My first thought about the new Michael Wolff book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House is sadness. My second thought is that it is good for the book publishing business and that I think it’s wonderful that people are reading it. At least they are reading something. I went down to my Barnes and Noble store at precisely 9 am when they opened to buy it. They had two copies for promotion and were able to release them once the publisher moved up the publication date, due to Trump’s cease and desist order, so it was one of the more dramatic books to hit the shelves in a long time—and that is a good thing. But after going through it my opinion of Trump only solidified. It was obvious to me that Wolff took a calculated risk that will make him forever wealthy—but will always place him in the category of a tabloid writer. He threw away his reputation to exploit this one unique chance in history and that is what lead me to feel the sadness—not just for him, but the people who said the things about Trump that they did. It was a grim reminder to me of how small people most of the time think—and that is a real tragedy that I hope diminishes with each year that Trump is in office.
Of course Melania cried when her husband won the presidency. She’s a young woman still who could walk the streets of New York with her son and go to a store or restaurant and enjoy some anonymity. With Trump’s successful election she lost all that in a moment for the rest of her life and there is no question that it was a real punch in the gut for her. What shocked me about Wolff’s book, as a writer, was his complete disregard for those types of little moments and what they really mean. He simply took a Never Trump vantage point of all the events of the book and interviewed people who were ankle biters. Ankle biters are those second-hand people, who usually constitute most of our society, who need a leader to show them how to do something once, then they try to associate themselves with the original idea through group think and try to claim jump in some respect for shared ownership. You can know them by the type of people who stand around the coffee machine in any given morning talking about nothing until the boss walks through. The boss might say a thing or two about current events for which the ankle biters will laugh and agree with. Then the moment the boss leaves those people retreat into small-minded topics talking about the boss and how stupid he or she may be—and how they could do a better job if they were in charge.
Trump dealt with ankle biters all his life from his various businesses. However, given his later celebrity status and the role his children played at the top of his company, Trump had some insulation from them. In public life the ankle biters are much worse because there is a feeling of entitlement that often comes with their jobs and when Trump took office those second-hand people where literally everywhere. It took Trump about five months of working in the White House to start to get his stride and figure out who was doing what. He learned enough to figure out that Comey was a leaker on the intelligence side, but the people closest to him were harder to detect. Trump sincerely tried to show everyone in Washington D.C. that he had no plans of being a tyrant so he went to dinner with Mitt Romney, and put people on his staff that he hoped would bridge the gap between the Never Trumpers and the rest of the GOP—conventional choices that would make passing a legislative agenda a higher probability. Those people, and Steve Bannon turned out to be one of them, assumed that Trump’s attempt to do this meant that the new president had no idea how to go about his job. In their minds they fantasized that they could do a better job, so they were not loyal, and they found the ear of another second-hander in Wolff and their gossipy recollections produced the contents of this book.
Trump being the eternal optimist figured he could bounce though anything, so he didn’t mind taking the gamble, and when it began to be clear by May of 2017 that he’d need to get rid of quite of few people from the White House staff and replace them with new hires—he did it. Trump also obviously hoped to convert the Obama holdovers around the country who had been working on the previous administration. I found myself sympathizing with Trump quite a lot in Wolff’s book because I’ve been in similar situations—where you take over management of other people’s problems and you try to reform them with your much better personal philosophy—but they don’t get it and you eventually have to let them go. Trump at his core is a really nice guy. I’ve met him a few times and he truly is an eternal optimist and he and I have that in common. There are lots of places where we are different, but on that topic, I feel a real connection to this president. He is always hopeful and that is a unique trait, one that is making America great again. On the day that this book was released, the Dow exploded up over 25,000 for the first time ever which is astonishing. That is purely because of Trump, because the investors out there understand what this Trump presidency means. They are leaders in their fields and not the ankle biter types—so the economy reflects better than any other indicator how good this president is for the world. That’s where I felt a real sadness for Michael Wolff in this book, and Steve Bannon ironically. Their vantage point of reporting their opinions—as was the case of most of the quotes, was from that of a defeated state of mind. Wolff didn’t surprise me because there are a lot of people like him out there. But Steve Bannon did.
As Wolff stated the essential theme of his book was that everyone concluded Trump was essentially a man child—that he made everything about him all the time. I’ve heard this one before also, and that is why as I closed the book I felt a profound sadness for a lot of people in it. We start out lives as children with endless imagination and optimism. We learn all we can in a short time—usually before the age of 5 and it is a real miracle of the human mind that we do so much in such a limited time. But most of us—like more than 99.99999%–don’t make it past our teens and into our twenties with the gift of childhood intact. Slowly over many years we fall into adult habits of steady bed times, we learn what works and what doesn’t so we regulate ourselves to reality and thus find ourselves shaped by the weakest links of our society and their lack of ambition. Trump as a president still has that energy of a child who wants to build a tent in the living room—only he has spent most of his adult life building actual skyscrapers. To do something like that requires endless optimism—like children have. The great motivating pastor from New York City, Norman Vincent Peale in his book The Power of Positive Thinking attributed a genius status to those adults who carry that childlike quality of thinking throughout their lives. It is why Trump can see and do things that most people can’t and it is his best quality. However, Wolff presents it as a detriment and that is unfortunately what is wrong with most people psychologically these days. People see in Trump a quality they have long-lost and they feel resentment toward him reminding them of what it was. That hatred is not just politically ideological, it is visceral. It’s a mode of self-preservation that is not related to the performance of Trump—but the state of mind for which the readers and interviews of the book were conducted.
That visceral platform is what shines through in the end. Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House I thought only strengthened the Trump administration because it clearly places on the table the type of people who have been against him. Trump can now crack down on all his enemies—which happen to be the primary villains of American ideas—and he can say he tried. This book is the testimony of that effort. When it comes to people like Steve Bannon there are always people like him who fly too close to the sun and have their wings melt away. Most humans don’t handle power very well—the Lord of the Rings books can attest to that—power can corrupt the weak minds—and often does. But for those who do carry power with the mind of young people who just want to do and learn great things in life—power doesn’t corrupt—and Trump is at a place in his life where a hamburger in bed with three televisions on is his idea of a great life. He’s accomplished all the things most people associate with success and he is now a president who is in the White House incorruptible. What I learned from Fire and Fury is that Trump is far better than even I thought he was—but the people around him were not nearly equipped as such. They were mere mortals who have not yet touched the face of eternity—which most children do possess until they learn to stop listening. And that realization comes with it a profound sadness.
If you’d like to read the book but can’t get your hands on a copy, here it is in full PDF.
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