Liz Gordon writes about Fire and Fury, the tell-all book about the White House of Donald Trump, which she read all day Saturday (a 7 hour read) (a must-read) (6 stars). She also recommends that Peter Jackson grab the film rights pronto!
The media have, of course, fixated on the capabilities of Trump himself. He is universally described as being like a child, having to be managed the whole time, completely self-centred, prone to outbursts. You know all this. The book also, quite interestingly, describes him as functionally illiterate in the print media, unable to read and comprehend even a one-page memo, repeating the same stories every 3-4 minutes using the same words, tone and cadence, having few concepts of his own (everything occurs within the context of his interactions with others, not stemming from his beliefs) and able to judge people only by their looks (especially, but not only, women). There is lots, lots more.
Trump, with his ‘stable genius’ tweets (in the book Steve Bannon describes Trump’s sons, ironically as the ‘geniuses’, in other words he thought they were as thick as a plank!) (sorry about all the parentheses but it is that kind of story) is responding to a briefing on the book. He is incapable of reading it, of course.
It seems to me that Trump may well be autistic, learning to cover up his cognitive deficiencies with a charming front. There are also issues about mood swings that may indicate some kind of manic depression. Probably a bit of dyslexia there too. Some people with foetal alcohol syndrome have the kind of cognitive gaps described in the book, too. Anyway, it is pretty evident that he needs some kind of diagnosis of either/both a neurocognitive and/or a psychiatric type.
This person, unfit to have a single idea except of his own worth, is described in the book as caught between three sets of ideas in the White House.
There was Steve Bannon, radical neo-con, racist with the most derogatory and sexual language I have ever heard (everyone is a c*** or is f***** over) who wants to enhance and exploit divisions within the nation to create conflict that will lead to a zero government future. His ideas excite Trump because of the ‘people working for themselves’ dialogue, but Trump is a nation-builder, whereas Bannon is definitely not.
There was Reince Priebus, conventional Republican, with a focus on building the economy and reducing immigration. He was Chief of Staff in the White House for just six months, destroyed by a bloke called Scaramucci who was appointed to head communications, facilitated the resignation of both Priebus and Sean Spicer, and was sacked himself after just ten whirlwind days.
Finally there was Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son in law Jared. Known in the White House as Jarvanka, these two represented the New York old money Democrats, trying all the time to counter Bannon and Priebus. In the end everyone ganged up on Jarvanka, but it was (first) Bannon and then Priebus who went.
With the new Chief of Staff limiting access to Trump by everyone, including Jarvanka, Trump begins at the end of the book to be increasingly portrayed as an isolated person. He never expected to win the Presidency and it is not making him happy. It is all very Shakespearian (my sister thinks Coriolanus, which she calls the most brutal and vicious of all the plays, and I think Hamlet because of pain, loss and mental illness). Peter Jackson, grab the film rights straight away!
The author, Michael Wolff, talks in the introduction about how he got access to everyone. He essentially said that, in the early days of the White House, there was no-one there with any administrative competence and so he just kept arriving and everyone thought he should be there and no-one questioned him or put limitations on what they said to him. In other words, a dream journalism job.
There is so much more in the book than I can write about here. One little snippet is that Trump’s lawyer settled around 100 sexual harassment accusations against trump during the campaign.
It is a big book but, if you can, you must read it. I downloaded in e-book format but it should be in the shops soon.
Dr Liz Gordon began her working life as a university lecturer at Massey and the Canterbury universities. She spent six years as an Alliance MP, before starting her own research company, Pukeko Research. Her work is in the fields of justice, law, education and sociology (poverty and inequality). She is the president of Pillars, a charity that works for the children of prisoners, a prison volunteer, and is on the board of several other organisations. Her mission is to see New Zealand freed from the shackles of neo-liberalism before she dies (hopefully well before!).