Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House (2018)
This is the story of the first year of the Trump White House, as well as a memo on the behaviours of the President, his White House staff as well as the members on his campaign team. J.R.R. Tolkein or George RR Martin would have found this subject irresistible. There is an epic quality about these Trump years- something like ‘epic shit’, since Trump has brought everyone, from his countrymen, media, executives, politicians, foreign governments as well as people the world over outside their comfort zone. Such tumultuous times in which established norms are turned topsy turvy inspire copious literature. The stream has already begun to flow.
With Donald Trump as the lead hero, an author doesn’t need to do much thinking. Trump would himself speak, tweet, hiss and fire his words and associates for u with furious energy. A badly behaved seventy year old who is enjoying his extended adolescence, Trump has no idea how to govern, allege his detractors and former allies. Wolff says Donald is held in low regard even by his former and current White House staff, all of whom think he is unfit for the high office. Worse, he is said to be incapable of reading even a single page or listening to any sane advice. If this is not Armageddon, I dunt know what is.
Wolff uses the word ‘flattery’ a lot during his narrative. It is a very strange word to describe a President’s behaviour. Apparently, Trump likes nothing more than to be flattered, and once he is seduced he starts giving it back in same glowing terms. This is how he operates. This is how he gets satiated. HE doesn’t think anything of using words like magnificent, absolutely, biggest, greatest in his tweets as a part of his fawning exercises. Flatter him, and be flattered, is the Trump Way.
Another conspicuous trait of Trump is that he can’t tolerate if someone gains anything and Donald has the slightest suspicion that it has been at his own cost. That gets his goat. Floodgates open, a barrage of abuses flow. Trump can’t stand it.
Steve Bannon, his chief strategist of the Campaign, is presented as a figure of awe in this book. The man responsible for making Trump the President was purged by the end of the first year of Presidency. He now devotes his time to further his Bannonite Agenda and to save the Trump Revolution from Trump. The far-Right and the Tea Party, as well as Bannonites are regrouping. The idea is to move on. Trump won’t get a second term, they aver. Most probably, he would be impeached mid way during the first. Steve is a compulsive personality. Too bad he is gone from the White House, since his loss is the gain of the Family, read JarVanka (Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, son-in-law and daughter). The impeachment looks less likely now, with economy growing at 2 percent, and approval ratings high among his own core constituency.
Wolff makes a strong case of how unprepared and reluctant were these chief protagonists of winning the White House. Trump, Melania, JarVanka, Flynn and most other associates expected and hoped to lose gracefully. Trump had hoped his brand would soar as an also-ran presidential candidate. He was horrified enough to look as if he had seen a ghost, when results declared him victorious. Melania had huge privacy concerns. She shed tears, and not of joy, at the news. Jared Kushner and Ivanka feared investigations into their finances. Trump Jr. knew business would take a nosedive. This victory was an orphan. Trump had won by default. Steve Bannon’s white working class programme and Clinton’s unsuitableness for the top job had placed Trump in the saddle.
The White House is already a Chief of Staff (Preibus) down. John F.Kelly is holding strong so far. They have also lost two NSAs (Flynn and Mcmaster), John Bolton is now in office. SOS Rex Tilleron resigned in March 2018, and Mike Pompeo has succeeded hm. Attorney general Jeff Sessions has been on a weak wicket since the beginning. He has managed to run Trump the wrong way on many occasions. It is whispered in many quarters that in the event of any outside threat or Emergency or Trump Meltdown, three militarymen, Kelly-Mcmaster (now Pompeo) -Mattias (Secy of Defence) might manage/flout Trump to avert any disaster. Mike Pence has almost no role in this administration. It might be deliberate, but he comes across as very weak and sidelined.
The TRUMP White House seems like a more settled place after one and a half year. Family has won. Jared and Ivanka hold all aces. Jared in now senior advisor to the President. Kelly is efficient enough as COS. Leaks were under control after Bannon is gone, till Bob Woodward’s recent book, FEAR, and the recent unsigned op-ed piece in NYT threaten to derail the administration again.
Surely, Mueller is going after the Russia probe with great gusto. The ambit of the probe now includes an enquiry into Kushner’s finances as well. This probe might even result in an eventual impeachment. Wolff argues the Russian contacts were made out of sheer stupidity and incompetence. A campaign as unorganised as Trumps’ and geared towards losing the elections rather than winning it could not even have taken any advantage of such a tie up with Russia. Yet the major worry is the finances of the Kushner family. Trump has shamelessly refused to divulge his financial position or disclose his tax returns. Wolff added a page or two on NIKKI HALEY and her growing closeness to Ivanka and the president. This doesn’t seem like hearsay. Nikki Haley might find herself in a position to take on the mantle in 2020, or at least be Trump’s running mate if he survives this term. He has even alleged that Haley was having an affair with the President.
The title of this book comes from a Trump quote about the North Korea issue. This is a fascinating piece of semi-fiction. Based as it is on off –the- record sources, innuendos, leaks, assumptions, scoops and his own investigations as well as official pronouncements of the dramatis personae, one can’t vouch for the accuracy of everything that has been mentioned. But the author has managed to masterfully capture the thrill, horror, suspense and adventure one can associate with the Trump Administration. Anyway, I suspect even a mere compilation of his tweets would make for a good read, such is the phenomena called Trump.
Abhinav Pancholi, IRS, Kolkata. The author is an avid sports lover with a passion for literature.
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