My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“Many of the accounts of what has happened in the Trump White House are in conflict with one another; many, in Trumpian fashion, are baldly untrue. Those conflicts, and that looseness with the truth, if not with reality itself, are an elemental thread of the book. Sometimes I have let the players offer their versions, in turn allowing the reader to judge them. In other instances I have, through a consistency in accounts and through sources I have come to trust, settled on a version of events I believe to be true.”
“Deep sigh,” I have decided to join the masses out of sheer morbid curiosity and purchased “Fire and Fury”. Admittedly I cringed when making this purchase because I just cannot stand that fake-tanned twat-waffle, but I did it nonetheless because I was interested to hear the perspective of someone who has actually spent a great deal of time around everyone we hear about in the news these days, Donald J. Trump. Michael Wolff In many ways is as close to the proverbial fly on the wall as there can be. This is someone who went in not knowing for sure what he would see or hear.
Now, it is no secret I am not a fan of Trump’s; not in any way, perhaps you gleaned that from my comment above…but, when reading the book I did do my best to set my animosity aside and try to go into it thinking “maybe I will learn something new about him, maybe…just maybe something will change my opinion and give me a different perspective.” I do strive to be fair. Quit laughing and rolling your eyes. I can already hear some of you saying “yeah, sure you did!” I really did, I figured if I’m going to read this book then I need to give it a fair chance and do my best not to be biased about it; sadly my opinion has not change.
Michael Wolff, the author of Fire and Fury, is a well-known American journalist and columnist who was afforded unprecedented access to Donald J. Trump and those around him over a time period of 18 months; a time that encompassed both his campaign and his first year in the White House, as we all know this was a time of some serious upheaval and controversy.
During this time (as Wolff mentions in the book) he did more than 200 interviews with DJT and his senior staff and overheard many conversations that took place right in front of him with others seemingly forgetting he was in fact….a journalist.
Since the release of this book DJT has claimed that Wolff wasn’t given unprecedented access, that he never granted that to Wolff himself; but if that were true then why was he allowed to hang around for a year and a half inside the inner circle? Why was this journalist allowed to be present in DJT’s penthouse in Trump Tower when dealing with an upset Milania? Sorry, that just really doesn’t add up to me. I think it’s probably much more likely that he expected Wolff to write something that was more glowing of him as Tony Schwartz did with “The Art of the Deal” and when that didn’t happen he simply denied having given him access.
Of course with a book like this there will be those who will say, Wolff has an axe to grind with Trump or that he wrote this “controversial” book just to make money. Honestly, I don’t know if either of those is true or not but while reading it I couldn’t deny that people began to speak in front of him in an unguarded manner; forgetting that he wasn’t “part of their team”, that he was just an observer. So I kept in mind that he actually heard firsthand many (but not all) of the comments he talks about, many of these things are not hearsay. Just to let you know, even though I’m not a fan of DJT’s this is something I would have kept in mind if Wolff had said wonderful things about the man and those around him as well, but unfortunately that isn’t what happens here. This book often shows in words spoken by those intimately involved in the events the chaos that was the campaign and is currently the White House.
Why didn’t those close to DJT shield him from this journalist? Well, as I read I found myself wondering that very thing, particularly about Steve Bannon. It became inescapable to me that Bannon often said things intentionally to Wolff or within his hearing just to make sure Wolff would hear them. If there is a villain in a book like this, it’s Bannon and DJT is his patsy.
Everyone surrounding DJT had their own agenda’s to push with him so no one really seemed to keep their eye on the ball. They were far too busy manipulating DJT to worry about really protecting him and then sometimes it seems even when they would try…he wouldn’t listen, so they would give up and most of them seemed to treat Wolff as though he was a part of their “gang”, talking freely around him.
What did surprise me as I read was this, the media…well, newscasts anyway, often show those of DJT’s inner circle as very loyal to him; at least they did prior to me writing this review. I’m thinking about Kelly Ann Conway and Steve Bannon in particular here. The book often shows a very different side of these people and how they viewed DJT as opposed to what we see/saw in the media. It becomes crystal clear that Bannon didn’t respect Trump…AT ALL. He viewed DJT as nothing more than a figure head that he could easily manipulate. He said as much several times when referring to the then President by stating, “He doesn’t run things, I do!”, to influential people. Bannon thought Trump was a moron and treated those around him who were actually loyal to him with the same level of blatant condescension.
Honestly, I found this sad in a way. I would have thought that those closest to DJT would have shielded him from this observer more. But then I also would have thought they would have had a higher opinion of him since they were supporting his bid for the Presidency and I was wrong about that.
So, I read the book and listened to it as well as objectively as I could, and then asked myself. How factual do I really think this is? If you have read other reviews or listened to anything in the media about this book then you know others have certainly challenged its validity. Some were pretty nit-picky about it saying things like Rupert Murdoch called Trump “a fucking idiot,” when he actually called him “a fucking moron.” Now, really…in my view that’s basically the same thing with two different words, it’s semantics; why quibble about that?
Others have said he reported larger truths but often got actual facts wrong to massage the narrative to fit a larger truth. Oooookay….that’s possible, but as mentioned in the quote in the previous paragraph. We have conceptually the same narrative but changing one word would make it factually true or not…does it change the meaning? Nope. It is still the larger truth, Trump is “a fucking moron”. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
So there are many examples of similar things that I have found on line complaining about specific facts…but I cannot escape the fact that the larger truth is still the larger truth. Yes, some of the facts of the narrative may have been written incorrectly, or perhaps the truth even came out after the book did….but the larger truths are still accurate.
Wolff also has gone on record saying “I work like every journalist works so I have recordings, I have notes.” It’s not as though he cannot back up what he has written if challenged. He also states for the reader right up front as I quoted at the beginning of this review that there are times he takes directly from those who were there, and there are times he had to piece together the truth. But once again, even those still fit the larger truth in my view because I’m not looking so much at the specific verbiage of “idiot” or “moron”, I’m looking at the event that is reported. Still, as a reader I am left to form my own opinion and I find that this book paints a sad picture of a very consistently inconsistent administration through Mr. Wolff’s observations.
Would I recommend this book? Yes, I believe I really would; in many ways it’s a sad modern day re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. We have one man, surrounded by many people telling him how good he looks and how great he is as he strides boldly into the public eye completely clueless to his own reality.
As always, if you read this book let me know your thoughts too.