The Wolff Book and Its Fallout

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Trump Maladministration

First, some background. Michael Wolff wrote a puff piece on Trump for the Hollywood Reporter that was published in June 2016. So when he talked to Trump about writing a book about him, Trump assumed he would write a flattering book about him and gave him all kinds of access. As Wolff described it,

interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

So Wolff was allowed to hang out with the Trump campaign and transition team and in the White House itself. The staff was encouraged to cooperate with him.

Can we trust that what Wolff wrote was accurate? Josh Marshall wrote,

One of the many oddities and comedies of this moment is that Michael Wolff is anything but a reliable narrator of the Trumpian moment. A year ago he was effusively and conspicuously praising himself as a practitioner of sycophancy-based access journalism, the only journo who would or could cover Trump on the merits rather than be swept up with the preening opposition and grandiose efforts to destroy the real estate hawker turned politician. Now this. It makes perfect sense. Never trust an ingratiating reporter. But to keep ourselves on our own toes, again, I don’t think we should see him as an entirely reliable narrator of the story. The key points though, the quotes? They probably bear out. In any case, according to Mike Allen at Axios, Wolff has tapes. I’m sure he does.

Wolff doesn’t strike me as someone with a political agenda. He is a clever writer, and as a clever writer he must have realized from the get-go that the real story, the money story, was not a puff story. There already are a bunch of puff books out about Trump, most of which you have probably never heard of.  Wolff realized that the big ticket story was a freak show story, a Holy Bleep These People Are Crazier Than Bleep story.  And I’m sure he’s clever enough to know that he was dealing with very powerful and even ruthless people, so he’d damn well better have tapes.

Say what you will about Wolff: Unless the book is wholesale invention, something in his I’m-with-the-band swagger in the West Wing attracted awesomely sordid material from Trump’s scurvy syndicate. In John Sterling at Macmillan, the book has a masterful editor, and three fact-checkers reviewed it. So I’m betting “Fire and Fury” will withstand whatever charges of journalistic impropriety come at it.

I will add that publishers crank out exposés about politicians all the time. The trash-talking books about Hillary Clinton alone are so common they make up their own genre. They sell enough copies to make a profit, because people who hate Politician X will buy them and maybe read a few pages and leave them on the coffee table for awhile. This book is already a best-seller and appears to be turning into a sure-enough phenomenon.  Lots of people want to read it.

It’s also the case that, in a meta sense, Wolff is not telling us anything we don’t already know. James Fallows writes at The Atlantic:

The details in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury make it unforgettable, and potentially historic. We’ll see how many of them fully stand up, and in what particulars, but even at a heavy discount, it’s a remarkable tale.

But what Wolff is describing is an open secret.

Based on the excerpts now available, Fire and Fury presents a man in the White House who is profoundly ignorant of politics, policy, and anything resembling the substance of perhaps the world’s most demanding job. He is temperamentally unstable. Most of what he says in public is at odds with provable fact, from “biggest inaugural crowd in history” onward. Whether he is aware of it or not, much of what he asserts is a lie. His functional vocabulary is markedly smaller than it was 20 years ago; the oldest person ever to begin service in the White House, he is increasingly prone to repeat anecdotes and phrases. He is aswirl in foreign and financial complications. He has ignored countless norms of modern governance, from the expectation of financial disclosure to the importance of remaining separate from law-enforcement activities. He relies on immediate family members to an unusual degree; he has an exceptionally thin roster of experienced advisers and assistants; his White House staff operations have more in common with an episode of The Apprentice than with any real-world counterpart. He has a shallower reserve of historical or functional information than previous presidents, and a more restricted supply of ongoing information than many citizens. He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.

Wolff provides us with more specific examples and details, but, seriously — we knew all this. Didn’t we? Of course, the book won’t be released publicly until tomorrow, so we don’t yet know about everything in it.

As far as the fallout is concerned, I’m sure that even as we speak right-wing interests are working overtime to find whatever dirt they can find on Michael Wolff to discredit him, so we’ll see what comes out. Once the online herd of Trump supporters get their hands on the book, they will be combing through it for any detail they can refute, and I’m sure there will be something. And the bobbleheads on Fox News will discuss those details to death over the next several days. But if the copyeditors at Macmillan did their jobs, those details will be mostly inconsequential things.

We’re already seeing much of the Right taking sides with Trump against Bannon. How the Alt Right feels about that, I do not know. I don’t expect Bannon to disappear entirely, but especially after the debacle (for him) of the Roy Moore loss, I expect that from now on most Republicans and what’s left of movement conservatism will keep him at arm’s length. Maybe he and Karl Rove can form a Loser’s Club.

