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 seventh of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.
Donald Trump, as should be apparent by now, is obsessed with image. Particularly the image of the 1950s CEO. He is always in a suit and seems to have demanded the same of his sons. This is a particularly patriarchal, “in control” look and he takes ridicule of his image both literally and seriously. Michael Wolff suggests that ridicule is in fact very bad for Trump’s mental state.
As for other CEOs, they were largely happy to deal with Trump, but his campaign were already causing problems for him. His general toxicity was a problem and not everyone could look past that to the promise of deregulation and tax-cutting. In the end, most of the CEOs that aligned with Trump were reminiscent of the 1950s corporate power that he tried to cultivate for his image. Tech companies in particular catered to a more hip and much younger crowd that would not forgive them if they cozied up to Trump. One interesting note that Wolff points out was that a CEO explained that Donald Trump learns mostly by talking about Donald Trump. Further, Wolff goes on to note that aids realized very quickly that Trump operates best when allowed to stay in a comfortable bubble.
After his first days in office, two theories emerged about how Trump was operating. Mostly, newly-minted Presidents find themselves cowed by the office and change over time to meet its challenges. Trump was not changing. Theory 1 stated that he wasn’t changing because as a CEO he was already accustomed to a similar role. Trump basically wasn’t changing because there was nothing that seemed to push him to do so. Theory 2 was that he was completely overwhelmed by the role and was refusing to change because he was in an environment he didn’t like and his instinct is to fight back.
Trump is also extremely paranoid. He forbade anyone touching his toothbrush or to pick up after him. He told the cleaning service that he would let them know when to do the sheets and he insisted on stripping the bed himself. As has been widely reported, he preferred hamburgers from McDonalds because they didn’t know he was coming and the food was already prepared.
Unfortunately, the White House doesn’t cater to Trump’s whims the way his previous life did. Leaks in particular were a problem for Trump. Wolff suggests that Trump himself was the cause of the leaks, especially those that ridiculed him and his look or behavior. According to Wolff, he could spend as much as half an hour complaining to whomever would listen. This immediately made him the biggest source of leaks the White House.
Another area that Trump had to deal with was owing favors. For the Supreme Court, Trump initially wanted Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani had supported Trump through most of the campaign even after the “Billy Bush” tape. Trump felt he owed Giuliani. Moreover, he wanted to give the job to someone he knew. Unfortunately, Giuliani didn’t want to be on the Supreme Court. He wanted to be Secretary of State. The problem is, no one else would tolerate the idea and said as much to Trump. Thus, when offered the job, Giuliani turned it down, hoping for a chance later down the road.
Further, in exchange for support, Trump’s people had agreed to take a list of names from the Federal Society. One of these names was “Neil Gorsuch”. Trump knew nothing of Gorsuch, and was only comfortable backing him after seeing the response to Gorsuch’s nomination. Even so, Trump became enraged when Gorsuch, during the nomination hearings, took exception to Trump’s insults to the courts. Trump may have read this as disloyalty. At this point, Trump had to be reminded that he didn’t have a choice any more.
Did anyone see the 2018 State of the Union address? Gorsuch looked like death warmed over. I wonder if he thinks about the fact that he was put on the court, not out of any real merit, but because he was a useful political tool for conservatives. He never seemed comfortable around Trump and he seemed particularly uncomfortable when Trump pointed him out. Perhaps even angry. Other than that, this chapter really rehashes what has already been pointed out earlier in the book and elsewhere. There are a few new points, but nothing really noteworthy.