Not much. If one is expecting new insights into the Trump administration packed into an exciting book, Michael Wolff will disappoint. I finished reading it today and my conclusion is that if you have already been following the news for the last year, skip the book, you will not learn anything new. In fact, you will be bored.
Even without reading Fire and Fury what I knew about Donald Trump and his administration was that it was largely a confederacy of dunces, beset by tribal and rival factions, and headed up by a narcissistic, hot-headed, egomaniac, paranoid, who does not read, think critically, or even have a command or clue of what government does or what it means to be president. This is the story that Michael Wolff tells. We learn of how in many ways the Trump presidential campaign was a publicity and media stunt where no one seriously thought he was going to win and that instead it was viewed as a way to line the pocket books of the candidate when he returned to his businesses and self-promoting. Thus, why worry about releasing taxes or conflicts of interest.
Trump himself is almost an afterthought or irrelevant as president in this book. Trump is described as the person who cares little about policy, retreats to his resorts to play golf or to his bedroom at night to watch television, eat McDonald’s cheeseburgers, and call his friends and complain about how no one likes him or how the world it out to get him. The White House was divided by three factions–Bannon, Priebus, and Ivanka and Jared–all with their own agendas and an understanding on how to manipulate the president who seems never to remember what he promised or pledged to do. Sincerity and commitment seem absent to the world of Donald Trump. Between Trump’s own thin grasp of news and facts, his impulsiveness to act without thinking, and these tribal factions, Fire and Fury describes a presidency as largely divided, immobilized, and simply in capable of acting.
The book also describes a White House full of rookies, none of whom seem to have loyalty to anyone including necessarily the president (who also seems not to have much loyalty to anyone either). No one seems to work together as a team, ready at a moments notice to act on grudge against someone else, whether perceived as a rival or not. People latch on to the president simply hoping for a job or a career boast, fabricating their skills or resume to obtain favors, and when they do not suit the whims of the president, they are expendable.
The book also does not provide any new insights into the Trump world view, especially as it applies to the Comey firing and the Mueller investigation into the Russian connection. We do not learn much more about foreign policy decision making, or health care policy, or anything else of substance. At best the book gives us some gossipy lines which will be mocked in the New Yorker or quoted cable talk shows. But even without this book, we were already hearing all of these rumors.
Is the book a pack of lies and why is Trump so made about the book? The book tells us nothing new so on one level Trump’s anger cannot be about the fact that new dirt has been revealed. The content here is largely derivative. The Trump anger is simply typical, his thin-skinned lashing out at any criticism. But we already knew this was who Trump was. In terms of whether this book is truthful, the Wolff acknowledges at the beginning of the book that he questioned some of the statements by those he interviewed. Each interviewee had their own perspective and story to tell. But second, since the book has come out no one quoted in the book has said their were misquoted or denied what they said, or–with the exception of Trump–contended that the book mischaracterizes Trump or his administration. Silene often speaks volumes.
Save yourself some money and time–don’t buy or read Fire and Fury. It is a vastly overrated book, marketed well, and written to appease the egos of the Washington insiders who seem to believe that telling this story reveals real dirt about Donald Trump and his minions. In reality, the book simply tells the story of what we already know about Trump, and there are no surprises there.