You remember that book that came out earlier this month? It was the hottest tome yet written about President Donald Trump’s White House — if you believe its author, veteran biographer and journalist Michael Wolff, and reviewers and talkers on talk shows and morning shows.
It couldn’t help being hot, not with a title like “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” and it turned out to be. On publication day, you couldn’t find a copy anywhere, especially (one presumes) in Washington and surrounding areas.
Seems like yesterday, for sure. And, actually, it was pretty much was yesterday, about a couple of weeks, give or take.
Wolff, one of the most nonplussed journalist types you might ever encounter, made the rounds of “The Late Show with Steve Colbert,” “Meet the Press” and the shows with anywhere from two to six people, the usual suspects, talking all at once.
He contended and wrote that he had all but full access to the White House and the Oval Office when busy meetings were being held. As a result, he managed to draw a portrait of the political powerhouse and center of the United States, where the President worked, phone, Twittered, ate and drank (lots of Diet Cokes), where the Trumpites fought bitterly with Democrats and each other, where Steve Bannon — the president’s intellectual and political muse and éminence grise — schemed and pitted various power brokers against each other.
Genuinely hot and full of fire (with too many expletives not deleted to count), the book made your fingers sweat, or maybe salivate, when you picked it up. We saw the president and all his men and some women careening through a first year (almost) so full of events, crises, meetings, dinners, battles with the press and the media and fake news that it was almost impossible to take it all in.
So what happened? Check out today’s Washington Post or New York Times or your computer or phone and see what’s going on this very minute.
The government is likely to shut down: “White House complains about Congress as risk of government shutdown grows.” They are referring to Friday, Jan. 19, as in tomorrow. Meanwhile, White House Chief of Staff John F. (“Mad Dog”) Kelly, considered the sanest man on the planet, called some of the president’s immigration plans and suggestions “uninformed.”
Elsewhere, if you want salaciousness, welcome to the arrival of former porn star Stormy Daniels, who was reportedly involved with the president back in 2006. And the president had his long-awaited physical and was reported in “excellent condition” all around, although his weight was approaching obesity.
In a way, the disappearance of “Fire and Fury” from the headlines, or at least its cooling down, makes the main point of the book itself. In the immediate aftermath of the book’s publication, a war of words and threats erupted. The administration threatened to sue and attempted to stop its publication. Claims and counterclaims ensued about the contents of the book being — you guessed it — fake news. All of this no doubt made Wolff smile all the way to the bank (or to his investment counselor).
The book includes suggestions that Mr. Trump perhaps was less than literate, that there was a constant war going on among aides — the generals, the kids, the dynamic duo of Ivanka and Jared, who were the biggest threat to the scruffy Bannon.
Mr. Wolff seems to have a pretty good handle on Bannon and his views on globalism and hostility to government. He is and remains in many ways the star of the book, which may lead you to the conclusion that much of the information comes from him.
Still, with all the publicity, all the ranting and raving and insults and back-and-forth accusations, two things are self-evident. Mr. Trump hired everyone in the book, and he is the book’s core and center, the eye of all the storms perpetually erupting, because you still end up saying, thinking and dreaming this: Did he say all this, did he do all this, did he act like that? Mr. Wolff says yes, and so does Mr. Bannon, the biggest espouser of Trumpism in the White House and out.
The book, in terms of what it throws out there, is a bit of a disappointment. It reads, feels and presents as, well, kind of old.
In fact, it’s kind of frightening. It is not particularly rich in shock or tidbit as a kind of tell-all tale. It is in actuality a fairly but selectively detailed history of the Trump era so far — the campaign and his early days in office.
You read the book and you realize that it wasn’t just yesterday, it only feels that way. This is entirely the doing of Trump himself and his staff, although just casually you wonder why Hope Hicks, the current communications director, gets so many references.
A selection of chapter headings will make you dizzy, and also answer the question of why the body politic — pro and con, base and enemy and just people — feels so exhausted every day viewing our various screens.
Here, for your education are some of those headings, your magic carpet ride, per Wolff, the self-styled fly on the wall: Election Day. Trump Tower. Day One. Bannon. Jarvanka. At Home. Russia. CPAC. Wiretap. Repeal and Replace. Bannon Agonistes. Situation Room. Comey. Bannon Redux. Wika Who? McMaster and Scaramucci (the Mooch). General Kelly. Epilogue: Bannon and Trump.
Bannon, it should be noted, no longer shines so bright, and is about set to talk with Mr. Mueller.
News of the impending meeting came … yesterday.