Fire and Fury is a book written by “journalist” Michael Wolff and is a partially fictional account of the events that occurred in the first few months of the Donald Trump administration. This is the sixth of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.
Michael Wolff starts off the chapter with Donald Trump, describing how he branded himself an outsider while really wanting to be an insider. This leads to Jared Kushner, who more or less wants to the same thing. As Wolff writes, both were the children of cruel and domineering fathers feeding a sense of both insecurity and entitlement. Neither really wanted to step outside of their social circle. They wanted to reach the center. Jared did this by attaching himself to older men like Rupert Murdoch and, during the campaign, Steve Bannon. As it happens, Trump had been very similar in his youth, particularly with Roy Cohn. Both had felt snubbed by the media and “the elites”, neither of whom seemed to take them as seriously as they thought they were entitled.
Both were very opportunistic as well. Early on during the campaign, Trump became friends with media figures like Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (then in a secret relationship). This was also a way for Jared to become connected with them and begin a quiet relationship of feeding the duo information in return for media support. Trump by this time had gotten his fix by moving on to Hollywood and becoming a reality TV star.
Jared stayed in New York and purchased the New York Observer for $10 million, which was widely considered a very bad idea. The magazine had never made a profit in its history. At first Jared’s “profit” came by using the NY Observer to pull himself into the right social circle. He met Ivanka and they got married. Later, however, he went into conflict with Kaplan, the head of the magazine over how to make the operation profitable. Eventually Kaplan left and Jared proceeded to tear the magazine apart to cut costs. This only cemented the media’s low view of Jared and, by extension, Trump. Trump was less effected by this due to his move to Hollywood. That said, neither really understood why the media had a problem with them in the first place and resented that a problem existed at all.
During the campaign, Jared and Steve Bannon were very close. Jared almost became an acolyte of Bannon and through the older man’s influence came to believe in the idea of Trumpism. Moreover, Jared believed he would be able to smooth over the flaws in the philosophy and possibly Trump himself. He had been warned repeatedly not to go into a White House role, where he could be challenged and attacked in a venue where he had little control. Still, for Jared and Ivanka, the opportunity was far too tempting. Further, Ivanka believed that she could ultimately be the first female President if they did well. In addition, since Ivanka’s father was now President, both of them could basically run over anybody who got in their way.
Ivanka was actually a bit overwhelmed by her new life, initially. Like her father, she was interested in building a multifaceted brand around her name. Among her peers, she also was not very angry towards her father and the two got along a lot better than other rich kid/parent relationships in her social circle. A lot of this was the fact that Ivanka seemed to have very few illusions about the kind of man her father was. She had decided to accept and facilitate him and possessed an ability to ignore bad press and drama. She wanted the life of American royalty, and understood that she could use him to help build her brand.
In the White House, Ivanka initially tried to project this idea of political royalty. She and her father had devoted themselves to being the image of ultimate success, wealth, happiness and so forth. Unfortunately, reality was not Ivanka and Jared’s friend. In interviewing for advisors, they quickly discovered that everyone was telling them the same thing; they didn’t know what they were doing and they needed professionals around them to help steer the ship. As a result, one interview after another led to nothing until the couple came across Dina Powell. Dina was a successful business woman who had the connections Jared and Ivanka needed. Presumably, she was also able to talk to them in a way that made them feel in control, or at least reluctant to dismiss her when hired.
In addition to perks, the couple recognized the need of leverage. Managing Donald Trump required a constant presence, which required a White House role. Wolff describes a Trump who could not converse and did not listen and whose views changed in response to whomever was physically near him. This required an almost 24 hour connection to the elder Trump.
Jared and Donald really are two peas in a pod. Outside the White House, everyone was hoping that Jared and Ivanka would play some calming role on Donald, but the three of them are just too similar. If Wolff’s book is true, it’s not accurate to keep bringing up Jared and Ivanka as “New York Democrats”. Deep down, they’re basically the same person.