enough to write an accounting of his Administration highlighting their most unfavorable sides.

Trump the Sociopath 

So, how far would a sociopath go in order to gratify himself? Rosie McCall in an April 11, 2017 Health.com article reported that sociopathy, or antisocial personality disorder (ASP), occurs on a spectrum. Almost four percent of Americans actually meet the diagnostic criteria of a sociopath. Sociopaths are callus and calculating with patterns of lying, irresponsibility and manipulation. Prone to impulsive behavior, they are often seen as disturbed, unhinged, even charming. Sociopaths lie for a myriad of reasons, even for their own amusement.

Donald Trump clearly displays sociopathic behaviors. Wolfff tells us that Trump was the one who unrepentantly leaked the news of his wife Melania’s nude photo shoot for Suzy Magazine to The Daily Mail and The New York Post during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

Trump is also a pathological liar. According to a Washington Post fact check, as of January 2, 2018, President Trump had made a total of 1,950 false or misleading statements. This number continues to grow. There is no precedent for an American president telling so many obvious and refutable lies. According to a report in The New York Times by David Leonhard and Stuart A. Thompson entitled Trump Lies in which a current chronological cataloging of Trump’s lies is presented, no other president of either party has behaved as Trump behaves. “He is trying to create an atmosphere in which reality is irrelevant,” the article reports.

Wolff tells us early in Fire and Fury that Donald Trump had no intention or desire to ever become President, but that he did want to be “the most famous man in the world.” Assuming the position of Commander in Chief of the United States of America, has made him so.

Here is what readers can take away from Fire and Fury. There is no doubt that there is something definitely not right with Donald Trump. Fire and Fury is believable because we recognized this already. It confirms a truth we already knew. Additionally, it is important to remember that in the sociopathic-prone mind of Donald Trump, a man who cares about himself first, we are all pawns in a mind-game of his own creation with rules he alone understands. Within the melee that is the tilted socio-political place in history in which we find ourselves living, all of us, Congress, media, and citizenry are components of manipulation for a man who doesn’t give a damn about politics, people, or the governing of the country, but who, instead, just wants to be “the most famous man in the world.” This is dangerous to us, and to our democracy. We must be pro-active to not be complicit cast members in what appears to be for Donald Trump, the reality TV president, The Greatest Reality Show on Earth, his biggest most unforgettable achievement yet, now always playing on any given network somewhere in the world, 24/7, 365 days a year.

Fire and Fury is already in its second printing. As of January 17, 2018, Variety reported that Endeavor Content had purchased the film and television rights to the book, and that it is being considered for adaptation into a television series. The most famous man in the world is surely gleefully salivating at the prospect.

 Robert Mueller 

Robert Mueller 

Perhaps the one thing Donald Trump never counted on in his myopic desire to achieve immortality though, is Robert Mueller. Wolfff, says his White House sources do not think the president colluded with Moscow to win the 2016 election. However, they do think that if the Special Counsel were to look into Trump's finances, it could be “perilous” for the president. He does, however, shares Steve Bannon’s thoughts, crudely weighing in on whether Trump and his administration colluded with the Russians: “The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos (Russian officials) up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

Every day now the Special Counsel’s investigation expands, drifting ignominiously closer to the Oval Office. The President continues to claim there was “absolutely no collusion” with Russia during the 2016 campaign, now stating publicly that he is not only “looking forward” to speaking and cooperating with the Special Counsel, but that he will most assuredly do so “under oath.” The President's team of chagrined lawyers, afraid Trump will say something incriminating, continues to negotiate a deal with Mueller to minimize the need for the President’s testimony.

On January 25, 2018, the New York Times reported that in June, 2017, Trump ordered the dismissal of the Special Counsel, but was dissuaded from going through with it when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the order. “If he fires Mueller,” Bannon says in Fire and Fury, “it just brings the impeachment quicker.... What am I going to do? Am I going to go in and save him? He’s Donald Trump, he’s always gonna do things” (p 279).

As Mueller tenaciously advances on the Oval Office, many of us are banking on it.


M.G. Poe is a social commentator, activist, cat woman, time-traveler, anarchist Ursula le Guin-style, deliberately dismantling authority one thought-byte at a time. Read more of her writings and eclectic observations on life at mgpoe.com and follow her on Instagram @darkvikingqueen.