The more you think about Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury,” the funnier it gets. This could only have happened in the Trump White House. The Obama White House, say what you will about it, would not have let someone just sort of randomly wander in, maybe with Stephen K. Bannon but then again maybe not, and start taking notes — largely because Bannon would not have been allowed into the Obama White House unless he were on some sort of official tour and, even in that case, they would have tried to move him along pretty quickly.
But also, only a White House organized as poorly as the Trump White House would ever have permitted this. Wolff said he “certainly said whatever was necessary to get the story,” which appears to have been “hello.” Compared to this, the Titanic was a tight ship.
I have read the whole book, and I could have done without hearing Bannon’s quoted description of how his sphincter responded to various news, but, you know, I guess we just have to think about Bannon’s anatomy all the time now. That is the world we live in.
“Fire and Fury” exists in a universe we already know well, where President Trump has no idea what is happening at any time and is constantly demanding to be fed and soothed, like a Tamagochi. But it adds one unexpected twist: What if Bannon actually was a star and mastermind, like he said? And what if it turned out that everyone around Trump was very, very worried any time he tried to do or say anything? And that the “sylph-like” Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump hovered on the edge of everything spinning a sinister web, then flew into the web, then got stuck, and Bannon laughed and laughed because he was right? The rest of the book falls into the genre of Juicy Mean Assertions About Trump That I Have No Reason NOT to Believe.
Just to give you a sense of the general flavor of the thing, so you do not have to read it (you, like Trump, may be “post-literate,” a terrifying new Orwellian term the book coined that makes it sound as if we are moving right on the evolutionary scale instead of left):
In the corner of Trump’s office sat Steve Bannon, like Drosselmeier, flapping his wings and cackling. He did not look so hot, because he was going through everything Trump had said and looking for clues in it, but now he had a flawless 18-point plan which he had written on a white board for all to see. Jared had tried this, too, but he had gotten bored halfway through because he was a mental lightweight and wanted to go try on another suit. Trump was sitting on the floor trying to glue two televisions to one another so that the personalities on them would appear to kiss. This, he felt, would solve the Middle East. Then he ate six hamburgers, which he had sent Reince Priebus, wearing a full face of unflattering powder, to retrieve for him, in case they contained poison. Paul Ryan was a nobody and Bannon disliked him. Who were Steve Miller and Hope Hicks, and what were they doing there? Nobody knew!
It goes on in this vein for some time. You get the sense, reading it, that the author had to listen to Bannon talk a good deal, which some would call “access” and others would call “a thing that has probably happened to chairs.” At some point, a form of Stockholm Syndrome seems to kick in because Bannon is described as being superbly literate and possessing magnetism. This may be true in the Trump sense where what you possess is not the thing itself, but a poorly informed person’s idea of the thing — be that brains, beauty or wealth. The book also notes that Bannon hopes he will be the president next, plus he recently went on an all-sushi diet and has lost 20 pounds.
The most bizarre parts of the story are the parts we already knew. Can you believe what Trump said after Charlottesville? Can you believe that he tweets with no filter all the time? Can you believe that he doesn’t understand how jokes work? Can you believe his inner circle wasn’t thrilled that he won the election, and that he loves to golf? Can you believe that he is paranoid and eats badly? Can you believe his White House is full of intrigue and also a huge mess? Have you been reading the news at all for the past year?
Just in case there were any doubt about the assertions the book includes, the Trump White House is trying to shut it down. So.