The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Determining the power centers of Trump’s White House — by appearances in ‘Fire and Fury’

Copies of the book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by author Michael Wolff are seen at the Book Culture book store in New York, on Friday. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

Perhaps you have heard about this book “Fire and Fury,” author Michael Wolff’s look at President Trump’s White House?

Of course you have heard of it. Not only is it selling like hot cakes (which is what some people call pancakes for some reason), but you are reading an article about the book itself, having been enticed, it would seem, by a headline that wouldn’t make much sense if you weren’t aware of the aforementioned book. There is also a picture of the book at the top of this article, so even if you did stumble onto this article by accident, you certainly knew the book existed once you saw a picture of it. If you are reading this but still somehow didn’t know the book existed until that first sentence, I’d honestly like to hear from you.

Anyway. The book has been the subject of an inordinate amount of discussion, in part because it’s a lengthy look at the White House from someone who was granted unusual access to the administration and, in part, because the reporting contained in that book has prompted a slew of questions, corrections and angry responses.

Take, for example, Mark Berman, a reporter for The Washington Post who was surprised to learn that he had breakfast at the Four Seasons in February of last year, apparently on the same day as his child was born. Either the kid was born within the elegant confines of the posh hotel — or maybe Wolff got that detail wrong. (He did, it turns out; the Berman at issue was Michael Berman, a prominent Washington lobbyist.)

However, Wolff’s book does provide us with an interesting bit of data, allowing us to get a sense of where the balance of power lies within the administration. How? Thanks to the book’s index, which lists every appearance by every person, organization and subject within its 300-plus pages. (Mark/Mike Berman is on page 78.)

There are, in fact, more than 500 terms outlined in the index of the book, several of which have a number of subtopics broken out separately. “Donald Trump,” for example, is mentioned in a number of contexts on most of the book’s pages — and the subtopic of “staff doubts about” the president is mentioned on seven pages alone.

Tallying up all of those page-mentions (as we’ve dubbed them), Trump himself is the most commonly mentioned subject in the book. About half of the things and people mentioned only appear once.

If we look just at those subjects and people earning at least 10 page-mentions, we get a sense of how power is arrayed within the White House. Trump is mentioned the most, with Jared Kushner ranked third and Ivanka Trump fifth. Hillary Clinton is 14th; her husband is 41st.

It’s important to note that this ranking isn’t actually a ranking of the power within the White House. It’s not really even an approximate ranking of how Wolff views the distribution of weight in the administration. It’s probably best understood as an analysis of how Stephen K. Bannon conveyed the power structures within the West Wing, given how heavily involved he appears to have been in the development of the book. (This also would explain Bannon’s prominence in the book — as well, perhaps, as that of his nemesis Kushner.)

Nonetheless, Wolff’s index does provide an approximate overview of the importance of people and issues within the Trump administration (as filtered through Bannon and the author). So “Russia” is the fourth-most-prominent subject; “Middle East” is in 29th. Stephen Miller is tied for 58th; Anthony Scaramucci is 36th. (Sebastian Gorka, who took to the Hill to huffily explain why you should ignore Wolff’s book, is mentioned only once.)

If you are a denizen of the White House, you may be curious where you stand in relation to your colleagues. Well, good news. We took the index and tallied up the number of pages on which each listed subject is mentioned, allowing us to rank the importance of each within the “Fire and Fury” universe.

For those skeptical that this tabulation actually reflects importance within the White House, I present in defense of that thesis the number of mentions of each Trump child.

  • Ivanka, 122 page-mentions
  • Donald Jr., 18
  • Eric, 4
  • Barron, 1
  • Tiffany, 0

Argue against that as indicative at your peril.