‘Not only didn’t he read, he didn’t listen…And he trusted his own expertise – no matter how paltry or irrelevant – more than anyone else’s. What’s more, he had an extremely short attention span, even when he thought you were worthy of attention.’
Michael Woolf’s description of Donald Trump would be funny in different circumstances. The reason Woolf was given so much access to Trump’s White House is simple: the Trump administration did not have a clue what it was doing. No communications director worthy of the name would have allowed Woolf within a mile of what Michael Stipe memorably termed this ‘moronic charade’. For the reader, Fire And Fury is a chastening experience: you don’t really want to be told that the US president not only likes the big picture, ‘he liked literal big pictures’. As in: don’t clutter up your presentations to him with things like words. In Woolf’s reading, everyone on Trump’s presidential campaign team wanted something specific out of the election: Donald himself would be the most famous man in the world and ‘a martyr to crooked Hillary Clinton’; the intelligent, poisonous Steve Bannon would be the ‘de facto head of the Tea Party movement’; Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner (‘Javanka’) ‘would have transformed themselves from relatively obscure rich kids into international celebrities and brand ambassadors’; while Melania ‘could return to inconspicuously lunching’. What none of them expected – or perhaps particularly wanted – was for Trump to win. Most of the millions who voted for him cannot be stupid: the majority know that Trump is a charlatan and a liar and a bar-room blowhard: they just don’t care. The really worrying thing is: what if Trump is not a blip? It’s far, far more concerning to think, as the would-be Svengali figure Bannon apparently does, that: ‘The Trump presidency – however long it lasted – had created the opening that would provide the true outsiders their opportunity. Trump was just the beginning.’ It’s questionable how much of a surprise Woolf’s book is. We’ve all seen for ourselves Trump’s ‘reality distortions’ and his ‘hyperbole, exaggerations, flights of fancy, improvisations, and general freedom toward, and mangling of, the facts’. Nonetheless, a useful – if dispiriting – read.