Book review: Fire, fury and landmark transparency in the White House


Embed from Getty Images

There’s a queue for the doorstopper version of “Fire and Fury” by Michael Wolff. So on the day of the book’s release last week, I got the Kindle version. I then decided to make my life easier by opting for a free trial of “Audible“. So, I have listened to two-thirds of the audio version of the book, read beautifully by the author and Holter Graham. I am sorry that I have not yet finished the book but I admit I am finding the latter half of it rather heavy going.

There’s no doubt though, that this book is a good read. Or in my case a good listen.

The sentences are generally very long with lots of subordinate clauses. I was grateful for the excellent narration which helped the flow of those sentences. I imagine they must be rather difficult to read in the text version (a friend tells me they are).

This is basically the tale of the first year of Trump’s presidency. The book narrates the year, blow by blow, character by character.

The book certainly presents a cohesive thesis. It is a polemic. Wolff pulls together material from an alleged 200+ interviews. He then lays out an attractive, gossipy tale.

There is no shortage of salacious detail here. Each of the characters – Bannon, Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Priebus, Donald Trump himself – is taken apart one by one.

This book has been characterised as an attack by Steve Bannon on Donald Trump. That is in the mix, but there is also an excoriating portrait of Steve Bannon. He does not emerge as an attractive character.

Most presidencies start with a wobbly first year. Trump’s first year has been very wobbly and there was obviously a dysfunction in the White House for most of it.

The biggest cause of that dysfunction (apart from a President that makes loose cannons look stable) was that there was no strong Chief of Staff. There were, as the book eloquently describes, three chiefs of staff: the actual chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon. They were all competing for control. As of July 2017, former general, John Kelly, has been installed as a more traditional “all roads lead to” Chief of Staff. So one has to believe that things are less chaotic now.

But some of the back room tales of the events of Trump’s first year are intriguing. The sacking of James Comey, and the end of Michael Flynn as National Security adviser. These and other episodes are told in great detail.

One phrase in the book struck me. Michael Wolff writes that there has been “landmark transparency” in the Trump White House. That is quite funny, as it is probably not intentional, but it rings true. Despite the disdain for the “fake news” media expressed by White House spokespersons, the players in the drama have been leaking to the press like nobody’s business. And the President himself has been leaking like a sieve. He has spent hours on the phone talking to random friends about what is going on, much of it not on confidential terms. Therefore, the President’s own accounts of life inside the Pensylvannia Avenue bubble have leaked out. This has all led to the White House persona being perceived as fighting like rats in a sack.

(By the way, the funniest part of the audio version is when the narrator reads out the words of Donald Trump’s speech to the CIA. It is hilarious.)

I’m not sure where all this leaves us. It is a great, entertaining book (if a little trying towards the end). It sold a million copies in the first four days of its release, mainly thanks to its chief salesman, Donald P Trump.

But I have a feeling that despite giving amusement to anti-Trump people like myself, it will actually lower expectations of Trump, thereby helping him in the long run.

When you read of the dysfunction and chaos in his White House, it then comes as a pleasant surprise when you hear Donald Trump stringing a basic, reasonably coherent sentence together without falling over the furniture and dribbling.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is a councillor and one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in Books.
Advert

3 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 12th Jan '18 - 5:52pm

    Donald Trump’s language is in the news today, followed by a tweet which appears to be a denial.
    President Eisenhower’s language at the Bermuda conference (about Soviet Russia) is in Roy Jenkins biography of Churchill (not repeated here) followed by an immediate walkout. There was also comment on the French (not repeated here).

  • John Marriott 12th Jan '18 - 7:29pm

    And don’t forget some of LBJ’s fruity quotes. Like being in the tent p*****g out!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 12th Jan '18 - 9:30pm

    I’m about a third of the way through the Kindle version. I also find some of the sentences clunky – but other bits of the book are surprisingly readable.

    It hasn’t yet told me anything I didn’t know already but it would make a very good template for a BBC comedy.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

This post has pre moderation enabled, please be patient whilst waiting for it to be manually reviewed. Liberal Democrat Voice is made up of volunteers who keep the site running in their free time.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Raw 18th Jan - 3:19pm
    @ Jennie Good of you to respond, Jennie. It must be frustrating travelling to London on the awful Grand Central (owned by the awful Arriva)...
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 18th Jan - 3:16pm
    Jo Swinson is the answer to the Daily Politics quiz question. The Guardian's Jonathon Friedland said she is the only one with a future in...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 18th Jan - 3:15pm
    Andrew - It's more complicated than that. Rural Lincolnshire for example has high immigration which is much resented and much voted against. Yes, elsewhere there...
  • User AvatarLucy Johnson 18th Jan - 3:13pm
    Thank you David, that's so lovely to hear! I love hearing everyone's memories of him and to know that he helped so many people. Hopefully...
  • User Avatarmatt 18th Jan - 3:12pm
    @Arnold The problem with being autocratic and dogmatic in our opinions is that we end up failing to notice and understand those that we disagree...
  • User AvatarAndrew Melmoth 18th Jan - 2:40pm
    - David Allen The problem with trying to fix this by "redistributing money to high-immigration areas" is that the vast bulk of Leave voters live...