I expect the book may accelerate some ongoing trends. Editorialists already have been less hesitant to question Trump’s basic mental competence, and those voices will grow louder.  It also will likely accelerate Trump’s mental deterioration. I don’t see him getting through this year without a complete meltdown requiring, at least, confinement from public view or hospitalization.

We may learn there are breadcrumbs in the book for Bob Mueller to follow.

If the book is as big a money-maker for the publisher as it appears so far, expect more publishers to come out with books and magazine features talking trash about Trump.

Can you think of anything else?

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12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Tom_b  •  Jan 4, 2018 @10:57 pm

    It appears the Mercer crime syndicate is trying to separate Bannon from Breitbart, but that’s only going to give him a louder voice. As before, pass the  popcorn.

  2. KC  •  Jan 4, 2018 @11:36 pm

    This is all too nuts.  

  3. c u n d gulag  •  Jan 4, 2018 @11:53 pm

    Not too much of this is news.

    But having this info come out in a book will sure as hell make a lot of conservative heads explode.

    I'm not sure I'll read it, even if I do buy it.  The most scary and lurid details and tales will be well covered in the blogs I read.

    But I hope this book sells like (pot-)hotcakes!

    The reason I want it to have great sales, is that it may inspire terrible writers to publish knock-offs.

    I want a cottage industry of hundreds of books with all sorts of bullshit about tRUMP and his horrible family.

    Kind of – no – EXACTLY like the countless books telling all sorts of fictional crap about Bill & Hillary, and Barack & Michelle!

    Out of this world stuff!

    Like that Donald actually killed his brother – who was the REAL teetotaler in the family – by giving him something legal to fall asleep, and then, THEN, pouring rotgut whiskey down his throat unhil his heart stopped and he died.  And then Donald told evetyone that his brother was an alcoholic!  And that made him the sole heir.

    Or that that at the private school he went to, he was the head Warlock of a coven of gay  boy witches!

    And even THAT kind of stuff would pale in comparison to the crap about the Clinton's and Obama's!

     Please, FSM, make it so.

  4. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2018 @12:39 am

     He views all events through the prism of whether they make him look strong and famous, and thus he is laughably susceptible to flattering treatment from the likes of Putin and Xi Jinping abroad or courtiers at home.

    Bannon responded to the attack from Trump by saying Trump is a great man. Then Trump boasts on how quickly Bannon changed his tune. Trump doesn't have the intellectual insight to realize that Bannon is mocking him by tossing out some meaningless flattery just to show how easily Trump can be disarmed. Hollow praises and empty exaltations have the same effect on Trump as kryptonite has on Superman. It renders him powerless. The big bag of shit just melts into a puddle of blind stupidity.

     I guess that Trump is going to be sorely disappointed tonight when Fox News contributor Alan Dershowitz informs Trump via Shaun Hannity that all Trump's bellowing about a law suit will be for naught..Trump is the toothless lion in that regard. If Trump thinks going that route is the way to go…He'll be shortening his days in the Oval Office.

  5. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2018 @3:48 am

    Somebody should tell Trump that when you put a television in your bedroom your marriage is in trouble…and when you put three televisions in your bedroom your marriage has flat lined. But I guess that envisioning an amorous Trump with his pot belly and his comb over unfurled while sporting a pair of speedos could act as an impetus for a flat lined marriage also.

     Here's something that might spice it up for the orange tufted big bag of shit. That's if the big bag of shit can still cut the mustard.

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blMW80gdVmY

  6. uncledad  •  Jan 5, 2018 @7:20 am

    “Wolff is not telling us anything we don’t already know”

    No shit, I mean we learned everything we needed to know from tRumps campaign announcement, the over-weight clown with the painted on tan and the bad comb over decending the escalator with his eastern european escort / trophy wife in tow, the paid actors as adoring fans, the racist-xenophobic ranting, and or course all the lies. One thing I'll never understand is how a thinking person could have voted for this shit show?

  7. moonbat  •  Jan 5, 2018 @12:13 pm

    The moment is so right for a book like this. As Fallows said, it's simply revealing what's been an open secret to anybody who's been paying attention.

    What's interesting to me, is that apart from paid liars like Sanders, nobody quoted in the book apart from Trump, as far as I know, has denied anything Wolff wrote.

    I so hope Wolff is up for the expected right wing attacks and has his tapes at the ready.

  8. Ed  •  Jan 5, 2018 @12:46 pm

    There will be two separate trial venues which will happen at the same time: one in the court of public opinion and one in courts of law. The course of the latter will depend on the Mueller team’s sequence of indictments and other filings. The course of the former will depend on Trump’s tweets and other publically visible actions, which will in turn be influenced by how he copes as he increasingly  realizes that he is surrounded by disloyal people. Therefore, there will be an element of chaos in one venue which will be absent in the other. Since the tabloids are operating in the venue of public opinion, to which Trump is exquisitely sensitive, they will both feed off his deterioration and feed into it. The pace will become frantic as the amount of blood in the water increases. The Mueller investigation will be plodding on methodically in the background.

