Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House (2018), by Michael Wolff

We tell ourselves stories in order to live.

–Joan Didion


Michael Wolff has written a near miraculous book, miraculous in its appearance and in its literary quality, and he has done so none too soon. Because it is a compelling old-fashioned narrative, Fire and Fury brings home as no other account has so far, the terrible misfortune and ominous portents of Donald Trump as President. Wolff has the talent and savvy of a fine novelist, an exceptional memoirist, a profound historian, and specifically comes out of Capote’s powerful-but-difficult journalistic tradition of the True Life Novel.

Fire and Fury, an eyewitness account by a brilliant, artful, and above all insinuating spy on behalf of the Republic, rescues and awakens us from the profoundly corrupt and generally shallow daily Trumpian soaps playing on Cable TV and in print journalism–the business-enriching soundbite shows of punditry descrying (with a suspicious quenchless relish for breathless shock that overcomes dread) the psychologically inevitable multiple daily insults, imbecilities, adolescent rantings and perfect mistakes of Trump and the generally inferior people in his administration. Yes, the media and its Chatterers will miss Trump who is both an easy mark and (they’ll worry about it tomorrow) a deeply dangerous character. Do they form an unholy alliance with him? Are they averse to The End?

Wolff, with his deadly, nasty and truthful narrative, one of the great authorial coups in memory, has taken us to the point where (i) we can have no doubt of the massive trouble we are in because Wolff’s storyline makes us face the overwhelming case–he reveals that it is far more damning than previously imagined–that Trump is unfit; and (ii) we can have no doubt of the crucial, overriding imperative to bring new leadership to our imperiled Republic, something we should have commenced yesterday. With Fire and Fury, we Get It. What remains is Urgency. Together with the need (as seldom before in our polity) for pragmatic, efficient electoral strategy and success.

Fire and Fury will quickly and powerfully let you see for yourself the sheer farce and the exceptional danger.

To consider Wolff’s feat and gift to us, here are a few thoughts:

–He might well be called The Spy Who Just Strolled in from the Cold. That he could enter the White House day after day and corral key people into Confession is remarkable and delicious. (Might this be the single greatest indication of the unprecedented confusion in the Trump White House?) He understood the considerable infighting among Trump’s factions–“Jarvanka” (wonderful, eh?) versus the Bannonites versus Priebus versus Hope Hicks versus Katie Walsh versus the Mooch and, well, Wolff must have been a wonder of a Listener and possibly deserving of an honorary degree in Counseling, wouldn’t you think? And did he ever have an Ulterior Motive in his wandering (searching, really) of the corridors and his one-on-0ne talks! Certainly he seems not to have missed an iota of the rampant incompetence and naivete he experienced in all quarters.

–He undercuts the inevitable falsifying and exaggeration among his interviewees–and “factual nitpicking” by reviewers–by such narrative ploys as the following strategy about revealing the essential Trump: Early in the narrative, in the only instance of an extended quote in the book, Wolff cites verbatim the full text of Trump’s “address” early in his first year to CIA staff at Langley in the main lobby, the occasion when Trump’s backdrop was the wall bearing the anonymous signifiers of those fallen over the years in the Agency missions. It is a stunning psychological revelation, a dramatization of Disturbance, one that forms an unassailable context for any and all earlier and later aspects of Trump and seals the truth of his childish thought and judgment. It might well be the single most damning self-disclosure among the many by the President.

–Judging by what has happened to Steve Bannon since the publication of Fire and Fury and his own self-professed and often anti-Trump revelations about himself  to Wolff, the Good Listener and no friend of the Trump “Administration,” you might say that Wolff has himself been instrumental in getting Bannon out of the White House and cut off from his billionaire sponsors, the Mercers! Talk about Wolff having his cake and eating it too!

–Certainly it is arguable that Wolff has contributed mightily to bringing enough of us who are appalled by Trump to a grand awareness of the Trumpian danger and hopefully now to a confident clear- and cold-eyed resolve to make the House and the Senate able to stymie him and the McConnell’s of the world after the 2018 elections and from there to realize a new presidency in the next presidential election. I am imagining from the tone of his superb narrative that Wolff might well focus on what many strategists are now thinking. There are genuine grievances in many voters owing to institutional betrayals such as exemplified in the Recession, betrayals highlighted by the growing wealth disparity between the few and the many arising from the political triumphs of Big Money; but given these cosmic wrongs beg correction, perhaps the most pressing and practical word now is Turnout.

Fire and Fury is a powerful motivator for the broad pragmatism and the focussed campaign needed for Keeping the Republic.