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 first of a series of write-ups of notes that I have taken while reading the book.
The prologue basically details a conversation between Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon just after Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election. The chapter goes a bit into who they are and their relationship to each other and Donald Trump.
Ailes is impressed by Trump’s relentlessness to get what he wants, but he also recognizes that Trump has no ideology beyond his personal wants and needs. During his dinner with Bannon, he continued to pepper Bannon with questions on whether Trump understood his situation or not. Bannon, for his part, kept demurring on the issue.
Ailes points out that Trump is desperate to impress and win the favor of people in power. This is what he thinks is the heart of Trump’s “Russia problem”. That is, Trump really wants to impress Vladimir Putin, who doesn’t otherwise think much of him. Trump also wants badly to impress Rupert Murdoch, which is a problem because Murdoch doesn’t have the far-right politics that Bannon and Ailes want to use Trump for. During the meeting, Bannon asks for Ailes to intervene with Trump to prevent Murdoch from influencing the ideas of Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, too much.
Ailes himself is something of a mentor to Steve Bannon. He was the former head of Fox News before being ousted by Murdoch’s children as the result of a sexual assault scandal. He recognizes that he is, at least temporarily, passing the torch of hard-line conservatism to Steve Bannon, then head of Breitbart News. Like everyone, he’s shocked that Trump actually was able to win the election.
Bannon, for his part, is some kind of fashion slob, constantly going around in a disheveled jacket, camo pants and a blotchy complexion. Very “rebel”, in a way. He sees a great opportunity in Trump as a vessel for his own ideas. He also anticipates an impending war with China. He sees China as growing into the same kind of threat that Nazi Germany was growing into prior to World War II. He thinks the US needs to smack China down and he wants to use Trump to do it.
Bannon isn’t necessarily wrong about China’s ascendancy, but perhaps way too paranoid about it. Xi Jingping has definitely locked down China and is said to see his brand of totalitarian control as compatible with international relations. China’s star is rising and it looks like very little will stop it, at least in the short term.
All that said, Bannon should have paid more attention to the dangers of a Trump presidency. Ailes was spot-on with his questions about Trump’s competency and Bannon should have leaned on him for advice on handling Trump rather than trying to make it look like he had things under control.