     

    Therefore, the tabloid hare and the Mueller tortoise will both operate against Trump. I am not sure how loyal the Enquirer is to Trump, but its loyalty to right-wing dimwittedness is not all that deep. The evidence for that can be seen in the fact that it published embarrassing information about the pregnancy of Sarah Palin’s daughter when there was money to be made by doing so. If the tabloid frenzy spills over into Fox News, that could eventually crack Trump’s base. Mueller will have no effect on his base, but the sensationalist media just might.

  9. Bill  •  Jan 5, 2018 @1:43 pm

    If Bannon doesn’t choose wisely now, he’ll just fade away like most of Trumps previous ally-victims (at least the ones not being investigated). 

    Populism is still on the rise.   Hatred of the establishment is still increasing.  He was said to have been calling for raising taxes on the wealthy to pay for middle class tax cuts.  Maybe that’s why he really got fired, I dunno.  He outlived his usefulness. 

    Still, he could write a tell-all while continuing on as a nationalist-populist.  One might wish that'd be without all the deplorable stuff, but that might be asking too much. I don’t think he’s dumb enough to try to appease an NPD dotard, for whom he and his weren't much more than useful tools to be conned, used, then discarded.

  10. Doug  •  Jan 5, 2018 @1:47 pm

    I think we will see in a microcosm the Trump strategy to the Mueller investigation. Trump will try to find one flaw, one misquote, and say that a single flaw discredits the entire work. The author isn't saying that he's describing what actually happens in the WH. He's describing what people in the White House told him. Those statements will include flat out lies, misrepresentations, and self-serving descriptions of ambitious people that the West Wing is full of. 

    To quote Ken Kesey, "It's the truth, even if it didn't happen."

    Trump fans will deliberately never grasp the essence – "Fire and Fury" is not a depiction of what happens in the Oval Office. It's a description of what people in the West Wing are saying about what happened. Since they are people selected by Trump, they harbor a cross-section of Trump's character flaws. Paramount among these – they lie. They lie when they give an account and they lie about what they said, even when it's on camera. 

    The truth is there. We are witnessing the most disfunctional, chaotic, polcy-free, truth-free, greedy, stupid, and dangerous presidency of our lifetimes – and that's true no matter how much older than me you happen to be. The cult dynamics keep Trump's approval rating to high for this ethics-free GOP to put any obstacles in Trump's way. 

    The book makes ever more clear for everyone who's not a blind member of the cult that Trump and the GOP are morally bankrupt. (That's not to say that democrats are a whole lot better in terms of ethical standards.) The GOP cut their losses in 1970 by rejecting what Tricky Dick did. This GOP has hitched their wagon to a clown car on its way over a cliff. 

    Trump is a fascinating train wreck, but progressives need to focus on what kind of party we need to be when/if the GOP self-destructs. I'm not sure we are positioned to score any significant points even if the GOP becomes totally impotent. 

  11. Doug  •  Jan 5, 2018 @3:43 pm

    The Sessions recusal – from Sessions point of view – is not about ethics. He has no ethical standards. It's about survival. Sessions knew that if he started up the road of protecting Trump, Sessions would be among the first to go to jail. Trump should have learned from Nixon's fall, but he's stupid. Sessions knew that in inquiry was inevitable – starting in 2017 or starting in 2019 if/when the democrats got control of the House. 

    The more trouble Trump gets in, the more likely Sessions will regain his memory about events. Especially if his recall is attached to criminal immunity. Trump will throw anyone under the bus to save himself and he thinks it's moral because Trump views himself as the Alpha who all must serve.

    Sessions is a slimy survivor – Grima Wormtongue if you follow LOTR. Sessions insulated himself from taking action until he could see which way the wind is blowing. I'd bet Mueller has Sessions pegged as a potential witness who will spill all he knows, much as Flynn. If the top advisers who were the intermediaries between Trump and the Russians knew about the roles of the others (Did Flynn know what Russians Sessions talked to and vice versa? What about Manifort?) Sessions may have to sell Trump to Mueller, if Flynn and Manifort can implicate Sessions. Manifort is playing for time, hoping Trump can/will crush the entire DOJ and free Manifort. But the noose is tightening and House Arrest is no fun. The Manifort trial is set for May – expect a settlement long before then.

  12. Swami  •  Jan 5, 2018 @5:07 pm

    Manifort is playing for time, hoping Trump can/will crush the entire DOJ and free Manifort. 

    Doug, I think Manifort is already on the hook with violating New York State laws and Trump won't be able to help him in that regard.



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