What I Learnt From That Trump Book (“Fire and Fury”)

I get it, I get it. Donald Trump has no attention span, doesn’t read, doesn’t listen, obsesses about the media, eats fast food, watches too much TV, speaks before he thinks and acts impulsively. That’s what commentators have concluded on the release of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”. I’ve now read the book, and it’s certainly true that Wolff does everything he can to present Trump in that way.The trouble is no story is ever that clear.

I get especially nervous when everyone revels in the inadequacies of someone (even if that person is an apparent bully). A telling part of the book reveals that Trump sees himself as “white trash” but rich. This in some way shows Trump’s appeal to his base. He is a proxy for “white trash”. They feel that liberals constantly mock their poor intellects, their poor diets and their conservative values. Seen in this light, the media’s treatment of Trump/”white trash” simply confirms his base’s beliefs about the establishment – it doesn’t care about them. No wonder there has been a rise of populism around the world.

When a book has such a bias, I like to look at the parts that confound the author’s stereotype. These instances could be “truer” in some ways. These are parts that surprised me:

    • There is little evidence that Trump buys into Bannon’s world view of ethno-centric nationalism, isolationism, a small state, anti-liberalism. Roger Ailes, the former head of Fox News, “was convinced that Trump had no political beliefs or backbone”. Wolff writes Trump’s “guiding light seems more to be liked and celebrated in the media”.
    • His view on immigration is more nuanced. When Trump spoke to Rupert Murdoch on the needs of Silicon Valley, he said “take this H-1B visa issue. They really need these H1-B visas”. Murdoch replied it would be tough to square with his election stance. Trump argued “we’ll figure it out”. Wolff then reminds us that Obama was “quite aggressive in deporting illegal aliens – except don’t tell liberals that”
    • On health-care, Michael Wolff writes that Trump was “more for Obamacare than for repealing Obamacare” and thought “why can’t Medicare simply cover everybody”. He had little interest in repeal-and-replace, a Republican obsession. In some ways, his lack of enthusiasm allowed the attempt to fail.
    • On foreign policy, he neither favoured wasteful military adventures like the neo-con Bush nor Obama’s “nuance: facing infinitely complex multilateral algebra of threats, interests, incentives, deals, and ever evolving relationships, we strain to reach a balanced future”. Both had failed in the Middles East and Afghanistan. Instead, Wolff describes Trump’s perspective as he seeing the international stage as “filled by powerful leaders that needed to be brought on side – directly, rather through indirect channels”.
    • Wolff saw Trump just like Bill Clinton but without a “respectable front”. Wolff also argues Trump’s administration has “been more open to the media than any White House in recent memory”. In some ways, other Presidents may have had the same egotism and narcissism as Trump, but their public profiles obscured it. Trump also seems fully aware of how the media operates. He said of media stories “it’s all exaggerated. My exaggerations are exaggerated”.
    • “In the workplace, he [Trump] was much closer to women than to men” writes Wolff, despite “in most ways [being] a conventional misogynist”. Wolff notes that Trump is the first President to have a Jewish daughter – the de facto First Lady. On race, Wolff found that Trump struggled to understand why anyone would “be a member of the KKK”
    • Trump is willing to delegate to the experts, especially in areas where he had little interest. For example, despite his earlier animosity with House Speaker, Paul Ryan, he delegated healthcare to him. In other areas, he was decisive for example when bombing Syria. He also wasn’t afraid to lecture the military on their lack of imagination on how to extricate the US from Afghanistan.

Reading the book, and listening to the media’s reaction to it – I can’t help but feel we are confusing the media and Trump’s bickering for real political news. Over the past week, the administration has proposed lifting the ban on oil drilling in Federal waters, cutting aid to Pakistan and using Federal Law to reverse the legalisation of Marijuana in various states. Oh, but of course, we have to focus on how unprecedented Trump’s behaviour and character is for a US President.



One thought on “What I Learnt From That Trump Book (“Fire and Fury”)”

  1. Liked your comment on Trump/Fire and Fury.Although his own political instincts were sound and resonated in his victory,he has had to concede to the deep state,neocons and the financial establishment.The media targets his brash style,but in substance will he be different.If so, they may impeach him.How that would impact the scenario is anybody’s guess.

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