Fire And Fury Inside The Trump White House review: An inside look at the 45th President
Or proceed without any cooperation whatsoever and muster what you can from people too independent to be shut down and, of course, from enemies of the individual under the microscope.
The resulting biographies will both have obvious weaknesses: the authorised version may emerge as a whitewash while the unauthorised one will suffer from the lack of access to the individual it seeks to analyse.
The beauty of Michael Wolff’s book about Donald Trump is that through a combination of luck and guile he succeeded in combining both roles.
During the presidential campaign he softened up the notoriously narcissistic candidate with a couple of lengthy articles for the Hollywood Reporter which, while falling short of hagiography, contained none of the lacerating judgments that pepper this brilliant book.
So when it came to penetrating the White House after President Trump’s shock win, an equivocal response from the new president when Wolff floated the idea of a book was all it took to get what appears to have amounted to an access-all-areas pass to the White House.
At one point Wolff observes: “Trump didn’t read. He didn’t really even skim. If it was print, it might as well not exist.” This would appear to be spot on. What else could explain why the Donald did not read a book called The Man Who Owns The News, a devastating takedown of Rupert Murdoch by one Michael Wolff?
Indeed, as President Trump appears to have the media mogul on speed dial, a 30-second telephone conversation would have told him everything he needed to know about the perils of giving house room to such a ruthless charmer, calculating investigator and (ultimately) wise judge as Wolff.
As anyone who has not been on a desert island for the past fortnight will know, the result is a book which promises to do for the Trump presidency what Andrew Morton’s 1992 biography of Diana, Princess of Wales did for the Royal Family.
Page after page the scoops keep coming. Nobody, least of all President Trump himself, expected victory and the plan was to launch a TV network on the back of his status as “the most famous man in the world”. The President orders McDonald’s because he fears being poisoned, tells staff not to touch his toothbrush and strips his own bedsheets. He regularly takes to his bed at 6.30pm to call his friends and watch his three TVs. And his extraordinary hair is the product of a scalp-reduction operation, an elaborate comb-over and the judicious application of Just For Men hair colourant.
The ancillary revelations are just as mind-boggling. His daughter Ivanka aspires to be America’s first woman president, the president’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon considers Donald Jr’s Trump Tower meeting with Russians “treasonous and unpatriotic” and President Trump repeats himself so much that his staff fear for his mental health.
If the book has a weakness it is its reliance on the testimony of Steve Bannon. His name is mentioned 115 times in the first 100 pages. At times it feels as if entire chapters are devoted to his rants. Wolff makes it clear that Bannon has presidential ambitions of his own. If so, he will have to see off the challenge from Trump’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley whom one senior staffer describes as “ambitious as Lucifer”.
But after the publication of Fire And Fury many of Trump’s top donors have turned on “Crazy Steve”. Forced out of the right-wing website Breitbart News, he now looks like a busted flush. The question is: can Trump himself survive Wolff’s remorseless onslaught?
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